Event: 2012 Celi-Act GF Vendor Fair, Knoxville: A review

Teresa and I had a delightful time yesterday at the Celi-Act Vendor Fair in Knoxville, TN. It’s the first fair like this I’ve been able to attend. I’ve been informed of others – but either they were too far away, too expensive, only for vendors, or a combination thereof; I was very excited to attend this one! (And it was well worth the early wake-up time of 7am to get from where we live in Virginia down to Knoxville!

The fair was large and drew quite a crowd! It opened at 11am and ran until 3pm, but we ended up leaving a little after 1pm — and people were still coming in the door! Take a look at two photos Teresa got of the fair:

We met loads of wonderful people — starting off at the Kinnikinnick booth, since it was thank to them that I even knew about the Fair in the first place…. and I think I’ve sampled and reviewed more Kinnikinnick products than any other brand. They were the first gluten free company I discovered when I started learning about being gluten free. They’re great folks! I should be posting a review about their new bread very soon!

What other companies did we get to talk to?

Earth Fare, Ingles, Food City, Glutino, Pamela’s (more on that later), Mina’s Purely Divine, Moon Rabbit Foods, Mellow Mushroom, Hodgson Mill, Inc., NYR Organic (Cosmetics), Nestle, Taste of Gluten Free, Delight Gluten Free Magazine, Think Thin, Benefit Your Life Gluten Free Market & Bakery (Knoxville), Cabot Vermont cheese, Calhoun’s Restaurant/Smoky Mountain Brewery/Cherokee Grill, Against the Grain, Gluten Free Artisan Bakery, and Couture Confections by A Bountiful Harvest.

Also there, but we either weren’t able to get to their booth or skipped for other reasons:

Promethius, ETCH, GI for Kids, Gourmet Garden, Ceasars Pasta, CTS Physical Therapy, The Happy Badger Catering, Kroger, Gallolea Organics, Full Flavor Foods, Rudi’s (more on that later), Bella Monica, Udi’s, Copper Cellar, Arbonne, Ped. Gastro & Nutrition Support, Cabbage Creamery, Crunch Master, Juice Plus, Bakery on Main, Abbot Nutrition, Ziga International, and Lisanti Foods.

The fair also offered speakers and cooking demos, but did not attend those panels.

A few highlights:

Pamela’s: As many of you know, I’ve been boycotting Pamela’s ever since I found out they supported Autism Speaks and other similar groups. I spoke with a very nice lady representing Pamela’s yesterday, and she told me why they support them (they like to help out) and I explained why I was boycotting them for doing so. She let me know that they have a new marketing director, and that she would give this person my name and business card. I said that I would be more than happy to offer up some autistic-friendly autism groups, and also point them to websites that explain why Autism Speaks leaves a foul taste in so many people’s mouths. (As of 1/3/2014, they’ve not returned any of my e-mails.)

From a product-taste standpoint, I adore Pamela’s, but I can’t, in good conscience, give them money. Perhaps this will get the ball rolling towards a change in policy on their end . . . and open up more doors for others.

Rudi’s: After meeting with the people from Kinnikinnick, we headed over to Rudi’s, where we discovered that the supplier had sent regular wheat-based Rudi’s instead of their gluten free breads! Except for the lack of the GF label, the bags look quite identical! Luckily, Teresa noticed right away that the bags were wrong, I picked one up, flipped it over… to find whole wheat at the top of the ingredients. I told the woman running the booth that under no circumstances could she serve this to anyone. Unfortunately, a few people had already sampled the bread. Then we let a Celi-Act official know and they rushed over to take care of the problem. After this, we were careful to check everything we sampled! It took a little bit away from the carefree attitude we’d come in the door with — but, as always, better safe than sorry.

Mina’s Purely Divine and Moon Rabbit Foods are two companies we’d never heard of before, but we’re sure glad we discovered them! We bought a bag of mix from each of them (All-Purpose from Mina’s and Biscuit & Scone mix from Moon Rabbit). Mixes were selected after trying several samples. I can’t wait to try these out and post about the results!

 

Something I found interesting is that both Mina’s and Moon Rabbit use either cassava flour or cassava starch. A man at the Moon Rabbit booth told me it’s fairly new to the market. In my opinion, it gives a much more pleasing flavor to the product than Garbanzo/Fava bean flours, which is a common base for many gluten free foods. I hope to find a bag of this starch and/or flour one of these days so we can experiment with it!

You may recognize Cassava by another name: Yuca, Manihot esculenta, (not to be confused with Yucca, a different plant).

NYR Organic: This company, which originated in England, makes products for “Organic Skincare, Powered by Nature”. I’ve generally stuck to reviewing food products on this blog, but you’ll remember from my upcoming post list, I’d included cat food. After speaking with the women at the NYR Organic booth, I felt compelled to write about their product line as well. I’m not a cosmetic type of person, but I do enjoy having a good hand or body lotion available, especially in the winter. But I have to avoid so many ingredients in addition to gluten, that I’m fairly limited as to what I can use.

I tried their Garden Mint & Bergamot Hand Lotion (see the ingredient list here). I can tell you that not only did it smell wonderful, and that the scent didn’t bother me in the slightest (unusual for fragrances), but that the lotion didn’t bother my skin at all. Also, the back of my left hand (where I sampled the lotion) is significantly softer and smoother today than my right hand!

One of the women at the booth told me that their cosmetic line should be expanded by next spring, possibly May. They already have sunscreen, however, and I will definitely be looking into that!

I was told that some of their products have gluten in them, but I haven’t fully researched their site to find out which these might be. I would say, go on a case by case basis on whether or not a product is safe for you to use or not. Each product has an ingredient list with it, so you’ll be able to check if there is any ingredients, gluten or otherwise, which you cannot tolerate. They also offer an ingredient glossary in case you’re not sure what something is!

Ingles: This is a chain of grocery stores located in Alabama, Georgia, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. I picked up information provided that told me that Ingles carries over 1700 gluten free items, not counting fruits, vegetables, and meats! They tag their items with brown and white GF tags to make them easy to spot, and in most stores, feature a GF section in the baking aisle. They also sponsor, or are otherwise involved with, the most gluten free events – more than any other supermarket in the southeast.

Leah McGrath, Ingles Registered Dietitian, works hard to make sure they carry the best gluten free items. I also picked up a flier that tells me just a few of the products carried at Ingles grocery stores. Some I have issue with because I know that certain ones (ex. Betty Crocker) have glutened a number of people due to unsafe manufacturing processes — or just a bad understanding of what it means to be gluten free, but overall, I am impressed with the variety of brands this grocery store carries!

Unfortunately, the closest Ingles store is an hour away, so it will be awhile before I get to check out their selection for myself.

 

Several people also enjoyed seeing Teresa’s shirt, which I designed a couple of years ago. It has a picture of wheat on it, which has been crossed out, and above and below the image, the shirt reads “Gluten Free by Marriage”. If you’d like to own one of these shirts, you can purchase them here!

I also offer hats, mouse pads, and bumper stickers if shirts aren’t your thing. (You can’t change the design, but you can change the type of shirt to long sleeved, sweatshirt, and so forth, but cannot get it on dark fabric until I have time to redesign the image for dark apparel.) I will be adding more items to my store as soon as I can!

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