From Singapore to the USA and all around Europe, Edible Innovations profiles food makers that engage in improving the global food system at every stage, from production to distribution to eating and shopping. Join us as we explore the main trends in the industry from a maker perspective. Chiara Cecchini of Food Innovation Program — an ecosystem with a strong educational core that promotes food innovation as a key tool to tackle the great challenges of the future — introduces you to the faces, stories, and experiences of food makers around the globe. Check back on Tuesdays and Thursdays for new installments.
For the new generation of young adults, the concept of gluten intolerances, and gluten free diets, seems like second nature. But for Colleen Kavanagh, growing up in Tennessee in the 1980s meant she was one of two people she knew to have autoimmune disorder. Her symptoms were extreme: a swollen belly, weak bones, and stunted growth.
She was placed on a gluten-free diet, and, after just six months, underwent a noticeable change. She became a taller, stronger, and healthier person. When Kavanagh’s kids were diagnosed with celiac disease, she jumped to the call to create healthy, gluten-free, allergy friendly foods.
Test for Success
What Kavanagh found in the industry of allergy friendly foods was an antiquated idea of proxy safety. Essentially big companies that manufacture foods assume that if the product is made in a facility that didn’t directly process the allergens, it is safe. However, Kavanagh’s background in manufacturing shed light on this false security. Allergens can come in through different ingredients, all of which can end up in the final product.
She strongly believed that in this matter of life or death, the standard could and needed to be raised. Rather than christen a whole manufacturing plant as allergen safe, she and her co-founder Jonathan Shambroom started Zego, a food company that now only produces but regularly tests their food. Not only can customers see that the food was tested for cross contact, they are even given access to the exact results via a QR code.
Healthy Snacks for Any Diet
Zego offers its customers peace of mind with its friendly superfood bar that addresses a multitude of dietary restrictions and needs. For most, buying alternative foods often means losing nutritional value, or having lots of sugars and sweeteners added to enhance the taste. Zego’s popular snack bars are jam packed full of nutrition and free of artificial sweeteners.
So what is in these bars? Zego uses ingredients like sunflower, chia, and poppy seeds to provide protein. Rather than adding artificial sweeteners, they use sorghum syrup, to add both trace minerals and sweetness to each bar. All of the ingredients fit in with vegan, paleo, non-GMO, organic and macrobiotic diets. The bars range from chocolate fudge to coconut ribbon. There are even just fruit bars and fruit and chia bars, all for your kids to enjoy.
Continuing the Cause
Kavanagh created more than just a company, she also created a nonprofit that addresses nutrition for low-income families. Called A Better Course, it helps provide healthy fresh groceries. Throughout the month of April, you can catch Kavanagh raising money and awareness for her non-profit and healthy eating lifestyle.