Friday, October 31, 2014

Things change.

[edit: Just want to clarify Kinnikinnick isn't going anywhere. We're just changing our product mix.]

I am in the unenviable position of making a small number of our customers upset today. Before I do that, I am going to write a bit about what's brought us to today. 

As many of you know, Kinnikinnick has been making gluten free products since 1991. 23 years. For many of those years, Kinnikinnick was one of 2 or 3 nationally available manufacturers, at a time when most people had never heard of Gluten Free or Celiac. I've written a bit about our history and how times have changed previously

The changes in the gluten free market are driven by multiple factors. 

1) The radical improvement in gluten free products from almost all manufacturers has changed the kind of products demanded by consumers. Most consumers are simply not going to put up with tasteless, dense "first generation" gluten free products. This has driven innovation across the entire sector (and driven some manufacturers from it)

2) Multinational, multimillion dollar companies have moved into the market. As gluten free has gone mainstream, it has become a target for these very large companies, changing the once entirely family owned market into one controlled by companies traded on the stock exchange. This drastically changes how a company that is not backed by hundreds of millions of dollars (such as Kinnikinnick) operates. This has caused a hollowing out of the middle range of the market. You're either big and multinational or small and local. There is very little room for a medium sized gluten free manufacturer in today's market.

3) Distributors and retailers have brought gluten free into the mainstream, which is great, however it has changed the both the way manufacturers deal with them and the distribution model. Years ago, all we had to do was release a new product and it would be automatically picked up by virtually all of our distributors, immediately. The market simply was starving for products. These days, it can take a year or more to get a product listed. And since there are so many more manufacturers, there's no guarantee there will even be shelf or freezer space for a product. Also because there are so many products out there, any products that don't  sell well immediately are dropped by distributors very quickly.

4) The internet is no longer the gluten free consumer's first choice. In 1998, Kinnikinnick was the first gluten free company in North America (and maybe the world) to deliver fresh bakery products by courier. At one point direct sales to consumers amounted to 80% of our sales. We were in the top 5% of UPS shippers in Canada for several years running. Now that gluten free is mainstream and "everywhere", our internet direct sales are a small fraction of what they used to be.

Small batch production for direct customers is no longer economical.

5) Increased competition has caused a major change in manufacturing process. 15 years ago, Kinnikinnick sold 21 different kinds of bread and every one of them had some distribution. Today, we basically have distribution for our soft white and multigrain bread and distribution for our 2 new soft breads just coming on line. These breads are outselling all of our old breads combined by several hundred times.

What this all boils down to is this. We need to make a lot of very high quality bread, as efficiently and cheaply as possible.

The days of the small batch, made by hand products have been numbered for several years. Today they are done.

We regret to announce the discontinuation of the following products effective November 1, 2014.

  • White Sandwich Bread
  • Tapioca Rice Bread
  • Sunflower Flax Bread
  • Italian White Tapioca Rice Bread
  • Candadi Yeast Free Multigrain Bread
  • Robin's Honey Brown Bread

We know that for a small number of our customers, this will be very unwelcome news, however, this decision is based on all the factors outlined above. For the last year or more, these breads have been dropped by virtually all distributors and we have been producing every loaf at a loss. This cannot continue. 

Answers to some of the questions I know we'll get.

  • This is a permanent decision.
  • We won't be able to release the recipes for any of the discontinued products.
  • We won't be taking special orders for these products.
  • We don't have yeast free or egg free bread alternatives at this time. Our new soft bagels are vegan and do not have egg so you may want to try those (they do have yeast).
For those that can, we suggest you try one of our 4 new generation soft breads. They are vastly superior in taste, texture and nutrition. For those with additional intolerances that have relied on our products, we do understand your frustration, but we are simply not in a position to continue to produce these products at a loss.

We understand this is a difficult and unwelcome announcement for some of you and we wish there were options but the market conditions we find ourselves in simply make producing them impossible.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The First Day of Fall calls for Pumpkin Spice Donuts!

In what has become a much anticipated fall tradition we're pleased to announce that our Pumpkin Spice Donuts are available to order right now!

"a wonderfully spiced circle of heaven,"
"delights my insides and fills me with joy"
" It is like fall wrapped up in a neat little package"

As always these are available exclusively on our website or by calling toll -free 1-877-503-4466

Edmonton and area customers should visit for local availability. The donuts are in the store today!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Introducing Two New Soft Breads - Whole Grain & Cinnamon Raisin

We are pleased to announce that Whole Grain and Cinnamon Raisin breads join our popular line of Soft and Healthy breads.

Whole Grain Bread

Made with Brown Rice, Quinoa and Teff, our Whole Grain Bread is our first product to carry the Whole Grain Council Stamp which indicates that a serving contains at least 8g of whole grains per serving.

