new branding bid
In the basement of a building in Changzamtog, six men in green lab coats are engrossed in their works. They are working for Happy Chips, the first locally-produced chips in the country.
Two men are frying the thinly sliced potatoes in a huge aluminium pot. The chips come out of the slicer machine. Rest sorts out the defect and checks the moisture content through the moisture analyser.
The result is good, over all. The team then puts the plain fried chips in a machine where spices are added for the flavour. The seasoned chips then it go to the packaging department.
Called Classic Salted, the first product of Happy Chips was released last weekend at the 8 Eleven shop in Thimphu. A packet of chips is sold at Nu 25.
Farmer Sangay, the founder of Happy Green Cooperative, said that all the farmers of the cooperative are the owners of the Happy Chips.
“We are proud that the first branded potato chips is produced by a cooperative,” he said.
One of the leading team members, Adrian Von Bernstorff, said that value addition of agricultural products has been one of the central concepts of the cooperative.
“Potato is one of the main cash crops for farmers but it is not value-added in Bhutan,” he said. “Instead huge amounts of potato products are imported every year, increasing the trade deficit with India.”
Now, for the first time, a company has been started and farmers own it. This is expected to improve their livelihood.
“We want to create a business with GNH values,” he said. “While reflecting on GNH values, we had the idea to cut on our profits in order to incentivise the recycling of Happy Chips packaging.”
Greener Way will give whoever returns an empty Happy Chips packet Nu 1.
To get potatoes for the chips, the cooperative is engaging two communities from north and south of the country.
“With this concept, we are making use of different harvest periods to provide potatoes to the factory throughout the year,” Adrian Von Bernstorff said.
Happy Chips are planning to train farmers in these communities to use organic potato farming procedures, implementing best practice knowledge available to increase yield and to produce high-quality potatoes.
“For the seasoning of Happy Chips, locally and organically grown spices like turmeric, tree tomato, onion, lemon pepper, cinnamon and chilli are used,” said Adrian Von Bernstorff. “These spices are grown by our farmers from Drachukha, a community at the border between Punakha and Gasa.”
In the next few weeks, the team of Happy Chips will extend their reach and deliver it to shops in Thimphu with introduction of new chips and snacks products.
“Our vision is to launch a variety of different food products under this brand over the next few years, making use of agricultural products available in the country and to build a business with strong social and environmental values,” said a member of Happy Chips.
Bhutan has an almost untapped local food market and great potential for export of high-value products, said another member of Happy Chips.
“But we need high-quality products and strong brands that can challenge the imported foods,” Adrian Von Bernstorff said. Many Bhutanese produce great and healthy local products, but they are not going to the next step – to build a strong brand identity that consumers connect with certain values.
“Our aim is to prove that this works and inspire other people to take the risk of professionalising and increasing their production,” said Farmer Sangay.
The group produces almost 150 packets of Happy Chips every day.
By Thinley Zangmo