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Raft of tasty products meet special needs of gluten and lactose-intolerant consumers: people who can't eat certain kinds of foods used to miss out on many flavors to savor. Not anymore, as today retailers offer a wide variety of SKUs tailored to their requirements.

Frozen food producers in North America are providing an invaluable service to consumers with special dietary needs. Increasingly, in freezer cases at stores from coast to coast, shoppers can find foods without gluten, devoid of the lactose or casein found in dairy products, and indeed without any type of animal products, but with fats particularly suitable for folks with cardiac problems.


Most clearly marked in stores as special are gluten-free products. The natural food chain Whole Foods, for example, uses green shelf tags with white lettering to call attention to such items, but does not single out any other healthy eating category of frozen food.

Producers have a tendency to cater to more than one type of food sensitivity or need at a tinge. Thus a given product may be gluten-free, nut-free, dairy-free, and kosher. Some items automatically fall into more than one category. Furthermore, deliberately making products that can be eaten by people with a range of needs increases the number of potential consumers.

Nevertheless, the marketing of an item tends to be targeted at a specific need. Often one attribute of the product is spelled out in big letters on the package; other attributes are listed less conspicuously in a corner of the front or on the back of the pack.

In this report producers and products are grouped according to the primary focus of each item or group of items and proceed from gluten-free (arranged according to meals) through dairy-free, vegetarian and vegan, to foods intended to make a special contribution to cardiac or overall health. Under gluten-free we concentrate on analog products, containing substitute ingredients, rather than on products such as hummus that do not normally contain gluten.

Since 2005, sales of gluten-free food have more than tripled in the USA to over $2.6 billion, according to Packaged Facts, a market research firm. It expects sales in the segment to reach approximately $6 billion in sales by 2015.

There are at least three million Americans with celiac disease who cannot tolerate gluten, which is found in rye, barley, oats and all species of wheat. The Gluten-Free Certification Organization, a program of the nonprofit Gluten Intolerance Group, certifies products as gluten-free based on an international standard adopted in 2008 by the Codex Alimentarius Commission. Certified food made without rye, oats, barley and wheat cannot have more than 20 milligrams of gluten per kilogram. Foods with these ingredients specially processed to reduce gluten content can have up to 100 milligrams of gluten per kilogram.

CedarLane Natural Foods of Carson, California, recently launched a new range of breakfast and lunch entrees called CedarLean, targeting health-conscious consumers looking for convenient meals.

Three gluten-free Egg White Frittatas options are part of the line: Broccoli & Cheddar, Roasted Chile & Cheese, and Spinach & Roasted Tomato. They're each made with a scalloped potato crust, are high in protein and fiber, and have 200 calories or fewer, delivering a tasty and lean alternative to frozen waffles.

An eye-catching gluten-free icon is easily located on the front of the packaging, helping consumers with gluten intolerances to find what they need quickly.

Gluten Free Cafe is a line of certified main dishes, fortified with vitamins, minerals and prebiotics to support digestion. One of the prebiotics is inulin, an indigestible carbohydrate which provides the benefits of fiber that tend to be missing from the diets of those not eating gluten. Distributed by the Hain Celestial Group of Melville, New York, the range consists of Pasta Primavera, Fettucini Alfredo, Lemon Basil Chicken and Asian Noodles.

The Asian Noodles offering features rice noodles, edamame, water chestnuts and peanuts, and is seasoned with a hot blend of ginger and red chili garlic. It has a pleasantly varied texture, with items ranging from crisp to soft, and an appropriate ratio between sauce and solid ingredients. Carrots, red bell peppers and edamame make the dish colorful. At 340 calories, it's satisfactorily filling.

Just What the Doctor Ordered

The importance of frozen gluten-free products to someone who does have celiac disease is illustrated by the story of a woman who was diagnosed in 1976 with what was then called "gluten intolerance." There was little information available, and it was hard to find food without gluten on the market. Her family grew vegetables on their farm, and she started eating only foods made from scratch. Then, about a decade or so ago, there began a quiet explosion of food available for people with all kinds of food allergies and intolerances. As her children grew up and explored health food stores in the city, they began to bring back treats for her.

"One day, my son came home with a bag of frozen donuts by Kinnikinnick Foods," she recalled. I took one out and let it thaw in the refrigerator, and got up in the morning to eat my first donut in over 30 years. Now so much has changed. I can go to my local supermarket and choose from a wide variety of delicious frozen food that even I can eat."



