Chat with ANDRINE MENDEZ for five minutes and you are bound to sit with your ears glued to his words. Articulate, well-informed, sagacious and above all passionate, his latest venture PLING encompasses everything he believes in.

From Advertising to inspirational speaker, Andrine has been there, done that! 
We catch up for coffee to discuss his first step into the food industry with PLING; crisps (NOT chips) with a difference! Though the brand has a universally appealing range of delightful flavours, Pling has both its feet planted firmly in our good old Kerala soil. The crisps in question are made from banana and that ladies and gentlemen is the twist!

“I have always been pro Kerala” states Andrine as simple as can be. Getting into the food industry was a no brainer as Andrine was always interested in food and inspired by friends who have their very own food brands. The only condition he set himself was that the products would echo the natural richness of his home state. Settling for ethnic snacks with its origins in Kerala, he settled for bananas in the form of chips and peanuts both flavoured and caramel coated.

“I’ve always had a comfortable corporate job” says Andrine “there was no risk factor, I was all too settled and nothing came out of it. For me, the hardest thing was letting go.” And let go, he did. Successful start-ups are not novel to Andrine. He is the man behind SALT MANGO TREE, an advertising business based in Cochin, now taken to an International level; to KITCHEN, a purely business networking fuelled platform. And did I mention, he is also a speaker at TEDx? Such a multifaceted personality must definitely have a positive mantra behind his creativity and success. “Doing, conquering and moving on” came the answer. Three simple words…such a tremendous amount of insight!

We saunter back to his newest brainchild. Of course I had to ask him about the thought behind the unique and catchy name! “I wanted it to be a generic name. One that can break into international markets as well”. Andrine positions his product for the young and the young at heart. Pling talks to that naughty little mischief maker that hides inside all of us. Somewhere along the lines of growing up and bearing the weight of a ton of responsibilities, we have forgotten to chill and have a little fun. When you bite into a Pling crisp, our minds need to rewind the clock to childlike moments of absolute zing and non-stop fun! But the product positioning does not stop at fun. It also pushes the concept of health. The bananas are sourced from Wayanad and are processed in Malampuram. The crisps are given their ridges and then fried in rice bran oil. Andrine himself does mixing in of the flavours. In fact, he has plans of introducing vacuum frying in order to increase the health quotient.

The crisps have real interesting flavours. “Sour Cream and Onion was added by default as everyone seems to enjoy that particular flavour” he shares. After a lot of testing and tasting, the flavours finalized were: Peri Peri, Pani Puri, Spanish Tomato and Barbecue. Andrine wanted to generically introduce flavours that are internationally popular and he specifically adds that Pling does NOT target the traditional malayali.

“Cochin is the perfect pilot market” says Andrine. And it is true. It is a relatively unexplored market and consumers are thirsty for new and innovative ideas. Like most people, I absolutely adored the packaging and branding of Pling products. Perfecting the design was the main reason the product has not hit the shelves yet. The cover has a matt finish, which albeit being costlier, adds a premium touch to the product.

Apart from the crisps and peanut treats, Andrine has plans in store for marketing honey, organic spices, chocolates and even a play on mocktails using the fruit trinity of Kerala: mango, coconut and pineapple. “I must always have a certain uniqueness to each product I launch” he states “I thoroughly believe in the natural progression of the brand. One must push the BRAND at all times”

Andrine brought me two samples to taste. One is the all famous Pani Puri banana crisps and jeera peanuts. The moment I opened the sealed cover, it was like a chaat store materialized in front of me! I could smell pani puri right away. Just looking at the ridged crisps one could not immediately guess that they were banana. Surprisingly, even the first crunchy chew did not suggest banana. You get a mouthful of peppy pani puri zing with all of the sweet, salt, sour and spicy in one flavoursome punch! Towards the end, right

before the masticated crisp slid down my throat is when the signature slipperiness of the banana turned up and made me go ooooh! There it is! I love banana chips, so that texture and feel was expected. Some consumers could however, see that as an after taste.
The next in line were the jeera peanuts. The nuts were real fresh and crunchy. I loved the balance of the flavouring to the nut. There was enough to get a nice swab of pungent perfectly in tune with the rich nuttiness of the peanuts. I did close my eyes and envision a rainy evening, a cup of chai and a bowlful of nuts.

Many of us are still stuck in a rut. Happy with being in our secure little cocoons. But it’s time we all understand that big things happen only when we work toward it. Andrine proves to be the perfect example. It’s like he says “It’s not about what you become tomorrow, it’s about what you are ready to give up today”. Amen!

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