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Clean labels are nothing new, including in the baking category, a fact that was vividly underscored by leading vendors at this year's Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore. After all, no matter what kind of diet people follow – vegetarian, vegan, Paleo, gluten-free, etc. – they often seek the satisfaction of creating an occasional indulgent treat from scratch, or nearly so.
The women behind Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Among Friends hand-crafted baking mixes (Booth #3017) have been helping mindful eaters discover that satisfaction for around a decade, starting their business out of their own kitchens about a decade ago. Their philosophy, like their ingredients is simple: “Don’t eat anything that your grandmother wouldn’t recognize,” in the words of co-founder Suzie Miller. Both Miller and her fellow founder, Lizann Anderson, are big believers in gluten-free whole grains that offer the all-important attributes of taste, texture and nutrition. Additionally, all of their products are free of high-glycemic fillers and gums, including xanthan gum, which Miller and Anderson pointed out can lead to digestive upset.
The company has recently expanded its distribution in Target, adding a second exclusive product, Francie’s Make it Your Own Cinnamon Sugar Muffin Mix to the big-box chain’s stores nationally, and will now be available in select Stop & Shop, Giant and Shaw’s stores in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions, as well as in Whole Foods Market in the South. Among Friends’ newly launched items include Cora’s Honey Cornbread and Alec’s Awesomely Fudgy Brownie Mix (previously, Target's first exclusive Among Friends item). Miller noted that when it comes to placement, the company prefers to be stocked alongside conventional products, so as to provide shoppers with a clear choice.
Enticing 'Curious Culinarians'
Over at the Bob’s Red Mill booth (#1723), the Milwaukie, Ore.-based company displayed a grain-free baking flour blend that represents its entry into the burgeoning Paleo category. Paleo Flour, introduced this past June, incorporates almond flour, arrowroot starch, coconut flour and tapioca flour offering 4 grams of protein and just 10 grams of carbs per serving. Bob’s website also provides recipes using the gluten-free flour, which can be used to make pizza crusts, cakes, crackers, pancakes, flatbreads and cookies, as well as for breading. A baked-treat sample was enough to persuade PG that the texture and taste of the unique flour blend rival those of conventional flours.
“People are paying attention to ingredient lists,” affirmed Marketing Manager Amanda Carter, who noted that consumers are also demanding better-for-you foods that don’t taste “like cardboard.” Along with those whose diets demand the use of such products, however, Carter observed that there are plenty of “curious culinarians” out there who are drawn to these items as a way to spark inspiration in the kitchen.
To learn more about the evolution of clean-baking products, be sure to read the article “Baked Goodness” in the upcoming October 2016 issue of Progressive Grocer.