NEW YORK — The latest launch from gluten-free snack maker Enjoy Life Foods isn’t another cookie or bar. The Schiller Park, Ill.-based company is venturing into a new category with the introduction of five baking mixes.
“When we first talked to retailers and said we’re coming out with a new product, they said, ‘Whatever you do, don’t do baking mixes,’” said Joel Warady, chief sales and marketing officer of Enjoy Life, in an interview with Food Business News at the Summer Fancy Food Show, held June 28-30 in New York. “Because baking mixes were flat. People are baking less.”
Like all of Enjoy Life’s products, the new baking mixes are free from wheat, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, egg, soy, fish and shellfish. But, as Mr. Warady said, “We didn’t want to just come up with a ‘me, too’ product line.”
So, the company also added a patented probiotic to support immune health and 5 grams of protein per serving from a combination of Ethiopian teff, brown rice and algal protein.
“One of the things we saw when talking to our consumers was it wasn’t enough what we were taking out of the product,” Mr. Warady said. “We’ve always been gluten-free, free of the top eight allergens, but people that have gluten intolerance or food allergies also find they need protein and have digestion and immune issues. So we looked at how can we add protein back into the product and still make it plant-based, and how can we add probiotics in?”
Made with ancient grains, including buckwheat, millet and quinoa flours, the line includes all-purpose flour, pancake and waffle mix, muffin mix, brownie mix and pizza crust mix. Consumers add oil and water. The products are formulated with GanedenBC30, a patented shelf-stable probiotic ingredient from Cleveland-based Ganeden, Inc.
“While (the probiotic) degrades when you bake, we’re putting extra probiotics in so even during the degradation we still have enough probiotics to make an immune health claim,” Mr. Warady said. “And then it activates when it actually hits the stomach.”
Enjoy Life developed the baking mixes in eight months, collaborating with a recipe development company and conducting consumer tests.
“We don’t want people to say, ‘That tastes really good for a gluten-free product,’” Mr. Warady said. “We want people to say, ‘That tastes really good. I can’t believe it’s gluten-free.’
“If you think about these, not only are they gluten free, they’re made without egg, they’re made without dairy, and they taste great. They stay moist. You don’t have that grittiness you have in a lot of gluten-free product.”
The product line was under development when Enjoy Life was acquired in February by Mondelēz International, the Deerfield, Ill.-based maker of Oreo cookies and Ritz crackers.
“This is out of their area of focus; they’re in snacks,” Mr. Warady said. “They looked at it and said, ‘Why are you doing this?’
“Well, there were a couple of reasons. One, our consumers were really looking for it, and two, our biggest selling category is our baking chocolate, and our consumers were using our baking chocolate in other companies’ mixes. That made no sense.”
The company is slated to introduce about 30 new products over the next three years.
“We’ll be entering new categories as well,” he said. “What the acquisition brought to us were the financial resources we needed. Mondelēz is not in the clean-ingredient, better-for-you space, so they’re looking for us to innovate in that area, but we needed the resources.
“What we’re able to do is accelerate that process. We’ve got a lot of things in the pipeline.”
And Mondelēz will leverage Enjoy Life’s innovation to improve the nutritional profile of some of it products, Mr. Warady said.
“There’s nothing wrong with (consumer demand for) Oreos, but if someone’s looking for a clean-ingredient, better-for-you product, what Mondelēz recognizes is, why not invest in a company that’s already way ahead of the rest of the group?” Mr. Warady said.
Many of Enjoy Life’s consumers don’t have food allergies; they simply seek clean ingredients and plant-based protein, Mr. Warady said. Conventional grocery is Enjoy Life’s highest growth channel, but Mr. Warady said the brand’s penetration is still relatively modest, and there is “huge opportunity for growth.”“Our goal is to have ubiquity, so everywhere our consumers want to find our product, our product will be there,” he said. “So what Mondelēz is going to be able to help us with is expanding that distribution and accelerating it.”