Grain-free varieties of consumers’ favorite products are proving popular. For those avoiding gluten, cauliflower-based pasta offers them a way to indulge in some favorite dishes without compromising their diets.
Other consumers are opting for pasta and bread made from alternatives to wheat as part of a commitment to plant-based dieting or keeping their waistlines in check through a low-carb lifestyle. Pasta recipes don’t have the best reputation for being light on calories, but swapping out traditional flour-based noodles for those made of cauliflower can improve the nutritional profile. According to a chart from Caulipower, their pastas have 230 calories and 45 grams of net carbs per serving — less than the 324 calories and 55 grams of net carbs of traditional pasta.
Food manufacturers are using a wide variety of plants — including chickpeas and lentils — to create alternatives to grain-based products, but cauliflower is coming out as the favorite. About 3.69 pounds of cauliflower was produced for each person in the U.S. in 2019 — an increase of 19% above 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service. CPG options including cauliflower rice and buffalo-style cauliflower bites are reinvigorating consumers’ interest in what many previously considered to be a bland and unexciting vegetable.
Since debuting at the Natural Products Expo West show in 2017, Caulipower has expanded rapidly and attracted competition from both CPG brands and restaurants. In 2019, according to Grubhub’s annual report, cauliflower pizza saw a 650% increase in popularity — the biggest growth of any food item that year. The online order and delivery platform named cauliflower pizza 2019’s “Top Food of the Year.”
Since Caulipower has earned consumer awareness and loyalty through its pizzas, expanding into other product segments may prove less challenging. Some consumers may balk at the idea of cauliflower-based pasta, wondering if the vegetable’s sometimes strong flavor would overshadow the main dish. As a part of its marketing campaign for the new product, Caulipower has a video featuring Italians eating the pasta, surprised when they are told it is made from cauliflower.
But cauliflower as an ingredient has found its way into a wide variety of consumer products. Purely Elizabeth offers a cauliflower-based hot cereal breakfast dish. General Mills’ Annie’s brand has a macaroni and cheese dish with cauliflower as an ingredient in the pasta, and Trader Joe’s cauliflower gnocchi has become a cult favorite. Cauliflower has even found its way into the snack aisle with Real Food From The Ground Up’s cauliflower-based crackers, chips and pretzels.
While cauliflower is a popular alternative ingredient, chickpeas are also becoming widely used. Chickpea pasta maker Banza raised $20 million in 2019 to expand into the foodservice segment. Consumer interest in chickpeas is increasing due in part to the legume’s serious protein punch. It may have a leg up when it comes to shoppers who are looking to meet protein needs that cauliflower can’t fulfill.