Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Will low-glycemic be the next gluten-free?

By Elizabeth Crawford contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition

Every 21 seconds someone in the US discovers they have diabetes, setting a breakneck pace that is fueling a 6% annual increase in the number of Americans diagnosed with the chronic disease for which there is no cure, but which can be managed in part through diet and exercise.

Unfortunately, for the roughly 30 million Americans who have diabetes and the 94 million who have prediabetes navigating the nutritional parameters to control the disease is no easy task – resulting in a quickly growing consumer-base and need for food and beverage products that can be consumed safely to live as normal and healthy a life as possible.

One company that is stepping up to meet this need – and help fund research for prevention, treatment and finding a cure for diabetes – is Fifty50 Foods, which offers a broad portfolio of diabetic-friendly products and educational resources for retailers and consumers alike.

In this episode of FoodNavigator-USA’s Soup-To-Nuts podcast, Fifty50 Foods’ President July Frost breaks down the dietetic needs of diabetics, how her company is striving to create a new category of products for this group and the potential business opportunity for her company and other manufacturers interested in entering the space. She also outlined how evolving science is changing the best way to market these products, as well as expanding the target audience beyond just those with diabetes.

Reformulating the best nutrition for diabetics

When Fifty50 Foods first launched more than 25 years ago with the goal of helping people with diabetes live a healthier life by eating nutritiously appropriate food, Frost explained, the main strategy was to restrict sugar intake. As such many of the company’s products were positioned as sugar-free.

But over time, new research has helped nutritionists refine the management approach to diabetes to focus more on carbohydrate intake, pushing Fifty50 Foods to update its portfolio and marketing strategy.

“By labeling our products as low glycemic, it makes it very easy for the consumer to know this is a product that is low in carbs,”​ and will provide a steady flow of lasting energy that will not trigger a blood sugar spike, she said.

She also notes that there are so many natural sugar alternatives that are low on the glycemic index that Fifty50 Foods is able to use natural sweeteners and even sells a low glycemic sugar for baking, which further expands what products consumers can enjoy safely.

As for updating the company’s marketing, Fifty50 Foods now boldly states on its packages that the product inside is low glycemic, which reflects a more sophisticated understanding of diabetics’ dietary needs than more basic sugar-free claims.

“We want consumers to be able to easily recognize that our product is low glycemic”​ without having to “look at the ingredients and read the Nutrition Facts panel,” ​she said, adding Fifty50 Foods wants “to make it easy for the consumer to know that this is a healthy choice for their diet.”

But Fifty50 Foods didn’t just redesign the package, it also had its products tested and certified as low-glycemic to provide consumers with an added layer of security.

Creating a new category of low glycemic foods

The company also is helping to meet diabetics’ needs by offering a wide range of products and working closely with retailers to create an entire category of low glycemic foods, which Frost says she hopes will follow the same trajectory as the gluten-free movement.

“We don’t just sell one type of food item. We sell everything from peanut butter to fruit spreads. We have cookies and wafers and chocolate bars. We have some breakfast items with an oatmeal and a maple syrup and I even have baking items. We have the only sugar-free graham cracker pie crust that is out there on the marketplace today,”​ Frost said.

But she plans to create more products in the coming years, and find the best way to position them in stores – either in line with conventional offerings or in a designated aisle similar to gluten-free, paleo and some other trending diets.

No matter how retailers stock low glycemic products, Frost is confident that her company’s will standout on store shelves thanks to its bold new branding. But she is also working with retailers to educate consumers so that they can more easily find everything they need on store shelves.

She explained that Fifty50 Foods has created educational materials that retail dietitians can give to shoppers or that consumers can download from the company’s website, and it provides samples for retailers to share.

In addition to expanding distribution in brick and mortar stores, Fifty50 Foods is exploring ecommerce as a way to deliver products to those with special diets who might not live near a store that stocks them.

Beyond diabetes

By rebranding Fifty50 Food products as low-glycemic, Frost expects the products to appeal to more than just people managing diabetes.

She explains that athletes increasingly are reaching for low-glycemic foods as way to sustain their energy during training and that the products appeal to health conscious shoppers worried about heart disease, high cholesterol or chronic kidney disease.

A social mission to reduce diabetes

Fifty50 Foods also is combating the dangers of diabetes by donating half of its profits to research – a social cause that was woven into the company long before it became as trendy as it is today.

Frost explains that the three founders were all connected to diabetes in some way and created Fifty50 Foods as an avenue for fundraising while also creating healthy products that would make life easier for those with the disease.

“We have donated over $14 million to date and we are a very small business, sot it is a fairly significant size of money and it is specific to diabetes research,”​ said Frost. “Most of our money does go to … JDRF, which is the global leading organization for type 1 diabetes research.”

Looking to the future, Frost is optimistic that Fifty50 Food’s vision of helping to create a low-glycemic category on par with gluten-free can be achieved in the next five years, and when that happens, she says, Americans with diabetics will be better served both in terms of nutrition and also much-needed research towards finding a cure.

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