Local company behind gluten-free pound cake

Dec. 08, 2013 @ 06:28 PM

After she was diagnosed more than two years ago as gluten-and-dairy-intolerant, Betty Cogdell said she didn’t find bread products she liked in stores. So she decided to make her own.

Her personal quest led her to launch her own gluten-free and dairy-free bread and dessert company called Betty’s Better Breads. Her vanilla pound cake has been added to the local-food line-up at Chapel Hill’s gourmet food store Southern Season.

“I’m just running with it,” Cogdell, 23, said of the business.

After she was diagnosed, she said she spent the first year making her own products. She said she researched ingredients including gluten-free flours as well as existing recipes, and used trial and error to come up with recipes she liked. She created a vanilla pound cake because her mother typically made pound cake around the holidays, and she wanted something sweet.

“I started making one gluten-and-dairy-free so I could enjoy a dessert like everybody else,” she said.

She started working on the company as she was entering her senior year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and was thinking about her future. She won the top, $15,000 prize in the Carolina Challenge, a competition for entrepreneurs. She said the money helped her pay for ingredients, packaging, a website, logos and transportation.

Her first product is a vanilla pound cake made with rice flour, potato starch, tapioca, rice milk, egg, baking powder and baking soda. She makes it at the Piedmont Food and Agricultural Processing Center in Hillsborough, and is selling it online as well as at Southern Season.

Kirstin Hunt, a specialty food buyer for Southern Season, said she’s looked to add to the store seasonal items such as cheese straws or nut assortments that can be given as gifts or taken to holiday parties.

Betty’s Better Breads is one of several North-Carolina-made products the store is now selling for the holidays. Southern Season sells North Carolina products ranging from housewares to baked goods.

The store’s section of gluten-free items, added several years ago, has grown, Hunt said, appealing to people with Celiac disease as well as to others choosing it for the diet’s perceived health benefits.

According to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, an estimated 1 percent of the American population has the inherited disorder that affects the digestive process of the small intestine. It’s triggered by consumption of the gluten protein, which is found in wheat, barley and rye.

Long-term complications of Celiac disease include malnutrition, which can lead to anemia and osteoporosis, among other problems, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. The clearinghouse is a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. According to the association, the diet helps to alleviate symptoms including an itchy skin rash, fatigue, diarrhea, bloating and abdominal pain and headaches.

According to the market research firm Packaged Facts, 18 percent of people who responded to a consumer poll in August 2012 reported buying or consuming gluten-free food products in the past 30 days. That was up by 3 percentage points compared with October 2010.

Gluten-free snacks, frozen dinners, crackers, dinners and soups, bread and rolls, pasta, baking products, cereal and other items are at health and natural food stores and in mainstream outlets.

Packaged Foods predicted that U.S. retail sales of gluten-free food and drinks would grow to hit $6.6 billion. The firm reported the belief gluten-free products are “generally healthier” outpaced all over incentives for buying the products.