By Matt McIntosh for AgInnovation Ontario
Dietary restrictions due to intolerances, allergies, and personal choice are a reality for many people and finding quality, nutritious foods that fit one or multiple restrictions can be difficult.
One Ontario business, though, has been able to satisfy many major dietary needs with their allergen-free – and healthy – cereal products. The company is called Amazing Grains Inc., and despite only beginning operations in 2014, has been generating quite a domestic and international stir.
This includes recently receiving the 2016 Startup Ingredient of the Year award from NutraIngredients.com, a Europe-based organization focused on development and marketability of health and food products.
And earlier this year, Ontario Agri-Food Technologies, which helps and promotes Ontario agribusinesses in accessing new markets, profiled Amazing Grains as one of the province’s most recent success stories.
“My friend Jerry Chizick and I partnered to create a product that is manufactured in an allergen-free environment, so no matter where it goes, it doesn’t require extra labeling,” says Andrew Stewart, co-owner of Amazing Grains Inc. “We wanted to access the specialty cereal market with something that was all-encompassing.”
Amazing Grains produces healthy ingredients for snacks and bakery items ranging from regular and gluten-free bread to cookies, pasta, crackers, and even confectionery treats.
The ingredients themselves include what Stewart calls three of the hottest food items currently on the market: sprouted grains, super seeds like quinoa and Salba® chia, and a “very proprietary fruit and vegetable powder” sourced from the United States, he says.
These ingredients are processed in a gluten, dairy, and peanut free facility, and subsequently – aside from obvious exceptions specific to things like gluten – can be consumed by just about everyone, regardless of dietary restrictions.
“We wanted to provide a good alternative for people looking for more specific foods, while not segregating ourselves into specialty markets exclusively,” says Stewart.
“NutraIngredients looks at a number of components,” says Stewart. “Mainly it’s the marketability of the product and how successful it could be, the science behind it, quality of materials, and so on.”
“They saw Amazing Grains as an innovative, novel, and commercially viable product,” he adds.
On the economic side, Stewart says he is proud that Amazing Grains sources their products and services from Ontario businesses whenever possible. The main processing facility for their raw cereals, for example, is in the Midwestern Ontario town of Seaforth, and the 80 or so bakeries, manufacturers, and other food processors creating food products from Amazing Grains cereals are spread throughout the province.
Of course, not everything used by Amazing Grains comes from Ontario or Canada for that matter.
“We go for places that provide the best quality grains, and where that is can vary […] you can’t grow chia in Canada,” says Stewart.
As for future steps, Stewart says they are continually working to expand their markets outside of Ontario, both in other provinces and other countries; they are also working with a number of key food retailers to get Amazing Grain products into more stores locally.