STOCKTON - If you're watching your waistline and looking for a low-carb alternative to bread, a Stockton food company thinks it has the solution for you.
"Ours is the only thing made out of fruits and vegetables," NewGem Foods founder Matthew de Bord said.
He thinks they will be a game changer for sandwich lovers. de Bord came up with the idea of an alternative to seaweed when he was working in Japan back in 1996. But he didn't start cooking up the concept until 10 years ago.
"Then I started experimenting in my sister's kitchen," de Bord explained. "I called it kitchen chemistry."
He ended up perfecting the recipe with the help of the USDA agriculture research service and patented the technology.
Gem wraps are made of fruit or vegetable puree and then dried out on sheets, which are later cut. You then peel the wraps off the film. The consistency is similar to a firmer, chewier fruit roll-up.
"Once you put stuff in it, the moisture hydrates them and it becomes very nice and easy to bite through," de Bord explained.
de Bord got a loan from San Joaquin County and built a factory in the University Park area of Stockton. He now has 10 employees.
NewGem Food has two products out. One is the Origami Wrap for sushi. The other is the Gem Wrap for sandwiches. They both come in several flavors.
"That's the trick," de Bord said. "Getting people to eat it."
de Bord believes he's created something truly innovative. The wraps are sold in grocery stores on the northeast and on the Home Shopping Network.
"I think you're going to have at the grocery stores," de Bord said. "You're going to have bread, something flat and then our fruit or vegetable wrap."
Some restaurants have incorporated the wraps into their menus. Cocoro Sushi in Stockton has been using the wraps in some specialty rolls for five years.
"Very positive," Cocoro Sushi owner Russell Takeda said. "It's an alternative to seaweed. They enjoy the colors and flavors of the new wraps."
The biggest challenge has been getting west coast markets to carry them.
"People say they want to be first but they want to see who else is doing it and see what their market success is," de Bord said. "And so we have a little bit of trouble getting people to be the first."
The company is on track to make $1.5 million in sales this year. de Bord has spent $250,000 of his own money so far.
"There's been a few times where it's like, is it really worth it? Should I do it? But I figure if I didn't, someone else would," he explained.