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#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!

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.

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