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I recently interviewed Paul Swanson, Full Flavor Foods’ VP of Sales and Marketing. Like many foods that solve an allergen need, they have an intriguing story….
I understand your family started Full Flavor Foods (FFF) in 2007 to fulfill a growing demand for outstanding gluten-free gravies, soups and sauces due to your mother’s gluten-intolerance. There’s nothing more compelling than the personal drive of advocating for a loved one’s well-being. Simply beautiful.
Would you please speak to Full Flavor Foods’ early day experiences of breaking into an untapped market for people affected by gluten allergy / intolerance. I’m interested to hear the benefits and challenges of being a pioneer manufacturer for the gluten-free market.
Serendipitously, we were the first to offer an extensive, versatile line of quality authentic gluten-free gravies, sauces and soups. Other manufacturers tended to thicken their product lines with wheat and consisted mainly of a very limited assortment of “flavored” gravy substitutes. GF consumers immediately became our loyal customers because they discovered our product was “the real thing” and tasted great.
There are many challenges for a small company like ours. Until the demand grew in recent years, most mainline grocers and retailers weren’t sure if they truly needed to carry many GF products. As a small family business, it’s always been difficult to get serious recognition from big chain stores. To double the trouble, big food manufacturers are able to swamp the marketplace. We really have to fight for every slot in every store.
I’m proud to say, we presented our product line to numerous local Celiac support chapters and their members helped us reach some specialty stores in each Midwest market that were willing to carry GF products.
Can you please speak to your process of product development and expanding flavor profiles? How does Full Flavor Foods contend with unique allergen related challenges that other food manufacturers of sauces & gravies don’t concern themselves with? Congratulations, your poultry and pork items are Top 8 allergen free products! How are you able to provide such full flavors while other gluten-free gravies contain many other allergens?
There are certain ingredients that could be used but “they don’t play well with others” and so the end product will have an off color or strange aftertaste. There are a lot of challenges to overcome regarding the ingredients used and costs involved as we go through each step of the process. And, people will only pay so much for a product no matter how good it is; and of course, we must sell enough to stay in business. So there is an important balance that must be considered and applied to the decisions we make. Certainly our products are made in a safe facility and tested accordingly to meet strict food safety and quality standards.
Tell us about your mother’s experiences of seeking gluten-free foods since Celiac Disease is now recognized as a serious disease and (for better or worse) more widespread. What are her most trusted resources that she’d suggest for other people in her situation?
I have let Mom (Anne) answer this question directly: Before gluten disease was widely known I had to develop expertise for what I ate. I avoid anything listing ‘natural seasonings and flavoring.’ I find the FDA regulations allowing up to 20 ppm questionable and dangerous. I only buy when the NCA and GF logos are on the packaging. Interesting side note to Full Flavors Foods’ answer; Tasterie’s requirements are much more strict than the FDA regulations – 10ppm or less is the minimum.
Since (knowledge about) gluten disease and sensitivity have become widespread, life has become easier for me. Labeling is far better. People question me less about my symptoms. I am now sometimes served my GF food at the table without comment. There are many more choices. Education is widespread along with tips on coping. I carry nuts in case I’m faced with hunger and only gluten choices.
Tasterie screens each and every manufacturer for food allergens on a regular basis. How did you find our screening process? How would you compare that experience to other venues that sell your products?
Well, your screening process was certainly very thorough and probably more so than others I have experienced. Your team dug into more details than most including seeking “proof” of product claims and extra background on ingredient sources – which was fine by me.
Is misguided nutritional and allergen information on competitors’ packaging a challenge? If so, how?
Packaging labeling is not nearly as vague as it used to be. Fortunately, new upcoming government enforced food labeling standards are going to make the facts even clearer.
These days, some chicken gravies are packaged as Chicken “Flavored” Gravy, Chicken Gravy “Seasoning” Packets,” Chicken “Style” Gravy Mix. And, they are all made without chicken or contain almost no chicken ingredients. The nutritional panels actually indicate 0 proteins. Essentially, these products are just a bag of starch with colorings and seasonings. Exactly…. there’s no chicken in the chicken flavoring.
One other way you can usually tell is the price. A chicken gravy product made without (or with very little) chicken is going to be about half the cost of a product made with chicken. And, when you finally taste the prepared product, the difference is usually quite obvious too. Remember…“You get what you pay for!”