Being in the pretzel business today is tough but not nearly as tough as it was a few years back when the Atkins Diet was in its hey-day. Touting the virtues of a diet low in carbohydrates, the Atkins Diet hit pretzel suppliers and other carb-heavy food manufacturers hard. As is often the case with popular diets, the Atkins program faded but its progeny was the gluten-free diet.
Originally followed by necessity only by those suffering from celiac disease (an inability to properly digest gluten), the gluten free diet has morphed into a full-scale lifestyle choice for many. Its’ evolution has led to an introduction of a whole host of new products catering to this segment. As a result the gluten-free category has been one of the fastest growing for a number of years. It seems as though “gluten-free” is here to stay with many non-celiacs avoiding gluten for a whole host of reasons.
Meanwhile, we at Pretzel Pete could only watch the growth of gluten-free from afar. All of our products historically have been made with wheat-based flour and, by definition, could not make any gluten-free claims (wheat consists overwhelmingly of gluten). However, this changed a few years ago when one of our overseas customers asked us to package gluten-free pretzels for them. They could only source the pretzels here in the U.S. and only in bulk (i.e. not packed in their own retail packaging). They needed someone who could pack the gluten free pretzels in their packaging.
We were intrigued by this opportunity and discovered that although our facility had not gone through a formal “gluten-free” certification program (which is quite costly), there was a way to package the product for them and keep it clear of the gluten allergen. We had the advantage that since we were only packaging the finished product, there was zero risk of contamination on our actual production equipment. We tightened our already strict cleaning protocols on our packaging equipment even further and validated our cleaning by conducting regular swab tests to insure no gluten was detected. Voila, we were now in the gluten-free business! At least to an extent as the only product we were packing was being sold overseas.
We have now been packing these gluten free pretzels for about two years and it has gone very well. The only downside is that we continually end up with extra gluten free pretzels at the end of each production run for our overseas partner. What could we do with these perfectly delicious and unused gluten free pretzels? The solution was that even though we do not have formal, branded packaging for these pretzels, we have started offering these gluten free pretzels in plain gold bags in a convenient 1oz portion control pouch. Currently they are only available on Amazon and can be found on the Pretzel Pete store at Amazon — but it’s a start!! You can find these little beauties at https://www.amazon.com/stores/node/17886072011?_encoding=UTF8&field-lbr_brands_browse-bin=PRETZEL%20PETE&ref_=bl_dp_s_web_17886072011 Please give them a try!!
While this is our first (very small) foray into the gluten free market, we will continue to add more “better-for-you” options in the Pretzel Pete product line in 2019 so stay tuned!!