Monday, December 1, 2008

Keeping "Gluten Free" Free Of Gluten

Recently, there has been quite a bit of press regarding hidden gluten due to cross contamination in some products. A post on the Celiac ListServ requested responses from producers of gluten free products and this is ours.

Kinnikinnick recognized from the start that it was virtually impossible to manufacture gluten free products in a non-dedicated facility. Flour dust is incredibly difficult to control, even under the best GMP (good manufacturing practices). Of course, being a Canadian manufacturer, we've always operated in an environment where gluten free has been regulated by law. For at least 17 years, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has set the accepted minimum standard for a product to be labeled gluten free at 20ppm. The rule may have been in place for longer but that's how long we've been in business so it's a rule we've always been required to follow.

We answer some important questions:

Are you a dedicated gluten free facility?
Yes. Both our facilities are dedicated to the production of gluten free products. We even supply our staff with gluten free breads, buns, cookies and snacks as they are not allowed to bring in their own.

Do you outsource or co-pack?
No. All of the products we make are entirely controlled by us and produced in our two facilities. It's not much good to operate a gluten free facility and then subcontract out to facilities that aren't.

Do you test for gluten?
All of our ingredient suppliers are required to provide allergen statements which include gluten. However, this is only a start. In 2005, we opened our new in-house laboratory. Every lot of all of our major ingredients is tested for gluten using the RidaQuick Gliadin test which detects to 2.5 ppm Gliadin (corresponding to 5 ppm gluten). We also employ the RidaScreen FAST gliadin ELISA test for ingredients which do not test well with the RidaQuick test and as verification of the RidaQuick testing protocols. These are the same tests that the University of Nebraska and the CFIA uses (at least to the level of accuracy). We also do 3rd party verification of our test results with an outside lab.We test all of our minor ingredients on a schedule based on risk and an additional set of random spot checks. An additional important factor to consider is that many manufacturers rely on quick tests which have a threshold of detection of 50-100ppm for wheat only. The tests used in our lab also detect barley and rye proalamines (the harmful proteins) to levels down to 4ppm.

We at Kinnikinnick Foods are pleased to see that there is finally some public attention being drawn to hidden gluten and gluten cross contamination in products labeled gluten free. We do our very best to ensure our customers have the safest, tastiest products available. It is our hope that this issue will prompt some finalization of the FDA proposed regulation on gluten free labeling. While we know that there are companies out there who take the appropriate precautions, we look forward to a time when -all- "gluten free" manufacturers are required to meet the same standards so gluten free consumers know exactly what they are getting.

We are also in the process of a repackaging program which will more clearly identify other allergens to help our customers with additional allergies or intolerances make informed choices.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Free Book Offer!

Just in time for holiday gift giving, we're pleased to announce that with every $100 order, you'll receive a copy of the new Revised and Expanded Edition of Gluten Free Diet by Shelley Case. This is must have book for every Celiac and those who are following the gluten free diet.

Shelley Case, BSc., RD, is a leading international nutrition expert on celiac disease and the gluten-free diet. She is a member of the Medical Advisory Boards of the Celiac Disease Foundation and Gluten Intolerance Group in the United States and the Professional Advisory Board of the Canadian Celiac Association.

There's no strings attached. Just place an order for a minimum $100 by December 31, 2008. You don't need to do anything else. We'll add the book to your order automatically at no cost to you. That's almost a $30 value! There's a limit of one book per order, but if you order more than once during this offer period you'll get an additional book for each $100 order.

Can't use more than one book? These make a great gift. You could also donate it to your local Celiac support group or diagnosing physician.

The Fine Print:

  • Orders can be placed on our website or toll free 1-877-503-4466

  • Orders must be received by midnight December 31, 2008

  • Orders must total $100 not including shipping.

  • One book per order

  • No limit on number of additional orders

  • Retail value $26.95

  • No cash value

  • Not available to commercial customers

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Introducing S'moreables Gluten Free Graham Style Crackers

Just in time for August Campfires!

Today marks the official launch of our new S'moreables Gluten Free Graham Style Crackers ™. To our knowledge these are the only gluten free/dairy free graham style crackers available anywhere.

Many of you may have already tried these as they have been sold on our website under the generic name of graham style crackers for several months.

I have just returned from the Natural Products Association conference in Las Vegas which brings together thousands of retailers and suppliers. We demo'ed S'moreables and they were a big hit, an especially gratifying result as most of the people trying them were not GF.

The new launch includes new packaging and marks the first time that they are available to retailers and distributors. You can order them online in our webstore now and you can expect to see them available from retailers in the fall.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Finding Gluten Free Gets A Bit Easier

There's no doubt that Gluten Free is finally getting the attention it deserves from main line retailers. We're pleased to announce that we've got three new chains to add to the ever-growing list of stores carrying our products.

