Natural Foods Merchandiser

Back to Nature Brand Adorns New Kraft Line

Presumably weary of naturals competitors knocking off its products and grabbing market share, Kraft Foods Inc. will produce its own natural versions of Oreos, Wheat Thins and 32 other products. They?ll be sold under the brand name Back to Nature Foods, courtesy of a small cereal producer Kraft acquired last fall.

Back to Nature cereals started in 1960 in Pasadena, Calif. Last October, Kraft purchased the line from Organic Milling Co. of San Dimas, Calif., for an estimated $5 million. Kraft?s first effort was to reformulate its new acquisition?s cereals and add two products with real fruit. They shipped in new packaging beginning in late March.

Back to Nature cookies, crackers, macaroni and cheese dinners, and organic cheeses will come out in May, along with seven new granola flavors. In all, 34 SKUs will be launched this spring in six categories, with more products in unspecified categories on the drawing board, said Kevin Scott, general manager of the Back to Nature brand.

Back to Nature products? resemblance to existing Kraft and Nabisco mainstays, including mac and cheese and Ritz crackers, is not unintentional, Scott said.

?We use a lot of the asset structures we have under Kraft,? he said. ?For example, no one can produce cream cheese like Kraft, with the Philadelphia brand.? Scott, formerly head of Kraft?s pizza division, which introduced such products as rising-crust pies, said, ?I really cut my teeth on working in an entrepreneurial way.?

The Back to Nature cookie, cracker, cereal and dinner lines feature non-GMO grains; no hydrogenated oils or trans fats; and no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. The cheese is made from organic milk certified by Gainesville, Fla.-based Quality Certification Services, with no added growth hormones, animal rennet, antibiotics or ?harmful pesticides,? according to product fact sheets. The fruit is real; the sweeteners are not high-fructose corn syrup. The cereals continue to be made in San Dimas.

?We sat in a room two days after the sale and laid out the ingredients principles we wanted to live by,? Scott said.

Reaction in both naturals and mainstream channels has been positive and builds on the relationships established since 2000, when Kraft bought Balance Bar Co. and Boca Foods Co., Scott said. ?When they eat the product, they?re blown away,? he said.

Kraft management pointed to the line as part of its new commitment to healthier products. Chief Executive Roger Deromedi told Wall Street analysts in February that Back to Nature would spearhead better profitability for the company. ?Low-carb diets, concerns about trans fat and obesity, and greater demand for organic and natural products are requiring a shift in what we market and how we market it,? Deromedi said. Other plans include taking the trans fats out of such popular items as Triscuits.

Kraft intends the products to be sold in both naturals and mainstream grocery stores. Along with Boca, Back to Nature is now based in Madison, Wis., in the former home of Oscar Mayer.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXV/number 4/p. 12

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