A group of Lehigh students are transforming a little green plant into a major marketing initiative.
Kelpÿ, a company created by a group of six undergraduate students through the Mountaintop summer internship program, has continued to increase its promotional efforts throughout the academic year.
The company was created in 2015 to call attention to the ecological benefits of kelp. Constant pollution has left the ocean contaminated by nitrates and phosphates, which can have long-term consequences for the environment.
A Kelpÿ chip uses kelp as the base ingredient, working as both a healthy snack for consumers and providing a sustainable way of cleaning the ocean. Kelp naturally cleans the environment by absorbing carbon and reducing nitrates.
“We’ve produced a chip that tastes really good, and satisfies all the nutritional benefits that we’re trying to promote,” said Marc LaFlamme, the chief operations officer of the company. “It’s a chip that also uses the kelp from farms that creates the sustainable impact as well.”
Kelpÿ aims to bring attention to this issue, and ultimately lead to the creation of more kelp farms. More kelp farms would mean more sustainably grown kelp, which will lead to less phosphates and nitrates within the oceans.
Will Kuehne, the chief executive officer of Kelpÿ, said the company began to grow after the group received its first grant last semester from the Baker Institute. With the grant, the team was provided enough capital to start the project.
With Kelpy’s newly updated website, people can order four flavors online including: Sea Salt, Moroccan Spiced, By the Bay, and their most popular flavor Korean Chilli and Lime.
As of now, Kelpÿ is producing their product in smaller batches, but Kuehne said 29,000 pounds of kelp will be turned into kelp chips by March. They will then ship out to Costco and smaller distributors.
Kuehne said that by receiving help from a large distributor like Costco, Kelpÿ and kelp farms will be able to grow in scale.
In addition to their updated website, Kelpÿ branched out to other social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
“Our biggest marketing asset is encouraging people through Facebook to pre-order our chips off the website,” said Cory Bierman, the company’s marketing officer.
Bierman said a key marketing goal for the company is to normalize the product into the mass market and expand beyond the health food markets.
“So someone who would buy Doritos would ideally buy kelp chips,” Bierman said.
The company is currently working on a Reddit page.
“The market that we’re targeting right now is college students,” Kuehne said. “I think our generation is more interested in sustainability, food sustainability in particular.”
LaFlamme said an important marketing goal for the team is for consumers to understand that not only does it taste good, but that it’s healthy and environmentally friendly.
Kelpÿ is currently looking for a facility that meets their needs, one they can use to help them create kelp chips over a long period of time.
“We want to get out of the Lehigh bubble,” Bierman said. “We want to make it into markets in the New England area where kelp is the greatest. Really just to expand our name and our distribution channels out of Lehigh.”