On 26 April, Americans will paying homage to the nation's favourite snack. It's National Pretzel Day.
To mark the occasion in the UK, luxury department store Harvey Nichols will launch a new variant of the salty snack to UK consumers: chocolate-coated salted pretzels made by High Wycombe-based confectionery company The Big Yum.
While the product may be new, the concept isn't. Many moons ago, Nestlé unleashed Flipz its US chocolate pretzel brand on an unsuspecting British public, many of whom had never tasted pretzels. The product failed to hit the company's ambitious targets and was discontinued.
Despite this, The Big Yum founder Pippa Witcher believes there is a UK market for a quality chocolate pretzel in the swirly mould (as well as the more mass-market Mikado, which, tellingly, is straight and described by Kraft as a biscuit stick).
Chocolate Swerves will debut on Harvey Nichols' shelves this week, just over two years after Witcher launched the company. After several years in food and retail PR including working on the launch of Gü chocolate puddings she wanted to experience life "on the other side of the fence".
While on honeymoon in the US, Witcher rediscovered the Nestlé chocolate pretzels she had loved as a child.
"In America I realised just how mainstream chocolate pretzels were," she says. "We brought them home for our friends and it was amazing to see the reaction. Fifty percent of them said 'my God, I remember these, weren't they amazing?' and the rest said 'these are so nice, why has no one made them before?', so we thought why don't we do it?"
Upon their return, they set up The Big Yum. "It was a genuine kitchen table enterprise. We were buying pretzels and drizzling them with chocolate, packing them ourselves and taking them to stores."
Early customers included local delis, craft fairs and Christmas fairs, and before long demand was outstripping supply. Realising she had to find a manufacturing partner, Witcher hooked up with Nottinghamshire-based supplier Dovedale Confectionery and fine-tuned the production process. She secured bank funding and unveiled the product in new packaging at the Food & Drink Expo last month.
Although The Big Yum only had a small stand, Witcher managed to strike the deal with Harvey Nichols and create some buzz. "We spoke to the likes of Eat and Pret A Manger and we've also been approached by Selfridges so it's looking positive. It's now a case of keeping up with demand."
Witcher identifies high-end delis and speciality stores as her main targets, mainly due to price a 70g bag retails for £1.80 and a 250g bag at £4. She says she would love to get into Waitrose or Booths, but rules out the big four at this stage.
Kraft may be achieving success with Mikado, but Nestlé wasn't so lucky, Witcher points out. "Flipz were such a high price compared with your average snack. It's just about reaching the right target market."
With the Harvey Nics deal in the bag, The Big Yum is clearly taking no chances.