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Out and About and Meeting YOU!

Last week we had the pleasure of participating in our first Nourished Festival, at the Del Mar Fairgrounds in southern California. We have been part of this event in the past, when called the GFAF Expo, and it was fun to see people coming to visit who follow a Keto, Paleo or Plant Based diet, in addition to those with gluten and nut allergies. And it felt really great to be able to say, “You can buy our products locally at Bristol Farms and Lazy Acres stores,” when last time we were able only to let customers know how to access Gem City Fine Foods desserts online. For those of you who shop in other stores, we are always working on getting our products into new locations so you can enjoy. Meanwhile, if you are in SoCal, please do check out the stores noted above, and give them some love.

Best of all, because we had a helper, we were able to leave the table to network with others. I found myself at the back of the hall hobnobbing with the food allergy authors, and am happy to share some of their information with you. First I stopped to talk with Tracy Hill, author of two beautiful cookbooks: Delightfully Free, with 141 gluten- dairy- and sugar-free recipes, and Even More Delightfully Free, with 166 gluten-. dairy-, refined sugar-, corn-, yeast-, soy-, oats-, peanut-, dye- and artificial sweetener-free recipes. See more at www.DelightfullyFree.com.

Then I enjoyed a conversation with Elizabeth of www.YourComfortForLife.com, a wellness strategist and lifestyle mentor who holds classes and has written a few books, most recently Bone Broth Meals. I was particularly interested in her book Survival for Sensitive & AutoImmune Skin, as someone who has experienced an increase in allergic reactions to skincare products in my own life recently. Elizabeth and I discussed the myriad ways chemicals can encroach through everyday life and the products we choose to use, including food.

Next was a visit with Angela of The FLog Journal. This is an incredibly comprehensive 6-month journal for people searching for their own food sensitivities. I wanted to purchase The FLog Journal, but it is large enough I wasn’t sure I’d have room for it in my suitcase! It’s available online, and in e-book format, so I can have it after all, and so can you. Check this gem out, and learn Angela’s story as you go through the pages on your own journey.

Before heading back to our table in the Nut Free Zone, I stopped to talk with Kathlena The Allergy Chef of Free and Friendly Foods about food allergies, and purchased The Corn Free, Gluten Free & Top 8 Allergy Free Cookbook, a brief hard cover book I found especially alluring because of the resources in the front. And super fun: Free and Friendly Foods has a blog all about allergy friendly foods- and Legos! Check that out at www.foodandlego.com.

If you happen to get in touch with any of the authors mentioned here, please let them know I sent you and that I truly appreciated the opportunity to meet each one last Sunday in Del Mar. And if we at Gem City Fine Foods haven’t met you yet in person, please take a look at our Events and Expos page to see where we will be next. We look forward to the opportunity!

With respect and commitment,
Lisa

Lisa Cox, CEO/ Sales and Marketing Manager

More Research, More Firepower

I just ran across a feature in The Scientist Magazine from June 2017: The Celiac Surge. We are often frustrated in the search for recent statistics on celiac prevalence, with the most common numbers thrown out there being 1 in 133 people in the US diagnosed, or about 1% of the population, and another 3 million thought to be gluten sensitive. But these figures are more than a decade old- and seem low to those of us who provide gluten free options for the consumer.

So I was please to read this article, even though it’s nearly two years old, in which a study across a Denver area group, extrapolated to fit the general population, found the prevalence of celiac disease to be closer to 3% of people by age 15.

I don’t mean it was pleasing to learn that there are actually a higher number of people afflicted with celiac, according to this study, but that research continues to grow to support the fact that celiac disease and gluten sensitivity are REAL. Sadly, too many people still scoff at the notion, and as a result, those who suffer are not taken seriously and not only are deprived of good gluten free food choices, but are placed at risk of being exposed to gluten in dining situations in which the condition is neglected.

