What’s in a name? For Against The Grain, a lot. It’s gluten-free and grain-free, but it has always had a slightly different way of navigating the food landscape. Now in its tenth year, it has been on the frontier of gluten-free since the beginning. Long before it was fashionable, it sought out high quality, simple ingredients, and rejected industrial formulations. Now everyone is jumping on the bandwagon. It has always made everything in its own dedicated gluten-free and nut-free facility, right down to its unique nut-free pesto sauce. Innovation at Against The Grain doesn’t come from food scientists and focus groups; it comes from a whole company of foodies eating every day what we make. For Against The Grain, taste is paramount, and it all begins with the finest ingredients and a staff that cares deeply about its real-food mission.
Against The Grain has talked with too many gluten intolerant consumers to ever believe the gluten-free diet is a fad. Yes, it has been through phases. Gluten-Free 1.0 was all about dry, rice flour-based formulations. These products served a need, but only for those on a restricted diet. Increased interest in a gluten-free diet came with Gluten Free 2.0, but so did the addition of all kinds of engineered ingredients to make products taste better and last longer, like gums, stabilizers, anti-molding agents and enzymes. Now there’s Gluten Free 3.0: not only are consumers looking for transparent ingredients, but vegetable-based “free from” products as well. The trick is to make foods without an ingredient deck of industrial formulations like protein isolates, methylcellulose and gelling agents one can neither spell nor pronounce. Against The Grain is sticking with its “real food” mission, so look to it later in 2016 to be pushing the boundaries of the free-from, vegetable-based, no funky ingredients frontier.
At Expo West this year, it is introducing its new single-serve flatbread pizza/wrap. Baked, it is a grain-free pizza; warmed and folded it’s a hand-held wrap. Initially available in Classic (tomato and cheese) and Fiesta (black bean, sour cream, lime and spices) flavors, it’s a great healthy snack or an ideal platform for any meal. The crust features light buckwheat, sourced directly from a farmer who grows and mills this naturally pesticide-free, amazingly smooth and neutral-tasting flour. Against The Grain doesn’t care that ancient grains are trending; it believes in the merits of a grain-free diet, and light buckwheat flour, from the seed of a plant in the rhubarb family, that is nutritious, highly versatile and great tasting. As always, it is consumer-driven rather than investor- and shareholder-driven. It will continue to go against the grain, including ancient ones.
By Greg Gonzales
Gluten-free dog food, signs for gluten-free haircuts and even gluten-free lap dances are some of the jokes floating around these days, but the gluten-free market is serious business. Gluten-free options are everywhere now, and they’re not going away anytime soon. Even so, the market is set to shrink a little as a result of high prices and trendy eaters quitting the diet.
Research from NPD Group revealed that most consumers see gluten free as a fad, while they still seek natural, wholesome products. In addition, Packaged Facts reported that 53 percent of shoppers consider gluten-free foods overpriced, while 41 percent said they’d purchase gluten-free items if they were more affordable.
Though the trend may be at a peak, there’s plenty of support for the market. According to research from Mintel, 37 percent of consumers eat gluten free because they consider it good for overall health. Fifteen percent of U.S. consumers in a Nielsen survey said gluten free is a very important factor in purchasing decisions.
“The gluten-free trend is not disappearing,” said Kim Holman, Marketing Director of Wixon. “However, we are seeing a greater emphasis on transparency and consumers being able to easily identify gluten-free products on the shelves versus new formulations of gluten-free products.” Plus, consumers are increasingly expecting to know where their food came from, how it was made and if the product offers extra nutrition. Meanwhile, food producers are still moving to add “gluten free” to their labels. “When a formula is already gluten free or contains easily removable gluten, we are seeing many of our customers deciding to make the move to gluten free in order to be able to put the claim on their packaging,” Holman said.
Moreover, 80 percent of respondents in a global Nielsen market research survey said they’re willing to pay more for foods with health attributes, and the Mintel research showed that 26 percent of consumers believe gluten-free foods are worth the price bump. Not everyone in that group, however, has reason to believe gluten-free items are for them. “Consumers are making choices for their lifestyle, the way they want to live,” said Holman. “Consumers are looking for foods that eliminate unneeded and unwanted ingredients, and gluten is one of those ingredients for many people. I do think the trend may be peaking, as almost all research firms are declaring. And why is it peaking? Because eliminating gluten does not cure everything.”
According to Holman, stories of medical miracles spreading through social media were what drove the trend. “Stories of medical miracles made people believe that a gluten-free diet was best and gluten was the devil,” she said. Consumers and experts alike are calling those stories misguided.
