But Quinn Snacks created a gluten-free pretzel that is also free from these tradeoffs. The company’s new gluten-free pretzels are made with whole grain sorghum and no corn, soy or dairy, which like wheat can trigger serious allergies, said Dakota-Rae Westveer, Quinn’s Farm-to-Bag Policy and partnerships expert.
“If you look at most other gluten-free pretzels on the market, the first ingredient is going to be modified corn starch or corn starch. We wanted to clean that up and we thought gluten-free pretzels could be better,” she said at Natural Products Expo East earlier this fall.
She explained that the company selected gluten-free sorghum after “a year of baking, testing and tasting.” The results clearly showed the sorghum had the best nutrition and flavor, including a dose of protein and a “really nutty, great taste to it.”
Sorghum also appealed to Quinn because it is a drought tolerant crop – requiring 23% less water compared to other commodity crops, such as corn and soy, “which is really fantastic” given consumers’ growing concerns about the environmental impact of food production, Westveer said.
While in the test kitchen, Quinn also “swapped out some of the other ingredients” often found in gluten-free pretzels that are less desirable to consumers, including corn starch, soy lecithin and citric acid, Westveer said.
“We use apple cider vinegar instead and a sunflower lecithin, so we can skip those common allergens,” Westveer said.
While being free from many common allergens was important to the company, so was ensuring the pretzels' taste great, Westveer said.
“We are not compromising on taste or crunch. We worked really hard to get the texture right and we are really happy with them,” she said, adding that the pretzels come in classic sea salt and touch of honey.
Farm-To-Bag Portal offers consumers glimpse into supply chain
In addition to launching new Pretzels, Quinn Snacks also recently unveiled a new “Farm-to-Bag Portal,” that allows consumers to learn more about the products’ ingredients and where they come from, Westveer said.
The portal includes an interactive map with icons for the different ingredients on the states where they are produced. Consumers can scroll down the webpage and connect the icons to the farmers who grow the ingredients.
For example, the sorghum used in the new gluten-free pretzels comes from Nu Life Sorghum Growers in Grove, Kan. Consumers can mouse over the icon on a tile with a picture of the farm for fast facts including how many layers deep in the supply chain the grower or supplier is, where they are based and a quick overview.
They can also click on a button to see how a crop is grown and learn more about the specific farmer, in the case of Sorghum Earl Roemer, a fourth generation farmer. There also are detailed photos of the fields, plants and producers.
Finally, the portal has a feature where consumers can key in the batch code on the bag or box of snacks to see where the ingredients came from for that batch.
This added layer of transparency pushed the company to “dig deeper” and make its products better, according to a press release. It adds that the portal brings the brand closer to the growers and by extension the consumers.