Other nutritional highlights (per 2 slice 63g serving):
  • 5g Fiber
  • 0 Cholesterol
  • Only 2g Sugar
  • 3g Protein
  • Fortified with vitamins and minerals
Our new Whole Grain is different from our Multigrain bread in that it doesn't have seeds so it's perfect for kids and those who don't like "crunchy bits" in their bread. Like all our soft breads, you don't need to heat or toast it but if you do want toast or grilled cheese it toasts just like regular bread.

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Our Cinnamon Raisin Bread is a true raisin bread, with raisins being 50% of the weight of the dry flour blend. Translation: Lots of plump raisins! With a touch of molasses and a pinch of cinnamon, this is the perfect breakfast bread. It is fantastic toasted and makes an amazing French Toast. But just because this bread is a bit on the fun side, doesn't mean that we haven't made it as nutritionally sound as possible.

Nutritional highlights (per 2 slice 70g serving):
  • 4g Fiber
  • 0 Cholesterol
  • 4g Protein
  • Fortified with vitamins and minerals
Both breads have been developed under our new Non-GMO road map and have labelling indicating that the ingredients used are not the product of genetic engineering.
These breads are available today from our website and will be coming soon to retailers across the continent over the coming months.
Where Can I Get The New Breads/How Can I Get My Store To Carry Them?


Check out our Store Finder and if we know what a store is carrying, we list it for you.

If there's nothing close by to you yet or they aren't carrying the new breads, you can help! To get your local store to carry the entire line of Soft Breads & Buns it's important that they know you want to buy them.

Our Soft Multigrain and White Breads, Hamburger and Hot Dog buns available in every one of our distributor's warehouses and retailers can bring them in anytime. The two new breads are just now making their way in to distributors. Creating demand from retailers (by you asking for them) will help make them more widely available.

We've developed a handout you can give to your Local Store. There's room on the back of this letter for your comments, so you can let the store know you'd like to see them stock the New Soft Breads & Buns and why.

If you are a family of celiacs or belong to a support group, photocopy this letter, distribute to your family/group and hand them to the store manager. A stack of letters can really make an impact on retailers deciding whether or not to stock a product.

Download the letter now (pdf)

If you still don't want to wait, don't forget you can still always order directly from us.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Kinnikinnick Non-GMO Road Map

For several years, we've been getting requests from a portion of our customers to reduce or eliminate the use of GMO ingredients in our products. This is a huge and difficult undertaking given the other restrictions that we already have on our supply chain (gluten free, dairy free, peanut & tree nut free and kosher). We use a lot of  specialized ingredients and finding substitutes in the quantities we require can be very problematic. 

However, we have spent the last 2 years identifying non-GMO replacements for most of our ingredients that are currently GMO and have begun testing them throughout our entire product line. Starting with our new Vanilla Wafers, we are beginning the transition to non-GMO ingredients. It is our hope that all new products released will contain non-GMO ingredients. 

Coming this fall, we will be rolling out new packaging for existing products indicating when an ingredient is Not a product of genetic engineering .

It's important to note that we only indentify ingredients where there are GMO & non-GMO versions. There are no GMO versions of things like Potatoes, Rice and Cane Sugar that are currently approved for use in North America so we don't add any indicator. They are always non-GMO. 

Our current plan is to make the changes gradually starting with the staples; breads, buns and bagels. As we use up existing stocks of packaging, we will be reprinting them with the new identifying language. Cookies, donuts and mixes will follow but we don't have a timeline for completion of this project. 

At this time we do not plan to be "certified" Non-GMO, but we believe our labeling will be informative to those consumers who care about such things.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Introducing Kinnikinnick Gluten Free Vanilla Wafers

Over the years, our top product requests have been gluten free "oreos", gluten free graham crackers and gluten free Vanilla Wafers. Well you've been able to get the first 2 in our Chocolate Vanilla KinniTOOS and S'moreables for a few years now. We are really pleased to announce that the final product that you've been requesting for so long is now available.
Almost everyone who has tried these has said "Oooh I can make that banana pudding thing again!" and yes you can but these are also great for all sorts of things including schools lunches and snacking right out of the box.

Like all our products, they are Gluten, Dairy, and Nut Free, OU kosher and they are also our first product to be made with non-GMO ingredients.

The New Kinnikinnick Vanilla Wafers are available now from our website and will be rolling out to retail stores over the next couple of months.

Since they are brand new, there's only a few stores who have committed to carrying the Vanilla Wafers and none have them in stock just yet.

We've developed a handout you can give to your Local Store. There's room on this letter for your comments, so you can let the store know you'd like to see them and why.

If you are a family of celiacs or belong to a support group, photocopy this letter, distribute to your family/group and hand them to the store manager. A stack of letters can really make an impact on retailers deciding whether or not to stock a product.

Download the letter now (pdf) 
Of course you can always order directly from us. 