Gluten free is a trend for the majority, but the diet and products are a legitimate medical need for at least seven percent of the population, if not much more. An estimated one percent of the population has celiac disease, and anywhere from 0.5 percent to 70 percent of the population could be non-celiac gluten-sensitive, according to Dr. Allesio Fasano, Founder and Director of the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital.
“Fifteen years ago, people didn’t know how to spell gluten,” Fasano said. “Now, in 2015, the pendulum has swung way over … any comedian includes gluten in their acts. People understand what it is, and it’s one of the most popular markets in the United States. The pendulum will come back a little bit, but not like the other diet trends; this diet is also driven by a real medical necessity and [that] will continue to drive the market.”
Fasano added that a gluten-free diet is a medical intervention, and that anyone considering going gluten free should seek advice from a dietitian. “You don’t inject yourself with insulin and then ask if you have diabetes or not,” he said. “Don’t give it a try just because someone told you that you have symptoms, and don’t do this by yourself.”
As new health research is released and gluten myth-busting becomes more visible — such as Fasano’s December 18 article in the Washington Post — consumers who don’t see results and expect transparency from companies are turning away from gluten-free foods. And until medical researchers like Fasano figure out how to diagnose non-celiac gluten sensitivities, gluten-free foods are potentially a necessity for anywhere from 1.5 percent to 70 percent of the population. While that’s being figured out, people have some diet choices to consider.
“The vendors need to let them know how things are done, to give the consumer a choice,” said Barry Novick, President of Kitchen Table Bakers. “You’re going to see free-from trends continue; that’s very very important. What is natural? Is baking in an oven natural? Is baking in a microwave natural? The consumer should know how the product is made. We have a patient’s bill of rights, and I believe the consumer should have a bill of rights.”
Novick identified poor nutrition content and low quality as reasons people are moving away from gluten-free products. In the rush to formulate products that taste like their gluten-containing counterparts, many of those products failed to measure up in taste and texture.
“If the product is good, it should diversify,” said Novick. “If it’s just gluten free because that’s what people made, it’s going to end up in the same position as the low-carb fad products,” adding that companies are finding success using real people for tasting, and not just formulas, to mimic gluten.
Chris Licata, President and CEO of Blake’s All Natural, reiterated Novick’s point: “I think the products and the brands that are truly committed to making super-high-quality gluten-free meals will continue to grow. There’s a reason why we don’t have 10 or 12 gluten-free items; that’s because if we make a gluten-free item, it truly has to be as good as a similar item that’s not gluten free. It’s not enough to just have it be labeled gluten free; it has to have taste, texture and flavors that are comparable.”
Novick said his gluten-free products, cheese crisps, work because everyone can enjoy them, that, “You need something universal, that the kids can eat and the parents can have with a glass of wine.… Wherever you go, whatever your diet, you can have our product at the party. You’re never left out.”
With so much time, effort and dollar amounts spent on adding gluten-free options to their lineups, producers within the industry won’t be taking the label off their products. And continued and increased consumer interest in free-from and natural products, nutrient-dense superfoods, along with the many alternatives to gluten, leaves room for the market to grow.
“Many manufacturers want the added value of being gluten free and a small additional cost, but in the end, consumers will decide if gluten free stays or goes,” Wixon food scientist Renee Santy said. “They will speak with their wallet. In the meantime, companies need to stay in touch with their customers and understand their changing needs around gluten free.”
“Many consumers had hoped that gluten free would help them lose weight or help some medical issue. When this does not transpire, they will lose interest in gluten free,” Santy added. “But those consumers, that just feel better because they live gluten free, will continue to live gluten free.”
An earlier version of this story misattributed a quote from Kim Holman to Renee Santy. This story has been updated to correct the attribution.
Walkers showcased its new gluten-free offerings at the Winter Fancy Food Show. The gluten-free line includes Walkers’ conveniently sized, all-natural Pure Butter and Chocolate Chip Shortbread portion packs and Holiday Shortbread Assortment.
Gluten Free aficionados will enjoy the new offerings that feature Walkers Pure Butter and Chocolate Chip Shortbread Rounds. Each portion pack conveniently hosts two shortbread cookies making it a satisfying snack to enjoy while on-the-go. The new Gluten Free holiday assortment brings Walkers back to the festivities for those that have had to give up gluten.
