By Lorrie Baumann
Sweet Earth Natural Foods, which makes award winning, all natural plant-based foods, is on a mission to persuade more Americans that plant-based foods can be an affordable, convenient and delicious way to eat less meat. “Our food is plant based, but not just for vegetarians and vegans – everyone wants to eat more vegetables and whole grains,” said Sweet Earth Natural Foods CEO Kelly Swette. “We want mainstream customers who are trying to eat less meat because they recognize it has a negative effect on their health and the environment. Plant-based foods are simply more sustainable.”
Sweet Earth offers a range of heat-and-eat products made with plant-based meat alternatives that consumers will recognize as options for multiple day parts, starting with breakfast. They include burritos, veggie burgers, seed based energy bars and the company’s newest products, Farmstand Flaxbread Breakfast Sandwiches, which respond to the breakfast-food-all-day trend that fast food restaurants are embracing enthusiastically. “It’s nice for people to have a delicious portable option that doesn’t require a spoon. And, that portability is what makes breakfast all day work,” Swette said.
“Breakfast sandwiches are also for people who want comfort convenient foods without compromising flavor,” she added. “We see that as one of the areas where we have been particularly innovative.”
The Farmstead Flaxbread Breakfast Sandwiches come in the kind of range you’d expect from a line of breakfast sandwiches, except that a plant-based meat alternative has replaced the sausage, bacon or ham you’d find in a conventional breakfast sandwich. One variety comes with cage free eggs, sharp cheddar and meatless Benevolent Bacon™ on a bun made with whole wheat, oat bran and flaxseed. This variety provides 14.5 grams of whole grains, 22 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. Other varieties are similar, and there’s even a vegan version in which meatless Harmless Ham™, a spicy chickpea patty and a sun-dried tomato spread are sandwiched on the bun. Each variety is packaged as a two-pack that retails for $4.49. Swette notes, “We have a version that’s vegan, but we also have egg sandwiches too. We’ve chosen mainstream flavors like ham and Swiss, bacon and Cheddar that people love. We know that people are interested in protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, but we also think they are increasingly looking for clean proteins, free of preservatives, hormones and antibiotics.”
Sweet Earth’s burrito line also hits the mark on portability and convenience. There’s a line that’s designed around breakfast flavors and a range that’s based on food truck-type fusions of international flavors. The Peruvian Burrito, for instance, is filled with black beans, red quinoa, sweet potato, goat cheese, roasted corn and spirulina, while the Santa Cruz is filled with a classic Southwest blend of pinto beans, Monterey Jack cheese, oregano and a tangy salsa.
Sweet Earth’s products are, in general, not for the consumer who’s avoiding gluten. “That really isn’t our point of view,” Swette said. “We are more focused on what we put into the product: real vegetables, whole grains, and the natural consequences are more fiber, vitamins and inherently healthy food.”
Sweet Earth Natural Foods products are distributed by UNFI and are available in Whole Foods, Target, Kroger and other retailers nationwide.
Follow Your Heart, makers of egg-free foods since the 70s, and the producers of the leading vegetarian mayonnaise alternative, Vegenaise®, will launch a 100 percent plant-based whole egg replacer called VeganEgg™ to the public in early November. With egg prices at an all-time high and an increased need for a more sustainable egg alternative, Follow Your Heart is pleased to announce that VeganEgg has finally hatched. VeganEgg is an entirely egg-free, cholesterol-free egg replacer that emulates the flavor, texture and functional properties of eggs, and even makes scrambles, quiches, frittatas, as well as replaces eggs in baked goods.
The team at Follow Your Heart has always kept sustainability top-of-mind. From their own solar-powered production facility, to their entirely plant-based lineup of retail products, founders Bob Goldberg and Paul Lewin have long sought to provide their customers with better food options for both health and the environment. “Enormous amounts of water, resources and fossil fuels go into chicken and egg production, not to mention the inhumane conditions that many of these animals are subjected to,” said Goldberg, President and CEO of Follow Your Heart. “We have been working toward VeganEgg for over a decade now, and there were many challenges that we overcame before developing a product that could truly replace eggs.”
As long-standing innovators in the natural foods marketplace, Follow Your Heart is introducing two new ingredients in VeganEgg: “algal flour” and “algal protein,” both derived from a natural microalgae. “When we discovered that microalgae are a highly-sustainable source of nutritionally rich ingredients, we immediately knew they could help us make better plant-based foods,” said Goldberg. Whole algal flour and protein naturally contain high levels of healthy lipids, carbohydrates and micronutrients. These nutrient-dense microalgae also contain all essential amino acids and are a great source of dietary fiber. While not all of VeganEgg’s ingredients can be found in the traditional kitchen pantry, together they create an egg alternative well suited for use in cookies, muffins, cakes and fluffy scrambles and omelets.
