Soups on, with new look

October 1, 2009
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Gluten-free gnocchi, gluten-free beer, gluten-free soup: The dietary options for America’s estimated 2 million sufferers of celiac disease might soon rival their numbers, though food producers are uncertain if gluten-free is a fad or a trend.

Kettle Cuisine redesigned its logo to help present a more upscale look for its growing line of gluten-free soups. New products catering to celiac disease sufferers are booming.

Jerry Safir wonders, too, but that didn’t deter him from adding five more gluten-free selections to his retail line of Kettle Cuisine all-natural soups. The minimally processed frozen goods now include 10 varieties. Several also are dairy-free and vegetarian.

The market rollout comes with a redesigned logo the Chelsea, MA company hopes will strengthen its retail image, though the bigger objective is to set Kettle Cuisine apart from new competitors in the business-to-business market. Prepared meals that appear to be freshly made are supermarket sales stars, and Safir’s 23-year-old company is the biggest supplier in the Northeast. (Campbell Soup’s StockPot division in Everett, WA dominates Western markets.) Kettle Cuisine’s logo was being co-opted, and the problem was most noticeable to management at trade shows. Just as packaged goods manufacturers have fewer than two seconds to make an impression as shoppers pass the shelf, foodservice suppliers have little time to catch buyers’ eyes at trade shows.

“People weren’t reading the words in our old logo,” Safir acknowledges. “It hit home when we introduced gluten-free soups to the trade.”

Safir’s daughter is on a gluten-free diet, and that shaped the frozen line when it was introduced a few years ago. The same cook-chill process is used, but instead of hot filling 4- and 8-lb. pouches, single-serve plastic bowls are filled and placed in corrugated boxes. Brittleness brought on by freezing remains a breakage issue, he says. 

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