Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery was recently able to talk to Jill Bommarito, founder of Ethel's Baking Co., about baking gluten-free desserts and also the company's new expansion.
Liz Parker: How did you decide to start Ethel’s, and what made you decide to make the treats gluten-free?
Jill Bommarito: Celiac Disease has been in my family for over 40 years. No one had heard of it when my aunt was the first to be diagnosed here in Detroit at Henry Ford. I feel sharing food is a highlight in life. Everyone should be able to sit at a table and share amazing food together.
I am committed to making an impact on this baking industry in two ways. First, by making amazing desserts by hand, traditionally and with time, for the very best taste experience, on an international level. Second, by making the first dessert or treat to be sold in in-store-bakery in the grocery store that is sold alongside the traditional baked goods, but is also gluten-free and loved by all. Taste is what puts us in that space and the gluten-free consumer gets to have that same experience the traditional consumers have—buying that treat in the bakery and being able to enjoy it immediately like everyone else.
LP: What led to the expansion to your new 19,000 sq. feet facility?
JB: We had simply outgrown our space and were busting at the seams. We had finished goods stored elsewhere, offices set up in adjacent buildings, pods storing packaging materials, demand for single serve and retailers on deck. It took time and education for find the right place for our new facility, but we did it. This new space has the equipment to increase throughput- packaging efficiencies. We were able to purchase and install packaging lines and machinery that alone takes up the space of our last facility. We are now adding those retailers, distributors and new channels for our handmade dessert bars.
LP: How has COVID-19 affected your business and/or sanitation protocols?
JB: Like all, we’ve experienced challenges with production, suppliers and distribution during this time. There are added costs in all ways. We’ve made changes to how we produce, share space, move through the facility, interact with each other and more. We’ve had to get more creative in purchasing strategy and dive deeper into our cost of goods. At the same time, we have remained focused on safety always and taste and quality as number one.
LP: Any new plans for expansion in 2021 or beyond?
JB: We are looking forward to adding retailers, growing in convenience and coffee shop channels, spreading further and deeper throughout the country and growing export further in Canada in 2021. We just launched a brand-new single serve line with caddies this month nationally. This comes at a time when consumers are looking for safe, prepackaged food items more than ever. We are that handmade, delicious treat that is a solution for the retailer and customer.
LP: Any new flavors coming out soon / in 2021?
JB: Look for new flavors, berry and fruit first, and seasonal offerings for our bars in 2021, for both our three count packages and our smaller single-serve packages.