Annie’s Homegrown added ‘Pea B&J Pockets’ to its line of frozen foods. The crustless sandwiches use a golden pea-derived peanut butter substitute, combined with either strawberry or grape jam, based off of small brand The Sneaky Chef’s ‘No Nut Butter.’
“We met at a trade show,” Lapine told FoodNavigator-USA. “They found our golden pea butter and they approached us. We worked really well together, we’re just two moms on a mission, if you will.”
The golden pea butter used in Annie’s Homegrown product was formulated differently to meet the company’s criteria, and Lapine said it was a pleasure to get to work with a company she has looked up to for so long. “As a consumer, I think [Annie’s Homegrown co-founder Annie Withey] is my idol. She’s the most innovative and really a pioneer in better children’s foods.”
What’s in no-nut butter?
It started with Lapine’s daughter’s peanut allergy. “The alternatives that were available, there were only two alternatives: Soy butter or sunflower butter,” Lapine said. “From a personal perspective, processed soy is not something I would give my children—and the sun butter, the kids didn’t like the taste, so we had a consensus that it’s not something my kids and friends would enjoy.”
Eating a less-delicious version of a popular lunchbox staple, peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches, made her daughter feel like an outsider. “The no peanut table at school became the no friend table,” Lapine said.
So she experimented in the kitchen and found that “golden pea is a phenomenal substitute for peanut,” she said. “It’s not easy to get peas to taste great, so you have to remove the bitter taste, and roast them so they have a roasted golden flavor,” she added, clarifying that there are other steps she wants to keep secret.
“The goal was that everyone would enjoy it, whether or not they have allergies in the family. We want all kids to enjoy pea butter.”
More options for children with allergies
According to FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education), one in every 13 Americans aged under 18 has a food allergy. Data from the CDC differs slightly (5% for this age group has allergies), but both data sets agree that prevalence is rising.
Food manufacturers have taken notice, and from gluten to peanut allergies, more products are on the market. Globally, a forecast from 2012 expected the food allergy and intolerance market to hit $26.5bn.
The amount of innovation in the segment makes it easier for children and parents of children with allergies, Lapine said. “I don’t think children should be made to feel like they’re being punished, or that there are less delicious options out there,” she said.
“These foods should be made so delicious that it can also be enjoyed by allergy-free kids,” Lapine added. “We’ve come a long way; we’re bringing allergy-free products to the mainstream. It doesn’t even matter that it’s allergy free, people love it because it’s creamy and delicious. It’s a ‘by the way.’”