Redefining the brownie

by Joanie Spencer
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To compete in the gluten-free market, you must let go of the “me too” mentality. Rather, a gluten-free product should stand on its own, both in production and on store shelves. While the jury’s still out on the overall staying power of gluten-free for non-celiac or non-gluten-intolerant consumers, it’s important for bakers and snack producers to focus on creating a high-quality product instead of just a gluten-free version of the existing product.

This mentality was at the heart of developing Gluten Free Brownie Thins from Free for All Kitchen, a brand of Partners, a Tasteful Choice Company, Kent, WA.

“Snacking is really a growth industry, and the gluten-free market is flourishing. We wanted to combine these opportunities into one great product,” said Cara Figgins, executive vice-president of sales. “There are several successful conventional brownie snacks on the market but nothing for gluten-free consumers. We wanted to provide a delicious, chocolaty gluten-free alternative.” 

Made with a blend of five ancient grains, cassava flour, Dutch-process cocoa and dark chocolate shavings, the Brownie Thins are targeted toward snacking consumers who practice a gluten-free diet, but they can also appeal to a broader audience. “Anyone looking for a sweet snack with alternative ingredients will love this product,” Ms. Figgins said.

Because the gluten-free process requires a dedicated space, Partners invested in a separate production line located in an unused area of the facility to avoid cross-contamination with other conventional products. Partners introduced the Brownie Thins at trade shows, including the Sweets and Snacks Expo in Chicago in May, the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association’s show in Denver in June and the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York in late June. “We tested it with rave reviews. In fact, most people did not realize it was gluten-free until we pointed it out,” Ms. Figgins recalled.

The product rolled out to retail outlets in September in 1-oz ­single-serve and 4-oz sizes.

Gluten Free Brownie Thins are currently available in Double Chocolate, the most common brownie flavor, but as retail picks up, Ms. Figgins said the company plans to add more flavor varieties. Next up, the company will introduce the product to the c-store sector, featuring it at the NACS show in Las Vegas this month. “My hope is that getting people to taste it will allow word to spread,” Ms. Figgins said. “It should be a big hit — there’s nothing like it on the market,” she added. 

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