Walkers Gluten Free Shortbread debuted to critical acclaim, the first adaption to the Walkers traditional shortbread recipe in 118 years. The line replaces wheat flour with a blend of rice flour, maize flour, and potato starch, while retaining the same butter and sugar content as the traditional shortbreads. With less than 20 parts per million of gluten, Walkers Gluten Free Shortbread meets the FDA standard for gluten free food, with every batch tested to ensure compliance before its release. The line contains no genetically modified ingredients or hydrogenated fats, and is vegetarian and Kosher OUD. Walkers promises the pure butter taste and texture you love, just without the gluten.
Brio features a creamy, richness rivaling that of premium ice creams, with half the fat and 65 percent less saturated fat. For consumers wanting healthier fats in their diet, Brio is the only ice cream featuring balanced Omega 3-6-9s.
“We are serious about ingredient quality,” says Co-founder Ron Koss. “Brio is made with fresh, whole r-BST-free milk from Wisconsin…. Our flavors feature Madagascar vanilla, organic sea salt caramel, Alphonso mango, ripe strawberries, real coffee and dark cocoa.” Five flavors include Coffee Latte, Mellow Dark Chocolate, Spring Strawberry, Tropical Mango and Vanilla Caramel.
Brio is non-GMO, certified gluten free and low glycemic. There are no artificial flavors, colors or sweeteners. For all of its satisfying richness, Brio has only 165 calories in a 4-ounce serving and just 17 to 19 grams of sugar. With 6 grams of protein and a suggested retail price of $1.99 for a 4-ounce cup, Brio is on trend with consumers seeking protein-rich snacks.
Brio ice cream is a product of Nutricopia, Inc., a Vermont-based company owned by aio Group of Hawaii. Brio offers consumers a smart new way to upgrade their ice cream, to a product that is both richly delicious and surprisingly nutritious. It is currently available in supermarket chains including Foodland and KTA, at specialty market chains including Central Market and numerous specialty and natural stores.Brio is distributed by KeHE.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has released a proposed rule to establish requirements for fermented and hydrolyzed foods, or foods that contain fermented or hydrolyzed ingredients, and bear the “gluten-free” claim. The proposed rule, titled “Gluten-Free Labeling of Fermented or Hydrolyzed Foods,” pertains to foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, pickles, cheese, green olives, vinegar, and FDA regulated beers.
In 2013, the FDA issued the gluten-free final rule, which addressed the uncertainty in interpreting the results of current gluten test methods for fermented and hydrolyzed foods in terms of intact gluten. Due to this uncertainty, the FDA has issued this proposed rule to provide alternative means for the agency to verify compliance for fermented or hydrolyzed foods labeled “gluten-free” based on records that are made and kept by the manufacturer.
The proposed rule, when finalized, would require these manufacturers to make and keep records demonstrating assurance that:
Distilled foods such as distilled vinegars are also included in the proposed rule. Distillation is a purification process that separates volatile components from non-volatile components such as proteins. Thus, when properly done, gluten should not be present in distilled foods. The proposed rule states that FDA would evaluate compliance of distilled foods by verifying the absence of protein (including gluten) using scientifically valid analytical methods that can detect the presence of protein or protein fragments in the distilled food.
The FDA is accepting public comments beginning Wednesday, November 18. To electronically submit comments to the docket, visit www.regulations.gov and type docket number “FDA-2014-N-1021” in the search box.
To submit comments to the docket by mail, use the following address. Be sure to include docket number “FDA-2014-N-1021” on each page of your written comments.
Division of Dockets Management
Food and Drug Administration
5630 Fishers Lane, Room 1061
Rockville, MD 20852
Betty Lou’s Inc. has been producing premium products for over 37 years. All of its products are gluten-free and non-GMO. From tempting products like fruit bars that taste like a piece of pie to performance Nut Butter Balls, Betty Lou’s offers a taste for everyone. The company’s popular Just Great Stuff bars are high in antioxidants and the decadent, organic Angell candy bars can satisfy any sweet tooth, guilt-free.
Betty Lou’s Inc. now has nine flavors in the Nut Butter Ball family, with the latest edition being the Chocolate Hazelnut Ball. The Nut Butter Balls are great on-the-go energy snacks to get you through the day.
The company has added two new additions to its Fruit Bar line; Strawberry PB&J and the Blueberry PB&J. The PB&J Bars taste like a traditional PB&J sandwich and each bar is packed with strawberry or blueberry goodness.
Bake it like Betty Lou with the company’s Cupcake & Cookie Mix, Bread Mix and Brownie Mix. As always, they are gluten-free, non-GMO and also made with many organic ingredients. Betty Lou’s Inc. baking mixes are extra special because they’re sweetened with only organic coconut sugar. The best part? Just add oil and water. These baking mixes are pure, simple and wholesome.
