By April Bailey
When John and Karen Petersen moved to Pacific City seven years ago it was a dream come true: They had taken annual trips to the area while raising six children. As their grandchildren began to be born, this Portland-born couple was able to enjoy the beach life in a rural community.
But, even though life is better at the beach, it still brings its challenges. For the Petersens the most pressing came from their daughter’s health issues. On the Gluten Free Blend website their daughter testifies to years . . .[of] allergy problems, [that] doctors thought . . .was milk intolerance. However, eliminating dairy products did not eliminate her symptoms of stomachaches, tiredness, rashes, and so on. Her newborn showed similar allergies, and failed to gain weight. Through a testimony over the airwaves light was shed on their elusive health issues. Her husband recognized the gluten intolerance and Celiac symptoms discussed as similar to his wife’s and son’s. Within two weeks of eliminating gluten, both mother and son began a path to wellness: The infant son gained 5 lbs. and 2 inches in 2 months and the mother became pregnant with her second child!
In response to their daughter and grandson’s struggle, the Petersens began developing recipes that would accommodate their dietary needs and taste good. Karen’s main goal was to ensure her loved ones didn’t feel deprived. But, instead of merely satisfying their own family, the couple saw the opportunity to fill a need in the general public: Affordable, user-friendly, and delicious baking mixes for those on special diets.
Finding a niche and developing a product is only the beginning of producing an edible for market. One tool that the Petersens utilized to overcome the varying challenges during their developmental stage was Tillamook Bay Community College. In particular they found the Recipe to Market class helpful.
Another challenging component was finding a licensed kitchen. The Petersens did not qualify for a home kitchen license. Karen said that Ken Crowe of Tillamook Bay Community College was particularly helpful. With Crowe’s help they were able to use a former restaurant space, owned by another farmers market vendor, as their licensed kitchen. The Petersens were also aided by a grant from Food Roots to continue business education culminating in a formal business plan.
Karen also credits the coastal community for their product development. She and John initially sold their product in glass jars at the Neskowin Farmers Market. The feedback the Petersens had from their customers was critical to expanding their product line and gaining a national following. It was by selling at farmers markets, from Manzanita to Gleneden Beach, that enabled Gluten Free Blends to gain more than 300 subscribers to their newsletters. It is also led them to create blends that avoid the top ten most common food allergens. Karen says of their success, “We feel blessed every day.”
Gluten Free Blends has a website store, www.glutenfreeblends.com, where they are selling Brownie, Corn Bread, Muffin, Rosemary Focaccia, Scone and Unsweetened Muffin Mix for $7.99 per bag and Pancake & Waffle Mix for $12.99 per bag, with a buy 6 and get one free offer. They have recently been approved to sell on Amazon, as well.
Of course, they can still be found at the Neskowin Farmer’s Market every other Saturday, including this Saturday, June 3, 9a.m.-1p.m. They will also be at Gleneden Beach Harvest Market at the Side Door Cafe every other Thursday, from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Finding them at a farmers market gives customers the opportunity to buy prepared items such as, caramel corn and brownie pops.