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Explore Cuisine's CEO Greg Forbes Discusses Diversity in the Pasta Category

Explore Cuisine's CEO Greg Forbes Discusses Diversity in the Pasta Category


RED BANK, NJ
Tuesday, March 26th, 2019

Pasta, the ultimate comfort food, is something most of the world can agree upon. As it pops up in regional cuisine across the globe, pasta is as ubiquitous as it is delicious. While the flour-based variety reigned supreme for centuries, this century has seen a growing movement towards plant-based foods—a movement from which pasta is not exempt. These days there’s a noodle revolution going on, and while y’all have been living in 2019 with your spiralizers, Explore Cuisine, with its plant-based pastas, has been living in 3019. I had the chance to speak with CEO Greg Forbes, who spoke about his company’s humble beginnings, diversity in products, and more.

Over the last 8 years, Explore Cuisine has broadened its range and added new ingredients such as chickpeas, lentils, and mung bean, and new cuts like penne and lasagna

Maggie Mead: Tell me a little bit about the history of Explore Cuisine? How did it come about?

Greg Forbes, CEO, Explore CuisineGreg Forbes: The Explore Cuisine story really starts when our founder—whose daughter ate nothing but wheat, pasta, and butter—was looking for a way to get more protein in her diet. While on a trip, he discovered a high-protein noodle made from soybeans. It turned out that his daughter loved it, so he saw an opportunity to develop a great-tasting, high-protein, gluten-free, high-fiber alternative to wheat-based pasta, and the Explore Cuisine brand was launched in 2011. Over the last 8 years, we have broadened the Explore Cuisine range, adding new ingredients such as chickpeas, lentils, and mung bean, and new cuts like penne and lasagna. Today, I’m thrilled to say we are distributed nationally in the U.S., Canada, U.K., Germany, Australia, and 10 other countries.

MM: How would you describe the ethos behind the brand?

GF: Our brand mission is to Explore the globe to discover healthy ingredients and make a positive impact on those we serve. We bring consumers organic ingredients that are delicious, simple to prepare, colorful, and bring plant-based goodness to all. However, as important to us is the belief that healthy foods grow from healthy hands, hearts, and lives. We are committed to organic farming and trading fairly and, through our Food to Thrive foundation, provide education and empowerment to help farming communities prosper and support farm sustainably. In Thailand, we have worked with farmers to grow rice organically and have recently opened our first innovation center that creates skilled jobs and is a catalyst for development in one of the poorest provinces in the country.

Explore Cuisine's brand mission is to Explore the globe to discover healthy ingredients and make a positive impact on those the company serves

MM: What sets Explore Cuisine’s approach and its products apart from others in the greater plant-based noodle/alternative pasta space?

GF: We have been very clear starting with the choice of our brand name "Explore Cuisine” that we are about discovery and variety. To that end, we use a variety of beans, pulses, and grains. I guess the best way to explain it is that while most pastas, both traditional and alternative, have one ingredient and a multitude of shapes and cuts; we do almost the opposite, with multiple ingredients—each with a different shape. Our range includes Edamame Spaghetti, Black Bean and Sesame Fettuccine, Chickpea Fusilli, Red Lentil Penne, Green Lentil Lasagna, and Red Rice Rigatoni to name just a few.

MM: I understand Explore Cuisine has new products that debuted at Expo West, can you tell me about those? What was the impetus behind the line expansion?

GF: Expo West was really exciting for Explore as we had three major new initiatives to share. First, we unveiled our brand look to highlight the ingredients which are the heroes of our brand and provide a more natural and organic feel. Our new packaging will roll out starting mid-May.

Explore Cuisine brings consumers organic ingredients that are delicious, simple to prepare, colorful, and that bring plant-based goodness to all

Secondly, we entered the alternative rice market with the launch of Red Lentil and Chickpea Risoni, which provide a high protein alternative to rice in Risotto, Bryani, salads, and even Sushi. We use only a single organic ingredient, with no starches. Why did we call it Risoni? Well, ‘Riso’ is Italian for Rice and ‘Oni’ means bigger or more than, which we felt captured the product benefits perfectly.

Finally, we launched our Asian Selection—a range of better-for-you noodles including a unique Edamame Ramen with 24 grams of protein, Organic Brown Rice Pad Thai, Vietnamese Pho, Vermicelli, and a Red Rice Pad Thai. The brown and red rice we use is all grown within our Thai farming communities that I mentioned earlier.

MM: How does the company approach product development generally? What qualities is ExploreCuisine looking for when it decides to explore a new product?

GF: Very simply, we search the world for new ingredients and great ideas. Our teams are based in the U.S., Switzerland, Israel, Thailand, and China, so we have a diverse network to build on. We also benefit from having our highly engaged consumers sending us ideas. When we find one, we make sure it meets our strict new product criteria. It has to taste great, be easy to prepare, provide a proven nutritional benefit, be organic and, of course, be farmed sustainably.

Today, Explore Cuisine distributes nationally in the U.S., Canada, U.K., Germany, Australia, and 10 other countries

MM: Is there anything that we would be remiss in not mentioning in a story about Explore Cuisine?

GF: We are a small company, but we value our diversity and inclusiveness. We have 12 different nationalities speaking over 15 languages, and we work together as a single team with a common goal. That sense of collaboration underpins our relationships with customers, suppliers, brokers, and agencies, as it is only by working together that we can deliver great tasting, healthy meals for all the family.


With such a global mindset, Explore Cuisine is right in line with the times, as international flavors are taking off in a big way. The perfect balance of trendy, healthy, and seriously tasty, the company is checking all the boxes for consumers. As a relatively new company, there’s nowhere but up for Explore Cuisine, and with its in-demand products and unique flavors, the company is aiming sky-high.

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