Probiotic breakfast burritos, cricket chips, tea popsicles, and more enter the functional foods arena.
Whether it’s burritos filled with probiotics or cricket flour chips, the latest functional food launches are reinventing familiar food types with new and unexpected ingredients. The products are inventive, delicious, and in many cases, surprising.Yet, even with unique products and a powerful message, standing out in the crowded functional foods market is no easy feat. Finding a niche can be key, but consumers may shy away from new and unfamiliar approaches to food. Fortunately, several companies that are pioneering new products in the category share their advice on reaching consumers.“The marketplace is teeming with so-called ‘better for you’ products that make a myriad of claims about their health benefits,” says Jesse Merrill, co-founder, Good Culture. “It’s no surprise that consumers (especially those without a degree in advanced food sciences) find it hard to figure out what’s real, what’s hype, and what it all means.”Good Culture’s strategy is to offer a variety of flavors, make the health benefits clear, and generally “create healthful products that are uncomplicated, taste great, and fill a void in the marketplace,” says Merrill.Avery Hairston, marketing chief at Banza, shares Merrill’s concerns about the overwhelming sea of information that today’s consumers are facing. He says the best way to stand out is “to connect with the consumer outside of the store, and invite them into the inner workings of our company.”Another kernel of wisdom is to “be disruptive, change the rules, and do what you are not supposed to do,” says Paul Frantellizzi, founder and CEO, Good Superfoods.But paving new ground can come with its own set of challenges. Just ask Dionne Laslo-Baker, founder and CEO of DeeBee’s SpecialTea Foods, who is convincing consumers to look for healthy functional products where they might not normally be found-in the frozen foods aisle.“People may avoid the frozen novelty section as they assume everything behind the freezer door is unhealthy,” says Laslo-Baker. “We want to bring customers to the freezer aisle from the tea, health and wellness, and other areas of the grocery store.”And for some new ingredients, like cricket flour, the obstacle may simply be getting customers to try something they aren’t used to.“At first people thought we were crazy for starting a food around something that many Americans are terrified of!” says Laura D’Asaro, cofounder, Chirps. “It’s a risky idea, but I love that every day we get to change people’s minds. Watching their expressions change from horror at the idea of eating insects to excitement about the idea is incredible.”Image from DeeBee's SpecialTea Foods
Tea Popsicles--Unlike most products in the frozen foods aisle of the grocery store, TeaPops from DeeBee’s SpecialTea Foods are low in carbs, sugar, and fat, as well as being certified organic and non-GMO verified. The popsicles launched in late 2013 and are the “world’s first organic tea-based frozen novelty,” according to DeeBee’s. They are now in more than 900 stores within the natural and organic sector.“I realized that there were no organic frozen pops on the market and I set out to create the healthiest frozen pop ever,” says Dionne Laslo-Baker, founder and CEO of DeeBee’s. She decided to create a frozen treat without added flavoring-a big challenge since frozen products typically need additional flavoring to make up for the insensitivity of taste buds at low temperatures.But with natural sweeteners like mango, cherries, coconut flower blossom nectar, and organic honey, DeeBee’s was able to create tea-based popsicles with just 5-7 grams of sugar in each TeaPop. The popsicles are available with white, black, or rooibos teas, and come in five flavors, including Southern Iced Tea, Tropical Mango, and Toasted Coconut. Laslo-Baker says the TeaPops are rich in antioxidants and free of dairy, gluten, and soy. Four of the five flavors contain 25-35 calories per TeaPop, and the coconut flavor contains 70 calories.Image from DeeBee's SpecialTea Foods
Chickpea Pasta--Banza’s chickpea pasta first launched in August 2014, and Banza is already looking for other wheat-based foods to replace with chickpea. According to Banza, its chickpea pasta has twice the protein, four times the fiber, and nearly half the carbohydrates of regular wheat-based pasta.“We are pasta fanatics, but we were disappointed by its nutritional value,” says Avery Hairston, marketing chief, Banza. “If we could make pasta just as healthy as it is delicious, we knew we’d have a real winner. Plus the great thing about pasta is that it’s super easy to cook. Our goal is to give people simple tools that will give them the foundation to make a better meal.”Image from Banza
Chocolate Energy Bars with Ribose--Ribose has gradually been making its way into functional foods over the last few years, including chocolate energy bars from Good Superfoods. Production on the bars first began in 2013, with the combination of flavorful chocolate and functional ingredients helping the bars to stand out on the market, says Paul Frantellizzi, founder and CEO, Good Superfoods.“We loved the long energy cycle of ribose and wanted it to be a key component of our finished product,” says Frantellizzi. He says the “energy goal” of the bars is to offer a “focused, steady energy without jitters or a crash.”The Superfood Chocolate Energy Bars also include cocoa polyphenols, organic caffeine extract, guarana extract, and ashwagandha. Some of the flavors currently available are pomegranate, cocoa mocha, and roasted peanut/caramel.Image from Good Superfoods
