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We’re #61!

Just in time to launch us out of at least a week of writer’s block, today we received an email that we’re No. 61 on the Feedspot Top 75 Dessert Blogs, Websites and Newsletters to Watch in 2018!

The coolest part of being on this list is looking at all the others that came in before, after and around us. There are some beautiful odes to dessert out there in the online world! No. 1 Sprinkle Bakes by Heather in Knoxville, TN, features some great photos and recipes to get you ready to bake, especially at this time of year, when holidays send us into the kitchen more. No. 2 OMG Chocolate Desserts…Vera, OMG what a gorgeous blog! And Ashton in NC, at Something Swanky is currently featuring 12 Days of Christmas Cookies. We are counting and drooling!

Many of the blogs on the list offer up healthy options, or attend to the food allergic or low-no sugar baker and dessert lover. For instance, Jessica in Austin, TX, at No. 5 Desserts with Benefits provides recipes for a number of different diets, from keto and fat free to gluten free and raw. At No. 12, Victoria in Canada, a classically trained chef, gives you healthy vegan desserts, and No. 13 Wink Frozen Desserts in NYC treat you to their Top 8 free plant-based ice creams with only 100 calories per pint (but no shortage of flavor, we can attest, having enjoyed these frozen goodies ourselves).

We could keep going, but would rather leave the list to you to check out. Who knows what you’ll find? Remember to look for us at No. 61, and maybe you’ll see us in a higher slot next year. Until then, whether you bake at home or buy your sweet tooth satisfier, enjoy dessert!

Holiday Mile It!

Hi, everyone.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and the beginning of several weeks of weight gain opportunity.

Allow yourself to destress and stay healthy by joining our team in the Holiday Mile, and online challenge to walk, run, bike or swim a mile each day, Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day- that’s 40 miles if you do one a day!

We have formed a team called Gem City Fine Foods, and the first 10 spots are FREE registration! Just click on the link below and register as an individual on a team, select our team, and when checking out, enter discount code gem2018.

You will receive a t-shirt and medal for participating, one lucky team member will receive a $25 gift card, to be disbursed mid-December, just in time for last-minute holiday expenses. And every day that you check in after meeting your goal, you get a chance at a Weekly Prize.

Join us for this fun way to stay healthy over the holidays. Sign up before 9pm today to join our team for free!

http://www.5kevents.org/holiday_mile.html

Get Ready for Turkey- No Problems!

If you or someone in your family or friendship circle has been diagnosed recently with celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, or allergies to other foods, you may not feel on top of your game when it comes to holiday gatherings and the foods they bring. This week is time to enjoy Thanksgiving, a holiday that in the US traditionally includes turkey, complete with stuffing and gravy, mashed and sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and the ubiquitous green bean casserole in many homes. The obvious culprits for allergic reactions for those with food allergies here are stuffing and pumpkin pie. But those aren’t the only potential problem foods.

Many of us grew up in households where dinner preparation was a big affair, and while the cooking was going on, bowls of nuts and fruits sat out on the table for snacking. If you are allergic to peanuts or tree nuts, this can be a problem, and points to the number one tip for holiday gatherings like Thanksgiving:

If you are going to someone’s house for dinner, let them know in advance of your food allergies. It is a fact that some find even family members lacking compassion or willingness to understand, but generally speaking, if you are open about your allergies, people will be willing to accommodate in some way, even if it’s asking you to bring something safe for yourself to eat (tip #2.) This is something to consider, regardless, as many foods could contain hidden allergens. For instance, commercial cream of mushroom soups are not gluten free (remember that green bean casserole?) Stuffing may be made with not only gluten-containing bread, but nuts as well.

Steering clear of foods like gravy that are heavy in gluten, may seem like a real downer, but you can prepare in advance by making creative allergy-free dishes at home to bring and share, and that may add to the list of must-have items for future years for the whole group. Flip through cooking and home magazines for ideas, and substitute if needed.

If you are not a confident cook, there are gluten- and allergen-free options on the market, but research in advance to find those that are more likely certified free and made in a dedicated facility. Don’t hesitate to contact a company to be sure, or to leave an item on the grocery shelf if it’s not clear it’s safe.

Above all, have a safe and happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy time with family and friends. Make sure in advance that you can do so safely, and as you are gathering around the table to express gratitude for life’s abundance, remember to be thankful for a growing assembly of safe, and tasty, food options on the market.

Not just numbers

Last week and over the weekend we participated in three big events: a series of very intense sales meetings for food service, mostly C-stores and colleges and universities, along with some restaurants; Supply Side West, a trade show for suppliers in the industry, and the 6th annual Food Allergy Bloggers Conference, affectionately known as FABlogcon.

