The first Non-GMO Project verified frozen food entrée in the US will hit store shelves by the end of the month under the Saffron Road brand. It was a complicated, time-consuming process but one that company officials believe will ultimately pay off.
The new entrée, Chana Saag with Cumin Rice, will be available at Whole Foods at a suggested retail price of $5.49 to $5.99. In addition to its certification from the Non-GMO Project, the package also carries all natural, gluten free, vegetarian and certified halal designations.
“Our involvement and commitment to non-GMOs goes way back,” Jack Acree, executive vice president of sales and marketing for the brand told FoodNavigator-USA.
“Earning the Non-GMO Verification for our products is a big priority for Saffron Road and a huge added value to passionate natural food consumers who are actively seeking out Non-GMO foods,” said Adnan Durrani, CEO of Saffron Road.
Other non-GMO offerings in pipeline
Acree said Saffron Road, which is the packaged food brand of American Halal Co., already has three dry items in their snack line that have been verified non-GMO. But the saag entrée is the first product that will ship with the designation on the label because of different packaging lead times. The company has two other non-GMO verified frozen entrées close to being reading to launch, Acree said, and has others in the pipeline with anticipated launches before the end of the year.
Verifying the dry snack items was, relatively speaking, a piece of cake compared to a prepared food, but Acree said the verification process was a key part of Saffron Road’s strategy.
“There are a lot of companies claiming they don’t have GMOs in their products. We don’t adhere to that philosophy of self claims. Whenever possible we always go to a third party verification system,” Acree said.
“It is a complex thing to do. It is much more complex thing to do with a frozen item than with a snack item that might only have five ingredients.
“There are some ingredients that are more at risk. There are some ingredients that you have to go to great lengths to, like with soy or corn,” he said.
“It gets much more complex when you have a meat entrée, especially chicken. You can only imagine when you have an animal that is being fed a variety of items, then you have a (supply) chain that looks like a tree, with all of the lines that you have to follow. Or an ant farm,” Acree said.
Consumers vote with purchase choices
Acree said Saffron Road was a supporter of California’s Proposition 37 that would have required products that contained GMO ingredients to be so labeled. If the measure had passed, he believes that the company’s non-GMO products would have complied with the law. California is a big market for the company’s products, Acree said. In addition to the stores mentioned above, Saffron Road’s products are on the shelves in a number of independent natural channel stores in southern California and in the Bay area, Acree said.
Acree said the company expects that the non-GMO labeling will become a positive sales point for the brand, especially in the natural channel. He’s been in the food business for more than two decades, and in that time he’s seen an evolution in the way consumers interact with brands over what’s in their food.
“I think today’s consumer is much smarter than they were before. They understand the economics behind the choices that they make, and they are voting for non-GMO,” he said.