By Maria Pilar Clark
Whole grains, Omega-3 fatty acids and soy are just some of the ingredients snack food and baked goods producers are adding to their products as part of a mission to promote human health and wellness.
Animal Planet’s “Crocodile Hunter,” aka, Steve Irwin, was a passionate conservationist and wildlife warrior. His energy and passion was wrapped up in protecting the natural world, and his lively catch phrases — “Crikey! It’s gorgeous! — coupled with his rough-and-tumble Aussie demeanor attracted fans and fellow creature crusaders worldwide.
Baked goods and snack producers are striving for a similar following. Their crusade, however, is directed at humans and committed to producing crackers, buns and cookies that incorporate healthful ingredients such as whole grains, Omega-3 fatty acids, soy, and an army of vitamins and minerals. Spreading their wholesome message through mass merchandisers and specialty retailers alike, these companies look forward to convincing consumers to conserve their health.
Companies making efforts to offer more healthful products include Dr. Kracker, which bakes a line of artisan organic flatbread crackers under its own Dr. Kracker brand name. Each “kracker” boasts hearty crunch, over-the-top flavor and nutritional benefits, the company says. The line includes flatbread crackers and snacker crackers in flavors such as Klassic 3-Seed, Seeded Spelt, Seedlander, Pumpkin Seed Cheese, Sunflower Cheese, Krispy Grahams and Muesli.
“Dr. Kracker is a company of artisan bakers who are redefining the cracker category,” says George Eckrich, director of sales and marketing for the Dallas-based company. “We know how to make great-tasting and good-for-you food from the very simple ingredients of grains and seeds, rather than relying on fats, oils and sugars for flavors.”
Dr. Kracker recently introduced single-serving Dr. Kracker products in all of its popular flavors, with the exception of Grahams and Muesli, along with two kinds of organic snacks for children: Veggie Spelt Kracker and Krispy Graham Kracker.
The company’s healthful mission stems from ongoing consumer interest in heirloom grains, among other nutrients, such as organic flax, 100% whole grains, fiber, protein, seeds (sunflower, sesame, pumpkin) and minerals.
“As natural and gourmet foods intertwine, consumers are going one step further and demanding foods that speak to health concerns,” Eckrich states. “The result is an emerging trend in the artisan and slow food movement: minimally processed foods.”
Dr. Kracker distributes good-for-you treats primarily through national retail channels and natural food stores. They also are available at www.drkracker.com and www.amazon.com. In addition, Eckrich notes that Dr. Kracker’s products will be offered by institutional foodservice operations in 2007.
“Today’s enlightened consumers want foods that not only fill the void left by empty calories and junk food, but they also want foods to taste great,” he adds. “We saw what happened during the low-carb craze when customers shopped for a healthful product, but when the time came to eat them, their mouths refused to continue to chew. Taste must confirm that the customer has made a good purchase. Food can be good for you without being medicine, with all the bad connotations of medicine.”
Another wellness warrior lies in Barbara’s Bakery, a natural and organic food company that has been servicing the health and wellness industry for 35 years. Promoting “great taste without compromise,” the Petaluma, Calif.-based company “believes in providing our consumers healthier alternatives to conventional products and supporting environmental and ecological causes,” says Kent Spalding, marketing director.
Barbara’s Bakery’s products, including its Crunchy Organic Granola Bars, Go Go Grahams or Puffins Cereal & Milk Bars, are 100% natural, organic and free from artificial colors, flavors or preservatives, refined white sugar and hydrogenated oils. They’re available nationally and on www.BarbarasBakery.com.
“At Barbara’s, we use organic ingredients because they are better for the environment and a healthier option for your body,” Spalding notes. “Also, since growers tend to pay closer attention to every phase of the growing process, we feel the quality is ultimately superior. Our objective is to provide consumers with the best-tasting products made from the best possible ingredients.”
The animal kingdom is infinitely diverse, as are grocer’s shelves, especially when it comes to natural, organic and healthful options. No longer limited to the cookie and cracker aisles, the tortilla and flatbread arena is seeing wholesome additions from companies such as Tumaro’s Gourmet Tortillas.
The Los Angeles-based promoter of “healthy, wholesome and appetizing” tortillas provides “the country’s best-selling flavored tortilla brand, a category we first introduced over a decade ago,” says Brian Jacobs, the company’s vice president.
Available in 21 flavorful varieties, the retail-distributed flour tortillas contain 89%-93% organic ingredients, are low in fat, contain no trans fat or hydrogenated oils, are Kosher-certified and have the American Heart Association seal of approval stamped on their packaging.
