Peas, Love and Giving Back: The Livio Bisterzo Philosophy

Livio Bisterzo has some visionary ideas about snacking. In fact, he aims to change the world one chickpea at a time.

The 36-year-old entrepreneur and founder of Green Park Brands Inc. in Santa Monica, California, has married his mission with his munchies. HIPPEAS, a light, crispy, healthy snack, is taking the industry by storm and improving the lives of poor African farmers all at the same time.

In light of recent investments made by Strand Equity Partners and actor Leonardo DiCaprio, the HIPPEAS brand is expected to continue its phenomenal growth trajectory. Livio Bisterzo isn’t just excited about the additional funding. He’s pleased that the new investors’ visions and values mirror his own.

“Give Peas a Chance”

The HIPPEAS slogan reflects the company culture at Green Park Brands, which is decidedly laid-back. The slogan is also an updated hippie-era appeal to conscientious millennials.

Like Bisterzo, his targeted consumer group cares about health, world hunger and the environment. They want the food and beverage companies that they patronize to use organic, sustainable products and promote social causes such as fair trade. They have embraced the HIPPEAS philosophy that tasting good and doing good go hand in hand.

It’s hard to run out of healthy adjectives when describing HIPPEAS. The snacks are certified organic, vegan, gluten-free and kosher. They contain no genetically modified organisms. A 1-ounce serving packs 4 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber into a low-calorie nosh.

The flavors have playful names that hark back to Woodstock and the Summer of Love: Far Out Fajita, Bohemian Barbecue, Happenin’ Hickory, In Herbs We Trust, Maple Haze, Sriracha Sunshine and Pepper Power. The Vegan White Cheddar variety doesn't sound quite as groovy, but it’s a best-seller nonetheless.

The crunchy chickpeas are sold in 20,000 stores across the U.S. and in the U.K. They're on shelves at Whole Foods, Starbucks, Safeway, Albertsons, Kroger, Target and other leading outlets. Amazon.com. carries them as well. The 4-ounce bags sell for around $3.

A portion of every purchase goes to Farm Africa, a charity dedicated to helping farmers in rural east Africa work their way out of poverty.

About the Investors

Strand Equity Partners has an extensive network of relationships across several sectors. Their diverse portfolio includes Chop’t, Dos Toros, Sweaty Betty, Artsy and Thom Browne. Cofounder Seth Rodsky and his team are attracted to dynamic, emerging consumer brands, so a partnership with HIPPEAS makes sense.

DiCaprio has an impressive philanthropic resume apart from his career in films. The actor and producer campaigns tirelessly for climate solutions, biodiversity and conservation. His trophy case holds not only an Oscar, a Screen Actors Guild Award and three Golden Globe Awards, but it also boasts the Clinton Global Citizen Award and the World Economic Forum Crystal Award. He is a United Nations Messenger of Peace for climate change and serves on the boards of several wildlife and natural resource conservation committees.

Bisterzo wouldn’t say how much Strand Equity Partners or DiCaprio invested, but he divulged that he’d raised $2.5 million total. Good friends and angel investors have been generous and supportive.

Bisterzo had this to say after the investments were announced in May 2017:

“I’m truly excited that Strand Equity Partners and Leonardo have joined the HIPPEAS family. As the brand continues to grow with such momentum in the marketplace, it’s incredible to bring on board partners who align with our vision and values as a company. We are very enthusiastic to be sharing this journey with them.”

Analyzing the HIPPEAS Craze

Norman Deschamps is the owner of the Canada-based market research firm Rogue Thought Consulting. He reports that sales of snacks made with healthy, alternative ingredients topped $1 billion in 2016, and he expects the trend to continue.

Newly popular snack ingredients include kale, spinach, sweet potatoes and chickpeas. Chickpea products increased in sales by approximately 153 percent in the year ending October 2016. According to Deschamps, salty snacks typically have a profit margin somewhere between 20 and 30 percent.

Since the big players in the snacking industry have been slow to respond to increased demand for healthier snacks, Deschamps sees plenty of opportunity for newcomers to stake their claims. That's not to say that the market isn't highly competitive. Trendy new products are debuted all the time, but the HIPPEAS brand is more than holding its own.

The Man and the Mission Behind HIPPEAS

Bisterzo hails from the U.K. and studied at London’s University of the Arts. Astute in marketing, he founded an entrepreneurial events business in 2003. He has since branched out into hospitality and consumer brands.

His recent foray into the health and nutrition sector started in 2015 with the founding of Green Park Brands. He is determinedly focused on developing brands that have lasting value to society. Seen through Bisterzo’s lens, even the snacking industry has the potential to prompt cultural change. If he can make a positive impact with products that are better for health, society and the environment, he'll consider his mission a success.

Health