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NonGMO verification opens retailers’ doors for I Heart Keenwah’s puffs and cluster snacks

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

NonGMO verification opens retailers’ doors for I Heart Keenwah
Earning the NonGMO Project verification for every product in the I Heart Keenwah line was a “frustrating” and “taxing” year-long process, but it was worth it, said the company’s president and co-founder Ravi Jolly. 

“Retailers, like Whole Foods, have been more receptive to the products”​ since they were verified in November 2014 by the NonGMO Project, he explained, adding the seal has helped the snacks get in the door with retailers.

The well-known blue icon with an orange butterfly and a green check mark also resonates well with consumers and quickly communicates to them the company’s values, Jolly said.

“Consumers just glance at a package for five seconds,”​ and the NonGMO Project verification icon tells them quickly that “we care about where our ingredients come from,”​ and “gives them confidence in the brand,”​ he said.

As a result, he says he has seen a sales lift since he was able to advertise his puffs and clusters as non-GMO verified.

While the verification process has already paid off, Jolly acknowledged it took a long time and was tedious.

“It took a year. You literally go through every single ingredient, and we have 19 ingredients … and we have alternative suppliers in case one is out … so that is 40 ingredient statements that I had to submit,” ​he said. He added compound ingredients are even more difficult because each component must be verified.

“It is taxing,”​ he said, reflecting on the process.

He also is frustrated that eight months after earning the verification all of his packages still do not have the icon, even though the products are verified. He explained he can only add the icon when he runs out of his old packages and needs to order more.

The lack of the icon on the package confuses consumers who heard the snacks were non-GMO but won’t buy it without proof, he said.

Given the “stop and go”​ nature of the verification process, he encouraged other companies to start their verification process as soon as possible.

“Go for it. Industry is moving that way, consumers are moving that way,”​ and the verification “helps a product stand out on a crowded shelf,”​ he said.

New baked puffs are healthier alternative to fried puffs

I Heart Keenwah’s recently launched line of Quinoa Puffs also are grabbing consumers’ attention because they are made from superfoods and offer a protein-packed better-for-you alternative to classic cheese puffs.

The quinoa puffs launched in March and are made with quinoa flour, rice flour and pea protein that is puffed and baked. Other puffs are starchy and fried, Jolly said.

“We have a better health profile, a crunchier texture and are less oily so it won’t coat your hands,”​ he added.

The puffs come in four flavors: Aged Cheddar, which is most like the classic cheese puff, Sea Salt Truffle, Sweet Chili and Herbes de Provence. The Herbes de Provence is turning out to be the most versatile flavor, with bloggers using it as a savory ingredient in meals, such as a coating for fish or a gluten-free replacement for bread in panzanella, Jolly said.

Flagship quinoa clusters get an update

The company also is tweaking its flagship line of quinoa cluster products in response to consumer feedback, Jolly said. The new formula will have less sugar and “a little hemp and chia,”​ which also are superfoods.

The new ingredients likely will only be listed on the back of the pack and not the front so as not to confuse consumers about what is the product’s primary ingredient, Jolly said. He added the new clusters will still be made with whole grain quinoa, quinoa crisps and quinoa flakes that consumers love.

Next January, the firm also plans to launch a new line of “healthy indulgence”​ quinoa snacks that “will involve dark chocolate, sea salt and coconut,”​ Jolly teased. However, he would not share all the details, yet. 

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