One of her family's favorite foods today is Nature's Path Organic's Mesa Sunrise Frozen Waffles, which are widely available. Mesa Sunrise blends gluten-free corn meal, amaranth and quinoa. The cost is $3.39 for six waffles weighing 7.5 ounces.

The company sells many different kinds of waffles, of which at least three are gluten-free. The other two are Homestyle, a product advertised as a "deliciously plain gluten-free waffle that's light and crispy," and Buckwheat Wildberry, a blend of buckwheat and sweet rice flour, studded with raspberries and other berries.

Minneapolis, Minnesota-based French Meadow Bakery offers a lot of gluten-free items, among them a soft sandwich bread, a cinnamon raisin bread, and a multi-grain bread. The latter is prepared with a whole grain blend of amaranth, quinoa, millet, sorghum and teff, and sweetened with organic honey.

People with celiac disease often do not get enough fiber in their diet, because most gluten-free breads contain refined starches and flours. The multi-grain bread is made with whole grains to which celiac disease sufferers are not allergic. A slice provides eight grams of whole grains, plus four grams of protein and three grams of fiber.

In addition to bread, French Meadow offers gluten-free pizza crust, tortillas, rolls, brownies, cookies, muffins, cakes and cupcakes. The line is also free of lactose, casein, peanuts, tree nuts and preservatives.

Food for Life Baking Company of Corona, Calif., is a family-owned supplier of gluten-free bread. The company, best known for its Ezekiel bread, sells seven kinds of gluten-free products, including wheat and raisin pecan bread. The main ingredient in the recipe is brown rice flour, followed by filtered water, raisins, white rice flour, fruit juice concentrate, pecan meal and tapioca. A loaf weighs 24 ounces and sells for about $6.99.

Food for Life also produces gluten-free whole grain brown rice and organic sprouted whole kernel flourless corn tortillas.

Van's International Foods of Vernon, Calif., has been selling frozen gluten- and wheat-free waffles since 1993, and they have always been made out of what Van's characterizes as "natural ingredients." The company offers a number of items in its gluten and wheat-free line: Minis and, in standard size, Homestyle, Flax, Buckwheat, Blueberry and Apple Cinnamon. The Flax contain 1,000 milligrams of Omega-3 fatty acids.

Ian's Natural Foods of Revere, Mass., offers dairy-free French Toast Sticks. Also for breakfast from Ian's is the gluten-free Wafflewich. The dairy-free version is Maple Sausage and Egg; the dairy version is Egg and Maple Cheddar. Two five-ounce sandwiches come per package.

Petaluma, Calif.-headquartered Amy's Kitchen, a major producer of frozen natural and organic foods, sells a few items specially formulated to be gluten-free. They include a Roasted Vegetable Pizza on a rice crust and a family favorite, Rice Mac and Cheese in nine-ounce packs. Both are also non-dairy.

In addition, Amy's offers numerous products that, made according to any standard recipe, would be free of gluten. In the latter category are Amy's Refried Beans and Indian Mattar Paneer.

Kettle Cuisine of Chelsea, Mass., offers a range of 10 gluten-free frozen soups. Angus Beef Steak/Chili with Beans is one of the hearty recipes made with beef raised without use of growth-promoting hormones or antibiotics. Tomatoes and beef are the dominant ingredients, accented with red chili beans, green peppers and green chili seasonings. It is dairy-free as well as gluten-free, provides eight grams of fiber and 22 grams of protein. A 10-ounce package costs $3.99.

Five Star Foodies of Cincinnati, Ohio, sells a variety of types of natural, vegan products. They include four frozen items: Vegetarian Gourmet Gravy, Vegetarian Harvest Roast, Gourmet Grillers, and Artichoke Burgers. The last is "100% Gluten-Free" and also soy-and dairy-free. The ingredients in order of prominence are artichokes, cashew nuts, brown rice, celery, olive oil, potato/corn starch, evaporated cane sugar, salt, spices and citric acid.

The burgers are packaged in a stand-alone brown envelope, lined with plastic and with labels pasted on front and back. A spokesperson told QFFI that the packing is ecological only because it is lighter than the traditional frozen food box, although the company that manufactures the plastic bags is working to make them recyclable.



Caesar's Pasta Specialties, established in Blackwood, New Jersey, more than 40 years ago, has added four gluten-free main dishes: Manicotti, Vegetable Lasagna, Cheese Lasagna, and Stuffed Shells. The Cheese Lasagna, with the company's "secret recipe marina sauce," features noodles made with rice flour and a filling based on ricotta cheese--all spiced with basil, red pepper, black pepper, oregano and parsley. Weighing 11.5 ounces, the product serves one hungry person or two light eaters.

