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Exhibitors at World Travel Catering and Onboard Services Expo in Hamburg. Image: Maxim Sergienko.

APEX Insight: Airlines are constantly looking for tasty new treats to surprise their passengers with, but for small companies, pitching a product to an airline can be daunting. APEX Media caught up with four snack vendors hoping to score their first airline customer at WTCE to learn more about the process.

For many new snack vendors, landing a deal with an airline would be a dream come true, but it’s no easy feat. For independent companies, the airline tender process can be too resource-intensive, competitive or just downright intimidating. “You’ve got to have elephant-thick skin in this business,” said Emirates alum and current head of Dnata’s catering division, Robin Padgett, at this year’s World Travel Catering and Onboard Services Expo (WTCE). “But if you’ve got the right product, branding strategy and you’re confident in it, don’t stop. Keep pushing.”

Here are four snacks in search of their first airline customer at WTCE.

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Chika’s Gluten Free, Vegan West African Snacks

Chika Russell, founder and mogul behind Chika’s Snacks, may be familiar to viewers of Dragons’ Den UK, where she received offers from all of the “dragons,” eventually accepting one, but later walking away from the agreement to go at it alone. After achieving success in online and retail markets, she’s now hoping to bring her Nigerian-inspired snacks on board. “Entering the airline space is just an evolution of where our business needs to be as a global player,” she says. In her view, landing a deal with an airline likely won’t be a huge revenue generating opportunity, but the “ability for marketing your brand in airlines, and getting more people seeing drives more brand awareness,” makes the airline market an “attractive industry.” Her snack line ranges from hand-cooked plantain to chickpea crisps and varieties of nuts – all infused with a bold kick of flavor.

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Biscotteria Bettina’s Confezioni Salati

Sourced by trolley innovators and food suppliers Italcarrelli, Biscotteria Bettina’s new line of biscuits offers a savory twist: They’re salty cookies. “For salty snacks, we’re used to seeing chips, but not biscuits,” says Sandra Capuzzo, international business relations advisor for Italcarreilli. Perfect as an antipasti or an aperitivo, the biscuits blend traditional Italian ingredients into original combinations like cantucci with peanuts and parmesan, or curry and poppy seed. Those not sure if they should pair their biscuit with an Aperol Spritz or Prosecco can consult the pairings list prepared by Italian sommelier Wladimiro Gobbo. “It’s something really new for the market, and airlines always want some innovation, something new to offer their customers,” says Capuzzo. For those with a sweet tooth, Biscotteria Bettina also offers a line of sweet biscuits.

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Barú’s Chocolate Mallow Hippos

Airlines looking for a “hippo in a haystack snack” with the potential to surprise and delight passengers may be in luck with Barú’s Chocolate Mallow Hippos. Available in bars or bite-size servings, the handcrafted marshmallow treats are colorful and come in fun fruity flavors or rich chocolate tastes. Barú has grown its retail footprint, which now spans the globe, with stores stocking the sweets in Australia, Asia, Europe and North America, but the company now has its sights on the skies. “We see that in the airline industry and other retail environments people are looking for new experiences and better products than everyday items,” says Maarten Krikken, owner of Barú. Endeavoring to take off in the airline business does come with a learning curve, Krikken says. “It’s a completely different market from what we are used to. There are a lot of people involved and very specific requirements.”

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The Coconut Collaborative’s Dessert Pots

The Coconut Collaborative is on a mission to give back to the plant and spread its coco love far, wide – and high. Non-dairy, vegan and low on calorie count, the collaborative’s Little Chocolate and Little Lemon dessert pots are refreshing, guilt-free treats, ideal for the health and environmentally conscious traveler. “Our product has been a huge success in retail, and travel represents a good opportunity for good volumes and great marketing,” says account manager James Hanbury. Having first launched in the UK, the product can now be found in France and Germany and was recently made available in a smaller to-go format with airlines in mind. Hanbury thinks the product’s wide consumer appeal could have airlines going coccoonutty for the little pots. “Our biggest selling point and point of difference is that it caters for all,” he says. “I think our product represents a huge opportunity to serve everyone on the plane the same thing.”

Katie is a writer for APEX Media, based in Paris, France.