What if it’s really true that you can have your cake—and eat it too? Simple Mills Founder and CEO Katlin Smith believes that consumers can have it both ways: full flavor with better-for-you ingredients.

Since founding her Chicago-based company in 2012, Smith and growing team of innovation specialists have extended the company’s portfolio to include a wide range of cookies, crackers, bars, baking mixes (breads, muffins) and pancake and waffle mixes.

That innovation trail also led to last year’s launch of Sweet Thins, a product reminiscent of a childhood favorite: the graham cracker. Moreover, it’s appeals to consumers both for its better-for-you ingredients and its better-for-planet ingredient sourcing.

Simple Mills Sweet Thins
Simple Mills Sweet Thins will be one of six noteworthy new products showcased this August in Prepared Foods’ Spirit of Innovation Awards.
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The product features a seed-and-nut flour blend made of watermelon seed, cashew, sunflower seed, and flax seed. Sweet Thins marks the debut of watermelon seed flour to the cookie category. Smith says watermelon seed flour not only provides a light, crispy texture, but also contributes protein, good fats, and micronutrients. Another key ingredient, coconut sugar, delivers smart sweetness with 7g per 12-piece serving.

The product’s taste, texture and sustainability appeal made it a 2021-2022 Prepared Foods Spirit of Innovation winner (“Best New Retail Food”) and it will be recognized this August 9 from 11.a.m.-1 p.m. EST in an industrywide webcast awards ceremony.

When the product debuted in July 2021, Smith herself weighed in.

“Sweet Thins is one of our most exciting new products to-date and one that we’ve been developing and testing for over two years,” she said. “Not only does the food we eat have the potential to positively impact our bodies, but it plays a huge role in our planet’s health. When we grow food with ecohealth in mind, we can be a driving force in addressing climate change. Simple Mills is on a mission to be a change agent in the food industry, and we’re excited about the role Sweet Thins plays in our vision to help elevate agriculture as a tool to improve planetary health.”

For the record, Sweet Thins come in three flavors (Honey Cinnamon, Chocolate Brownie, and Mint Chocolate) and carry a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $5.39 per box. The cookies are certified gluten free and free of grains, corn, soy, dairy, gums and emulsifiers. They’re also Non-GMO Project Verified and paleo friendly.

For the record, Simple Mills partners with coconut sugar farmers in Java, Indonesia, who use regenerative farming principles—such as keeping a live root in the ground with perennial trees and planting a diversity of species. In addition to composting, these practices help improve soil health and protect biodiversity. Simple Mills is investing in a multi-year project in partnership with Pur Projet and these Java coconut farmers to provide agroforestry design programs, food safety trainings, kitchen updates, and tool upgrades.

Smith says Simple Mills is piloting a product innovation framework that embeds regenerative agriculture principles into the company’s overall product design process. Building market demand for a diversity of crops—particularly for underrepresented crops that farmers are looking to incorporate into a diverse rotation—is a key pillar of Simple Mills’ strategy, she adds.

She notes that Sweet Thins were designed to help build the market for watermelon seeds, which come from a variety of watermelon that is specifically grown for its seeds rather than its flesh.

“Watermelon seed is not the easiest ingredient to work with, considering that it can have a bitter-tasting note,” says Smith. “Simple Mills’ R&D team worked on a variety of different formulas before landing on the winning recipe.”