This was our second year at FABlog, where we have met some fine bloggers who help get the word out about our desserts, and where last year we were inspired to finally take the step of going nut free.

The message from all three events was loud and clear: celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, and food allergies are very real, and not a fad. Additionally, many more people are going vegetarian or vegan for their health and for our planet’s. In fact, turning to a vegan diet may be the biggest food trend of 2018, supported in part by a rise in plant-based proteins, and veganism has increased in the US by 600% since 2014, to 6% of the population. And finally, diabetes is on the rise, too, with 100 million people in the US afflicted with diabetes or prediabetes, and people are looking for good sugar free options in the diet.

As a dessert company striving to meet our mission of being the premier provider of top quality certified gluten free desserts in the country, we struggle with the concept many hold of dessert being just bad for you sweets. But how many people like one of those treats, even a bite, at the end of dinner? A 2016 survey showed that 10% of respondents reported they always order dessert when dining at a restaurant. An additional 40% said they often or sometimes do so. That is half of the people surveyed, and relates just to dining out.

We believe that everyone, including those who have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, or simply choose to be gluten free, should have access to great tasting, fulfilling desserts. Further, we provide and are building on our vegan options for those with other food allergies, or who have chosen a vegan diet for other reasons. We presented a Vegan Chocolate Cupcake at the food service meetings in Florida, which was well received, and are working on other vegan desserts. We also are going to take the giant leap and look into creating a sugar free line of desserts. Admittedly, we have not had a lot of requests for sugar free, but we do get them occasionally, and it seems like a good time to reduce sugar, or eliminate it, and increase fiber in some of our offerings.

We will not compromise on our high quality ingredients or our exceptional flavor profile. These put us at the top of a list of really very few competing companies. But we won’t sit back and not take note of dietary trends or try to improve so more people can feel good about eating dessert. Stay tuned for future developments! And look for that Vegan Chocolate Cupcake in a 4-pack on Amazon for holidays. Cheers to dessert!

3 Million Plus

The May/ June 2018 issue of Simply Gluten Free Mag contains a full page color spread map of the world, listing the percentages of people in various countries with celiac disease. In the US, 1% of the population has celiac disease. That may not look like a huge number, but there are an estimated (Feb ’18) 327.16 million people in this country. That means more than 3.25 million are celiac. That is, diagnosed. How many more people have not yet been diagnosed? Add them, and the number of people who are gluten sensitive or eat a gluten free diet for other reasons, then family and friends who eat gluten free because they have a family member or friend who has to, and you have a lot of people. Just last weekend alone in Dallas, 2,700 people attended the GFAF Expo, and we were thrilled to hear their stories and share samples, coupons, and Product Request Forms with them.

We bring these forms to every expo, and post a link on our Home page that can be downloaded and printed. Why? Because many retail stores still carry only a nominal variety of gluten free foods, many of them not even certified, and everyone deserves to eat good food, regardless of dietary restrictions. And that includes dessert.

I’ve been finding myself in a position to tell this story quite a bit lately: A couple years ago at a gluten free expo, before we had Product Request Forms, I encouraged a woman who had enjoyed samples of our desserts to take my card to her store manager and request them. She looked me in the eye and asked testily, “You want me to sell your desserts for you?”

Let me be frank: No. I do not want you to do my job. I want you to understand that there is a chain of people between the sales person at Gem City Fine Foods and the store manager at your local grocer, and often even more links in a larger store chain. These include retail buyers and category managers, distributor sales reps, category managers and buyers, and even freight company drivers and managers. I cannot get to every store. And one person alone does not have the voice of many. I support every single gluten free dessert lover in the United States by working every day to bring high quality, delicious desserts to more stores and restaurants and colleges and… Well, you get the picture. But I can’t do it alone. I need every single person who has tried our desserts and wants to have them in a store nearby to speak up for yourselves as well. Bring that form to your store. Tell the manager there are millions of gluten free and celiac people in this country who deserve to eat food as good as everyone else gets to eat. Make a difference, not to make my job easier (because there will always be yet another challenge, which I love), but to make your life better.

Please be in touch any time with your story, questions, comments and concerns. You will find my contact information on our Services page.

With respect for and commitment to every celiac, gluten sensitive and food allergic person in this country,
Lisa

Your Story

Any company looking to build its brand has heard, “What’s your story? Tell your story.” This is something we have struggled with over the years, for a couple reasons, not least of which is humility. And none of us at Gem City Fine Foods currently suffers from celiac disease, though some of us have food allergies. How can we tell a story about our company when it isn’t, “I was diagnosed, and suddenly my world changed!” Or something equally riveting.

