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Food Entrepreneurs: Pamela’s Products

Posted on Sunday, Nov 22nd 2009

By Guest Author Erika Valdez

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and to celebrate the blog will be running a series of posts on food entrepreneurs and their exceptional stories. I interviewed some unique individuals to learn how their passion for the food business has offered them a one-of-a-kind experience and strategically positioned them in the food market.

A popular theme found in the stories of these food entrepreneurs is the growing trend of eating more healthy foods. Consumers around the world are embracing healthier lifestyles, and both food retailers and wholesalers, whether they are veterans or new entrants to this market, have greatly benefited from the multiplication of niches within health food. The retail market for foods that are natural, organic, or gluten-free, among others, is exploding. More than ever, people are becoming more aware of the ingredients in their food. Consequently, consumers are increasingly choosing naturally healthy foods, not only to treat food allergies, but also to enjoy a healthy life and reduce the risk of disease.

This first story showcases Pamela’s Products. President and founder Pamela Giusto-Sorrells is a third-generation natural food entrepreneur whose products have are award-winning leaders in the gluten-free foods arena. Guisto-Sorells founded her company on the belief that natural foods can and should taste great. She offers gluten-free products (gluten-free baking mixes and packaged cookies) that have for many years provided a range of decadent options. A native of San Francisco, Giusto-Sorrells grew up in an entrepreneurial family with a natural foods bakery. She wanted to continue this legacy, and she soon became aware of the need to create gluten-free foods that can taste great, not only for those with food allergies and Celiac disease, but for the growing number of people choosing gluten-free foods as a healthy alternative because ‘it just makes them feel better.’ In fact, a large chunk of Giusto-Sorrells’ buyers are not buying because they follow a gluten-free diet due to medical reasons, but instead because they have noticed a major difference in their health when they cut out foods containing gluten.

So how did this all start for Giusto-Sorrells? She says that becoming a food entrepreneur was in her blood. The business idea originated when she began baking bran muffins to supplement her income as a diet counselor. Giusto-Sorrells initially funded the company by borrowing money that was paid back with interest, a decision that soon paid off when she made the first million in sales and when she sold 5,000 cases of a single flavor of cookies in just one week.

Like many entrepreneurs, Giusto-Sorrells played almost every role in the company in the early stages of Pamela’s Products. “I used to bake, drive the forklift and load trucks, then run to the phone and take orders. What didn’t I do?” she tells me. Today, Giusto-Sorrells employs over 100 people and remains very involved in the company’s day-to-day activities, as well as directing the company and being involved in product development and marketing.

Pamela’s Products has been extremely successful since its creation in 1988. The company has had tremendous impact in both the gluten-free food market and the natural foods industry. Their baking and pancake mix and chocolate brownie mix consistently holding the #1 position in the entire natural foods category. Giusto-Sorrells offers a variety of baking mixes to satisfy all different palates, and she distributes over 30 different products nationwide. The products have made their way into natural food and grocery stores throughout North America, and they can also be found on the company’s website and through a new store on Amazon.

I asked Giusto-Sorrells what factors she believed to be influential in the growth of her business. “The trend in the market has definitely helped these past five years, but quality products that meet the needs of the consumer is key,” she said. A true statement based on the success of Pamela’s Products.

My final question for Giusto-Sorrells was: “What is your message to the more than 30 million unemployed people out there, and do you believe they can start something on their own?” Giusto-Sorrells told me, “You must have common sense and good instincts. Passion is important because it keeps you going. Good relationships are vital because you can’t do it all yourself. Quality will always win, in my opinion. Never stop learning. And you have to put in the hours. This is not a 9-to-5 job, so you are either in it for the long haul or not. Not one of my employees wants my job.”

Pamela expects to continue developing new products and to venture into new markets. Her business model has fueled the growth of Pamela’s Products, and the business itself has contributed to the rapid growth of the healthy foods industry. For the moment, the company is focusing on the holiday season and has a complete Thanksgiving menu of gluten-free foods, from cheese-stuffed hors d’oeuvres to pumpkin pie.

This segment is a part in the series : Food Entrepreneurs

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Erika Valdez Monday, November 23, 2009 at 9:54 PM PT

In today’s society, people need to take control of their own health. 1 in 3 children are considered obese today. I’m glad that Pamela has realized this and focused her efforts on the natural food market. Not only is she helping those unfortunate few whose bodies cannot tolerate gluten, but she’s also helping people live longer, healthier lives – and she’s made a successful business out of it! Kudos!

Margo DeLashmutt Wednesday, November 25, 2009 at 2:34 PM PT

This was an excellent article, really enjoyed the closing paragraph about what she would tell the unemployed, she had wise advice and yet made a point to pretty much say it was not for everyone. I enjoy the honesty of people like that.

Christina Wednesday, November 25, 2009 at 7:44 PM PT