August 29, 2010

Let's talk about Smart Treat...and have a giveaway too!

Last week I shared my cranberry walnut grilled cheese sandwich with you and introduced a new gluten free company, Smart Treat. They are a small, artisan, dedicated gluten free bakery in the mountains of Western North Carolina. Most of their products are also vegan. I was super excited when I first learned about them, because the nutritional information for their products is awesome! Check it out, this is for their Oat Bread:

50 Calories for a slice? Not bad. AND it's not a little itty-bitty piece of bread. It's size a bread that is comparable to glutenous breads. The loaf could be easily confused with that of "real bread" See...

I had the opportunity to try several different items. From rolls to breads, to granola to cookies...everything was phenomenal!

The breads were A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. No lie. You do have to toast them a little bit, but I don't mind. One lightly toasted, they are perfect. The rolls and buns were just like you'd get from a local bakery. I even turned the burger buns into hot dog buns! I hadn't had a hot dog in ages, so when my family was grilling them up, I couldn't resist.

Naturally I wanted to know more about Smart Treat, so I interviewed them. :)

GFB: I read on your site that Smart Treat has been around since 1994. Have you always been making gluten free foods this entire time? Why did you decide to make gluten free items?
When Bonnie, the owner/founder, was diagnosed with a wheat allergy, she started baking from her home kitchen (with an old 1960's mixer from her Mom). In 1994, she started selling at local farmers markets.

In the beginning, her products were mainly wheat free, and she did a bit of gluten free on the side. However, due to growing gluten free demand and increasing customer requests, the gluten free side of her business began to outpace the wheat free side. She moved from her kitchen to an actual bakery, and has kept her focus on high quality ingredients and excellent customer service the whole time.

By the time the bakery was moved to the the mountains of Western North Carolina in 2007, Smart Treat was 100% gluten free (with a dedicated facility).

GFB: Do you plan on getting your products on store shelves?
During those early 'farmers market' years, Bonnie developed a relationship with a regional heath food grocery to carry some of her items on their shelves. Based mainly on reputation and customer requests, the 'on the store shelf' side of the business has continued to grow. Currently, Smart Treat items are in a number of specialty and allergen-free groceries here and there across the country.

What are your most popular items?
It's funny that you ask, because Bonnie has seen product categories come and go over the years -- even flavor profiles go through trend cycles.

Right now, our "Brittle Bars" (made from a base of organic sunflower seeds and organic pumpkin seeds, with lots of different yummy add-ins for each flavor) are especially hot. Granola (eaten as a breakfast cereal or as a dry snack) and the Smart Bite Cookies have also been a consistently strong sellers.

GFB: I can see why, the brittle is delicious!

Fruit flavors are big (ie Apricot-Raspberry Krispie Bars, all of the fruit Tartlets, Cranberry-Walnut Granola), and of course (you are a woman, you know this...) chocolate-anything NEVER goes out of style.

GFB: are so right!

However, it's the bread (7 flavors to choose from) that we receive the most "WOW" customer comments on. For many families, excellent gluten free bread choices are a weekly staple, and our 24 oz loaves are the biggest/best in the industry. (Most other gluten free breads are 12 oz for about $6, and made in industrial factories.) Smart Treat's 24 oz loaf means that each slice is as tall and wide as a 'normal bread' slice, and at $5.49, the value can't be beat. Let's face it, allergen-free eating can be expensive -- and the excellent value of our bread is very important to many of our customers.

Do you have a good gluten free baking tip you can share with my readers?
YES! Bonnie has found that starting with best ingredients (we use organic whenever possible) is the key to excellent end results. Also, Smart Treat bakes based on customer orders (we are not a mass production facility) so everything is as fresh as possible when we ship it out. Brian, who is trained as a chef, is our Master Baker, and he pours lots of energy into making each item artisan quality.

We also have some customers reporting that they use the Smart Bite cookies (the little addictive ones) as the base for pie crusts. Simple -- smash up the cookies, add some butter as a binder, and press to the bottom of a pie plate.

GFB: That's genius...those cookies a perfect for flavorful pie crusts. Yum!

So now that you know a little bit more about Smart Treat, wanna try some? Three lucky winners will each receive one product of their choice on the house. Here's the rules:

Mandatory Entry - Visit Smart Treat and tell me which item you'd most like to try.

Extra Entry - Join the Gluten Free Betsy Facebook Page
Extra Entry - Sign up for my Email Notifications
Extra Entry - Become a follower of Gluten Free Betsy

Contest ends Friday, September 10th at midnight. Winners will be selected by
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