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“Fired up”

April 30, 2009
By Michelle Brisebois


Sean Carlin is definitely someone who likes intensity. As a paramedic,
he’s seen more than his fair share of heated moments. As owner and
president of Fired up Foods, a little (or in some cases) a lot of heat
makes for a unique line of products.


Sean Carlin is definitely someone who likes intensity. As a paramedic, he’s seen more than his fair share of heated moments. As owner and president of Fired up Foods, a little (or in some cases) a lot of heat makes for a unique line of products.

Folks who love their peanuts and their potato chips can have it both ways by indulging in Fired Up’s signature ChipNuts. This is a product that fills a completely unique market niche, facilitates sales of other product categories and just to make the story really interesting – showed the folks down in Texas that Canadians can beat them at their own game. Best of all, the product is now “vending friendly” with a new three-oz. package. 

The product itself is unique in many ways. A ChipNut is a roasted peanut blanketed in a crispy potato shell. It’s like wrapping a potato chip around a peanut. Fired up Foods uses the highest quality/grade jumbo cocktail peanut, removes the shell and skin, then oil roasts them. Finally they are covered in a crisp potato coating, seasoned in 6 traditional flavours and three outrageously hot flavours:  Smokin, Cajun and XXX hot.


The Smokin flavour uses Chipotle – a ripe jalapeno chile. It’s processed to create a richer flavour that hits the palate slowly. Notes of warm chocolate, tobacco and smoky sweetness meld beautifully.

The Cajun flavour features the Tobasco Chile with a medium to hot spice level with fruity overtones. XXX hot with Habanero Chiles have fruity apricot and earthy tomato notes. The XXX hot flavour isn’t for amateurs – it’s for true lovers of spicy foods.

Ok, so it’s part peanut, part potato chip and part five alarm fire – it’s also very profitable and creates up selling opportunities for other categories.

“We purposefully created a three-oz. (85g) package instead of two-oz. to offer a more substantial serving size for vending,” Carlin says. “Though the product appeals to many demographics – it does tend to skew a bit male.”

The packaging is bright, eye-catching, and whimsical with an irreverent tone. Tag lines include such gems as: “Tastes like heaven, burns like hell” and “A little voodoo in every bite!”

Anecdotally, samples received by this writer were shared with several co-workers and they were enthusiastically consumed by all genders and ages illustrating another product attribute; peanuts are something naturally shared with others and as consumers pass the product around the product will be introduced to new prospects.

“People who love spicy foods often crave them so our target market is naturally highly involved in the category,” confirms Carlin.

Actually, the urge for hot foods may have a real physiological basis.  People who love spicy food may love it in part because it’s said to release endorphins in the body. When capwsaicin, the element of chili peppers that cause the spicy sensation, comes into contact with the tongue, the body is tricked into believing that it is in pain and releases the pain-relieving endorphins.

This explains why, like anything that releases endorphins, spicy food can become somewhat addictive. People might begin to crave it and build tolerance levels so that, say, the spicy cayenne that once seemed very hot starts to seem quite mild. That’s good for repeat customers.

Another natural benefit to selling foods with heat is that they naturally stimulate thirst. If you are selling beverages as well, you are almost assured that someone consuming a package of ChipNuts will purchase a beverage (or two) to wash it down. It’s not only the flavor that heats things up – this product delivers dollars to the bottom line.

“So often the focus is on per cent margins instead of pure profit,” points out Carlin. “This product at its larger serving size typically retails for over two dollars which may register a lower profit percentage wise but it delivers healthier margins dollar for dollar.”

The 85g package size is 50 – 100 per cent larger than most other individual serving size snacks, creating a perception in the consumer’s mind that they’re getting more for their money.

While ChipNuts aren’t exactly as pristine as carrot sticks when it comes to health claims, peanuts are a good source of protein, dietary fibre and 13 essential vitamins and minerals. It’s certainly a better choice than other sugary snack foods. It’s also an award-winning product.

When the product was fairly new to the market, Carlin went where few Canadian snack foods have dared to go before – to the Texas “Fire Food Shoot Out” competition for hot foods.

“You can imagine how pumped we were when it was announced that ChipNuts had swept the competition,” says Carlin. “This is an area of the U.S. that takes its spicy foods seriously. A Canadian product winning the competition was unheard of and we managed to do this on two occasions.”

For Fired-Up Foods, the future clearly involves focusing on their core product line, continuing to deepen their distribution throughout Canada and continuing to promote a love of hot and spicy foods.

“As people have been exposed to foods from other cultures, they’ve begun to love and seek out spicy flavours. Once you grow to love spicy foods – it becomes a passion. It certainly has for me. I just love what I do.”

Find out more about Fired Up Foods and ChipNuts at or e-mail

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