Gluten-Free Gets a Healthier Spin: Kay’s Naturals
Years ago, the thought of having as many gluten-free snack options as we have today was unimaginable. And as more and more gluten-free companies sprout up, it’s clear that an even wider range of gluten-free snacks is becoming a reality. But will those choices be healthy ones? Kay’s Naturals is just one of many companies determined to provide customers with healthy, gluten-free snacks.
The idea to start Kay’s Naturals began more than 15 years ago when Dr. Massoud Kazemzadeh – known as Dr. Kay – and his first wife, Linda, decided to develop a company that could provide healthy snacks to those with diabetes. The snacks needed to be properly formulated for those with diabetes by being high in protein and fiber while reducing carbohydrates and sugars.
Linda, who had developed juvenile diabetes, passed away in 1997 from complications relating to her disease. The idea for Kay’s Naturals was put on hold until Dr. Kay met his second wife, Ann. Together, the couple was able to push forward with the business.
With the goal of making healthy snacks with optimum protein and fiber content, Kay’s Naturals not only satisfied the needs of those with diabetes, but athletes as well. Since diabetes is often linked to obesity, the company began to take on a stance of combating obesity and obesity-related-illness.
With America’s obesity rate at 35.7 percent, as per Centers for Disease Control, Kay’s Naturals wanted to ensure that they did not contribute to this increasing issue. “We’re selling very highly nutritious products that have very high protein content,” Dr. Kay said.
One serving of some of their products has the protein equivalent of three small eggs and the equivalent fiber of an apple, making their products ideal meal replacements for weight loss programs, diabetics, and sports nutrition, according to Dr. Kay.
The next goal of Kay’s Naturals was to make their products accommodating to those with food sensitivities. The company had an employee with celiac disease, which led them to learn about the consumer need for gluten-free snacks. They decided to try making one gluten-free product. It was so successful that they subsequently changed all formulations to be gluten-free.
“Eventually it became obvious that we were going to do [gluten-free products] we really needed to dedicate the facility so that we wouldn’t have to second guess the products,” said Ann Kazemzadeh, President of Kay’s Naturals.
The company became certified gluten-free in 2009 with a dedicated gluten-free facility. By doing so, Kay’s Naturals became a leading brand in the gluten-free marketplace, allowing consumers to benefit from products that not only fit a gluten-free diet, but have added nutrients that may be helpful to those with celiac disease.
Extra fiber and proteins are particularly important for those with celiac disease due to nutrient malabsorption. It is common for those who are newly diagnosed to be lacking in essential nutrients due to the damage that has occurred in their intestines, causing nutrient absorption to be hindered. Dr. Kay understood this and kept the same level of nutrients in the products after switching from a non gluten-free formula to a gluten-free formula.
“Right now there’s a lot of stuff that tastes, great and is gluten-free but when you look at the ingredients it’s mostly carbohydrates, starches, and no real nutritional value,” Dr. Kay said. “We’re still at the forefront of the industry, but it’s catching up to us.”
With more and more gluten-free companies sprouting up every year, many of them have no choice but to catch up with companies like Kay’s Naturals in order to satisfy the market. Gluten-free consumers often seem to be more health-conscious than the average consumer and tend to want items that aren’t just gluten-free replacements that aren’t just gluten-free replacements of gluten-filled junk food, but gluten-free alternatives that are healthy for them. With Kay’s Naturals as a leading example, hopefully it won’t be long until more companies aim to satisfy these consumers. Because if it’s possible to have it all, why settle for less?