Talking Shop with… Jerry Colburn

With more than 150 products, Ener-G Foods offers a one-stop shopping experience, says the company’s national sales and marketing manager.

Grocery Headquarters: What can you tell us about your company?
Jerry Colburn:
Since 1962, when Ener-G Foods created our first low-protein product, we have strived to meet the challenging requirements for diet-restricted customers. It is all we do. We not only offer products that are free of wheat, dairy, gluten and nuts, but also products that are free of eggs and low in protein. Our bakeries are dedicated to wheat-, gluten-, dairy- and nut-free baking, guaranteeing that contamination from gluten will not occur. Our mission at Ener-G Foods, as one of the country’s foremost producers for foods for diet-restricted individuals, is to provide a wide range of ready-made foods and mixes that are wholesome, nutritious, risk free and good tasting. We are constantly responding to the demand for special diets with research, innovative products and convenience foods.

What types of products do you make?
We manufacture products in almost every class of food. Ener-G Foods not only offers 18 varieties of breads, but also crackers, cookies, pastries, pastas, pizza shells, pretzels, brownies, baking mixes and ingredients, hamburger and hot dog buns, biscotti and pound cake. All of our products are also kosher certified.

What are some of the qualities and features that make your products stand out?
Our focus on variety, taste, quality, packaging and purity are a few of the qualities that set our products apart. With more than 150 products, consumers can use Ener-G Foods as a one stop shopping experience. Our products have won taste test awards and have been featured in newspaper articles, on television and even in gourmet magazines. Our snack items are so good that it is hard to believe that they are gluten-free. What’s more, Ener-G Foods unconditionally guarantees all of our products. If a consumer is dissatisfied with any of our products we will gladly replace or refund the purchase price. Our high-tech packaging gives all of our baked goods a one-year shelf life without the need for refrigeration or freezing.

We have an in-house laboratory, insuring adherence to strict pH and water activity standards to guarantee that our products are safe for consumption. In more than 49 years of producing foods for the diet-restricted market we have never had a problem with cross contamination of any allergen. We adhere to strict Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point policies to insure that our products are manufactured under superior guidelines.

What consumer preferences are you seeing?
This category is growing every year due to better diagnosis by physicians of the different genetic conditions that require products that are free of the major allergens.

And, as more consumers become involved in the gluten free marketplace, increasingly they are demanding that companies produce better tasting products, with better nutritional values and characteristics more closely resembling their wheat-based counterparts.

What advice can you offer to retailers?
We suggest that retailers contact their local celiac and autism support groups to let them know that they are carrying products that are appropriate for these consumer groups. Also, creating designated sections and signage in the stores, where the consumer can easily find gluten-free products is important. But the most important advice for a retailer is to listen to customer suggestions as to what they want to see in their stores. Retailers should remember that these customers not only buy restricted diet foods, but “regular” staple items as well. Once a diet-restricted consumer finds a store that is responsive to their needs they become very loyal shoppers.

What are some of the key support services that retailers should expect from their suppliers in this category?
Retailers should expect that their suppliers will help them with promotions and discounts to drive sales. They should also expect that suppliers provide them with marketing materials as well.

What new products and innovation can retailers expect from your company?
Ener-G Foods is in constant communication with our customers, who provide us with a vast number of new product ideas and product improvements. Throughout our 40-year history, we have made a commitment to purity, quality and innovative products. Retailers can expect four to five new items each year from us. 

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