Safeway has just placed their first order. They will be offering frozen items in the Bakery section of 220 128 stores in Northern California and Hawaii. Look for the following in stores in early July.
  • Tapioca Rice New York Style Plain Bagels
  • White Sandwich Bread
  • Italian White Tapioca Rice Bread
  • Brown Sandwich Bread
  • Tapioca Rice English Muffins
  • Tapioca Rice Hamburger Buns
  • Chocolate Dipped Donuts
  • Pizza Crust 7 Inch
These products will most likely be in the freezer where the ice cream cakes can be found.

60 King Soopers with a Natural Products section in Colorado and area are going to be carrying 10 frozen items initially. They will be adding cookies and perhaps some mixes over the next little while. Look for the following in late June.

  • White Sandwich Bread
  • Italian White Tapioca Rice Bread
  • Tapioca Rice English Muffins
  • Tapioca Rice Hamburger Buns
  • Blueberry Muffins
  • Chocolate Chip Muffins
  • Original Homestyle Waffles
  • Cinnamon & Brown Sugar Homestyle Waffles
  • Pizza Crust 7 Inch
  • Cinnamon Sugar Donuts
We are now approved for Whole Foods Colorado. Currently 2 stores are carrying our products with more coming shortly. If you don't see our products in your local Whole Foods, talk to the store manager.

We will be adding the specific store locations to our Store Finder in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

You've discontinued my favorite....!!!

Actually we probably haven't. We frequently get email from customers wondering (panicking?) how we could discontinue this or that product. Usually, they've just returned from their local store where they were told -the bad news-.

There are a few reasons why a store might say that one of our products has been "discontinued".

The store has decided to stop carrying it

The retail industry is an ever changing target. Margins are small and competition is incredible. Sometimes a retailer decides that it's time to move in a different direction or that freezer or shelf space is better used by X product instead of Y. We know that having a manager or a buyer who has a personal connection with Celiac or Autism can do great things for the variety of GF products a store carries. We've seen stores with dozens of GF products stop carrying them almost overnight when that person moves on to a different position or job. (It's probably a good idea to hug your GF store manager/buyer today and let them know how important they are to you.) There's not a lot you can do if the store decides to go this way, except talk to the new store manager/buyer. Sometimes it makes a difference.

One of our distributors has stopped carrying it.

This was recently the case with two of our donuts due to artificial ingredients. We have little control over what products our distributors carry. Sometimes they make decisions based on their own internal criteria, as was the case with the donuts. Also, distributors, like retailers have to make choices about how many products they will stock. Warehouse space, especially freezer warehouse space is expensive and they sometimes have to make hard choices about just what to carry.

The store orders the product but can't get it in stock

Unfortunately, this is a problem we have seen quite bit lately, especially with smaller retailers . A very large part of this problem is due to our troubles keeping up with the skyrocketing demand and part is due to the way store/distributor relationships work. Because we are not always able to fill our distributor orders completely, the distributor may be out of stock when a store's order goes out. Also, distributors naturally tend to take care of their bigger retailers first so a small mom & pop store may be on the low end of the who-gets-what list. We are doing what we can to eliminate the supply problems on our end, but every time we introduce new equipment demand grows at an even greater rate.

The Store/Distributor has replaced it with a new item

Currently we have up to 45 products listed with our distributors. Some have them all, some have less but these 45 products are available to everyone. However, shelf, freezer and warehouse space is limited so each time we introduce a new product, we may see one of the existing top 45 products "de-listed" to make room. This may mean that it will no longer be available at the store but it does not necessarily mean we have stopped making it.

We actually DID discontinue it

About once a year we do a product review and look at some of our products which are not moving as well as we'd like and make the decision whether it makes economic sense to keep producing them or not. This is especially true now that we are introducing 2-3 new products every year. It may happen that one of your favorite products is on this list but if we do discontinue a product, it's probably because it's not on many other peoples favourite list.

Did We Do It?

These are our top 10 selling products.
  • White Sandwich Bread
  • Tapioca Rice English Muffins
  • Pizza Crust - 7 inch
  • Tapioca Rice New York Style Plain Bagels
  • Italian White Tapioca Rice Bread
  • Sunflower Flax Rice Bread
  • KinniTOOS Chocolate Sandwich Creme Cookies
  • Tapioca Rice Bread
  • Cheese Tapioca Rice Bread
  • Montanas Chocolate Chip Cookies
If anyone tells you that we discontinued any of these, you can know for sure that we didn't.

If it's not one of these, how can you know whether you favorite has been discontinued? It's pretty simple. Check our website. If it's there, you can still get it.

