“One in five Americans means that almost everyone knows someone who has an auto immune disease,” such as Hashimoto’s or Celiac disease, and chances are most of those people are on or have gone through the auto immune protocol, said David Rohde, the founder and CEO of Paleo On The Go.
He explained that AIP is an aggressive elimination diet based on, but more restrictive than, the paleo diet, which seeks to temporarily remove foods and ingredients that can trigger flare-ups or irritate the gut or microbiome. These include nuts, seeds, coffee, chocolate, seed-based spices like cumin, nightshades, beans, grains, gluten, sugar and artificial sweeteners, eggs and dairy.
While many of these ingredients and foods can be reintroduced to patients’ diets slowly to identify which ones are problematic, the diet can be “pretty intimidating” and “a huge challenge” to navigate – in part because there are so few compliant packaged foods or easy solutions available to people who don’t know how or aren’t able to cook their own food all of the time, Rohde said.
Even for those who can cook, the diet’s tight restrictions “make it tough to make really good tasting stuff with all these things eliminated,” he added.
Enter Paleo On The Go – a delivery service that offers fully cooked and frozen meals that not only follow AIP, “but come in a wide variety of taste profiles” so that consumers don’t just focus on what they can’t have – but learn more about the nutrient-dense foods they can eat, Rohde said.
“Our chef is really passionate about creating new dishes, but also recreating the traditional dishes everyone craves, but might have thought they would ever have again – like our chicken potpie, which is made with cassava flour and tastes amazing,” he said.
Comfort and convenience needed
While Rohde said he believes Paleo On The Go offers “really great food,” he acknowledges the menu is a work in progress and he hopes to add more “comfort foods” that consumers love, but which often are off limits.
He also sees white space in the snack category and for packaged products that can be eaten on-the-go.
“There are a lot of packaged beverages and snack options that comply with paleo, like pork rinds, but then they will include ingredients” from the AIP restricted list, which aren’t necessary but because they are included the whole product is off limits to sensitive consumers, he said.
To further complicate the problem, many processing ingredients used to make CPGs shelf stable violate the AIP diet, he said.
One work around that Paleo On The Go uses is to create frozen snacks, such as its new Bone Broth Pops – which are flavored with organic strawberries and bananas and have a clean, AIP-compliant ingredient deck.
The strong fruit flavors in the pops make the broth “kind of undetectable,” which makes it more appealing to children and adults alike, Rohde said. He added, even though consumers can’t taste the broth, “they are still getting all the nutrients and benefits of bone broth, such as helping to manage leaky gut, boosting the immune system, increasing collagen production, providing glucosamine for joints” and in some cases helping people overcome food allergies.
“Bone broth really is a superfood, and now we have a product that makes it taste great,” he said.
The innovation also opens the door for the nearly $20 million bone broth category to continue its rapid growth beyond the savory beverage space in which it currently is concentrated.
Other opportunities for growth
Beyond snacks, Rodhe also sees significant opportunity for manufacturers to include probiotics and prebioitcs in more products to boost their digestive benefits and help address gut dysbiosis or leaky gut, which is a key facilitator in many auto-immune diseases.
He also suggested creating more whole food-based products with sufficient amounts of micronutrients to support immune system function. While he recognizes that supplementation can help with deficiencies, the AIP diet is focused on helping patients obtain as much as possible of what they need through food.
As awareness of AIP, paleo and gut health grow, Rohde fears some companies will use the terms as buzz words to boost marketing, but the products will not be high quality or will mistakenly include an ingredient that is not compliant. As such, he urges consumer and retailers to remain vigilant about buying or stocking products that make AIP, paleo and gut health claims to ensure they actually do what they say.
While Rodhe sees plenty of room for developing AIP compliant products across categories, eating occasions and in different formats, he said Paleo On The Go will stick with what it does best: meeting basic needs for nutritious, compliant meals that also are delicious and comforting.