Well, last evening as our owner Rick and I, CEO/ Sales and Marketing Manager Lisa, discussed the challenges of getting a buyer on board, and partnering well with distributors to get our desserts out to our fans and loyal customers, it suddenly dawned on me: We do have a story. That story is YOU.

When trying to impart the importance of quality, great tasting gluten free treats, I often revert to the story of a young mother who walked up to our table about three years ago at a GFAF Expo, and asked to look at the ingredients list for our Vegan Chocolate Cake. “It’s not that I don’t trust you,” she said, “But this is my daughter’s life.” Satisfied with the list on our spec sheet, she handed her little girl a bite size sample of that cake, and we both watched as her daughter’s eyes grew wider and a huge grin spread across her face. Then she reached out for more. “This is the first time I have ever been able to give my daughter chocolate cake,” the young woman said, and began sobbing. And I joined her. My eyes still well up when I remember that moment.

Sure, there are some great options out there for the celiac and food allergic diner these days; much tastier options than even a decade ago. And we contribute to that changing landscape. As noted in previous posts, reaching the retail or food service buyer who is confronted with far more options than freezer or refrigerator space, is a real challenge, especially if that buyer has no experience with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. So how do we do that, reach the buyer, build our brand so you can continue to enjoy a great dessert?

We tell our story. We talk about you: That little girl and her mom, or the adults recently diagnosed who attended a Dessert Walking Tour at our bakery earlier this month and were shedding tears themselves to be part of an enterprise that works for them. That’s what we do. We work for YOU. You are, indeed, our story. Of course we all want to pay the bills, maybe save to go on a little vacation, even make enough money to retire early and live well. But there are myriad enterprises in which we can work to make that happen. The path I have chosen, all of us at Gem City Fine Foods has chosen, is to work to serve YOU.

Please keep telling your story to us. We will share it loud and clear, to make sure you can enjoy the same tasty treats as those who do not contend with celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, or allergies to nuts. This weekend Rick and I will be at the Dallas GFAF Expo with samples, coupons, product request forms- and photo release permits. Please stop in and see us- in the NUT FREE Red Zone this year!- enjoy dessert, and tell us your story. We would like to take video coverage and photographs to share with those buyers who don’t see you out there. And to just listen to your story. Because your story is our story. Thank you.

Below, Operations Manager Randy opens the freezer door, and CEO/ Sales and Marketing Manager Lisa takes a photo, as guests on our Dessert Walking Tour, co-hosted by Travel Gluten Free, begin to enter.

Changing seasons, changing recipes.

We hope you have all had a good summer. It has flown for us, and is already feeling like fall in the evenings and early mornings here in the Rocky Mountains!

With a change in season come changes at Gem City Fine Foods. I’d like to point you to our Events and Expos page to see what’s coming up, including gluten free expos, demos in some new stores (Fresh Thyme in the Midwest, Bristol Farms in California, and finally several of our Florida Whole Foods Markets), and more- most exciting to me is teaming up again with Eliqkiti of the Travel Gluten Free Podcast on a FREE Dessert Walking Tour at our bakery! This evening event is limited to the first 15 registrants and will feature a tour of the bakery, with information about our production and packaging processes and food safety, as well as samples of our certified gluten free desserts throughout, a SWAG bag to take home, and a surprise special goody that I can’t tell you about or… Exactly. It would no longer be a surprise! Please check out this link to register: http://bit.ly/2wOHktJ

I’m also excited to announce so much going on in Product Development. Our Operations Manager Randy has been able to set up the production schedule so that our fantastic Baker Whitney has Fridays free for product development exclusively. This has resulted in a slew of new products you will see soon on Amazon, and eventually in stores, including a PUMPKIN PIE for this holiday season. (And remember, our Pumpkin Cheesecake is available for purchase September through December every year.) For those of you who are waiting for Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes, they really are almost here. We’ll be testing packaging and shipping in the next couple weeks.

And speaking of Vegan Chocolate, I’m thrilled to announce that we have removed another allergen, soy, from our products.* Our Vegan Chocolate Cake is NOW SOY MILK FREE. We will begin shipping immediately to fulfill orders in the western states via Amazon and shipping to warehouses through our distributor KeHE. Expect to see the cake soy free in stores served by our distributor UNFI in early 2019. If you have questions about the new cake recipe and availability, feel free to contact us at sales@gemcityfinefoods.com. So far, this day for Whitney to play in the kitchen is working out for everyone, though our waistlines are suffering!

