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    Natural Growth in Center Store Food Products

    Plenty of new launches for the market’s middle ground on display at Expo East

    By Jim Dudlicek, EnsembleIQ

    Walking the show floor at Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore last month revealed a host of innovative new center store products designed to promote health and wellness.

    Ancient grains – such as amaranth, millet, teff and, yes, quinoa – are dominating snacks, breads and baking mixes. Amid the crush of gluten-free products, they’re leaving poor old wheat in the dust.

    Nut and other non-grain flours are selling well, according to Matthew Cox, VP of marketing for Milwaukie, Ore.-based Bob’s Red Mill, noting that his company’s highest volume product at the moment is flaxseed meal.

    In fact, non-quinoa ancient grains have grown threefold in the past year, Cox told me during a visit to the Bob’s Red Mill booth, where mock store displays showed the dozens of varieties offered by the milling company. Bob’s “Grains of Discovery” line features chia, millet and teff, as well as quinoa. In addition, the company sampled incredibly delicious chocolate chip cookies made with its new Gluten Free Baking Flour, a blend of white and brown rice flour, potato starch and tapioca that can be directly substituted in recipes for wheat flour. The excellent cookies were also studded with variety of nuts and seeds that game them wonderful taste and texture, along with sustained tooth-picking fun.

    Eugene, Ore.-based Attune Foods, recently acquired by Post, displayed protein-enhanced granola made with Kamut wheat and hemp seeds, offered alone and with flakes as a boxed cereal. Attune’s Rob Coluba says the company is focusing on protein from sources other than dairy or soy.

    Sold under the Erehwon, Sweet Home Farm, Peace Cereal, Uncle Sam, Golden Temple and Willamette Valley brands, Attune’s products are all non-GMO; many are organic as well.

    On the Expo Floor

    In addition to grains, trends in evidence at Expo East included alternative proteins (non-meat), non-GMO and raw foods, natural sodas and other better-for-you beverages.

    Wonderfully Raw: Sequoia Chaney founded this California-based company after creating new recipes to combat her diabetes. She brags that her Coca-Roons are the leading raw vegan macaroon, according to SPINS; they’re in 2,500 stores and will soon be shipped to Canada and Australia. The company also offers a range of freeze-dried vegetable snacks, including Dippers (flavored broccoli, cauliflower and carrots), Brussel Bites (Brussels sprouts) and Snap Chips (parsnips).

    Ginnybakes: This Miami-based cookie company is a family concern, and recent college grad Mike Simon, the EVP, gave me the lowdown about the enterprise led by his mother (CEO and founder) and father (president). Their cookies are all organic, gluten-free, non-GMO and kosher; some a vegan and all are downright tasty. They also offer baking mixes (the company’s original product; the cookies came about as a way to demonstrate the mixes) and hearty bars laden with fruits and nuts. Ginnybakes enjoy distribution through some strong regional grocery chains.

    Ancient Harvest: This company was the first to bring quinoa to the United States three decades ago and has undergone a total rebranding and a renaissance of product development – “crazy innovating,” according to marketing director Constance Roark. Its Culinary Grains line features side dishes of quinoa, millet and amaranth; a line of hot cereals include ancient grains; a line of pastas include beans and lentils; and its Culinary Crackers deliver a satisfying crunch in three flavors, including the White Cheddar Jalapeno that brings a pleasant burn.

    Eureka Baking: This month, the organic bakery company is launching two new SKUs, Seeds the Day and Grainiac, in its key markets on the east and west coasts. The company claims to offer the first packaged bread in North America in plant-based packaging. Eureka’s hearty loaves are rustic, have complex texture and are mighty good.

    R.W. Garcia: This family-owned company has been making tortilla chips for 30 years and is a constant source of innovation. Its latest: Tortatos, which have “the crunch of a tortilla chip and the finish of a potato chip,” explains marketing director Genelle Chetcutil.

    Zico: Aiming to capture shoppers who thus far have been hesitant to try coconut water, Zico is launching two products that combine the super beverage with fruit juice. The pineapple-mango and orange juice blends offer the taste of juice with the health benefits of coconut water; the 1.5-liter refrigerated products are being launched initially in six states through major grocery retailers.

    Good2Grow: The company, known for its kids juices and collectible licensed character bottle toppers, is launching Juicy Waters, aimed at bridging the gap between existing flavored water beverage and heavily sweetened juice drinks.

    “Moms looking at juice boxes see calories and artificial ingredients,” Good2Grow’s Carl Sweat said. “We have the taste but we also kept it pure.” The organic product provides hydration and flavor at 30 calories per 8-ounce serving.

    The company also debuted its Disney “Frozen” bottle toppers. Sweat revealed deals in the works to license Dreamworx characters from “Shrek,” “How to Train Your Dragon” and “Kung Fu Panda”; Peanuts characters; Care Bears; and characters from the upcoming “Star Wars” animated series from Lucasfilms.

    La Croix: The Florida-based sparkling water company has added a third flavor to its Curate line – Pina Fraise, or pineapple strawberry. I found this unique blend, not yet available in stores, to be light and refreshing. La Croix’s Nicole Cheifetz said a fourth flavor is in the works.

    Duke’s: This craft jerky and smoked meat snack brand from Thanasi Foods displayed several delicious and bold flavors from its 11-SKU line. My favorite? The Spicy Bar-B-Q Beef Brisket. But really, they’re all fantastic. Love the shorty sausages, too. The all-natural snacks are made in small batches with no artificial ingredients.


    By Jim Dudlicek, EnsembleIQ
    • About Jim Dudlicek As editor-in-chief of Progressive Grocer, Jim Dudlicek oversees daily operations of the magazine, spearheads its signature features, produces PG’s monthly Trend Alert newsletter on center store issues, moderates its regular webcast series, and writes and comments about a wide range of grocery issues. A food industry journalist since 2002, Jim came to PG in June 2010 after covering the dairy industry for 7½ years, during which time he served as chief editor of Dairy Field and Dairy Foods magazines. A graduate of Marquette University, Jim is fascinated by how truly progressive grocers inspire consumers to enjoy food, transforming the industry from mere merchants into educators that can take the most basic of all necessities and turn it into something profound and life-enhancing.

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