BALTIMORE — It isn’t just the product attributes themselves but how they’re executed that determines their success, according to exhibitors and retailers at the Natural Products Expo East here.
The annual event, presented by Penton’s New Hope Natural Media, is the largest gathering of natural products suppliers and emerging food and grocery entrepreneurs on the East Coast. And while attributes like non-GMO and gluten free are practically the price of admission for exhibitors today, the winners in the space are those who can marry products with those characteristics to consumer demands for simplicity and taste. As one retailer told SN at the show, “We’re looking for gluten-free products that taste good.”
To hear the exhibitors tell it, striking the right mix is a delicate process. Matt Cox, director of marketing for Bob’s Red Mill, said the company’s new gluten-free pie crust mix resulted from dozens of formulations to create a mix that was not too sticky yet easy to prepare. “One thing we hear a lot from customers is that they’re frustrated around the holidays preparing gluten-free meals, particularly baking,” he said.
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The gluten-free trend is also moving toward more convenience-focused foods like frozen pizzas. Chef Anthony Russo’s, a Houston-based pizza chef and restaurateur, developed a gluten-free pizza in his restaurant with a recipe now in a line of branded and private-label frozen pizzas in retail. “This is a gourmet pizza, with the benefit of being gluten-free,” Scott Treadaway, sales director, said.
Products in abundance at the show included kale, chia, seaweed (in sheets and crisps) and sprouted grains, such as a seven-grain pizza crust from Angelic Bakehouse, Waukesha, Wis.
Jim Breen, chief executive officer of Minneapolis-based sprouted grain chip maker Way Better Snacks, said his company was moving further into germinated seeds as an ingredient, explaining that germinated seeds of a plant are far more nutritious than the plant itself. That company is developing chips using germinated mustard, broccoli and kale seeds. “Kale’s hot right now but nobody’s doing anything with the seed yet as far as we can tell,” he said.
But just wait.
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