By Richard Thompson
Lynsay Barnes of Edison Grainery says that the company’s interest in gluten-free products came out of necessity. Her mother, Amy, was diagnosed with celiac disease three years ago and after her father saw the high prices on specialty gluten-free products, he decided to started creating gluten-free pastas that the whole family could enjoy and afford.
“We were already supported the organic movement, but we needed to find foods that could be eaten by everyone,” says Barnes. In 2013, Edison Grainery won the Food and Beverage Innovation (FABI) Award for its Organic Quinoa Pasta that provided a product that satisfied dietary needs and keeping pace with culinary trends while maintaining quality and taste.
Edison Grainery carries lines of Organic Quinoa Pasta Spaghetti, Fusilli, Penne and Elbows that are all certified gluten-free, free of the Big-8 in known allergens and imported from Bolivia. Each product is a great source of protein and contains no corn, so the noodles hold up well in water and even gives consumers a little lee-way when it comes to preparation. Paired nicely with any pomodoro, red sauce or white sauce, any traditional dish – or non-traditional dish – can be prepared without sacrificing taste. “What’s really great is that people can’t tell them from traditional pastas,” says Barnes.
John De Puma, whose wife was diagnosed with celiac’s disease 12 years ago, saw a lack of flavorful gluten-free pastas and used his background as a chef to create his own. “There were a limited amount of pastas that were up to par compared to traditional pastas, so I decided to solve that issue,” says De Puma. His company, De Puma’s, is celebrating its eighth anniversary this year.
De Puma’s Three Cheese Tortellini is classically made with ricotta, Parmesan and Romano cheese and cooks just like traditional ravioli, needing only a scoop of water in a slow boil. De Puma’s raviolis come in choices such as Wild Mushroom, Lobster and De Puma’s personal favorite, Spinach and Ricotta.
“We’re a smaller company, so we can make different options that main lines don’t try, like our Sun Dried Tomato and Goat Cheese Raviolis,” says De Puma.
Kooky Sues has introduced the first cup-for-cup gluten-free replacement flour using a proprietary non-fat powdered milk blend for superior taste and consistent baking performance for gluten-free cookies, brownies, cakes and pie crusts.
Kooky Sues Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour improves gluten-free baking in several key performance areas. It increases aeration of batters to improve the elasticity of the protein network and more leavening gases for superior lift. Controlled water binding enhances dough handling, increases the rate of dough development and improves mixing tolerance. And, its unique blend of rice flours, powdered milk and starches improves browning and provides an aftertaste-free, rich dairy flavor and aroma.
“The changes we’ve made in our gluten-free flour deliver results that are much closer to traditional wheat flour,” says Kooky Sues Founder Adam Latham. “With this one product on your shelf, the gluten-free baker no longer needs to search the Internet and experiment with unproven recipes or go on what we call ‘scavenger-hunt shopping adventures.’ This is where you go from store-to-store looking for exotic and expensive ingredients just to make a simple cookie. Now, you can use the same chocolate chip cookie recipe you’ve used your entire life and just use Kooky Sues instead of traditional flour. It’s really that simple.”
Kooky Sues is all natural and uses only non-GMO ingredients. It supplies important nutrients from dairy ingredients including high-quality protein and calcium. The natural dairy calcium in its powdered milk ingredient promotes bone growth. Its high Protein Efficiency Ratio (PER) and digestibility can significantly improve the nutritional value of flour-based baked goods.
Kooky Sues, based in Melbourne, Florida, was founded in 2012 and began selling baked goods and gluten-free treats at local farmer’s markets. The gluten-free flour can be purchased online or at a growing network of independent grocers and health food stores. Go to www.kookysues.com for more information about where to find Kooky Sues, recipe library and gluten-free resources.
Consumers trying to maintain or improve their health are increasingly seeking specialty food and non-food alternatives. Whether they are organic, gluten-free, dye-free or lactose-free, these products can be costly, but a new survey of special needs store brands items shows significant savings for consumers.
The research, conducted by the Private Label Manufacturers Association, assembled a market basket consisting of 27 typical specialty products that consumers might purchase as healthy alternatives or for special dietary needs. These products include gluten-free items like pancake mix and chicken broth; organics such as milk and pasta; even non-food allergy-free items like dye and perfume-free laundry detergent.
For every category in the study, a leading national brand product was compared to a similar store brand product when available and prices were adjusted to account for all known discounts, coupons and promotions available for each of the four shopping visits in the study.
