Homemade, Naturally

by Lucy Sutton
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Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t define the term “natural,” there is no denying the pervasive trend in the food industry. A March 2010 US consumer survey by Mintel, Chicago, IL, showed that 65% of respondents were “somewhat interested” or “very interested” in natural products, and where the consumers go, food makers follow.

Naturally Nora is one company that’s serving this growing category. In her many years working in marketing at the Campbell Soup Co., Nora Schultz, president and co-founder of Naturally Nora, recognized a need for baking mixes without artificial ingredients. After a great deal of trial and error, she succeeded in baking an all-natural confetti cake that won the “May I Have Seconds?” award from her children and their friends, the company website boasts. She then moved into dessert mixes, and the Princeton, NJ, company was born. It recently introduced two cookie mixes: Spectacular Sugar and Marvelous Chocolate Chunk.

“Moms love to bake cookies for their families but often don’t have time to bake from scratch,” Ms. Schultz said. “Most commercially available mixes contain trans fats and other artificial ingredients — colors, flavors, preservatives. Like all Naturally Nora products, the new cookie mixes were developed to help busy parents quickly and easily make homemade cookies they can feel good about.”

Made without hydrogenated oils or artificial ingredients, the kosher-certified cookie mixes satisfy two other key industry trends: cleaner labels and reduced sodium. “They are also made from fewer ingredients and contain less sodium than leading national brands,” Ms. Schultz said. “Consumers tell us Naturally Nora products ‘taste homemade.’ ”

To back up this claim, the company posts comparisons on its website, www.naturallynora.com, between Naturally Nora products and similar entries from national brands. For instance, the company lists six ingredients for its Spectacular Sugar cookies, compared with 11 for Betty Crocker’s Sugar Cookie mix and 16 for Pillsbury’s Reduced Sugar Cookie mix.

According to a study from Mintel released this past January, nearly two in five US consumers who purchase baking or dessert mixes read the nutritional label before they buy. This trend is more apparent among households with more than $50,000 per year in income, as well as individuals over the age of 65. “This clearly means consumers are paying more attention to nutritional profiles of products they buy,” Ms. Schultz said.

Most of Naturally Nora’s bakery mixes can be prepared without dairy or soy for those with allergies, although the Doubly Fudgy brownies and Marvelous Chocolate Chunk cookies contain soy and may contain dairy. All of its packaging uses recycled materials and vegetable-based inks.

Available at select grocery stores across the continental US, the cookie mixes retail for $3.59. The Spectacular Sugar mix comes in a 13.6-oz pack, and the Marvelous Chocolate Chunk variety is 18.1 oz.

“Sugar and chocolate chip/chunk are the two most popular cookie varieties in the US,” Ms. Schultz noted. “We chose the flavors moms wanted and will certainly listen to them when it comes to new products.”