2 Apr 2012
Real simple is the name of a magazine. It is also a way of life, a goal for many and a philosophy described so ably by Henry David Thoreau. Given the complexity we all face today it is certainly a compelling idea.
At Attune Foods, we spend a lot of time talking about “real simple” as it relates to food. Our simple foods are comprised of very few ingredients and those ingredients are things that you can understand. The process in which they are made is pretty simple as well – steam grains, roll them flat, and toast them. To some of our simple food we add a few mix-ins like raisins, flax seeds or berries, but it is pretty straightforward. So simple, that if you had the inclination, you could make them at home.
We love that idea. But it does present a challenge when you think of “innovating”. In food, innovation generally means putting ingredients through a new process or building a food that has new properties – a pizza that does well in the freezer, a cereal that is great in a bar, a cake that tastes as good as homemade. To do these things successfully generally requires a process that is in fact, less simple and uses more ingredients, more processing, and usually some special packaging. The truly great products figure out ways to do it with as little as possible. A great potato chip has three ingredients – potato, oil, and salt. Hard to beat that. Yes, it may not be super healthy, but the process and ingredients are understandable and if you are concerned about the fat or calories, you can simply eat fewer of them. The more “innovative” potato chip would be something like Pringles – which have more than double the number of ingredients (8 in the original), yet still scores low on the health front, but has the advantage of a longer shelf life, and more efficient packaging technology.
So when we began our recent innovation work we started with the idea of dis-innovation by looking back to the origin of the cereal category which was conceived of to deliver healthy grains in a convenient package. When Samuel Coltrin created Uncle Sam Cereal 104 years ago, he happened upon a recipe that we think is close to perfect. Wheat berries, Flax seed, barley malt and salt. Amazingly, he created a cereal that today stands at the head of the class: 10g of fiber, 7 g of protein high levels of omega 3’s and less than 1 g of sugar.
Variety, however, may be what he was missing so to innovate we decided to look at simple combinations of alternative grains to provide additional benefits. Our Erewhon organic cereals were created with the same idea in mind. Erewhon Corn Flakes have two ingredients (organic corn, and sea salt); Crispy Brown Rice Gluten Free cereal, three (Organic Brown Rice, Organic Brown Rice syrup, and sea salt); our “innovations” may stretch to 4!
In the words of Thoreau: “Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.” On those crazy days when you need 7 grains, go ahead and mix a few of ours, enjoy the process, and you will be living “real simple”.
RobCheck out my latest posts here