Edward & Sons Trading Company: Convenience Without Compromise

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Edward & Sons Trading Company has sold innovative products since 1978.

For Joel Dee, founder and CEO of Edward & Sons Trading Company, a supplier of vegetarian products headquartered in Carpinteria, California, convenience without compromise is more than a tagline; it’s a way of life.

In 1975, Dee found himself traveling internationally, developing export markets for his family’s candy business, Ce De Inc., creator of Smarties candies. He was looking for vegetarian foods he could carry with him and eat on the go, healthy convenience foods without preservatives and artificial ingredients.

“But back in those days there really were no convenience-oriented natural foods,” Dee says. “It was considered an oxymoron because the industry at that time perceived that its consumers wanted to cook everything from scratch.”

So in 1978 at the age of 25, Dee began to create and market his own vegetarian convenience foods influenced by his international travels, starting with Instant Miso-Cup soup mix, a healthy vegetarian alternative to the Lipton Cup-a-Soup that was so popular at that time. Baked Brown Rice Snaps, his second product, were Japanese rice crackers made from whole grain rice instead of polished white rice.

“The concept was that we would create things that fit into people’s lifestyle with convenience foods, but without compromising on the things that we care about,” he says. The impetus was to keep ingredients simple, pure and vegetarian, without unnecessary additives and preservatives. They soon discovered that their products held special appeal to people with food allergies and sensitivities.

“We’ve always operated on the principle that the simpler the ingredient declaration, the better,” Dee says. “Every time we add one ingredient into a packaged grocery item, we have alienated some segment of possible consumers. So we try not to add ingredients unnecessarily. And the result of that is that many of our products can be enjoyed by folks with all sorts of food sensitivities or allergies.”

Dee named the company Edward & Sons after his father and brothers. Fast-forward 40 years and Edward & Sons now has more than 100 products under several brand names that fall under its umbrella. The range of products includes:

  • Edward & Sons convenient staples and treats
  • Native Forest organic coconut milks, organic canned fruits and vegetables
  • Let’s Do Organic coconut shreds and flakes, grain-free flours and specialty organic ingredients for the home baker
  • Let’s Do Gluten-Free ice cream cones
  • Premier Japan Asian-style sauces
  • More Than Fair fair-trade-certified foods
  • Road’s End Organics vegan boxed Mac & Cheese and Quick Gravies
  • The Wizard’s zesty organic sauces, and
  • Nature Factor organic coconut water

All products are vegetarian, most are vegan and many are gluten-free. Gluten-free products must test at less than 5 ppm of gluten to meet the company’s standards.

Convenience is still key, says Alison Cox, vice president of sales and marketing, “especially these days when people are running to a kid’s soccer game and then choir practice and then this meeting or that. If we can deliver convenient products that make our customers’ lives simpler while helping them maintain their diets—vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, paleo, Feingold, whatever it is—it just makes life easier.”

“We’ve seen many different diets come into style and then go out of style. Our position has been to stick with simple, wholesome, minimally processed ingredients, catering to those with food sensitivities. And always, with certainty, everything we sell is vegetarian,” Dee says.

Edward & Sons has become a market leader in supplying products to the special diet-community. Recent innovations include Edward & Sons Organic Young Jackfruit (a vegan meatless alternative) and Let’s Do Organic Sweetened Condensed Coconut Milk (a dairy-free alternative). The company is developing versatile grain-free flours, rolling out products like Let’s Do Organic Green Banana Flour.

“We use our good sense and our feeling about what folks are looking for and what’s missing in the market. Then we’ll often launch products in certain regions to see how they do, because there’s no substituting for consumers making the final decision as to what they want and what they don’t.”

Dee and his wife Cox still travel a lot. Knowing and trusting their suppliers is essential, Dee says, especially for organic foods.

“It’s important for us to travel to source communities whenever possible so that we know who is growing, processing and packaging our products. We have to understand what they care about and they need to know what we care about,” Dee says.

“We’re still a small, independent family-owned company,” he says. “We’re proud to be able to offer the gluten-fre e community and those who have food sensitivities and food allergies a variety of products they otherwise might not have access to.”

For more about Edward & Sons Trading Company, visit their website.

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