And in case you've forgotten

Vanilla Wafer Banana Pudding
It's what Vanilla Wafers are made for!
  • 1 box Kinnikinnick Vanilla Wafers
  • 1 Recipe Vanilla Custard (below) OR 1 package prepared vanilla pudding mix (gluten free)
  • 1 cup whipped cream
  • 4 medium bananas sliced in to 1/4" slices
In 4-6 small dessert dishes or glasses, add a Vanilla Wafer, a Banana slice and a layer of pudding/custard (about 3 tbsp). Repeat until dish is 3/4 full. Top with whipped cream. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or until ready to serve. For variety try Chocolate, Banana or Coconut Cream pudding.
Vanilla Wafer Pudding
Vanilla Custard
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Place egg yolks in a bowl and whisk until combined, set aside. In a saucepan combine milk, sugar, and salt; whisk over medium heat while slowly adding cornstarch. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture begins to thicken and comes to a boil (about 12-15 minutes). Remove from heat. Slowly whisk ½ cup hot milk mixture into egg yolks; then gradually pour yolk mixture into the saucepan, stirring constantly. Cook over medium-low heat, slowly stirring, until mixture begins to bubble, approximately 6-8 minutes. Remove from heat and add in vanilla.
See more in the Recipe Section of our website.


Friday, June 6, 2014

I Love Donuts

You may or may not know, but Kinnikinnick has been around since 1991. Our family has been involved since 1997. An awful lot has changed in those years, especially in the last 5 years or so. Availability, awareness and quality have all made incredible progress. It has also meant the gluten free industry has changed greatly, moving from what were mostly family run, mom and pop operations (usually with at least one celiac in the family), to corporate owners. The sense of community among manufacturers has also been lost to a large extent. In the early days, even though we were competitors, the sense was that "we were all in this together". For the most part that has been lost with the corporatization of the industry. If I'm to be honest, it's not as fun as it used to be.

Back in the early days, growing awareness about Kinnikinnick and our products meant many trips across Canada and the US. In the late 90's, part of my job, was traveling to the US, showing off our products to support groups. Now it's important to remember that the support groups of the late 90's were very much different than what they are today. Awareness in many areas was practically non-existent and group numbers were most often 30 people or less.

Aside from size, the difference between then and now was that these weren't "vendor fairs" or anything remotely like that. First I would try to find a support group in the general area I was going to be. This was in the very early days of "the web", before Google (Anyone remember AltaVista?) so finding things like support group contacts was much more difficult. My best tool was the Celiac ListServ (which still exists If I could find a phone number or email contact (not always a given), I would contact the group and try to set up a time to come present to the group. These presentations involved doing a talk, a bit of QandA and then, everyone's favourite part, sampling of our products. For the most part, this contact was the first time most people had ever heard of Kinnikinnick, let alone tasted our products. I can even take some credit for getting some support groups started. In 1999 or 2000, I contacted someone in Stanford, CA and asked to come present to the support group. The person I talked to said that their group had dissolved due to lack of interest, but she said that she'd try to get a few people to come out. I met in a conference room at Stanford with about 25 people. A couple of years later, the Stanford Celiac conference had over 400 people attend.

In 1999 or 2000, I did an epic trip starting in New York and looping through New Jersey, Virginia, North & South Carolina, Georgia and finishing up across the full length of Tennessee, with stops in Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville. I did this all in a span of just over 3 weeks, with meetings almost every night in a different city. I put well over 3000 miles on the rental car. Thank goodness for unlimited mileage. If memory serves, the largest meeting was about 100 people in Raleigh, North Carolina at a hospital conference room. The smallest was to a group of 7 people in the dining room of a house in Memphis.

As owners, we still believe that it is important to get out to support group events to meet with customers and get feedback and new product ideas. We go to 15-20 shows a year. This past weekend, I was in Knoxville, TN for the Celi-Act Gluten Free Vendor Fair. I'd say they had well over 2500 people attend between 10am and 4pm. At about 10:30 in the morning, just after the doors opened, I had a reminder of why we started this in the first place. A woman came up to our table and said,

"I just wanted to let you know that Kinnikinnick was the first gluten free food my daughter ate. I came to a presentation your company made in the late 90's with my 3 year old daughter, who had just been diagnosed with Celiac. She had her first donut that day. After she tried it, she looked up at me and said (in her 3 year old voice) 'I love donuts!'

She then pointed to the young woman of about 15 standing next to her and said, "This is my daughter. Kinnikinnick is still our favourite company after all these years."

What she didn't realize was that I was the one who had served that little girl the piece of donut, way back then. What I didn't realize was that I remembered that little girl.

In the 17 years I've been doing this, I've seen an awful lot of change, and not all for the better, but one thing never changes. There is no greater satisfaction than having something you make bring a bit of joy into someone's life.

Happy Friday.

Jay Bigam
Kinnikinnick Foods.

PS. If you were at some of those early meetings, I'd love to hear from you in the comments.