Check our new store finder to see if there are any other stores nearby carrying our products. Be sure to always give them a call first as the store finder may not be entirely up to date.

If there is nothing locally, you may have to take advantage of flat rate $10 shipping fee and order directly from us, either on our website, or toll free 1-877-503-4466

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Donuts, Donuts, Donuts

We've been hearing from some of you about the changes we recently made to our donuts. A gratifying number of emails have been positive.

"I just purchased your Cinnamon Donuts and I L-O-V-E-D them. I could not tell the difference from regular flour."

"I've always bought a lot of your products. Now I've tried your new and improved Cinnamon Sugar Donuts. Oh my gosh, they are so FANTASTIC."

What a heavenly find in your vanilla frosted and cinnamon sugar doughnuts."

"Wow, great Donuts. I tried your maple glazed donuts today and they were terrific"

I say gratifying because we knew we'd upset some people when we made the changes, and we did. We do not make changes to any of our products without some pretty good reasons. I'd like to let you in on just why we would "mess with something that already had rave reviews"

One person's snack is another's meal
Rave reviews aside, the number one comment about the donuts that we had from people over the last number of years has been, "they're really good but they're too big and too heavy." It's always been our intention to lighten them up and make them smaller. Until recently we did not have the ability to do this, which I'll explain in a bit. When we were in a position to provide the smaller donut, we were reasonably sure that the majority of people would be pleased. One of the things that surprised us after we made the changes was the number of people who were using our donuts as meal replacements and were disappointed by the donuts not being as filling as they used to be. Frankly, we never considered this to be an issue when developing the new formulation. In all the focus group testing we did, this never came up as an issue. From our perspective, based on extensive customer feedback over 10 years, the whole point to the resizing was to make the donuts -less- filling.

Popularity can be a problem.
There's no question. Our old donuts were popular. So popular, that demand for them almost forced us to discontinue them. How is that possible you ask? It's pretty simple when you realize that every single one of those old donuts was cut by hand (actually twice because of the hole). Over the last 10 years, we tried every possible way of automating the production. We had donut "experts" from Belshaw (one of the world's largest donut equipment manufacturers) spend almost a week with us because they were 100% sure they could help us. They left shaking their heads, doubtful we'd ever find a piece of equipment that would work with our dough. (In fact they were right in a way... more on that later). The only way we were ever successful was to cut them, one at a time, by hand. The dough was so hard to work with that we couldn't even design a hand cutter that would do the donut and the hole at the same time. So, one person would cut the donut round and pass it to the next person, who would cut the hole. We did this about 1.5 million times last year. And the year before. And the year before that.

Supply and demand
The fact that we've made about the same number of donuts every year for the last 3 years tells you one of two things. We've either reached a market demand plateau and everyone who wants to buy our donuts is buying them. Or we've reached our production capacity. Anyone who knows anything about the exploding gluten free market demand will know it was certainly not the former. Any one who talks to our distributors or our retailers will know for sure that is the latter. Demand for donuts was many, many times what we could hope to supply. Distributors, retailers and consumers were all becoming quite unhappy with the situation. Distributors and retailers have fairly short tolerances for -shorts-, shortages in their orders. All of partners have been very accommodating and we REALLY appreciate everyones patience. However there are limits and we began to receive warnings about delisting of products. Faced with the decision of having the donuts become widely UNavailable or making some changes, we knew it was time to act. In mid 2007, we purchased some highly specialized donut equipment, which based on our experience, had the best chance of working for us. It was immediately apparent that our existing formulation was not going to work, even with this specialized equipment. It was time to make the change.

The Long and Donut-y Road.
In August of 2007, we began work on a new formulation which would:

  1. Work in the machine

  2. Be smaller and lighter

  3. Be Soy free

  4. Work in the machine

After almost 6 months of development, we finally had a formulation we were happy with. Throughout this period we did focus group testing with customers who shop at our local retail store here in Edmonton and our staff of over 170 people. By the middle of February, we had our final formulation. And it worked in the machine. Now all we had to do was make enough to fill all the initial orders, which were huge. We worked around the clock, 7 days a week for almost 4 weeks and the machine ran pretty much continuously for that whole time. In that first month, we made almost as many donuts as we had made the previous 6 months. Demand problem solved? Not quite. Even with this huge increase in production, the new packaging and popularity of the reformulation means we've seen demand grow even more. We're currently looking adding a second line. Sigh.

I'll continue this in a future post.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Rumor Mill: Gluten Free Status of Kinnikinnick Products

The internet is a wonderful thing. It's also has some pretty serious flaws. It is the worlds largest rumor mill and there can be a lot of misinformation out there. As a company, it's difficult to manage inaccuracies that are floating around, if you even find out about them in the first place. We do monitor the major lists and some of the more popular blogs but keeping track of every one would be a full time job.