All of the ingredients in VeganEgg are plant-based, allergen-free and non-GMO. In addition to functioning like eggs, VeganEgg is a good source of dietary fiber (4g per serving) and calcium (10 percent DV per serving), contains fewer calories and has less than half the fat of eggs.
VeganEgg will initially be available online through Amazon.com for $6.99 – $7.99. Each 4-ounce package of VeganEgg will produce the equivalent of a dozen eggs. The shelf life of VeganEgg is six months from date of manufacture.
By Lorrie Baumann
Meat alternative Quorn, the market leader in the U.S. natural foods channel, is quickly gaining mainstream acceptance for a product line whose protein comes from fungi. “The specific type of fungi allows the mimicking of the taste of real meat with much better health benefits,” says Sanjay Panchal, General Manager of Quorn Foods USA. The Mycoprotein in Quorn products is a complete protein that’s naturally low in saturated fat and high in fiber, according to Panchal. “It has as much protein as an egg, as much fiber as broccoli,” he said.
The products contain no soy or GMOs, and the protein source is also environmentally friendly, with a carbon and water footprint that’s about 90 percent less than beef and 75 percent less than chicken, Panchal said. “In addition to the great health benefits and environmental benefits, our food just tastes amazing,” he said. “I’ve got three sons, age 9, 7 and 3, and we, probably once or twice a week, we replace their chicken nuggets with Quorn nuggets, and they Hoover them.”
Five products in the Quorn line are gluten free: Grounds, a product that substitutes for crumbled ground meat; Chik’n Tenders; Chik’n Cutlet, Turk’y Roast and Bacon Style Slices. “It gives folks looking for a gluten-free option another opportunity to use a food like ours in their recipes to satisfy their specific dietary restrictions,” Panchal said.
Quorn appeals to consumers who want to eat less meat but also want both convenience and the flexibility to adapt recipes that already work for them. “Our food doesn’t just attract vegetarians,” he added. “What you’ll find is people like our family who are complete carnivores, but if they’re looking for a way to reduce the meat in their diet, for whatever reason, this appeals. The appeal of a meat alternative, and Quorn specifically, is very broad and broadening…. Our growth rate year to date is 29 percent in sales versus a year ago and growing across all channels. We’re really pleased with our performance.”
The product line includes options like Grounds that will work for the consumer who has the time and the desire to cook meals like spaghetti Bolognese from scratch but also includes heat and eat options like Jalapeno and Three Cheese Stuffed Chik’n Cutlets for the consumer who values speed and convenience. “It’s really easy to prepare on weeknights. It’s basically straight out of the freezer and into the pan or the oven,” Panchal said. “With the nuggets, it’s 10 minutes to eating it…. With the Grounds, you mix it with a little water, taco seasoning and cheese and make it into a quesadilla. It’s a really simple food to make, and that’s why we like it as a family.”
Quorn products retail for $3.69 to $4.99 every day, depending on the retailer, for a package that serves four people. Quorn is distributed nationally.
The Hain Celestial Group, Inc. has acquired the Mona Group, a producer of plant-based foods and beverages with facilities in Germany and Austria through one of its wholly-owned subsidiaries. Mona offers a wide range of organic and natural products under the Joya® and Happy® brands, including soy, oat, rice and nut-based drinks as well as plant-based yogurts, desserts, creamers, tofu and private label products, sold to leading retailers in Europe, primarily in Austria and Germany and eastern European countries.
“We are excited by the acquisition of Mona, which expands our presence in plant-based products in Europe, solidifying our leadership position in the category with the addition of Joya® and Happy® to our Dream™, Lima® and Natumi® brands. This acquisition increases the scale of our plant-based operations to over $100 million net sales in Europe in a growing category of branded and private label products, while providing us with additional manufacturing capacity,” said Irwin D. Simon, Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of Hain Celestial. “Mona also presents us with the opportunity to expand our European product offerings of Lima, Ella’s Kitchen®, Frank Cooper’s®, Robertson’s® and Sun-Pat® brands into Austria, Germany and other central and eastern European countries, including the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, Serbia and Slovakia. We plan to create sales opportunities with plant-based beverages and yogurt, which we have successfully introduced in the United States, expand the refrigerated category into desserts, extend the reach of our global brands, including Celestial Seasonings®, Terra® and Tilda®, and leverage our existing infrastructure, manufacturing and research and development expertise for cost efficiencies.”