Cricket Chips--When most Americans think of insects, it’s probably not as part of a nutritious meal. But interest in using more sustainable sources of protein is leading some consumers to change their minds about living the insectivore life. Cricket flour has found success in protein bars over the last few years, and Six Foods is hoping to bring insects to snack foods with the aptly named Chirps. “There are protein bars and cookies, but we are the first savory snack made with insects,” says Laura D’Asaro, cofounder, Six Foods. “With protein as an increasing trend, consumers are increasingly looking for high protein snacks, and eight of our Chirps have more protein than an egg.”Chirps first became a reality in May 2014 when a Kickstarter campaign helped the company raise $70,000. Aside from the novelty factor, the biggest appeal of cricket chips may well be their environmental sustainability. Compared to the 2,000 gallons of water needed to produce 1 pound of beef, it only takes 1 gallon of water to produce the same amount of cricket, says D’Asaro. She adds that crickets can be humanely raised and harvested, and produce just 1% the greenhouse gases of raising cows.“We realized that this could have a huge impact if we could get people over the ick factor,” says D’Asaro. “We created Chirps as a way to get Americans excited about eating insects in a more familiar form. We want to take people on a journey from insects as an ingredient all the way to insects as a meat replacement.”Image from Six Foods.
Cottage Cheese with Probiotics--Scheduled to launch in August, Good Culture’s Cottage Cheese is an organic and probiotic-rich cottage cheese that is designed to offer high protein, low sugar, and zero additives. The cottage cheese features probiotic strains Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium lactis and comes in convenient 5.3 oz cups. It is designed to be “an ideal meal-replacement for active lifestyle consumers,” says Jesse Merrill, cofounder, Good Culture.According to Merrill, Good Culture “recognized that cottage cheese is an overlooked, undervalued, and misunderstood category, often associated with grandma and her canned peaches. They decided to shake up and reinvigorate the category.”Aside from the Classic Cottage Cheese flavor, Good Culture’s Cottage Cheese is also available in Sundried Tomato, Kalamata Olive, Strawberry Chia, and Blueberry Acai Chia.Image from Good Culture.
Meat Chips--With 21 grams of protein per 2.6 oz bag, Meat Chips are tapping into the market for both protein and on-the-go foods. The chips feature lean chicken meat and are ideal for consumers who want to maintain a steady protein intake between meals.“We stripped away all the unnecessary fats, chemicals, and extractions, and went back to the source for the most complete proteins: meat. We specifically chose chicken for its naturally lean meat and ridiculously high protein content,” according to the company’s website.CEO Danny Fillmore says Meat Chips first launched in January.Image from Meat Chips.
Wellmune Chews--In February, Complete Nutrition launched its Immune Stix with Wellmune, a proprietary yeast beta glucan ingredient with clinical studies supporting its immune benefits. The Stix are individually-wrapped soft chews that come in a blood orange flavor.“Immune Stix was developed to provide our customers the most advanced immune health possible, which is the foundation of wellness,” says Peter Leighton, vice president of product strategy, Complete Nutrition. “Delivering Wellmune’s powerful immune benefits in a delicious soft chew creates a convenient product to help consumers to stay healthy.”Wellmune is a proprietary ingredient from Biothera (Eagan, MN).Image from Biothera
Probiotic Burrito--What slideshow on food would be complete without a burrito?Sweet Earth Natural Foods extended their line of Functional Breakfast Burritos in February with the launch of Get Cultured!, a vegan burrito filled with probiotic Ganeden BC30 from Ganeden Biotech (Cleveland, OH).“The idea behind our line of Functional Breakfast Burritos was to create naturally functional options geared toward the most common health needs at breakfast time,” says Kathryn Kavner, marketing manager, Sweet Earth.Sweet Earth says it has created the “world’s first probiotic breakfast burrito” with Get Cultured!, which also includes tofu, fermented red pepper, cabbage, edamame, and fresh ginger.“Today’s consumer is actively searching for food items that promote good digestion and a healthy gut. The two main nutritional benefits to achieve this: high dietary fiber and active probiotics,” says Kavner. “There are very few options-and essentially none at breakfast-that can provide both of those key nutrients without the high sugar levels commonly found in breakfast foods.”With 8 grams of fiber and a dose of Ganeden BC30, Kavner says the combination of functional ingredients, flavor, and convenience has helped Get Cultured! “carve out a really unique positioning within both the breakfast category and the functional food category.”Image from Sweet Earth.