* Please note: Our Flourless Chocolate Torte contains soy lecithin. Most people with soy allergies are not affected by the trace amount of the allergy-causing protein in soy lecithin, but we disclose this ingredient on our Torte label, and continue to list soy as an allergen present in the facility, along with dairy and eggs.

As always we encourage your questions and feedback.
I hope to see many of you at our last shows of the year, and at the Dessert Walking Tour on October 2.
Lisa

Partnerships for You

I received a beautiful bouquet of flowers this morning from Angelika at Love Love Edibles in New Jersey. Love Love and Gem City Fine Foods are members of the Specialty Food Association, and we met on the discussion board as she posed a question regarding packaging and shipping frozen foods. We’ve been down that road, and are still touring it to make our own packaging materials and shipping procedures more sustainable for the future of our planet and to assure our desserts arrive in great condition today for you.

It’s my personal commitment to our company, our local, industry and wider community, and the ultimate consumer of gluten free foods, to share any resources I have with others to make sure we are all able to succeed in bringing that consumer the best quality and variety at the most affordable price, and in the best packaging for our planet. So, that meant most recently sharing our packaging materials company contact info and our new shipping partner contact info with Angelika. (BTW, we go live with PSS shipping our Flourless Chocolate Torte from Ohio tomorrow, which means a wider range- into the east coast- of two-day frozen shipping, which will eventually come back to online shoppers in the form of reduced prices.)

My reward for sharing was that beautiful bouquet of flowers as a “thank you”, and an enhanced sense of achievement at my job. Because my job, ultimately, is to serve the celiac, gluten sensitive, food allergic and gluten free community. I love my job. Please be in touch if you would like to share resources or let me know how I can do my job better for you.

With respect and commitment,
Lisa
CEO/ Sales and Marketing Manager

Shelf Life

What does product shelf life mean? It’s the amount of time that a product can be stored safely, so the consumer can use it safely. In the case of our frozen desserts, there are two shelf lives we consider: both stored in the freezer, and stored in the refrigerator after thawing.

We are pleased to announce that lab results for recent shelf life testing on our torte, cakes and cheesecakes have revealed that we can update our shelf life as follows: one year in frozen and 4 weeks in the refrigerator. So you, the customer, can store our desserts longer than we had previously list, without worrying about either yeast or mold developing.

Some safety tips, before you just toss that cheesecake into the fridge and forget about it for a month:
– As soon as an item thaws, it can begin acquiring microbes that increase until the food changes looks, flavor and texture, so err on the side of safety if you purchase from the refrigerator case at the store, and don’t stretch that fridge time at home all the way to four weeks.
– This applies as well to items you buy on Amazon that arrive cold but not frozen. (We are working with Perishable Shipping Solutions to reduce this concern, so that most if not all our items purchased online arrive at your address frozen.)
– If you buy our desserts from the freezer at the store, or if an online purchase does arrive frozen, know that thawing and refreezing can offer an opportunity for microbes to be introduced. Over time, or repeated thawings and refreezings, these can multiply and affect looks, texture, and flavor of the dessert.
– Please remember to store leftover thawed product in the fridge. Our desserts are made of quality ingredients, without added chemicals to preserve them, and are not intended to remain out on the counter where microbes can affect them.

If you have questions about shelf life, or about the ingredients and shelf life of our desserts, please be in touch. We’ll be happy to help you get satisfactory answers!

The photo below shows lot number on top, which would assist us in tracking any product in the event of a food safety issue, and date stamp underneath, which shows the freezer shelf life expiration date. 

 

Vegan Chocolate Cake Update

From our CEO: Our Baker Whitney has been at work on all sorts of new products, as well as improvements to our current line. Top priority is to get the soy milk out of our Vegan Chocolate Cake so we can eliminate one more of the top 8 food allergens for you. And we are happy to report that by the end of August we are confident we will have accomplished that goal, with a recipe reformulation you will LOVE, if our preliminary taste tests (talk about fun at work!) are any indication. We will keep you posted, and hope the new cake will be available in stores for holidays. Putting a reformulated product on the market requires a lot of forethought and planning: ingredient label changes, pack changes for distributors, and more. In the meantime, we’ll make the new Vegan Chocolate Cake available online at Amazon and on our website as soon as possible. I personally can’t wait for you to try it! -Lisa
p.s. Last week I made a fresh strawberry sauce for the top of our Vegan Chocolate Cake and brought the whole thing to a Fourth of July party. Big hit- try it!

Vegan Chocolate Cake

Delicious vegan chocolate cake

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