In calendar year 2014 Mona had approximately $50 million in net sales and is expected to be accretive to Hain Celestial’s earnings in fiscal year 2016. Mona’s plant-based business, which was established in 2001, was owned by several venture capital groups and members of current and former management.
“As a leading natural and organic foods company in Europe, we believe plant-based foods will become more and more a part of our daily diets. With this acquisition we will be able to further expand our healthy food offerings and capitalize on plant-based eating trends,” commented Bart Dobbelaere, Chief Executive Officer of Hain Celestial Europe. “In addition plant-based foods and beverages are more sustainable and lighten the footprint we leave behind.”
With the acquisition of Mona, Hain Celestial Europe will have three facilities producing plant-based beverages, two in Germany and one in Austria, serving the European markets. Mona’s Vienna office will be the base for expansion into eastern Europe.
By Lorrie Baumann
Polska Foods is bringing a traditional pre-Soviet Polish culinary staple to American grocers’ freezer cases. The young California company goes to great lengths to make its Organic Potato Cheese Pierogi, Mushroom Cabbage Vegan Pierogi with Sauerkraut, Organic Spinach & Feta Pierogi and Savory Beef & Pork Pierogi from high-quality organic ingredients and time- and labor-intensive methods to produce products that honor the culinary traditions of Chief Operations Officer Tomasz Piszczek’s Polish grandmother, says Bridget McQueen-Piszczek, the company’s CEO.
McQueen-Piszczek discovered pierogi when her new husband, Tomasz Piszczek, took her to Poland to meet his family in 2010. “Everything we ate at his parent’s farm was from the garden, the fields, or wild-picked from the neighboring forest – even the meat we ate was from a neighbor,” she says. “When I had their pierogi with all the fresh ingredients, I thought, this is incredible.” Piszczek’s parents and grandmother didn’t speak any English, and McQueen-Piszczek didn’t speak any Polish. “We ended up communicating through the food,” she said. “Good food allowed us to share a moment of love and appreciation when the language barrier prevented us from connecting.”
“When I came back to California, I said that we had to get some of these pierogi,” she continued. “We tried everywhere, even went to the East Coast, to delis where there were lines out the door.” But none of those pierogi compared to the ones made by her grandmother-in-law in Poland with thin delicate dough and stuffed with savory fillings. So finally, the Piszczeks decided that they were just going to have to learn how to make their own. They asked Piszczek’s grandmother for her recipes. “We started out making it just for ourselves, but when you make pierogi, you make a lot and you want to share them,” McQueen-Piszczek says. Dinner parties with friends turned into requests from friends and family members for a chance to buy the pierogi for their own tables, and then that turned into sales at local farmers markets and then a sale to the local Whole Foods market. “We just kept taking one step after the other, and then one day you wake up and think, Wow, we’ve got a whole company,” McQueen-Piszczek says.
It took a year after the Piszczeks decided to make the pierogi for the farmers market to find the right ingredients. “We visited the farms and the plants of all ingredient providers to guarantee quality and authenticity. Some of the ingredients, such as the cheese, had to be custom made to mimic the quality you find in Poland,” McQueen-Piszczek says. “Today we work with one of the only local organic mills in the Bay Area. Starting with exceptional ingredients is essential to gourmet pierogi, and all our pierogi are made fresh and flash frozen to preserve the flavor, texture, and nutrients.”
The Potato Cheese and Mushroom Cabbage Sauerkraut Pierogi were the first on the market. The Savory Beef & Pork Pierogi were added later because customers were asking for it, and the Organic Spinach & Feta Pierogi were added to the line as a more Americanized version of the traditional dish. “You see Spinach Feta pierogi in Poland today, but it’s not a flavor from many generations ago,” McQueen-Piszczek says.
The Potato Cheese Pierogi are certified organic and use handcrafted farmers cheese. The filling includes organic potatoes, organic caramelized onions, whole grain organic millet, roasted garlic, and fresh herbs. McQueen-Piszczek says that she occasionally gets questions about whether the inclusion of millet in the pierogi filling is quite authentic, but it’s true to the traditional Old World recipes from past generations. “The millet gives it more fiber and also has a nutty flavor. It’s a very old, ancient grain, and a lot of pierogi just had millet in them. It was used before potatoes,” she says. There’s a whole-wheat version and one made with unbleached, organic wheat flour.
Mushroom Cabbage Pierogi with Sauerkraut are made with a recipe that’s several centuries old and is the kind of pierogi that Poles eat during the Wigilia Christmas Eve vigil, when traditionally, people didn’t eat meat while they waited for Christmas Day. “It’s the tradition of giving something up in order to gain. Religious tradition has changed, but this flavor is still very popular year round,” McQueen-Piszczek says. “This recipe is from our family in Poland, from many generations of eating at Christmas-time. When Polish natives try this flavor for the first time, you can see in their facial expressions that this is the way their grandmother made it, and many tell us they haven’t had it for 20-plus years. We get that a lot.”
