Manitoba business thrives with gluten-free foods Dec 1, 2022
By Jennifer McFee
A local entrepreneur is taking a bite out of the food industry with tasty products that cater to dietary needs.
Amanda Lynn Gluten Free found its beginnings in 2015 at a Christmas craft sale with gluten-free perogies that stirred up a lot of interest. “We got started because I found out I had celiac so I needed to eat gluten-free. My family has a perogy business, Sevala’s in Transcona. I had no intention of starting my own perogy business, but I worked on creating a recipe for gluten-free perogies for about two years just for myself,” says owner Amanda DeSutter. “My husband said, ‘Amanda, these are really good. We should share them with the world.’ We sold them at the craft sale and the rest is history.”
Fast-forward to today and the Anola-based business sells its gluten-free and nut-free products in more than 60 retail locations throughout Manitoba. In addition, DeSutter continues to be a familiar face at markets across the province.
Perogy sales make up more than half of their business, while they also offer other gluten-free products such a cabbage rolls, oven-ready meals and delectable desserts. “We have over 15 varieties of perogies to offer. Everyone’s favourite is our potato and aged cheddar, but my favourite is potato, onion and dill. Our mushroom perogies are also really popular,” DeSutter says. “We cater to lots of other different dietary restrictions, including dairy-free, egg-free, vegan, sugar-free and soy free. We’re happy to hit a lot of boxes for a lot of people.”
Reflecting on her journey, DeSutter expresses gratitude to those who have helped along the way. “I took the Business Planning Program through World Trade Centre Winnipeg and it helped a lot by giving me some tools I could implement right way. It was also a safe space to ask questions with industry professionals that I might have had access to or known where to look for that kind of information,” she says.
“It was really fantastic to find a community of other entrepreneurs and to hear their stories and ideas.”
At the same time, she’s thankful for support from organizations such as Saskatchewan-based Awesome, Springfield Chamber of Commerce and Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce. She’s also points out the significance of Food and Beverage Manitoba, Manitoba Agriculture-Food and Rural Initiatives, and Canadian Federation of Independent Business, as well as from the federal government for its grant programs.
Looking ahead, DeSutter hopes to expand outside Manitoba — and maybe even outside Canada — within the next year.
For anyone in the early days of starting a business, she offers some wise words based on her own experience.
“Surround yourself with people who complement your skills because you can’t be good at everything,” she says.
“I know it’s hard at the beginning, but it’s worth it to pay a small staff who believe in you and value you. They’ll work hard for you and hopefully you can grow together as the company grows.”
It’s also important to stick to your values, she notes, particularly when making tough decisions. “We value respect and dignity of the human person before anything. That’s really important to us. Our work environment is also very important, so we have a very healthy, clean work culture,” DeSutter says. “We believe everyone should eat well and enjoy what they’re eating, so we follow high standards for quality, taste and ingredients.”
At the same time, the team at Amanda Lynn Gluten Free aims to be good stewards of their resources. “We compost and recycle so we have very little waste. We have a very small footprint,” she says. “We choose to purchase our raw ingredients from local makers and growers as much as possible. Those are some of the things that we hold near and dear.”