LocalFare 2021-2022

Page 72


A Gluten-Free Journey

How Cocobeans Bakeshop and Café rose to the challenge to create their signature baked goods


etting diagnosed with Celiac disease means drastically changing your eating habits. It also means avoiding gluten entirely. When Betsy Hiebert, her daughter, and six other family members were diagnosed 13 years ago, she became aware of how limited food choices were when living gluten-free – especially when it came to cakes and cupcakes. Betsy studied gluten-free baking, then started her cakes at farmer’s markets. Then, she added bread to the menu. With her growing success, she realized that her growing business needed a brick-and-mortar store. Pre-pandemic, Cocoabeans Bakeshop and Café had 25 employees. Their menu had also expanded, offering baked goods and food items – notably, onion rings and chicken fingers. Gluten-free deep-fried foods can be difficult to find, as deep fryers are easily contaminated. To address this, Betsy and her talented cooking staff started using a dedicated gluten-free deep fryer. When customers inquired about vegan options, Cocobeans worked to accommodate those needs. Now they have gluten-free items, dairy-free items, egg-free items, and a growing global customer-base. “We get people who plan their trips around our store, because they know they can find safe food to eat,” said Betsy. “We get people, honestly, from around the world.” When COVID-19 hit, Betsy’s focus was keeping the restaurant alive. With the help of her staff, she did this by offering warm-up home meals, like lasagna and chicken pot pie, that were delivered contact-free. It was a huge success. The company also began selling pre-packaged fried food and baking mixes. That’s when she wondered: “How can we get this into stores?” With the help of an accelerator program offered by the Government of Canada, Cocoabeans Bakeshop and Café can now be found throughout Manitoba at places like Safeway, Sobeys, and Red River Co-op. Betsy hopes to now see her logo in stores Canada-wide. To achieve this, they now package mixes in a special facility and are certified to sell across Canada. “It’s been a real journey and never • Take-Away Meals in my wildest dreams would I imagine going in this direction,” Betsy said. • Breads “But COVID kind of threw a bunch of us • Cakes all these curveballs. We’re holding our • Mixes own, and that’s so exciting.”

We get people who plan their trips around our store, because they know they can find safe food to eat. We get people honestly, from around the world.”

Dedicated gluten-free bakery & kitchen Cocoabeans | 774 Corydon Ave Wpg | cocoabeansgf.com @cocoabeansgf


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