February of this year marks the 11-year anniversary of Namaste Foods – and what a wonderful, wild 11 years it’s been! From our humble beginnings, Namaste Foods has grown into one of the most respected manufacturers of gluten free and allergen free foods in the United States and beyond.
It was in the fall of 1999 that a friend approached me desperate for help in creating good gluten free and allergen free foods for herself and her preschooler son. She was frustrated at the lack of good food available to them and he was sad that he couldn’t eat food the ‘normal’ kids could eat. In my family, good food was essential – it brought friends and family together for the best of times and nurtured the soul. I couldn’t imagine missing out on one of the best things in life – good food. While I was unfamiliar with Celiac Disease at that time, I knew I loved to cook and could never resist helping a friend. So, I rolled up my sleeves and went to work. This challenge was particularly perplexing as any creation must not only be free of gluten but also free of corn, soy, potato, dairy, casein, peanuts and tree nuts in order to meet my friends’ dietary restrictions. No small task indeed!
As a chocolate lover myself, Brownies came first. So, I started by flipping over a box of unsweetened chocolate and looked at the Brownie recipe on the back. I made some changes based on what little research I had done and voila! As luck would have it (or maybe it was just meant to be?) the first ‘go’ at the perfect Brownie was also the last. The fudgey, dark chocolately taste and moist and chewy texture of that first Brownie needed no improvement. And it’s still the same recipe we use today! And so it began . . .
The early days involved more experimenting on the best of family and friends. Then loading up a truck full of flour, sugar, cocoa, spices and the like and heading north to a business incubator community kitchen in Sandpoint, Idaho where we’d strap on aprons and get to work! Meanwhile, my boys Seamus and Conor, then ages nine and seven respectively, would be home at our kitchen table sticking labels from the local print shop onto cellophane bags. At a penny a label, they were happy to do it, thank goodness!
It was shortly thereafter that as coincidence (or fate?) would have it, Seamus was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. In my research, I learned that many kids with Autism Spectrum disorders see improvement, sometimes significant, when switched to a gluten free, casein free diet. Now I was convinced – it was time to leave my ‘real’ federal job and take a leap of faith. Namaste Foods was officially born in February of 2000.
(Many people ask me why I chose the name ‘Namaste Foods’. At the time, I was taking my first yoga class and each class ended with the instructor bowing her head, hands over her heart and saying ‘Namaste.’ Wanting to know what that meant, I learned the essence of the word means ‘the spirit within me honors and respects the spirit within you.’ I have always felt there is a fundamental connection between mind, body, spirit and good health. Surely all the good times we share with family and friends around food aren’t purely about the food! To me, nourishing the body with good food in turn nourishes the mind and the spirit. And who needs a little ‘soul food’ more than people who are struggling with food allergies?)
The first few years were difficult as I juggled home-schooling Seamus (who wasn’t quite ready for middle school) with waitressing nights (the ‘real’ federal job paid ‘real’ money whereas a new business eats ‘real’ money), being a wife and mom to both sons and trying to get Namaste Foods off the ground. What a long and wild two years that was! Using a grass roots approach and still a one-woman show, I reached out to a handful of local health food stores and wrote to support groups. Then a wonderful thing happened, people began to talk – and Namaste Foods began to grow. And it kept growing.
Today, 16 women (and my husband) work from their homes in all parts of the country to continue the success of Namaste Foods. We currently offer 15 outstanding baking mixes and 3 delectably delicious pasta meals that are distributed in all 50 states, Canada and beyond. All products are free of wheat, gluten, corn, soy, potato, dairy, casein, peanuts and tree nuts, are carefully manufactured in a dedicated allergen free facility and Kosher certified
Having been a single mom for almost five years, I understand the importance of stretching every dollar. Nearly all of our products make up to double our competitors yet our price is about the same and sometimes even less! And as the company was founded in the spirit of helping a friend, the tradition continues. Namaste Foods routinely donates to charities of all shapes and sizes as a way to ‘give back’ and be thankful for all of the success we have enjoyed. Feel free to check out our website at www.namastefoods.com for more information on this as well as valuable information and recipe suggestions for Namaste Foods products.