(everything we make is gluten free)

We've recently run into a rumor that our new donuts are not gluten free. This appears to have originated from a few misinformed store managers. The confusion has arisen because some of our distributors and stores have decided to drop our Chocolate Dipped and Maple Glazed Donuts.

(everything we make is gluten free)

The reason is fairly straightforward. Some of these companies have rules about artificial ingredients and the Icing we use for these 2 products contains artifical flavors and colors. It has absolutely nothing to do with their gluten free status.

(everything we make is gluten free)

Some store managers have wrongly assumed that the products are no longer gluten free because the distributor is no longer carrying these 2 products when this is simply not the case.

(everything we make is gluten free)

The frustrating thing about this whole issue is that we have built our company and reputation on being gluten free and this not only calls into question the status of our donuts, but everything we do. We've always known that it is impossible to co-produce gluten free and gluten containing products in the same facility. This is why we have always been a dedicated gluten free manufacturer. Every product we make, we make ourselves in our two dedicated facilities. Unlike some manufacturers claiming to be GF, there is no contracting out to the lowest bidder, there is no risk of ingredients being cross contaminated. It's also important that we are a Canadian manufacturer and as such, are required to follow some of the strictest regulations for gluten free products in the world. If a product is labeled gluten free in Canada, it must not contain more than 20ppm of gluten and any product with amount higher than that is subject to recall. The FDA's proposed regulations were modelled in large part on the Canadian model. However this alone is not enough for us. Remember that 2 of the 3 owners of Kinnikinnick are celiac.

(everything we make is gluten free)

To our knowledge, we are the only manufacturer that has it's own gluten testing lab on site. Many manufacturers rely on the ELISA quick tests, which have a threshold of detection of 50ppm for wheat only. Our lab uses the R5 Monoclonal Antibody test which has a limit of detectability down to less than 5ppm. This is the same test that the University of Nebraska and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency uses. The R5 test also detects barley and rye proalamines (the harmful proteins). We test all of our ingredients with this test so we know for a fact that our products are gluten free from even before they are produced.

(everything we make is gluten free)

Now you know that our products always have been and still are gluten free. But you may asking yourself, why the artificial stuff in the icing. Simply put, removing artificial ingredients from our products is secondary to providing our customers with safe, gluten free products that are also tasty. We'll do it when we can, but in the case of the donut icing, there just isn't an icing that doesn't contain artificial ingredients and:
  1. Is gluten, dairy and soy free
  2. Is freezer stable
  3. Is available to us in sufficient quantities
We are trying to convince our icing manufacturer to make a custom formula for use without the artificial ingredients but this is a longer term process. Until then we'll continue to use the existing and while some health food stores will not stock it, we have many new major accounts with mass market retailers (ie: your local grocery store) that don't have similar issues with ingredients. As these stores see the demand for the Chocolate and Maple Donuts, the problem with availability will be eased.

(everything we make is gluten free)

It's also important to note that this issue with artificial ingredients does not apply to our Cinnamoin Sugar or Vanilla Glazed Donuts and your local health food store can still get them from our distributors.

footnote: Maybe the silliest aspect of this whole issue is that we've always had artificial flavors listed as part of the icing. In fact there has been no change to the icing with our new formulation. The previous label list only "color" which was initially what was provided to us by our ingredient manufacturer. Some time ago, they changed their statement and with the new packaging, we have updated our ingredient listing as well. I guess that one was OK but having 2 artificials showing on the label was one too many??

BTW... Did I mention everything we make is gluten free


Hi everyone,

My name is Jay Bigam and I am the Executive VP of Kinnikinnick Foods. I am also one of the 3 members of the family who own Kinnikinnick; the others being my mother, Lynne and my father, Jerry. My mother and I are both celiac and our family has been involved with the company since 1997. We took over complete ownership of the company in 2005 when the founder of the company, Ted Wolf von Selzam retired.

My duties here include managing our information technology and website development and more recently, product development as well fixing the occasional kitchen sink ;)

I also was/am the editor of our newsletter, which has not been published in a very long time. The newsletter was a great way to keep our customers up to date on news and issues but since the newsletter took a fair bit of time to put together, it was only sent out every couple of months. (when it went at all)

This is where this blog fills in that gap. It will allow me to keep everyone updated on things at Kinnikinnick in a timely manner. It will also allow me to respond to your questions.

By Subscribing to this feed you'll get an insight into what is happening here. I'll also comment on some of the trends and issues in the GF and GFCF communities.