Among the company’s long list of products is a new offering from early 2006, what Jacobs describes as “the first ever” soy protein-fortified whole grain line of flatbreads, called Soy-full Heart.
Tumaro’s also produces Multi Grain, Whole Grain, All-natural, Organic and Soy protein tortillas and flatbread, all of which are available nationally and at www.tumaros.com. The company prides itself on using certified organic pesticide-free flour for consumers that, according to Tumaro’s, are targeted to “people who care about their health and well being.”
Tumaro’s offers consumers its tortillas in resealable zip-locked plastic bags that clearly show the actual product instead of a graphic. Jacobs feels that this features the products’ freshness. In addition, the tortillas can be found in the bread, deli, tortilla, produce and even ethnic food sections at mass merchandisers, making them available to a multitude of consumers.
By offering tasty varieties such as Sun-Dried Tomato & Basil and touting healthy ingredients, Jacobs says that Tumaro’s helps to communicate the “something for everyone” idea.
Promoting Fresh Ideas
Another company promoting grains in its products is Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Flatout, which offers consumers a distinctive rectangular flatbread that it calls the “premier carrier” for various food applications. In addition to selling its products to a number of well-known airlines and large foodservice corporations, Flatout reaches a number of national supermarkets, hotel chains, schools, recreational parks and universities.
Creating what it calls the “first in fresh ideas,” Flatout has many innovative flavors — think Garden Spinach, Southwest Chipotle, 100% Stone Ground Whole Wheat Preservative Free, French Toast and Cinnamon Burst — in its product profile, which includes Flatout Traditional, Flatout Light, Flatout Healthy Grain, Flatout Mini and Flatout Kidz, along with a tasty recipes ideas area of its Web site, www.flatoutbread.com.
Meanwhile, Damascus Bakeries, Brooklyn, N.Y., produces pita bread and lahvash in a roll-up form. Its wholesome, hearth-baked products in varieties such as All Natural Granola are fermented so they taste just like bread, but with more health benefits, specifically EPA, ALA and DHA Omega-3 fatty acids and whole grains. The company’s Roll-Ups are high in fiber, low in fat, contain no trans fats or cholesterol, and have low-glycemic levels. Recipes include forming the product into pinwheels, panini or pizza. As the company’s tagline says, “Whoever thought a 2-oz. bread can roll into one helluva sandwich! Roll Up a sandwich and Roll Down your waist.”
To Irwin, when it came to preserving a natural world that everyone can enjoy for years to come, conservation was king. Baked good and snack manufacturers, too, are pushing consumers to conserve their lives long-term, promoting a health and wellness message in products that are tasty enough to get taste-testers proclaiming, “Crikey! It’s good!”
Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery magazine is proud to announce a special new report called SF&WB’s Healthy Baking. In addition to an ongoing series on the topic, we’ll be publishing several special issues that will focus in-depth on one of the most dynamic and fastest-growing movements within the baking industry, namely the sales, marketing and production of healthful bakery and snack products.
In subsequent articles, we’re going to explore how bakers are developing better-for-you products and how they are positioning them in the market. Additionally, we’ll monitor how ingredient trends are creating a new generation of better-for-you products.
Moreover, we’ll explore how the marketing of these products is changing by revealing cutting-edge consumer research, as well as scouting out what customers want in the retail and foodservice channels. —Dan Malovany
Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery asked four industry experts if health is a perception or a reality. Here’s what they had to say:
“No doubt, health is a reality. Consumers want calories that matter to their health. They want to feel good about that food and that their food will make them feel better, be it physically or emotionally. It is not trite to say that ‘we are what we eat.’ Many customers joke about Dr. Kracker’s ability to promote regularity, because of all of its seeds. But in a very real and noticeable way, regularity is a great way to start the day.”
—George Eckrich, director of sales and marketing, Dr. Kracker
“Health is a reality, and it means different things to different consumers. For example, if you had an allergen you were concerned about, then you go to foods that meet the dietary need you have. If your interest is in overall health, then you’ll seek out products that are natural, organic and positive to your well-being.”
—Kent Spalding, marketing director, Barbara’s Bakery
“Health is a combination of perception and reality. To use the word ‘healthy,’ there are [Food and Drug Administration] guidelines that a product needs to adhere to. In contrast, words such as ‘Heart Healthy’ have no set of legal criteria and can thus be used as a marketing ploy to entice consumers.”
—Brian Jacobs, vice president, Tumaro’s Gourmet Tortillas