Itsu to target retailers with new Asian snacks

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Itsu is launching a new range of snacks, energy drinks and popcorn as the sushi restaurant chain looks to follow the likes of Nando, Pizza Express and Wagamama onto supermarket shelves.

Itsu, set up by Pret A Manger founder Julian Metcalfe in 1997, now comprises 25 eat-in/takeway shops in London offering Asian-inspired products including rice bowls, miso soup, sushi boxes and frozen yoghurt. It also operates two restaurants and a bar in the capital.

The rollout will start with three Itsu-branded rice cake SKUs dark chocolate, milk chocolate and yoghurt (rsp: £1.35) which went into Itsu branches last week.

Brand owner Metcalfe's Food Company is now discussing listings with other retailers. The launch will be followed later this month by six impulse products: chocolate edamame, wasabi peas, a yoghurt cranberry mix, Lucky Dip Trail Mix, Mango Mungo mango chunks and honey-roasted cashew nuts (all rsp: £1.95).

Energy drinks and popcorn will be added in September and Itsu is also developing further impulse products, said Metcalfe's managing director Robert Jakobi.

"There is a gap in the market for a range of Asian-inspired snacks and we believe the Itsu brand is now strong enough to work well in retail," Jakobi added.

Metcalfe's Food Company already produces two ranges of popcorn, Pret Popcorn and Metcalfe's Skinny Topcorn brand, and they were "going through the roof" claimed Jakobi.

Skinny Topcorn, currently available in Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and WHSmith, as well as Pret, recently secured its first supermarket listing it goes on shelf in 54 Sainsbury's stores later this month and the low-fat premium product is also going into Julian Graves on a three-month trial basis, with a view to securing permanent shelf space in Julian Graves and Holland & Barrett stores.

But even without the new listings, sales are up 45% year-on-year, Jakobi added.

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