The PLMA survey discovered that many organic products on the shelves had a private label product but sometimes did not have a national brand counterpart. However, when a national brand was available for comparison, private label products saved consumers 15 percent. When comparing gluten-free products, the PLMA market basket study found the private label products cost 17 percent less on average when compared to their national brand counterparts, while some store brand products saved shoppers as much as 41 percent.
Millions in the U.S. who are suffering from food allergies, and those with special dietary needs can also save with store brands. Consumers who choose to buy soy burgers, lactose-free milk and low-salt chicken broth, among other specialty food products, would save almost 30 percent when compared to national brand products.
Organic food sales overall continue to grow. Presently they represent a $26 billion market, but sales are projected to reach $60 billion by 2020, according to a report from Packaged Facts. A recent Gallup survey found 45 percent of consumers actively try to include organic products into their diet, and for consumers under the age of 29, that jumps to 53 percent.
The opportunity for private label is evident for a growing number of retailers. In a consumer survey, Walmart found 91 percent of people would buy organic products if they were more affordable. Kroger’s Simple Truth Organic has become a billion dollar brand for the retailer, while other retailers like Costco and Target are expecting billions of dollars in organic food sales this coming year.
The growth of gluten-free products in the U.S. is also widespread. According to Mintel, gluten-free sales have grown 63 percent since 2011 and gluten free sales will top $8 billion this year. Mintel also projects sales are expected to reach $14 billion by 2017 as their popularity and their availability on the shelves continue to grow.
Looking beyond organics and gluten, the Food Allergy Network reports 15 million U.S. adults and children suffer from food allergies, while another five million are allergic to various chemical products. In a recent survey by Datamonitor, 20 percent of consumers said that they avoid certain foods due to an allergy or intolerance most or all of the time.
By Lorrie Baumann
The federal Food and Drug Administration has announced that it proposes to require that nutrition fact labels on packaged foods include a declaration of added sugars “to provide consumers with information that is necessary to meet the dietary recommendation to reduce caloric intake from solid fats and added sugars,” according to the agency’s announcement published in the Federal Register in March, 2014. If and when that proposal becomes a federal requirement, the labels on Uncle Steve’s Italian sauces will report that the sauces contain the same amount of added sugars they always have – zero.
The recipes for the sauces came from Steve Schirrippa, actor, author and creator of the sauces, who’s better known as his character, Bobby Baccalieri on the hit television show “The Sopranos.” He got the recipe from his mother, who has since passed away, Scarpinito says. “Steve wanted to pay a tribute to his mother. Abundant home cooked Sunday family meals were very important to her. Steve honored her by producing products he got from her recipes to keep the Sunday tradition alive.”
None of the three varieties of Uncle Steve’s sauces: Marinara, Tomato with Basil and Arrabiata, contain any added sugar, a common ingredient in other prepared pasta sauces. They also contain no GMOs or gluten, and they’re organic. That’s at the insistence of Schirripa’s wife Laura, who’s a marathon runner conscious of healthy eating and who told her husband that if he wanted to make and sell tomato sauce, he needed to be sure that it would be good for people as well as enjoyable, says Uncle Steve’s Italian Specialties Chief Operating Officer Joseph Scarpinito, Jr.:“If you were to line up all of the popular tomato sauces and then remove the ones with pesticides, tomato paste, puree, and added sweetener, you’d be left with only one—Uncle Steve’s.”
“Uncle Steve’s is simmered on our stove for six hours. The only sugar in our sauce comes from organic tomatoes imported from Italy and organic onions. Quality is of the utmost important to us,” he added.
The sauces were launched just last year on the company’s website and quickly picked up by Whole Foods Northeast. Other markets along the East Coast followed.
This year, Scarpinito is concentrating on expanding distribution of the sauces to the Southeast, Southwest and West Coast. “That expansion has already started – the sauce has been picked up by the Albertson’s Boise division and by Gelson’s in Los Angeles,” he said. “The sauce is also available from several distributors servicing large independent retailers.”
New products are also under development, including olive oil, pasta and other flavored pasta sauces. Scarpinito is naturally a little coy about pinning them down with any more detail than that, but he did offer a hint: we can expect to see an Uncle Steve’s vodka sauce early next year.
Once the FDA’s proposal is finalized, the FDA wants to give the food industry two years to switch to the new labels. In addition to requiring a declaration for added sugars, the FDA is also proposing a new format for the label that would make calories, serving sizes, and percent daily value figures more prominent. Serving sizes would be changed to reflect the amounts reasonably consumed in one eating occasion. “People are generally eating more today than 20 years ago, so some of the current serving sizes, and the amount of calories and nutrients that go with them, are out of date,” according to the FDA.