An interview with Charlie Pace, President and CEO of Smart Flour foods.
Smart Flour Tuscan Inspired Pizza was chosen as a Pick of the Week for Phil's Food Reviews. "It's hard to imagine that this pizza is gluten-free as the crust cooked perfectly and tastes great," is what Phil had to say. As a follow up, we had a conversation with Charlie Pace, President and CEO of Smart Flour foods.
What inspired you to create your new product? Is there a particular niche or segment of the market you were focusing on?
We wanted to bring frozen pizza to a whole new gourmet level, and the launch of Smart Flour Foods’ Tuscan Inspired Uncured Two Meat ancient-grain based pizzawas part of that strategy. By combining the rich, savory flavors of genoa salami and diced pepperoni with mozzerella and smoked provolone cheese and the subtle kick of pepperoncini peppers, we created an Italian inspired, chef-quality, and premium pizza. We always strive to make great tasting foods that appeal to everyone, regardless of their food allergies, but this new variety is primarily designed for natural food consumers’ discerning palate and ingredient preferences. In addition to being certified gluten free, the Tuscan Inspired Uncured Two Meat pizza has a fantastic texture and taste and the ingredients are simple and clean. It is free of preservatives and artificial ingredients, the cheese is free of rGBH, and the pork is vegetarian fed and antibiotic free. Everyone knows a great pizza starts with the crust and our crusts are Non-GMO verified and made with ancient grains to boost the pizza’s nutritional profile.
What was the process like of designing your package, and how do you feel the final result has impacted perceptions of your product?
We wanted to have a fun logo and package style that would appeal to moms, kids, and families. We put a lot of thought into the logo, colors, and fonts, as well as our messaging on the package. It was also important to us to show a mouthwatering image of the pizza itself, so we put a good deal of time into getting the imagery just right. The end result has been very well received! We routinely hear that customers love our packaging. As we continue to bring our brand to life, we’ve created a personality called “Smarty” – he’s the guy with the glasses in the logo. We want Smarty to represent our mission and values: Creating great tasting, high-quality food with clean ingredients that are allergen friendly. So keep an eye out for Smarty, you’re going to see a lot more of him!
Does your product have relevant health attributes? What are they?
Smart Flour Foods’ pizza crust is made with a propriety flour blend that includes the ancient grains sorghum, amaranth and teff. These powerful whole grains make Smart Flour Foods’ pizza higher in protein, iron, calcium, and fiber than leading conventional and gluten-free pizza brands. Our pizza is certified gluten free and therefore a safe choice for those with celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, and the clean ingredient deck makes it a healthier alternative as well.
What sustainability efforts have you made with your product/packaging?
It’s always been a priority to make Smart Flour Foods’ pizza with a clean ingredient list. We’re proud to share that our ancient-grain based pizza crust, which is used in all of our pizza varieties and sold separately, recently became Non-GMO verified!
Through creating a new product, what would you say were the most difficult parts of the process and what came the easiest?
The hard part is finding the right flavor profiles. We aim to make gourmet pizzas by blending the right ingredients and flavors together, but we also want them to have broad appeal. So there’s a fair amount of effort that goes into getting that right. I’m happy to report that we’ve been pretty successful so far, and the Tuscan Inspired Uncured Two Meat that Supermarket Guru loved is a great example, as is our Chicken Sausage variety. The blend of sweet yet savory chicken sausage combined with the kick of red pepper is turning into a huge hit all over the country, and we’re thrilled at how fast it’s selling. What’s the easiest? I’m not sure that anything about creating a new product is easy, but we’re getting pretty good at developing names and packaging once we have the product right.
Anything you would change if you were starting from scratch again?
Ultimately, no, not really. There are always things we could have done better and we’re still learning, but everything happens for a reason, and I’m thrilled with what we’ve achieved in a few short years.
Besides your product, what's one out on the market that you admire?
I really like what Saffron Road is doing with their flavor mashups and creative - yet healthy - clean products. They have expanded their offerings tremendously and are continually innovating.