They’re vegan, and raw, fermented gourmet sauerkraut is the key ingredient, McQueen-Piszczek says. “ The second key is a slow cooking process where you caramelize the onions, and slowly cook all the herbs and vegetables together for hours, creating a complex, well-balanced flavor. We make pierogi just like home – no short cuts in our processing.”
The Organic Spinach Feta Pierogi are award-winning and vegetarian, made from organic spinach, organic caramelized onions, portabello mushrooms, roasted red bell peppers and feta cheese in a whole-wheat organic dough. They offer 16 grams of whole grains per serving. Savory Beef & Pork Pierogi are made with organic white flour, hormone- and antibiotic-free minimally processed beef round and pork along with caramelized onions, whole-grain organic buckwheat, crimini mushrooms, roasted garlic, smoky paprika, spicy peppers and herbs in a tomato base. “You almost don’t need a topping on the beef and pork ones,” McQueen-Piszczek says. “We used the best-sourced meats and ingredients that you can get.”
By Richard Thompson
For those who have to avoid their favorite pasta meals comes Edamame Spaghetti from Explore-Asian, a new spin on pasta that’s not only good, but healthier too. Gluten free, organic, vegan, kosher, non-GMO and approved by the American Heart Association, it’s not just ridiculously delicious but it’s sure to appeal to a wide range of health-conscious shoppers.
Retailing from 3.99 to 4.79, Edamame Spaghetti is made simply from organic beans and water. One serving has 24 grams of protein and 11 grams of fiber, packaged and ready to eat in just a few minutes. Add a little pesto for a delectable treat, but any sauce is the perfect complement. This is pasta reinvented.
For further information visit them at www.explore-asian.com.
That’s it.®, makers of two ingredient snack bars, has just launched a new flavor in its all natural fruit bar line. The company also announced its recent expansion into national retailers 7-Eleven and Kroger, branching out from the health food store market in which it retains a strong presence.
That’s it. uses only real fruits in their bars and limits its ingredient list two ingredients per flavor. With the company’s expansion into thousands of new retail outlets, it will gain broader access to a consumer base that is increasingly interested in healthy alternatives to traditional on-the-go snacks.
“We are thrilled to introduce our latest flavor, Apple + Coconut, to the marketplace, particularly given the rise in consumer awareness about the health benefits of coconut,” said That’s it. founder Dr. Lior Lewensztain. “As we continue to expand our product offerings as well as our national distribution, we remain whole heartedly dedicated to our founding principles of simplicity, integrity, purity and transparency in our products.”
That’s it. fruit bars come in nine varieties: Apple + Apricot, Apple + Banana, Apple + Blueberry, Apple + Cherry, Apple + Mango, Apple + Pear, Apple + Pineapple, Apple + Strawberry, and Apple + Coconut. They are made without any additives, preservatives, concentrates, purees, juices, added sugars, corn syrup, artificial coloring, or flavoring, and have an 18-month lab-verified shelf life. That’s it. fruit bars are gluten-free, non-GMO, vegan, kosher, raw, and diabetic friendly.
Ready Pac has just brought out its new Organic Powerhouse Grains Bistro® Bowl —a completely vegan, superfood-filled salad with ingredients that reap ‘super’ nutritional benefits.
Broad access to nutritional information has helped superfoods sky rocket in popularity. These nutrient-dense foods have been popular with consumers seeking alternative options that meet their nutrition needs. Research also shows that that ‘superfoods’ like quinoa and wheat berries are capable of boosting protein intake, improving energy, preventing disease, and aiding in weight loss.
“More consumers are looking for foods that provide an array of nutritional benefits” says Tristan Simpson, Chief Communications Officer at Ready Pac. “The Organic Powerhouse Grains Bistro Bowl has soluble fiber, nutrients, and health-boosting phytochemicals. It’s also low in calories, sugar and sodium, which makes it ideal to incorporate into an active lifestyle and also tastes great!”
The Organic Powerhouse Grains Bistro Bowl salad is part of a growing line of products for the health conscious, on-the-go consumer. The salad contains several nutrient-dense ingredients, including:
The Organic Powerhouse Grains Bistro Bowl salad is only 260 calories and has a suggested retail price of $4.99. The new salad bowl is currently available nationally at Safeway locations and its affiliated banners.
