Growing distribution and broadening its range have been key to the growth of free-from food group Daiya Foods, marketing coordinator Holly Janenko told just-food as she detailed the firm’s latest product launches at the Natural Foods Expo West trade show. 

Daiya is using the Expo as a springboard to launch a range of dairy-free salad dressings, as well as meatless pepperoni-style pizza. The company is also promoting its free-from Cheeze products, which have seen “exponential” sales growth since they were reformulated last year, as well as other existing products including Daiya’s Supreme pizza, Macaroni and Cheeze, and yoghurts. 

The line of plant-based dressings, which will be released in June with an SRP of US$4.99, are free from dairy, gluten, soy and eggs. It consists of free-from Caesar, Ranch and Blue Cheeze dressings. 

The meatless peperoni-style pizza is also free from gluten, dairy and soy. It is being added to the group’s Supreme pizza offering at an SRP of $9.99. 

The company, which had previously partnered with meat substitute maker More than Meat for its meat alternatives, developed the meatless peperoni in-house, Janenko said. “We have to make it [plant-based peperoni] ourselves. It is a testament to our R&D team that is also very exciting for Daiya and what we can do… It is a first for us but we hope its not a last.” 

Janenko would not be drawn further on whether Daiya is already working on additional meat-free products but confirmed innovation would continue to be used as a route to broaden the group’s range, which, she said, was a central factor to the company’s growth. “We started with four cheese blocks eight years ago. What was important [for growth] was moving into different types of meals – pizza, macaroni and cheese, breakfast with our yoghurt.”

Janenko said  Daiya has witnessed an upsurge in consumer demand in the free-from category although, she suggested, interest in gluten-free claims has plateaued in North America. “Our consumers have evolved, our markets have evolved. Gluten-free has become the least [significant] factor and dairy-free, soy-free have seen a rise in interest.” Janenko said that vegan options are also becoming “more mainstream”. 

This consumer demand has resulted in an influx of retailer interest in stocking Daiya’s products, Janenko continued. “It’s changed since we first launched our cheese blocks. People call us,” she explained. 

Daiya is now stocked in 22,000 stores across North America, including Whole Foods, Sprouts, Kroger, Safeway and Loblaw. The company is also expanding its foodservice business. Ten to twenty thosuand foodservice outlets now carry Daiya’s free-from products. The company’s shredded dairy-free Cheeze has proven popular with pizza operators, Janenko observed, and the firm’s foodservice team is exhibiting at the Pizza Expo 2014 in Las Vegas later this month. 

Janenko said growth opportunities were evenly balanced between its foodservice and retail channels. “They are on a par. Retail is growing so strong[ly] but foodservice is there as well. Foodservice is a lower percentage of our total sales but we see a lot of potential.”

Daiya also has a small international presence, with sales in Australia, New Zealand and Germany via a distributor. The company is focused on growing its operations in North America, however, where it still sees plenty opportunities in the free-from category.