Local Mom Takes Her Gluten-Free Snack Food Nationwide
In 2003, Jennifer Wiese and her husband Michael attended an autism conference in Vancouver in an effort to educate themselves on ways they could help their autistic son Auggy, who was seven years old at the time. They learned about gluten-free eating, which, back then, wasn’t yet well known or understood. Yet the Wieses were intrigued.
“We felt that food was something we could get our hands around,” Jennifer says. “It didn’t require a pharmacist, special equipment, or popping 40 supplements a day. Food seemed manageable and in our comfort zone.”
When the couple returned to Indianapolis, they stopped at a Whole Foods store on the way home from the airport and bought everything in the tiny gluten-free section. Sadly, the majority of it went straight into the trash.
“It either tasted like cardboard or it had tons of chemicals and preservatives in it that I wasn’t interested in feeding my family,” says Jennifer, who enlisted the help of her mom to recreate some gluten-free family recipes.
Through trial and error, and some taste testing, the pair landed on some tasty options.
“We have four sons so in the early days, if I wanted to test out a recipe I always did it on a day when the house was full and the kids had friends over,” says Jennifer, who would simply set the food out on the counter without saying a word, and observe which items would disappear.
Fast forward to 2008, when gluten-free diets started to become fashionable. Hollywood celebrities were touting gluten-free eating as a weight-loss plan, and professional athletes were claiming it enhanced their athletic performance.
“It was a whole evolution of looking at food as medicine,” says Jennifer, adding that she and Michael see gluten-free foods as a life enhancement rather than a cure or treatment for autism. “It’s been really effective for our son – a huge enhancement in his life.”
Gluten-free eating has enabled Auggy to feel included in social celebrations, which often revolve around food.
In 2008 and 2009, Jennifer began selling homemade gluten-free muffins, cookies and pizza dough at a local farmers market.
“We sold out every week, which was confirmation that we had something people wanted,” she says.
Back then, when Jennifer was preparing snacks to sell at farmers markets, she rented a tiny kitchen in downtown Noblesville.
“That was my production area, and it was just me most days,” says Jennifer, a stay-at-home mom who would feed her boys dinner, help them with their homework, tuck them into bed, and then leave her husband in charge while she went to her rented kitchen to bake until as late as 3 a.m. “I did that for as long as I could physically do it. Once the demand grew, I had to make the decision of whether I was going to take this thing big.”
In 2010 Jennifer launched BeeFree, a company dedicated to offering snacks free of undesirable ingredients. In 2013 Jennifer was introduced to paleo dieting when her fitness friends, who had grown tired of eating hard-boiled eggs, beef jerky and almonds, asked if she could create a convenient snack that they could simply toss in their gym bags. That’s how BeeFree’s Warrior Mix, a paleo-friendly granola snack now available in five flavors and two sizes, was born.
“Our products are made with plant-based ingredients that are grown from the earth, not made in a lab,” Jennifer says. “They are all-natural, real food ingredients that our bodies can convert into energy.”
In 2014 Michael left his job with a new car dealership to join Jennifer at BeeFree. Since then, the pair has been working together to make BeeFree a recognizable national brand that sells clean, delicious food.
Today more than 4,000 stores across all 50 U.S. states, including Target, Walmart, Kroger and Whole Foods, carry Warrior Mix. Locally, Noble Coffee & Tea Company, All Local, and Capstone Cafe inside Northview Church in Carmel, also sell it.
“It’s been our mission to have BeeFree products in the marketplace everywhere that people shop,” Jennifer says.
That’s not the couple’s only goal. They are passionate about offering meaningful employment to the autism community.
“We want to make a difference in the world,” Jennifer says. “One way we can do that is by employing workers who are on the autism spectrum. We want to give them a fair chance for meaningful employment that they can feel proud of and get a fair wage for. We want to spread the message, loud and proud, that we can do it and any employer can do it.”
For more information about BeeFree products, call 800-677-4840 or visit beefreegf.com.