In pursuit of innovation

Cleaning up the baking aisle

In the baking mix category, emerging brands are introducing products with free-from attributes and simple ingredient statements. In a market dominated by the likes of Betty Crocker, Duncan Hines and Pillsbury comes Simple Mills, Chicago. The company uses almond flour as its base and differentiates itself by promoting the simplicity of its ingredient list.

The difference, said Katlin Smith, founder and c.e.o., starts on the ingredients panel. Simple Mills products never have more than 10 ingredients, and at the top of the list is almonds. Traditional baking mix products tend to have more ingredients and lead with “enriched flour bleached.”

“We are focused on nutrition vs. empty calories,” Ms. Smith said.

Ms. Smith’s initial foray into the food business was personal. She wanted to “clean up” her diet by reducing the processed foods she ate, but did not want to give up baked foods. Research led her to product recipes and eventually to the use of almond flour as a base. From there, and with the encouragement of friends and colleagues, she decided to launch the business.

Simple Mills baking mixes include muffins, cakes, bread, cookies, pancakes, waffles and pizza. Last year, the company expanded with the addition of crackers made with almond flour in such flavors as farmhouse cheddar, sea salt, rosemary and sea salt, and sundried tomato and basil.

Snacks going simple

Gluten-free pretzels recently debuted from Quinn Snacks, Boulder, Colo. In honey and classic sea salt varieties, Quinn Pretzels are made with whole grain sorghum grown in Kansas and are free of corn, soy and dairy. The company also offers microwave popcorn and ready-to-eat popcorn made with simple, better-for-you ingredients. Driven by a mission to “clean up” microwave popcorn, founder Kristy Lewis left her job at a game company in 2010 to develop and launch the brand, named after her son.


In pursuit of innovation

Her company introduced the trademarked Pure Pop Bag, the market’s first compostable microwave popcorn bag free of chemical lining. The bags are packaged with flavor pouches that consumers may pour over the popped kernels. (The pouches “allow us to use better ingredients,” the company says on its web site). Varieties include maple and sea salt, Parmesan and rosemary, butter and sea salt, hickory smoked cheddar, olive oil and herbs, and sea salt.

“I think it’s extremely important that we know where our food comes from and how it’s produced,” Ms. Lewis said. “Snack companies are extremely secretive, and consumers are left in the dark. We are changing that.”