During his time in college in the early 2000s, Summit native Andrew Eckhardt began fine-tuning his diet, trying keto and low-carb foods to fuel his body in new ways.
After college, Eckhardt owned and operated Linda’s Diet Delites, a grocery store focused on healthy alternative foods. Eckhardt was dismayed that so-called diet foods contained additives and processed ingredients. He began experimenting with ingredients on his own, and in 2010 started his own company, ThinSlim Foods.
Eckhardt has been running ThinSlim out of Princeton for over a decade. His low-carb, low-calorie products—ranging from breads to brownies to chips—claim to be 50-to-75 percent lower in carbs than other diet-aimed offerings. They contain ingredients such as almond flour and natural sweeteners.
“These kinds of products would be something I would want and would eat every day,” Eckhardt says.
Though keto consumers were not his original target, Eckhardt says his products have become popular among them.
“The diet and healthy lifestyle market is always shifting,” he says. “We will be there, right along with it.”
How did you get into the food business?
I was the owner, and still am, of Linda’s Diet Delites, a grocery store for diet foods. I found that a lot of manufacturers I was working with weren’t making things of interest to me as a healthier consumer. I wanted to see some ingredients that weren’t being used.
Twelve years ago, I started working working on products and recipes. For example, I didn’t want to use soy flour. I wanted something that’s higher quality and stays away from soy, because of potential estrogenic impacts that can happen. A lot of companies back then were using things like Maltitol as a sweetener, which can cause gastric distress. We wanted to stick with things that don’t give you those side impacts.
What was your first item?
We wanted to come up with a brownie that was low in calories and carbs, which is difficult to do, and even to this day, no one really does it. So we did the brownie and came out with the bread line after experimenting with some new ingredients that had come on the market.
What ingredients are in your products?
It depends on the product line. The sweets, as we call them, include brownies and muffins and cloud cakes, and are typically based with almond flour. Almond flour is great for sweets that you want to be low in carbohydrates and calories, and that don’t need to rise a lot. The sweetener that goes into it would be something like stevia, and for fat, we stick to extra virgin olive oil.
The bread is very different. Mostly we use things like vital wheat gluten, oat fiber and wheat protein isolate. You’ll find some low-carb breads out there that are based on coconut flour or almond flour, like our sweets, but those turn out to be very, very dense, wet breads. Those have a much different texture and taste profile than our products.
Why was it important for you to make these healthy alternative products?
When I started college, I was very focused on dialing in on what I ate, how I exercised. I gained a thorough understanding of what I needed to optimize those things. I did keto in college, about 20 years ago, before people even knew what it really was. I quickly discovered it’s not really a long-term option, and began looking for healthier options that reduced calories and carbohydrates.
When I got into Linda’s Diet Delites and designing my own products, I thought, ‘What do I want?’ Bread is my favorite food, and I thought if we could come up with something low in carbohydrates, high in fiber, high in protein and relatively low-calorie, this is something people could eat every day.
Tell me more about the products you offer.
We’ve got bread, like bagels, buns, rolls and pizza crust. Our sweets include brownies, cakes, cookies, muffins and squares. We’ve also got breadcrumbs, pasta and bagel chips.
How do you go about developing new items?
We never go after something that would be a meal. For instance, we’d never come out with something like a chicken alfredo dish. ThinSlim Foods is always offering items that complement what you’re already eating, and the products can replace some things.
What’s it been like to grow your company?
When we first started, we did your basic nuts-and-bolts marketing. We got the product to people and had them try it, and some liked it and some didn’t, but that’s just how food works. In the last three years, things have been different, because everybody is looking at healthier foods. It resulted in very strong growth. I think a lot of people have jumped on keto, [but] after realizing it’s not entirely sustainable, they are taking what they’ve learned and applying it to their personal food options going forward.
Where can people get your products?
We have a great direct-to-consumer relationship, and the bulk of our business is online. A lot of our products can be found in nearly every ShopRite throughout the state. A couple of smaller retailers, like Kings and independent stores, also carry our products and can be found on our website.
Do you have a favorite ThinSlim item?
I love pumpkin at this time of year. We used to make Harvest Spiced bread that was seasonal, and this year we are bringing it back. It’s specifically a little bit of nutmeg and cinnamon. I will for sure be setting some aside just for me.