Vegan Options

SPINS, Inc.'s "Trend Predictions" has designated "gluten-free expansion" as a major trend, and the "vegan option" as another notable trend. Vegan certification is increasing, SPINS noted.

Concern about animal rights has long been a leading reason for becoming vegetarian (no meat consumption) or vegan (consumption of no animal products at all--not even eggs or dairy food; and none tested on animals). Many people eschew animal products and, in particular, red meat because of perceived health concerns.

In the United States certification is delivered by Vegan Action, which has as its certification symbol a circle containing a heart in which is centered a white "V." This organization does not exclude from certification products containing trace amounts of animal materials, because the products were made on machinery that had been used on non-vegan products. Their reasoning is that excluding them would do more harm than good.

Customers in general think that vegan diets are too strict to follow and excluding products slightly "contaminated" with animal materials would only reinforce that image. Not all genuinely vegan products have as yet been through the certification procedure, and some US vegan products may use a certification from the Vegan Society in London, which has a flower in its certification logo.

Nate's, a brand from Elena's Food Specialties of South San Francisco, Calif., sells packages of Classic Flavor Meatless Meatballs. They can be used in a wide variety of dishes or served alone as appetizers. The basic ingredient is textured soy protein.

Kashi, a La Jola, Calif.-based marketer of natural, whole-grain foods, is selling frozen entrees aimed at vegans. Among them are Black Bean Mango and Veggie Chana Masala. The latter is a seven whole-grain and sesame pilaf, with chickpeas, red peppers, fire-roasted eggplant, carrots and edamame in a zesty sauce.

As with Kashi's other frozen products, nutritional information is circled on the front of the packet. Here the statistics "11g protein; 8g fiber" are conspicuously printed inside a circle. "Vegan" is spelled out in green capital letters on the front. It weighs 269 grams.

Dr. Praeger's Sensible Foods, Elmwood Park, New Jersey, produces natural, heart-friendly products that are also kosher. The founder of the company is Dr. Peter Praeger, a cardiac surgeon who created the line with the family of a former patient in the food business.

All Natural Broccoli Pancakes are among many items offered. They are free of saturated fat and cholesterol and have no trans fats, preservatives or artificial additives. The main ingredients are broccoli, potatoes, onions, egg whites and oat bran.

On the box are the slogans: "Where you recognize all the ingredients" and "Sensible food never tasted this good!"

The pancakes are to be cooked in an oven or toaster oven by broiling until hot and browned. Among other Dr. Praeger pancake flavors are Spinach, Sweet Potato, and Potato.

On the spud front, fat-free Yukon Gold Hash Brown Potatoes in 15-ounce bags from Alexia Foods, Inc. of Brooklyn, New York, part of Omaha, Nebraska-headquartered ConAgra Foods, is an eye catching product. Unlike most hash browns, this product is not prepared with fat.

Alexia's special seasoned salt brings out the potato flavor. Alexia's many other potato items include Columbia Basin Mashed Potatoes, Oven Reds and Oven Crinkles.

Health Is Wealth Products, Inc., of Williamstown, New Jersey, offers 25 frozen products that are vegetarian or vegan, or that, if containing meat, have no antibiotics. More than haft are lactose-free. Selections range from Jalapeno & Cheese Munchies and Spinach Munchies to Pizza Munchees. The latter are described on the packet as vegetarian and lactose-free classic Italian flavors and soy cheese in a crispy wheat shell.

Van's International Foods is selling a number of Breakfast in a Pocket Sandwiches, one of which is vegetarian (but not vegan): Veggie, Egg and Cheese. The recipe features diced peppers and onions, melted cheese and scrambled eggs.

For people wanting to he sure that they consume sufficient vitamins and minerals, products from Vitalicious, Inc., New York, N.Y., can be the answer. Vitalicious sells frozen VitaMuffin VitaTops in a variety of flavors.

Each Vitalicious item, except the sugar-free offering, contains 100 calories. They also have four to seven grams of fiber, four grams of protein, and 15 vitamins and minerals. CranBran VitaTops have four percent of the daily recommended requirement of thiamin, but 50% of iron and vitamin E.

Other flavors of individually-wrapped VitaTops include Velvety Chocolate, MultiBran, sugar-free BananaNut, and Blue[berry]Bran. Quick Frozen Foods International sampled CranBran, which tasted somewhat sweet and had a coarse texture that may best be described as "substantial." Even though the snack had only 100 calories, it was filling.

