Charlie Pace brings 25 years of business experience and a passion for creating tasty and nutritious gluten-free fare to his role as President and CEO of Smart Flour Foods. After realizing his own gluten intolerance and moving to a gluten-free diet in 2009, Charlie took a keen interest in finding foods that were nutritious, gluten-free and delicious. Discovering that unique combination in Smart Flour Foods and seeing an opportunity to take its amazing products to the masses, he acquired Smart Flour Foods in 2011.
The team at Smart Flour Foods believes that everyone should love what they eat, and their passion is creating delicious and nutritious gluten-free foods through the power of Ancient Grains.
All of their products are based on their very own signature Smart Flour, which is a proprietary blend of the Ancient Grains amaranth, sorghum and teff. These grains deliver both an unbelievably good taste and an elevated nutritional profile that feature vitamins, minerals, protein and fiber. Smart Flour Foods’ commitment to nutrition and quality means that they use only all-natural ingredients that never contain artificial preservatives or synthetic hormones.
BusinessInterviews.com: What are some advantages of including Ancient Grains in a balanced diet?
Charlie: Ancient Grains, and specifically the ones we use (sorghum, amaranth and teff), offer nutrition that would be a valuable addition to any diet, but are especially important to those who must avoid gluten due to either celiac disease or non-celiac gluten intolerance. Ancient Grains offer greater nutrition than the rice or potato flour formulations that many gluten-free consumers feel that they’re stuck with. For example, the teff in our flour is a great source of calcium, and amaranth has been called a “protein powerhouse” by the Whole Grains Council. These properties are not typically found in rice or potatoes, making Ancient Grains a superior gluten-free choice whether consumed by the person who must avoid gluten or their friends and family.
BusinessInterviews.com: Can you share a bit about the transition that took place in 2011, when Gluten Free Kneads, rebranded as Smart Flour Foods?
Charlie: At that time I made an investment in the company, took over as CEO, and changed the name to Smart Flour Foods to reflect the broad appeal of the company’s formulation. I knew that the fantastic taste and texture of our products, combined with their nutritional properties, would be a huge hit with today’s health conscious consumer, and I wanted to make sure the name reflected that. The rebranding was also designed to facilitate the launch of the company’s retail product line, which was introduced in October 2013.
BusinessInterviews.com: Can you expand on how Smart Flour is unique in that it serves both the food service and retail markets, with a strong national presence in both?
Charlie: It’s simply rare to find a company that has a strong presence in both markets. I can’t think of any of our competitors that can say that they’re growing in both areas. To give you some detail, our retail line has grown to nearly 600 stores in the short 11 months since we launched it, and we expect it to grow well beyond 1,000 stores very soon. At the same time Giordano’s, Chicago’s pizza chain, just rolled out Smart Flour as its exclusive gluten-free crust, complete with our logo on the menu.
BusinessInterviews.com: What marketing strategy has worked well for you?
Charlie: Our biggest advocates are our customers. They simply gush about how much they love our products. So we’ve found that amplifying their voice is our brand’s most impactful marketing tool, and we look for every opportunity we can to share their thoughts. We even have a YouTube video that does just that. You can find it on our YouTube channel, Smart Flour Foods.
BusinessInterviews.com: Can you elaborate on the significance of winning Best New Product for your retail frozen pizzas at the 2013 Natural Products Expo East, before the product was even commercially available?
Charlie: It was a dramatic and powerful validation of our product development effort. We strongly believed that the crusts that made us so popular in food service would be a huge hit in a frozen-pizza designed for stores, but you can never be sure until the product is rolled out and people actually try it. Winning that award, combined with all the great customer feedback that we heard that weekend, boosted our confidence as we began to pitch the product to retailers like Whole Foods Market. Not to mention that the trophy made a great addition to our tradeshow booth!
BusinessInterviews.com: Do you feel that personally suffering from gluten intolerance influences your ability to lead the company and understand your customers on a base level?
Charlie: Absolutely. The whole reason that I’m putting my heart and soul into this company every day is to bring tasty and healthy options to the gluten-free community. I know all too well from my own personal experience how hard it is to find quality gluten-free products. It’s because I identify with that need that I set such high standards for our products: They must taste great and offer nutrition and quality, or we won’t sell them. The gluten-free community, myself included, deserves no less.
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