If you find yourself on a restricted diet, eating boring and tasteless foods be ready to fill up your shopping cart on ‘Around the World Gourmet’. This gluten free, vegan— and dare I say yummy pizza crust and flat bread is about to break the “glass ceiling” of the gluten-free world.
Tell me about your company. What is your origin story?
As a child I had an interest in cooking, especially in the international food space—I loved trying different foods. Before there was DVR I would make time in my day to watch the PBS cooking shows and copy the recipes and ingredients that were needed for the show.
My family also had an international cookbook that I would skim through- the problem was I only liked parts of a single recipe and other parts of a different recipe. Not the most conducive way to cook, but I had an idea to take one piece of a recipe that I loved and combine it with another piece that I cherished to come up with something new. This would prove to be an important part of my process later on.
For as long as I could remember my mom and grandmothers were always cooking. One grandmother actually cooked for a local pottery in their employee cafeteria while the other had a large vegetable garden every year and canned extensively. When I was deciding on a college degree I did not imagine having a food business. I knew I wanted to own and operate a business one day, so I choose a business degree with a focus in finance and international business; the combination of these things came easy to me.
I believe that the chemistry of having family members who cooked—A LOT, my diverse interests in pulling together foods and my degree formed a solid foundation for my company. It took some time for me to come up with my company name. Although my family heritage includes English, Swiss, German, Irish and Native American, my Swiss last name, Kocher, means ‘to cook’, I thought “wow – what a coincidence that I end up having an occupation that my ancestors in Switzerland also had.” I decided on Kocher Foods International and choose Around the World Gourmet as the brand name.
Ingredient selection seems to be very important to this category. How did you decide on the ingredients themselves?
I originally started making salsa, wing-sauce and salad dressing. Gluten-free was an extremely fortunate accident!
When I would take my products into the natural food spaces I was asked by customers and retailers if it was gluten-free and it was! From there, the store asked me to do demos for my now categorized gluten-free salsas, wing-sauces and salad dressings. Gluten free was not as in-demand in 2005 as it is now—the focus was more on making things “all-natural”. However there was a huge population at the time that needed gluten-free products. The demos I did in stores allowed me to authentically connect with that group of customers who had allergies not only to gluten had Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance and allergies to ingredients commonly found in our foods., but to other ingredients as well.
I got the chance to ask these customers what they missed most about food—the overwhelming response was “pizza!” This was a green light for me; I loved taking what people missed and recreating it into something they could have by making a few substitutes here and there.
As I started to do research on Celiac Disease and getting to know my customers, I found many times they also had other food intolerances to dairy, eggs, corn and soy. So, I thought why not take out everything that causes serious allergic reactions to people and create an organic, gluten-free, vegan pizza crust?
I firmly believe that how our food is grown in the field has consequences in our bodies later on, so creating a product I could feel good about was important.
I bought several gluten-free cookbooks and various recipes for pizza crust, trying to find the perfect fit, but nothing was working. I remembered how I used to be able to take things from one recipe and equate it with another ingredient from a different recipe that I liked and that is how my pizza crust was created! We also went to those who would be eating the pizza crusts and conducted sensory evaluations comparing the better tasting gluten free pizza crusts to mine. The results put my recipe on top.
To make this all financially savvy and more effective in the market I kept the ingredients the same for the pizza crusts and the flat breads— free of nuts, soy, egg, dairy, corn and gluten!
Tell me about what your company is doing on sustainability. Do you measure the triple bottom line (environmental, social, economic performance and outcomes)?
I am in the beginning stages of becoming a Benefit Corporation—B.Corp. I make sure that all of the bags and containers are recycled that go through our processing. As a company we are looking forward to expanding our elimination in saran wrap and cardboard by utilizing different packaging. Keeping the business in the community for production and hiring is important to me. I want to give people the opportunity to feel they are a part of something.
Through my membership with the Noble Growth Network I will begin measuring Around the World Gourmet in all of the triple bottom line categories — which include measuring and managing the impact my company has on my workers, my community, the environment and of course, how these areas affect my profitability long-term.
Visit the website so you can try some of the best Gluten Free Pizza Crusts and Flatbreads!