The votes are in for Refrigerated & Frozen Foods’ Readers’ Choice Best New Retail Products contest. Congratulations to Sweet Earth Natural Foods, Moss Landing, Calif., for tying for first place with a total of 1,262 votes for its plant-based Seitan bacon.
Marina Mayer, editor-in-chief of Refrigerated & Frozen Foods and the creator of the Readers’ Choice Best New Retail Products contest, talked exclusively with Kelly Swette, chief executive officer of Sweet Earth Natural Foods, to talk more in-depth about the contest, the product and what’s in store for the future.
Refrigerated & Frozen Foods: First off, congratulations on being named one of Refrigerated & Frozen Foods’ Top 5 Readers’ Choice winners. What does this recognition mean to you, your company and its products?
Kelly Swette: We place a tremendous premium on new product innovation. There IS a way to create delicious foods that deliver healthy, nutritious and enlivening ingredients in an uncompromising fashion—that is always our goal—and we believe our bacon certainly delivers. And, for it to be recognized as Best New Retail Product by the Readers of Refrigerated & Frozen Foods is a rewarding and validating experience.
Our Seitan Bacon joins the ranks of many award-winning products within our line. Every award is testament to our commitment to innovation and fuels our desire to be the best in retail natural foods.
Refrigerated & Frozen Foods: Your new retail product—Sweet Earth Natural Foods’ Plant-Based Seitan Bacon—was nominated by Refrigerated & Frozen Foods’ editor-in-chief, Marina Mayer. What features does this new product hold that would allow it to even be nominated?
Swette: First of all, Marina and we all know, Americans are crazy for bacon and bacon-flavored foods. The category exceeded $2.5 billion in grocery sales in 2012 and continues to grow. Our goal was to deliver a real bacon taste experience without all the fat, cholesterol and sodium as a modern, plant-based protein. The smell and sizzle of bacon without the sins—truly a “Righteous Meat”— is our plant-based protein platform. Companies have tried, and we delivered. The reception to our product launch at Natural Products Expo West was exceptional because of taste, texture and sizzle; Marina and the trade knew we had a winner.
Refrigerated & Frozen Foods: How does this new product resonate with your fans and consumers?
Swette: Response has been everything we had hoped for—and not only from the vegan and vegetarian crowd. Our meat-eating Flexitarian fans love the bacon experience. From healthy eaters to athletes to the exploding generation of mindful, health-conscious Millennials, we’re delivering the bacon without the bacon baggage of high calorie, high cholesterol and high fat.
Refrigerated & Frozen Foods: What goes into developing a new product?
Swette: First, we have to be addressing a need or a real problem that consumers are trying to solve. Otherwise, we are just making “me too” products, and that’s not our mission or interest.
Second, we define and quantify the problem, market opportunity and the consumer and retail requirements to prepare a focused design brief. Next, we assemble our talented team of foodies and make it happen.
Focus and talent. Lots and lots of both. We have an amazing food innovation team that brings delicious, innovative foods to the table. They combine an unbending commitment to our mission of delivering delicious and nutritious plant-based foods to our customers. Award-winning products result when you focus talented people who believe in what they are doing.
Refrigerated & Frozen Foods: Re: its packaging, any unique features to the product’s packaging?
Swette: Our packaging delivers a familiar “bacon” look with modern boldness; the audacity to create a flavorful meat-less bacon. People expect bacon to be visible, not hidden in a box—“show me the meat with less fat please”—always bold, always prominent. From the black, rigid backing to the weathered retail bands and rugged merchandisers, our benevolent bacon has an authentic, culinary and bold shelf presence that consumers will notice in any refrigerated or frozen foods case.
Refrigerated & Frozen Foods: What is on the horizon for your company?
Swette: We have the opportunity to change the way Americans think about prepared natural foods, and our team is committed to delivering. We are a flavor-first company, which we believe is at the core of our success.
Many of the largest natural and mainstream retailers in the country are opening their doors to Sweet Earth, and our commitment to them is to continue to provide premium foods at an affordable price without compromising nutrition, taste or sustainability.
In terms of growth, our reach is growing exponentially. Without sacrificing quality or service, Sweet Earth will quickly become a household brand in the natural foods category.
To learn more about this and other winners from Refrigerated & Frozen Foods’ Readers’ Choice Best New Retail Products contest, check out the July 2014 State of the Industry report.