South African company tapping into low-carb diet trend with ‘pasta from veg’

Vegetable-based “pasta”

From the Atkins diet, which peaked in late 2003, to banting, made popular in recent years by Professor Tim Noakes and, lately, the ketogenic diet (or keto for short), low-carbohydrate eating (typically light in sugary foods, pasta and bread) have become increasingly popular worldwide.

South African company Dew Crisp Group recently introduced a “pasta from vegetables” product range, in partnership with upmarket retailer Woolworths. How we made it in Africa asked Bruce Glazer, joint CEO at Dew Crisp, about opportunities in the low-carb space and the forces that will shape the food industry in the coming decades.

Food trends come and go. Do you believe low-carb diets are here to stay, or is it just another fad?

The explosion in obesity, metabolic syndrome and diabetes worldwide, has placed enormous focus on the important role sensible carbohydrate intake plays as part of a healthy lifestyle. I have no doubt that the intake of carbohydrates, grains, sugar and refined starches will become more of a focus area for health practitioners and food scientists in the near future. The whole health and wellness movement is driving this trend and there is more than enough scientific evidence to tell us to be sensible with our carbohydrate and calorie intake. There is enough evidence to suggest that this is not a fad at all.

Capitalising on this low-carb trend, Dew Crisp recently introduced “pasta from veg” products. Explain the thinking behind launching this range.

As Dew Crisp is a leading supplier of fresh and healthy vegetables, and is known for being at the forefront of technology, we were extremely excited to have teamed up with food technology company, FormFoods, who holds worldwide patents on this exciting technology. It allows us to bring healthy vegetables into a completely new category in-store.

One of the biggest challenges for low-carb, gluten-free, low-calorie dieters, remains dietary boredom. These new products are delicious, healthy, gluten-free, completely grain-free and have no added sugar. It gives the health-conscious consumer the option to enjoy pasta without the fear of increased carb or calorie levels. The trend has been developing over many years and it took FormFoods almost 10 years to get these products market-ready and jointly it took us another two years to commercialise production. We saw the trend which is driving this launch in time and we reacted.

High-end South African retailers and restaurants are increasingly catering for those following a low-carb diet. But are low-carb foods really a priority for mass-market food groups and retailers? What about the affordability challenges associated with low-carb products?

Health and wellness as a food trend is not really optional for any restaurant or company or group anymore. We have seen the response to this exciting product launch and it is clear that most businesses understand that. Affordability of health foods remains a challenge as reducing refined starch and other nasties in any diet or product bring certain cost factors. It is the whole food industry’s responsibility to ensure that healthy food is available and affordable and we are always looking at ways and means of achieving this.

There is currently considerable innovation happening in the food sector, with start-ups coming up with all sorts of new products. From your perspective, how is the industry likely to change in the coming two decades?

There are a few very interesting trends driving the food industry. Health and wellness is one important trend, but sustainable, ethical food production, reduced animal product consumption (not just meat), and the effect of food production on global warming are becoming important trends.

We believe that we are going to see quite dramatic changes as disposable income increases and consumers become more educated on the importance of diet on our well-being and the well-being of the planet. On the one hand, we will see huge technology advances while on the other hand people would want to eat more basic foodstuff such as vegetables. Our close association with a leading food tech partner like FormFoods ensures that Dew Crisp remains at the forefront of the most exciting developments these trends offer.