A passion for paleo

by Monica Watrous
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Paleo Passion Foods grainless granola clusters
Last May, Paleo Passion Foods introduced a line of grainless granola clusters, featuring nuts, seeds and fruit with a touch of honey or maple syrup.

ANAHEIM, CALIF. — The caveman diet is catching on with conventional consumers, driving growth for brands like Paleo Passion Foods, Greenwich, Conn. Food and beverage products featuring a paleo claim or certification have grown 56% over the prior year, according to data from Nielsen Product Insider and Label Insight. Such products, which do not contain grains, dairy, legumes or refined sugar, span the categories of pancake and baking mixes, soup, crackers, ready-to-eat cereal and peanut butter.

Martin Sands, Paleo Passion Foods
Marty Sands, founder and c.e.o. of Paleo Passion Foods

“Wal-Mart is making a huge push in this area, as well as Kroger and CVS,” said Marty Sands, founder and chief executive officer of Paleo Passion Foods. “It’s not just Whole Foods pushing into free-from, clean label, gluten-free, paleo certified… The mass market is now moving into this world.”

Paleo Passion Foods was among dozens of exhibitors featuring paleo-friendly products at Natural Products Expo West, held March 9-12 in Anaheim.

Founded in 2014, the company currently offers two product lines. Paleo Passion Pops ice pops are made with such ingredients as sweet potato puree, flax seeds, chia seeds and ginger. Flavors include apple crisp, coconut, strawberry passion fruit, blueberry pomegranate, pineapple ginger, orange mango and chocolate.

Paleo Passion Foods ice pops
Paleo Passion Pops ice pops are made with such ingredients as sweet potato puree, flax seeds, chia seeds and ginger.

Last May, the company added a line of grainless granola clusters, featuring nuts, seeds and fruit with a touch of honey or maple syrup. The company’s products are sold in about 2,000 stores with plans to expand to more than 4,000 stores by the end of the year.

“So many different people have their own interpretation of paleo,” Mr. Sands told Food Business News. “The way we interpret it is we are passionate about staying away from processed foods. We’re paleo-friendly in the pops and paleo certified in the grainless granola. But it’s not just about that. It’s about getting away from the processed foods and trying to avoid refined sugars.”

The brand began as a passion project of Mr. Sands’ wife, Kim, a self-described “self-taught nutritionist” who develops the recipes for the company.

Kim Sands, Paleo Passion Foods
Kim Sands, recipe developer for Paleo Passion Foods

“My husband is extremely entrepreneurial, and I’m health conscious and nutrition oriented,” she said. “The one thing I’ve learned is the products have to taste good. It doesn’t matter how clean and great your ingredients are. If the product doesn’t taste good, they’re not eating it. I can’t tell you how many times we tried things and in the garbage it went.”

Long term, the company plans to introduce products in additional categories, including nut butters and frozen meals, Mrs. Sands said.

“The whole natural foods and healthy way of living is really going mainstream, and so many of these big retailers are taking on these health initiatives,” Mrs. Sands said. “We have a serious problem with obesity in this country, and it’s nice to see there are food manufacturers trying to do something about it and that we’re not alone.”

Paleo Passion Foods Strawberry Passion ice pop
Paleo Passion Foods' Strawberry Passion ice pop is made with filtered water, apple juice concentrate, strawberry puree, passion fruit, flax seeds and guar gum.

Recent research from Hitwise, Los Angeles, indicates internet searches related to paleo dieting may have peaked after experiencing a meteoric jump in 2016. However, tenets of the paleo diet, namely the avoidance of artificial ingredients and refined sweeteners, appear to be here to stay.

“The real movement, in our view, and what I see more and more is people are equating the word ‘paleo’ with non-processed foods,” Mr. Sands said. “Getting closer and closer to real foods is what we see the movement as all about.”
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