For more information about Ready Pac’s Bistro Bowl Salads and fresh food offerings, visit http://www.readypac.com/products/.
Steve Schirripa is teaming up with his Sopranos co-star Michael Imperioli to meet their fans at The Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, where Steve will be exhibiting his Uncle Steve’s Italian Specialties line of organic pasta sauces. Schirripa and Imperioli, known by Sopranos fans as Bobby Baccalieri and Christopher Moltisanti, will be signing autographs and sharing sauce with their fans at The Hilton Level 2 – Hot Products Pavilion, Booth H201 on March 5 and 6 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. There will also be raffle prizes given out continuously throughout both days.
“Michael Imperioli is like a brother to me, so it’ll be great to have him in Anaheim. We’re looking forward to breaking bread with our fans and introducing them to Uncle Steve’s sauces,” Schirripa noted.
Uncle Steve’s Italian Specialties was created by Steve Schirripa earlier this year. Each jar of Uncle Steve’s sauce is produced in the USA from small batches of fresh imported organic Italian plum tomatoes, vegetables and spices, “Our products are USDA-certified organic, gluten free, dairy free, vegan, and contain no added sugar. With no GMOs, no pesticides, and nothing artificial, you can be confident you are feeding your family not only great-tasting products, but nourishing them as well.” said Schirripa. “My mother cooked her sauce for six hours and unlike the others, we are doing the same.”
Uncle Steve’s is available in three flavors: Marinara, Tomato Basil and Arrabiata. It is available at Whole Foods Market, Central Market, ShopRite, Stop ‘n Shop and many other grocery and health food stores across the USA. For more information on where to buy or to purchase by mail, go to www.unclestevesny.com.
By Dave Bernard
When you live abroad and cannot keep up with the demand from friends and family for the interesting food products you ferry home in suitcases each year, it might be time to start your own business. So it was with Colleen Sundlie, who had discovered date syrup while living in the United Arab Emirates with her professor husband and son. Now back in Springfield, Missouri and two and a half years into her business, Date Lady, Sundlie no longer has to seek out the obscure Middle Eastern market to locate a bottle of this nutritious and surprisingly versatile syrup.
After tasting many products and coming to appreciate Middle Eastern “date culture,” where hosts typically serve coffee and dates, and bowls of the fruit are a staple at gyms, hotels and car dealerships, Sundlie put her marketing and business background to work. In addition to the date syrup, Date Lady sells a caramel sauce and a chocolate spread, both sweetened only by dates, as well as packaged dates and a new date balsamic vinegar. The all-natural products are sold nationwide, including at many prominent retailers, such as Murray’s Cheese, Whole Foods and Mom’s Organic Markets, as well as in many smaller specialty food stores. Sundlie reports the company’s sales have roughly doubled in the last year.
According to Sundlie, consumer demand for Date Lady’s flagship date syrup has exploded in recent months. “We have a lot of people that are addicted to it,” she said. “We’ve had people asking us if they can order it by the gallon.” While the company is looking into larger packaging, it recently added convenience with squeeze bottles for its date syrup and caramel sauce. These products previously came in glass jars. “People were just using it more often and asking, ‘How can you make this easier for us?’” said Sundlie.
When it comes to the company’s packaged date offerings, Date Lady’s uniqueness extends to this product line as well. While most dates sold in the United States are Medjools or Deglet Noors, Date Lady sells organic California Barhi and Halawi dates. Sundlie likens these less common dried fruits to pieces of caramel. The company does use Medjool and Deglet Noor dates in its other products.
In addition to climbing retail sales of Date Lady’s date syrup, some manufacturers have begun substituting the 100 percent fruit syrup for other sweeteners, for example in chocolate and fruit and nut bars, smoothies, ice cream and even beer. Interestingly, none of these products are date-flavored. The syrup has the sweetness of maple syrup but carries a more complex flavor, with hints of caramel, toffee and molasses. The date flavor itself is often masked when the syrup is used to sweeten other foods. However, when used alone as a syrup, for example on pancakes, notes of date do come through.
To meet growing demand from consumers and manufacturers, Date Lady recently moved to a new Springfield headquarters and production facility, tripling its capacity. The company benefits from a relative lack of competition within the larger specialty food landscape. While other companies sell whole dates, Date Lady’s syrup, caramel sauce, chocolate spread and date balsamic go virtually unmatched. Even most Middle Eastern products do not compete directly with Date Lady products. Many include added sugar, and, according to Sundlie, some products touted as “all-natural” frequently fall short of the claim.
Always looking to branch out into the gourmet market with new products, Date Lady launched its new date sugar last month and plans to debut additional products later this year. For more information, visit www.ilovedatelady.com.