If you’ve ever known someone who had food allergies or you’ve suffered from food intolerances yourself, you know how much of a task it can be to find allergy-friendly foods that you can feel good about eating.
It seems the number of people with food allergies has been on the rise in recent years. According to a recent story from Care2, the number of people in the U.S. alone with gluten intolerances is close to 18 million with nearly 3 million of those having celiac disease. When it comes to dairy the news is even worse as an estimated 30 to 50 million adults have a lactose intolerance.
These numbers have clearly been on the rise and food manufactures have struggled to keep up with the demand for products that cater to this growing demographic. In addition to just vegan products or those that are gluten free, there’s also an increasing need for products that cater to several dietary needs, such as a person that is intolerant of peanuts, dairy and gluten. The number of these types of convenience products that cover numerous intolerances is slim. It was for this reason that Portland, Oregon resident Jennifer “Nif” Lindsay developed her own food company that did just that.
Lindsay’s company is called Niftyfare – after her nickname “Nif” – and unlike most specialty food producers it’s an artisan food manufacturer that seeks to simplify special diets.
“We specialize in creating things that are free from different combinations of allergies so people can eat quickly,” Lindsay told Diets in Review in a recent interview. “We try to serve vegan and vegetarian needs. Hopefully we can move to the Paleo and other diets soon as well.”
Niftyfare is based in Portland where it cooks up artisan food for gluten-free, dairy-free and soy-free diets. As someone who’s struggled with food intolerances herself for decades, Lindsay wanted to start Niftyfare not only for her own needs but also for her kids who also suffer from food allergies.
It became really difficult to find convenience foods that catered to all of her family’s needs. Like most busy moms, Lindsay struggles to cook every meal from scratch. And because most products contain at least one or two of foods that her kids can’t eat, she was forced to think outside the box. So in May she officially bought her LLC and moved into her kitchen in July.
Niftyfare’s main product is handcakes, which Lindsay describes as a cross between a veggie pattie and a pancake. They are legume-based and come in four different flavors, each using a different type of bean. Lindsay sources her ingredients from several places, but her primary supplier is Bob’s Red Mill located near her home in Portland. She also seeks to use local produce and has been working with a company called Food Hub, which is a non-profit organization that connects food suppliers with businesses like Niftyfare.
Niftyfare’s handcakes, which are available for sale in Portland and will also be available for online ordering soon, come frozen so it’s easy to pull them out and toast them up for serving. Lindsay says they’re great just heated up and dipped in sauce. And they’re so convenient, that she’s been packing them in her son’s lunch for years and many of the kids at his school have become curious and even jealous of his tasty meals.
In addition to handcakes, Lindsay is also working on developing several other products to round out her lineup. Currently, she’s focused on developing products such as a dairy-free garlic-free pasta sauce, a chocolate-free and dairy-free fudge, and an organic pear sauce. Her son can’t have apples and since most of the pear sauces are either not organic or have apples in them, she’s been making hers from scratch for years.
When it comes to taste, all of Niftyfare’s products go through rigorous taste testing and have to be approved by both Lindsay and her son before she considers selling them to the public. “My son has a sophisticated palate – his favorite comfort food is sushi! But I want to make sure that it tastes good for kids,” she said.
Opening her business in Portland has been an extremely encouraging process as people there are very aware of what they eat and the source of their food. “People are also really excited to support a local, small business,” she said. “It’s great to have that small core group to support you. I can see how well it works with this all around us, so hopefully we can take that model out into other cities.”
Niftyfare’s products are currently only sold at local retail outlets and Lindsay is also in the final process of fulfilling orders from her Kickstarter campaign. After those orders are filled, however, she will be selling directly online – a service she hopes will be available in the next week or so on her new website.
Based on customer feedback so far, Lindsay isn’t too worried about the continued success of her business. “People are so excited,” she said. “It’s funny because they are an artisan food so it’s not for everyone. Some people really like them and some people don’t. But overall, 80-90 percent of people who have tasted them have loved them.”
As for the future of her company, Lindsay has eventual goals for broader expansion but for now she wants to keep it all in one kitchen under her control because of the possibility of allergy cross contamination. Eventually, however, she’d love for the facility to be a gluten free packing facility and she desires for her products to be sold at major retailers, though it’s not her primary goal.
“I’d rather place them in institutional settings where people have less options,” she said, adding that she cares more about her products being where people need them the most. She knows how much this means to people who are in similar circumstances and she and her family had been for years.
“I want people to have access to this kind of food because it’s important and it’s helpful. Some people want to see their products on their shelves on all the different stores because it is gratifying. But for me, it’s more about making sure people have access to the foods they need.”
In addition to providing tasty food for people with food allergies, Lindsay’s also trying to spread a an important message about her philosophy around food restrictions. “I want people to know it’s not about what you can’t eat, it’s about all the things that you can eat,” she said. “So rather than taking your old favorites and your old diet and trying to replicate it, broaden your horizons by finding new things that you can eat.”
For those interested in purchasing Niftyfare products, visit the Niftyfare website – which will be updated and ready for ordering in the next couple weeks – and follow Nif on Twitter at @Nif_L for updates.
Images courtesy of niftyfare.net
October 29th, 2012