Canada's Gardein, based in Richmond, British Columbia, markets vegan fast food. "Gardein," which is trademarked, is a combination of the words "garden" and "protein." Founder Yves Potvin has developed a vegetable protein with the texture of meat that he calls "gardein." It contains soy, wheat and pea proteins, vegetables and ancient grains.

Available in frozen form under the Gardein brand are Classic Style Buffalo Wings; Home Style Beefless Tips, Marinara Chick'n Good Stuff, "chicken" with creamy tomato and vegan cheese stuffing; Seven Grain Crispy Tenders, a chicken-like nugget; and Lightly Seasoned Chick'n Scallopini. A bag weighs nine or ten ounces.


Going Super with Fruit

Super fruit, sourced from distant countries and said to be "super healthy," is a category of health foods that is going strong--but the fortunes of individual fruits vary. Acai berries, which are imported from the Amazon and are sold in various frozen forms, are still among the top sellers, but their fortunes declined somewhat several years ago due to irresponsible marketers. Retail sales have since not only stabilized, but grown.

Brien Qurik of Draeo Natural Products said he thinks that the next six super fruits may be blue honey berry, euphoria berry (like lichi), cili, yumberry, maqui and baobab.

This magazine found bags of goji berries imported from China by Brandstorm, Inc. of Los Angeles at a Whole Foods outlet. Goji berries were discovered in the Himalayas more than 3,000 years ago and have long been used in Chinese and Tibetan medicine for their nutritional qualities.

Brandstorm sells the frozen berries alone, mixed with blueberries as Himalania Antioxidant Goji Duo, and mixed with blueberries, blackberries and strawberries as Himalania Antioxidant Goji Mix.

According to the website, the goji berries sold under the Himalania name are produced organically on small farms in China certified by the USDA. Strangely, however, the word "organic" did not appear on the 340-gram package of the Duo that Quick Frozen Foods International purchased.

The berries are being marketed for their antioxidant properties, as well as for their vitamins and minerals.

What's for Dessert?

Elaborate gluten-free desserts, including cheesecake, are available from Moondance Heavenly Desserts of Cincinnati, Ohio. Individual pastries are distributed in cups with see-through lids, packed in white bakery-style takeout boxes weighing 1.5 pounds. Dairy-free is often a characteristic of gluten-free products. Furthermore, dairy-free is automatically a characteristic of vegan products, since these contain no ingredients from animals. However, some items are marketed with the emphasis on being free of dairy ingredients. These products have no casein, a protein, or lactose, a sugar.

Dairy-free substitutes for ice cream are one type of product on which the term "dairy-free" is the most important attribute. In the past, substitutes made with rice or soy have dominated he dessert cabinets. Now, however, they are having stiff competition from other ingredients. Coconut is among them, with Luna and Larry's Coconut Bliss particularly popular at Good Foods Co-Op. Luna and Larry's desserts use organic coconut milk.

Kov Foods also incorporates organic coconut milk into its two non-dairy desserts, Ginger Vanilla and Garden Mint Chocolate. The Philadelphia, Pa.-based company, which emblazons the slogan "indulge and share and serve" on pint cartons, says that it has other "exciting products" in the pipeline.

French Meadow Bakery offers chocolate brownies that are gluten-and dairy-free. Rice flour and tapioca starch are the main ingredients that replace wheat flour. A box contains nine individually wrapped treats. The brownies, described by the producer as "densely chocolate and deliciously chewy," contain 170 calories each.

Living Harvest Foods of Portland, Oregon, produces Tempt from hemp milk, which is not organic. The milk is made from hemp seeds that come from plants grown in Canada. They are the same species as those that produce marijuana (Cannabis sativa), but the food plants are varieties with virtually no THC, the psycho-active component of hemp.

Pints of Tempt comes in five tempting flavors: Vanilla Bean, Mint Chip, Coffee Biscotti, Chocolate Fudge with organic cocoa and chocolate ripples, and Coconut Lime with toasted coconut and lime juice.

Wholly Wholesome of Chester, New Jersey, sells a dairy-free Pumpkin Pie as well as a standard Pumpkin Pie. The products contain no animal ingredients.

Alberta, Canada-based Kinnikinnick Foods may be best known for its cake-type donuts, among them soy- and dairy-free Maple Glazed Donuts, which are substantial and quite sweet. They also come as vanilla glazed, rolled in cinnamon and sugar, and chocolate dipped.
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Title Annotation:Frozen Foods in North America
Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Geographic Code:1U9CA
Date:Oct 1, 2012
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