Below is a link to the article mentioned here. And I encourage those of you who have been diagnosed or suspect you are celiac or gluten sensitive to take advantage of the resources that exist to help you navigate. For instance, the Celiac Disease Foundation offers a free Symptoms Assessment Tool, links to clinical trials, and more. There are organizations and people who support those with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, and the more research, the more information that becomes available, the more ammunition we have in the battle to make the celiac and gluten sensitive- and other food allergic- voice heard.

https://www.the-scientist.com/features/the-celiac-surge-31438?fbclid=IwAR1bBEZyCZBiZidFfHuEfBMKNZs_yVeCb_d_9GmlfLRoN8PJNsFDXzUABZ8#.XFHZCX106R0.facebook

With respect and commitment,
Lisa

#ChefsForFeds

Chef Jose Andres, recently nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for disaster relief efforts through his non-profit World Central Kitchen, is in the news again, this time for working to feed furloughed federal workers through #ChefsForFeds. The initiative opened last week at Pennsylvania Avenue, right in downtown Washington, DC, and now is spreading around the country.

To see a current list of locations, click on this link: https://www.worldcentralkitchen.org/chefsforfeds

The chef and restaurateur announced the expansion of services and call for volunteers on Twitter. You can follow him and the movement @chefjoseandres.

The World Central Kitchen website details a number of projects from a chef’s eye view to solve challenges of hunger and poverty around the world with health, education, career and business initiatives based around the kitchen.

Chef Jose Andres has asked us all to spread the word about #ChefsForFeds. We like the mission, and are spreading the word about World Central Kitchen. Check out the website for yourself.

Survey Says…

Thanks to everyone who completed our recent short survey asking how we can better serve our customers.

The results were not only very interesting, but extremely helpful to us as we enter a new year and polish up our goals.

Here are some highlights:
– Nearly a third order our products online.
o You may be happy to hear that you can now order directly from our website. Just go to www.gemcityfinefoods.com and click on the link in the right hand side bar. Check occasionally for in-house specials that you won’t find on Amazon.

– More than 15% have purchased our desserts at Costco.
o While we wait for the next round, if you are local to the SLC/ West Valley City, UT area, our next bakery sale will be held on Friday, February 8, from 8am to 4pm at our bakery location. Wholesale cases at wholesale prices.

– Nearly 2/3 prefer that shipping be included in the price when ordering online.
o Thank you for this feedback! We had considered listing items at retail price and then adding shipping for each order, but your overwhelming preference for the way we do it now has solidified our commitment to keeping the current system in place.

– Not surprisingly, the biggest concern in ordering online is price.
o Be assured we are committed to keeping prices as low as we can while still shipping in a way that gets the product to you in good shape, frozen or cold – the second largest concern among respondents. We will do our best to lower prices over time, with online success.

– Most are willing to pay more for certified gluten free but would like to see prices more affordable.
o We agree! We’ll continue to do our best to bring a high quality dessert at the most affordable price we can manage. We would love to see gluten free across the board be more affordable as more people realize the importance of gluten free to so many.

– Nearly half of respondents are celiac or gluten sensitive. And another 30% eat gluten free because they feel better.
o This response is so important, as we go into the field and share the value with retail and food service buyers, distributors and others in the food industry, as well as on social media and in public engagements, part of our mission to help others understand celiac, gluten sensitivity and food allergies.
* An example recent interview in which we get the word out: https://content.jwplatform.com/videos/uwptsdHn-PLDs2Cm5.mp4
o Nearly 20% have a friend or family member who’s gluten free and eat gluten free in solidarity (thank you for supporting your loved ones!), and gee, more than 5% don’t eat gluten free but just love our desserts (thank you for trying us and loving us!)

– When asked about sustainability, more than half appreciate our clean, chemical-free ingredients, and even more prefer organic or non-GMO.
o And there are quite a few die hard dessert lovers out there who just don’t care!

– More than 20% are all about local, and another 20% want to know the supplier reduces its facility footprint.
o As happy Utah’s Own members who recently implemented several footprint-reducing measures including replacing Styrofoam with green-cell foam packaging for all our online sales and sample shipments and putting a water cooler with direct line in the breakroom and replacing bottled water with reusable metal water bottles for our employees, we say, “Stick around and see what comes next!”

