While vegetable powders are starting to appear further down the ingredients list in some gluten free products , fresh cauliflower is the #1 ingredient in Outer Aisle Gourmet products (accounting for 65% by weight).
Unlike many gluten-free bread substitutes, Outer Aisle Gourmet products do not contain starches, rice flour, or oils, but instead combine fresh cauliflower with cottage cheese, parmesan, egg whites (as a binder) and sunflower lecithin (an emulsifier) via a patent-pending process to create a baked, but moist, low-carb product that is stocked in the refrigerator.
They are also picking up traction in the restaurant trade as a gluten-free alternative to pasta sheets in lasagna and corn tortillas in Huevos Rancheros, says founder and CEO Jeanne David, who gave FoodNavigator-USA a guided tour of the new facility in Goleta, CA, last week.
What’s great is that you can position them in so many different ways
“Our original angle was low carb or grain-free,” says David, a serial entrepreneur who co-founded the business with her husband a couple of years ago after embarking on a lifestyle change:
“We both started eating mainly lean proteins, fruits and vegetables – kind of a paleo diet – and lost a lot of weight, and we wanted something flourless but nutritious as a bread substitute, and after about 75 or 80 different iterations, we came up with the product you see today [a six-pack of sandwich thins retails at $6.99]. It doesn’t behave like regular dough so we couldn’t just use standard baking equipment.
“What’s great is that you can position them in so many different ways. We’ve got interest from people that are avoiding carbs, or wheat, plus the paleo community [hence the ‘grain-free’ slogan]; but we’re also attracting Moms that are trying to get their kids to eat more vegetables [hence the ‘vegetables in disguise’ strapline]; people that are watching their blood sugar [the products have a low glycemic load]; and people that just want something delicious and healthy and different.
“They’re naturally gluten-free, but that’s not something we’re calling out strongly on-pack. They’re about so much more than that. We got picked up by the Hungry Girl website and it crashed our website in about six minutes and I got 1,124 emails asking about the product, from men in their 40s to crossfit enthusiasts. It was just incredible.”
This could be a national brand
After testing out the product on friends, family, David caught the attention of Whole Foods local forager Stacey Cavin [now an independent consultant working with natural and artisanal brands ], who was impressed by the products and helped David jump through the not inconsiderable number of hoops required to meet Whole Foods standards (certifications, insurance, permits etc etc).
In March 2015, she secured listings in a handful of stores in southern California before expanding into 58 stores in the southern pacific region just over a year later following a distribution deal with Tony’s Fine Foods (part of UNFI).
In 2017 the plan is to move into the pacific northwest followed by a move into the east coast in 2018, says David, who is also pushing into the foodservice channel in southern California (restaurants, schools, college campuses, hotels, hospitals).
"This could definitely become a national brand, but right now, my focus is expanding strategically so we can support our growth; so many brands move too fast and they let customers down, and you don't get another chance."
We actually engaged an FDA attorney to see if it was worth our while to object to the SOI for bread
As for the positioning of the product – which has a 30-day shelf-life thanks to modified atmosphere packaging, she says:
“When we started, we were calling them veggie sandwich thins, because we didn’t think anyone would like the idea of ‘cauliflower bread,’ but just in the space of a couple of years, perceptions have changed and we’re calling them cauliflower pizza crusts and cauliflower sandwich thins.”
The packaging, meanwhile, features the phrase, ‘a delicious bread substitute made from cauliflower,’ as opposed to ‘cauliflower bread,’ as federal standards of identity stipulate that bread “must contain flour of some sort….not cauliflower, and must also have a leavening agent and yeast,” says David, who has financial backing for her venture from three outside investors.
“We actually engaged an FDA attorney to see if it was worth our while to object to this long standing standard, but decided it was not worth our efforts as we did not even fit the exceptions for non-wheat flour.
"With creating this whole new category type of bread replacement, we wanted consumers to associate our product with bread for use purposes. ‘Bread’ is the current vehicle on which we place turkey and avocado to make a sandwich.
“So, we wanted that association for that use. However, we are definitively not bread. So, we decided to settle for ‘sandwich thins,’ which lends itself to describe the use. There’s so much you can do with them – add avocado for breakfast, use as sandwich thins at lunch or as pizza or in lasagna at dinner.”