Is NO SO2 The New Gluten-Free?

What Manufacturers Need to Know to Stay Ahead of the Trend.

The gluten-free trend has been extremely popular. For people with Celiac Disease, avoiding gluten is a way of life. People have realized they can be sensitive to this substance without severe reactions and suffer from unnecessary weight gain. A large group of people, however, do not need to avoid gluten because they do not have allergies to it from the beginning. With customers coming to this realization, what is the next thing companies should become aware of to better cater to consumers? What will become the next healthy food trend consumers will be diligently looking for? NO SO2, No Sulfur Dioxide.

What is Sulfur Dioxide? (SO2?)

  • Naturally occurring chemical compound
  • It is a preservative
  • Used to extend shelf life of food
  • Maintains color of food
  • Kills bacteria

If it does all these great things, it can’t be bad for business, right? Wrong. In many studies, SO2 has been linked to trigger asthma and sulfite allergies. In some extreme and rare cases, death. For people without sulfite allergies or asthma, they can safely consume products with SO2. However, with consumers becoming more conscious about what is being put into their food and negative side effects of different preservatives, it is better for companies to begin the process of ensuring their foods do not contain potentially harmful chemical additives. Your customers will notice and be grateful that you have chosen to leave SO2 out of your products.

What types of Food use SO2 in manufacturing?

  • Dehydrated fruits
  • Dehydrated vegetables
  • Dehydrated spices
  • Soft drinks
  • Tea
  • Wines, Beer, and Cider
  • Pickled Foods
  • Some fruit juices
  • Frozen shrimp
  • Condiments
  • Dried soup mixes
  • And other preserved food sources

Culturally, we have seen diet trends recently that promote eating minimally processed or unprocessed foods (like Whole 30 and Paleo.) In general, it is better to eat things that are not as processed and are in their natural state. Dehydration processes are minimally processed if it does not involve SO2. When manufacturers use SO2, they immerse their food in a SO2 bath. The food absorbs the SO2 and the chemical allows the food to have a longer shelf life. In order for companies to have their food pass different food safety regulations, they boil out the excess SO2 before packaging and distributing. However, during this process, nutrients are lost. As Seawind Foods’ CEO, Garry Green, explained to Grocery Headquarters in 2014, “A more natural dehydration process allows fruit to maintain its nutritional integrity in regards to vitamin A, iron, and calcium. Additionally, this allows for the original flavor of the fruit to remain and may result in a darker colored fruit than those that contain sulfur dioxide.” If you want to know more about the S02 process, you can watch Seawind Foods’ Video Here. So as a company trying to respect consumer demands and cater to people with health concerns about SO2, how can companies avoid SO2?

Customers will be looking at the label on the package for sulfites in the ingredients. Some companies might use SO2 in their dehydration process, but then boil out the excess.  This means that Sulfur dioxide won’t be listed on their label if they have less than 10 ppm in their food. Those companies put their food through the nutrient-destroying process of Sulfur dioxide baths, boil it out, sell it to consumers and not bother mentioning that their food is now less nutrient dense and doesn’t taste as good. When your customers choose food, don’t you want to feel confident that you are providing the best source of nutrients in comparison to your competitors? Companies should take the necessary steps  to ensure that any dehydrated fruit or vegetable products do not use SO2 at all! It is a real and conceivable direction to take. Seawind Foods is an excellent example of a company making low sweet and NO SO2 food sourcing a reality for manufacturers. So not only is “NO SO2”  important for food manufactures, it also indicates to your consumers that you are a brand that cares about the difference.

Today’s consumers are becoming more and more diligent to see what it is that makes companies stand apart from the competition. A company going out of their way to satisfy their customers’ demands will gain more recognition as a great company than a company who is cutting corners to make extra profit. Don’t be a cheap company, be a great company. Care about the difference. Your customers will thank you.