I started this company so that people with food allergies safely and comfortably could join in with everyone else. The standard of “Treats You Can Trust” therefore has penetrated every aspect of our decision making. This includes careful ingredient sourcing, allergen testing, and doing all of our production in our own dedicated facility free of peanuts, tree nuts, eggs and dairy. It certainly would have been easier and less expensive to use co-packing (the very common practice of hiring a manufacturing facility to make a company’s products along with a wide variety of other companies’ products), but as the mom of a child with food allergies, this endeavor was to me worth doing only if I could do it at the standard I would want for my own child. My son’s allergist had shown me research finding 6.5% clinically significant cross-contamination in shared facilities with peanuts, meaning that 6.5% of other products in the facility contained enough traces of peanuts to potentially cause an allergic reaction. So when he told me not to feed my son anything made in a shared facility with nuts or peanuts, I listened. Hard to find any treats I still could feed my son, I eventually built my own facility and baking company.
What began as an effort toward inclusiveness for children with food allergies became about trying to include everyone, regardless the age or special dietary need. Whether a child in a classroom, a teen at a party, or an adult on a coffee break at work, everyone wants to be included at snack time, where the food enjoyment typically is part of the social connectedness. HomeFree cookies therefore, in addition to being free of the 8 most common food allergens (except soy lecithin in some), also are vegetarian/vegan, kosher pareve, low sodium, non-GMO verified, and whole grain, and some are low glycemic.
You guessed it – that’s where gluten free comes into all of this. Despite common misconceptions, gluten is not actually an allergen. (For more information on differences between celiac disease, gluten intolerance, and wheat allergy, see: http://americanceliac.org/celiac-disease/.) Therefore, offering gluten free products was not part of the original plan. Unlike with food allergies, a trace of gluten doesn’t pose a risk for potentially life threatening anaphylaxis. Yet for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, gluten cross-contamination certainly is important to avoid. A couple of years ago, in order to get closer to including everyone, we chose to offer some gluten free products by using tremendous care in our facility, and with the validation of certification by the Gluten Free Certification Organization (GFCO). We have conducted regular tests for gluten traces and never had a positive test. Yet as HomeFree ‘Treats You Can Trust,” a leader in the industry for allergen safety, I have wanted a dedicated gluten free facility in order to have the highest standards with regard to gluten as well. I finally made the difficult decision to let go of or convert a few of our core organic products in order to make our current facility gluten free. I apologize to those of you whose families long have loved and depended upon these treats. I hope you will love equally what we continue to offer and develop. I also hope that you will value with us being able to serve HomeFree cookies to pretty much everyone! No matter with whom you share your holidays this season, essentially everyone will be able to enjoy the same treats together.
So, you want to know what is actually changing, right? Just our products made with barley or with (non-gluten free) organic oats. We are fully discontinuing only two items: our award-winning coffee cakes and our large chocolate chocolate chip cookies. We did, though, stock up a bit on the boxed cookies, so you still can order those briefly while supplies last. Also, our large chocolate chip cookies (70% organic) are remaining but becoming all natural gluten free. Yes, we still have stock on those originals, and the new ones are also Non-GMO Verified and have almost the same taste and texture as before! They also now are free of the most common 8 allergens (no soy lecithin anymore) and they are certified vegan. Why not still organic? It has been difficult to find a sufficiently stable, affordable supply of organic gluten free oats for wide store distribution. But organic continues to be important to us, so for those of you willing to pay a bit more, we soon will make available in single serve some chocolate chip cookies that are both organic and gluten free. We welcome your feedback on the changes, on hopes for future products, and on anything!
We wish you happy holidays, with plenty of tasty treats for all!