Cascadian Farm is the top-selling brand of granola in the United States, but that didn’t stop its maker — Golden Valley-based General Mills — from introducing two new premium granola products last week. One of them doesn’t even include any grains, and the other is the first mainstream granola product to use pea protein.
The products are among nearly 150 that General Mills unveiled last week, and several hope to capitalize on the growing popularity of gluten-free and higher-protein foods.
The no-grain granola is called Renola, which stands for “reinventing granola.” It is part of the company’s Larabar brand that specializes in providing products with simple and few ingredients.
“If you look at the product, it’s fruits, it’s nuts, it’s seeds, and it’s spices,” said Scott Lee, a marketing director at Small Planet Foods, the General Mills natural and organic division. “So it’s really taking what you might find in your pantry and putting it together and making it taste great. That’s really the essence of that brand.”
One Renola flavor — cinnamon nut — contains the following ingredients: almonds, sunflower seeds, dried molasses, pumpkin seeds, pecans, raisins, cashews, tapioca syrup, cinnamon and vanilla extract.
Lee said a key to the brand’s products is “delivering a gluten-free benefit,” so that means a grain-free granola.
It also comes packaged in a pouch, he said, which is intentional.
“When you put a product in a pouch, it becomes more versatile,” Lee said. “It goes beyond the thinking of cereal in a bowl, and people start to think of it as a topper for yogurt or ice cream or salads, and more recipe-friendly.”
Renola also comes in two other flavors: cocoa coconut and berry, and is available in 1.1 or 1.2 ounce packs at a suggested retail price of $1.79, or in 9-ounce pouches for $8.99.
Lee also said that many granola consumers are dedicated to healthy lifestyles, and want to buy non-GMO organic products with more protein or alternative protein. “They’re looking at the sources of ingredients, and we know that more of our consumers are looking for plant-based options,” he said.
General Mills’ response is Protein Granola, a new addition to the Cascadian Farm brand.
Lee said that some people need to avoid soy because of allergies, so researchers looked extensively for other plant-based proteins to fill that gap and meet that demand.
“It was not an easy task,” he said, but the company found that organic pea protein offered great taste and texture. In January, Cascadian Farm introduced two flavors of protein chewy bars made with pea protein, and decided to expand the ingredient to granola.
Company spokesman Mike Siemienas said that peas grow quickly and can benefit soils, an environmental aspect that some consumers pay attention to.
“For our consumers it’s not only the food — what it is — but how it’s made,” Lee said.
Protein Granola is available in two flavors: apple crisp and dark chocolate coconut, at suggested retail prices of $4.49 for 9-ounce pouches.
Both Renola and Protein Granola began to be shipped in June and one or both products should be available nationwide at select Target stores and a variety of grocery stores.