Founded by childhood best friends, Rosa Dixon and Milia Lando, Raised Gluten Free produces unique-to-market sweet and savory pies that are both certified gluten free and vegan. Inspired by a child with celiac disease and personal dietary restrictions, the two moms decided to start cooking for the masses in an effort to make finding delicious, gluten-free, nut-free, dairy-free, and egg-free products easier. In 2011, Dixon was a chef and owner of a dessert catering company, so the duo used her small commercial kitchen to make pies one day a week for local farmer’s markets. Within a year, they had negotiated a distribution deal with Whole Foods Markets’ northern California region.
Today, Raised Gluten Free produces about 2,000 pies each day in 12 varieties. Their six-inch apple and berry peach pies are sold at nearly all Whole Foods Market locations, plus other retailers nationwide, with seasonal flavors including pumpkin and blueberry bliss. In 2019, the company introduced a savory quiche and pot pie at Kroger locations. Lando handles the bakery operations and bringing recipes to scale, while Dixon is at the helm of marketing, sales and product innovation.
You grew up in Tennessee – how have those southern roots inspired some of the recipes developed by Raised Gluten Free?
The South is all about comfort food, and everyone loves pies because they can be shared among family and friends. Many of our recipes were inspired by my Southern roots, like our Strawberry Rhubarb Pie, which is a recipe from my Grandma Rose. And our newest fresh fruit pie, Southern Peach, is a direct nod to my childhood in Tennessee. As a mom to a daughter diagnosed with Celiac Disease and another with multiple food allergies (and my own severe nut allergy), finding food my family could enjoy together was complicated, and we especially missed comfort foods like pie! My best friend (also from Tennessee) and I started Raised Gluten Free as a way to create delicious, high-quality, allergy-friendly comfort foods like we grew up with and share them with the world.
How do the gluten-free and vegan certifications impact your ingredients and how and where they are sourced?
With all of our products being Non-GMO Project Verified, Certified Gluten-Free, and Kosher Pareve, we have strict internal ingredient approval protocols and as such, our vendor supplier relationships are critical to maintain and nurture. We find that the ingredient suppliers who match our certifications tend to deliver higher quality materials because of their own rigorous QA protocols (just like ours) necessary to maintain their own certifications. Our organic, raw ingredients are sourced and acquired as close to home as possible. Our fruits and veggies, for example, come from Oregon, and our tofu is made in California.
The early days of distribution started off with you and company co-founder Milia Lando personally delivering products in your minivans – how has the company’s distribution expanded over the last 10 years?
Ten years ago, we were making pies once a day for local Farmer’s Markets and within the first year, we negotiated a distribution deal with Whole Foods’ Northern California region. By 2017, our pie lineup could be found in the bakery, refrigerated and frozen dessert sections at grocers coast to coast, with our apple pie and berry peach pie sold at most Whole Foods Market locations. In 2019, we introduced a savory quiche and pot pie at Kroger locations nationwide, and in 2020, we launched our pumpkin pie nationally at Whole foods Market during the holidays. Our products are now in 3,400 stores across the country, from Hawaii to New York City, through KEHE, UNFI, Tony's Fine Foods, Jake’s Finer Foods, and DPI. Today, we work with some of the biggest names in the business, like Whole Foods Market, Kroger, Safeway, and INFRA, and in 2021, Raised Gluten Free experienced 40% growth.
How did Raised Gluten Free scale its production capabilities to meet growing demand and how are the pies produced today?
Over the years, we have been able to gradually expand the footprint of our facility, allowing for increased production capabilities. We constantly are keeping our eye on the latest in manufacturing equipment technology to better automate certain steps in our process, while still remaining hands-on with our pies at every step to maintain our high-quality control standards. Being located in a (beautiful) rural area might seem like a challenge when it comes to hiring enough skilled labor to run our operation, but, to the contrary, we have found that nurturing our positive home-grown reputation and supporting our community ensures we can maintain an incredibly solid core team and hiring pool for our peak production season. The bakery production staff is comprised of approximately 12 year-round employees that have been with the company for anywhere between four to eight years, and around six seasonal positions that support our holiday pie production surge.
What is next for the company in terms of new products or flavors?
We’re currently working on a really exciting kids’ line that we can’t wait to share with the world! It’s top-secret right now, but what I can say is that the products stay true to our mission of providing delicious, allergy-friendly food that can be enjoyed by the whole family! The lineup will be vegan, Certified Gluten Free, made with high-quality ingredients, and most importantly, it will taste great! More info to come.
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