– And here is the big one: Nearly half of respondents would like to see a Chocolate Caramel Swirl Cheesecake next- more than twice as many responses as to any other item on the list.
o So you will get it! We have moved this dessert to the top of our product development list, with plans to release before April!

– Last, many were not sure they will be able to attend any of our demos or expo events this year. Please do keep an eye on our website Events and Expos page, though, just in case…

We always welcome feedback that can help us make a bigger and better difference to those who are celiac, gluten sensitive, food allergic, or just love dessert, and their friends and families. Please visit our website to find contact information for the person at Gem City who can answer your questions and concerns.

Thanks again to all survey respondents, and CONGRATULATIONS to our survey winner of a 4-pack of Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes, Angela Thomas!

Help Wanted!

Happy new year, all!

We would like to ask your help for 2019 so we can better serve our celiac, gluten sensitive, food allergic and quality dessert loving friends. Please click on the survey link below and respond by January 15. This should take about 3 to 5 minutes of your time, and to sweeten the pot, on the 15th we will choose a random survey respondent to win a FREE dessert or sampler of choice, to be delivered to your door! Just answer all 10 questions, and in the final comment box put your email address so we can contact you if you are the WINNER!

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/KV8X2WX

Thanks for helping us better serve you, and good luck!

Sweet Dessert

Don’t tell our owner, but I got him a book called Sweet Invention: A History of Dessert for his birthday, which falls on January 11. (Don’t worry; he won’t likely read this blog post and find out for himself.) The book, by Michael Krondl, inspired me to finally fight through writer’s block, sit down and write a new post for you all.

It’s sweet and luscious: dessert.

Krondl explains right off the bat: People love sweets. He posits, “While the liking for sweetness is undoubtedly evolutionary in origin, dessert is a purely cultural phenomenon. From a biological standpoint, dessert is frivolous, unnecessary, and even harmful in excess, yet that’s precisely why it’s interesting. When you talk about dessert you step away from analyzing basic human needs to a conversation about culture.” And he goes on to reveal desserts as cultural phenomena, from an historical perspective- after reminding us that we humans are hardwired to like sweetness. After all, “the body is no more than a chemical processing unit that runs on water, oxygen and sugar,” he reports in simple terms.

 

While it’s true that desserts are often vilified as unhealthy, and in excess can be, a regular little dose of sweetness can boost the mood, and desserts in moderation have other benefits as well. Chocolate can lower blood pressure. A small slice of cake can help curb cravings. And many sources agree that reaching for a dessert when watching weight can help people be more mindful of what they are eating, as they enjoy that little treat.

Top of the list on Nation’s Restaurant News food trend predictions for 2019 are desserts with a “better-for-you spin.” Examples: sweetened and chocolate hummus and ice cream with an olive oil drizzle. I’ll stick to more traditional sweets when I do eat dessert (which isn’t often, fortunately for me, working in the business!)

Wherever you stand on the dessert issue: Good in moderation or bad bad bad, homemade decadence or cutting edge superfood-infused, we remind those of you who are celiac, gluten sensitive, nut-allergic or vegan, whether by choice or because of food allergies, Gem City Fine Foods will continue to accommodate your sweet tooth in 2019 with rich, top quality frozen desserts made from clean ingredients and certified gluten free, made in a dedicated gluten- and nut-free bakery. New for online purchase are a four-pack of Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes (look for them in stores and cafeterias as we move along), and we are close to finishing the Red Velvet Cake many of you have requested. In honor of the healthier dessert trend, we are also working on a fiber rich Carrot Cupcake, and by next holiday season you will see our award-winning Flourless Chocolate Torte with a flavor twist!

Stick with us in the new year, be in touch with your wishes, and we look forward to visiting with many of you during the year as we participate in another full calendar of expos and trade shows. And if you run into Owner Rick or me and want to borrow that book, just let us know. If we’re done with it (yes, I did have an ulterior motive for buying it for his birthday), he’ll be happy to pass it along.

Cheers to a new year!

Lisa, CEO/Sales and Marketing Manager

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!

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