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As I walked the aisles of the Summer Fancy Food Show at New York's Jacob Javits Center, admiring the many innovative products on display, I couldn't help wondering what the various exhibitors' intentions were toward the conventional grocery channel. It's all very well to have a best-selling product at a small specialty grocery, or even at Whole Foods Market, but most consumers don't do the majority of their shopping at such places.
For that reason, Petaluma, Calif.-based Laloo's Goat's Milk Ice Cream -- the only such product in national distribution, according to Tim Millson, of The Epic Source Food Co., in Frisco, Texas, as he plied me with a sample of the product line's Vanilla Snowflake variety –- is coming out this October with a more accessible item specifically for mainstream grocers' freezers. Dubbed Funny Farm, the kid-friendly low-fat product line offers portion control in form of 3-ounce cups that can be bought separately, at $1.39 a pop, or in a 4-pack for $4.99. Thanks to the folksy presentation and less expensive price point, the company is seeing "huge interest" among mainstream operators, Millson noted.
Over at the Two Moms in the Raw booth, one of the moms, Marsha Koolik, talked about how the Lafayette, Colo.-based company's "super clean" raw-food products -- created after Koolik's daughter, Shari, developed multiple sclerosis, as a way to address her dietary needs –- have attracted notice from the mainstream likes of Safeway, Raley's and King Soopers. In fact, as Two Moms VP of Sales Amanda Goers told me, raw food is the fastest-growing category in all channels, at anywhere from 35 percent to 50 percent –- a clear indication that it's definitely worth conventional grocers' time to look into such products. Much of this growth comes from adults interested in boosting their health, but many consumers are looking for wholesome products for their children. "Kids love it!" Goers said of Two Moms' lineup, which includes granola and nut bars, noting that the company makes sure its products taste great and live up to strict nutritional standards.
Boston-based Biena Foods, maker of a line of dry-roasted chickpea snacks that, according to founder and CEO Poorvi Patodia, are airier and lighter than competing products, has made an effort to develop flavors that resonate with mainstream consumers used to snacking on nuts and chips. To that end, Biena offers Honey Roasted and Barbecue varieties targeting these snackers, with a resulting "tremendous" response from more mainstream channels, including Barnes & Noble College stores on university campuses across the country. The company is also working on additional flavors in a similar vein.
At Barrington, Ill.-based Sulpice Chocolat, "gourmet" would seem to be the watchword, with its hand-painted (think Jackson Pollack-like splatter at its most delicate) truffle-quality offerings. But even this high-end chocolatier is wooing the mainstream channel via a line of affordable flavored bars, including a mouthwatering White Chocolate variety, due to hit Jewel-Osco's shelves in September, and other conventional grocers thereafter. Anne Shaeffer, the onetime pastry chef now at Sulpice's helm, noted that the bars are a mere $3.69 apiece, with a sale price of $2.99.
Other products with mainstream potential (that is to say, they target consumer trends now gaining traction beyond the specialty channel) I spotted at the show:
- Santé’s nine varieties of non-oily nuts, including Garlic Almonds, Sweet & Spicy Pecans, and Candied Walnuts
- Sonoma Creamery’s Mr. Cheese O’s, featuring quinoa and tasting like cheese straws, about which the company's Jen Oleniczak confided, “They feel like they should not be good for you”
- Organic candy maker Torie & Howard's new Halloween-themed packaging
- Natural Sins’ crispy fruit thins, including Mango
- Seasnax’s Chomperz crunchy seaweed chips in four varieties
- Republic of Tea’s Biodynamic Organic Breakfast Green Tea, which, in the words of the company's "Minister of Enlightenment," Beth Parent, “is taking organic to the next level”
- Trickling Springs' Yogurt Smoothie line, which just received its Non-GMO Certification
- Chloe Soft-serve Fruit, whose vivid flavors might be enough to make kids forsake ice cream
- D'Artagnan's "beyond wholesome" Certified Humane Green Circle Chicken
- Suzie's Carrot and Parsnip Fries, and Veggie Fries, both smart attempts to make a favorite side more nutritious