Monday, November 06, 2006

Columbus Celiac Conference and more...

My wife and I attended the Columbus, Ohio Celiac Conference the weekend, and it was an interesting experience for us. This was our first time attending the conference, and it provided us with a great chance to meet people and make contacts within the Celiac and Glutenfree community. Some educational information was acquired while there too. But, the one thing that seemed to generate the most excitement among all attendees was the fact that quite a few vendors catering to the Celiac/Gluten-Free population were there peddling their foods and related products.

When we first arrived, there were very long lines for a few things in particular. One of the most popular items were the Gluten Free donut holes by Celiac Specialties out of Chesterfield, Michigan. I had not eaten a donut in so many years (not that I am a huge fan of donuts) that I figured I would try one - I purchased a box of them, and I found the taste and texture to be unbelievably realistic! It was 90% like the real thing! Kudos to Celiac Specialties on that achievement. And, their donuts can be stored frozen - which explained the long line of people stocking up. We had heard that in prior years they sold out quickly, and that of course increased the demand further.

Another popular vendor was Everybody Eats from Brooklyn, New York. They had samples out of Gluten-Free French Bread, a thin-crust Pizza, and even Cinnamon Rolls. I must say, these guys (literally two guys own the company) appear to be at the top of their game. Their products were amazingly like the "real" (gluten-containing) versions. From what I understand, they actually deliver products to households throughout the NYC area, and they distribute through a few stores in the region as well. I just wish I was closer to their delivery-zone so I could get some of their products without the mega-shipping charges I would otherwise have to incur (yes, the do ship items from what I was told - 2-day FedEx or such).

Next, we met Anna from Breads from Anna (formerly Manna from Anna). Anna is a wonderful person and incredibly nice. She was there with her sister (also extremely nice) demonstrating and selling her various bread-mixes. Her breads convinced me that my prior experience with bean flours (leading to grainy texture) was not a problem for her at all -- she uses bean flours in her bread mixes and they are wonderful. She has mixes that are free of basically every major allergen as well. We talked quite a bit, and I will be working a cross-linking promotion to her website from my book-site, and she plans to do the same in return. This should be nice for both of us. And, she purchased a copy of my book (one of the few I had with me)... I still need to get one to her sister once I have more.

We met people from the Raisin Rack in Columbus, as well as persons from some other retail stores catering to gluten-free persons. After showing them our book and discussing options for how we can have our Gluten-Free Desserts Book featured in these various stores, it looks like we will have no problem finding distributors to help us move our books. We may even work out some book-signing promotional events at a few places. Needless to say, we are absolutely ecstatic about all this opportunity! (though, more WORK is implied by all these -- oh, I feel overwhelmed).

Speaking of work -- I now owe quite a few people all sorts of information. Some want flyers to pass out at upcoming Celiac events. Others want us to provide artwork that they can incorporate into newsletters, and so on! I know this is all good, but I also know it means more work that I need to fit into my already packed schedule. And here I thought selling books would be a way to wind down a bit and relax - think again!

Now, back to the conference assessment. My one major complaint (shared by many that I spoke with) was about the lunch that was served at the conference. It was sad, and surely not even remotely adventuresome for a GF menu. Here's the menu:
  • Plain Chicken Breast with diced tomatoes on top. And, I mean plain! It was like they boiled or steamed the chicken breasts. Sad.
  • Green Beans with plenty of butter and salt. Though, these were the best part of lunch, they were a bit salty for me.
  • Rice Pasta (overcooked - mushy) with the same diced-tomatoes from the chicken. Really now, doesn't anyone know how to at least cook a decent spaghetti sauce?? Sad!
  • And, last, and worst... the dessert. My god, if they would have contacted me I would have eagerly assisted/advised on how to produce some wonderful desserts for everyone! They had brownies and blondies (light-colored brownies). The Brownies were road-asphalt - and just as hard! Overbaked, bad flavor, and they could be used for weapons since they were so hard. The blondies were just not good either: grainy, and not much for flavor. Seriously, next year I want to help them get that part of the lunch right!
The crowd started clearing out considerably after lunch. Perhaps because lunch made them ill? he he he. Actually, it seems many persons come for the vendors, and attend a speaking event or two, do lunch, and then leave.

All attendees recieved a "goodie bag" of various sample products. I already found one good one in the mix: GF Turkey Jerky by Shelton's Poultry in Pomona CA. The show also had various manufacturer's reps showing their goods, and plenty of samples to be had -- which, with Glutenfree foods is a wonderful thing, since you can try something without wasting $5+ to find out something sucks (which does happen a lot!). I tried some boxed cookies and crackers I had to pitch in the garbage (one cracker was like styrofoam), and then I tried other pretzels and crackers/chips that were really good. I hope to do a full product-review of some of the better ones I encountered.

Last, but certainly not least, I must thank Sande from Butler, PA for all her help at the event! Sande helped my wife and I by way of introducing us to Anna and others that she knew at the show, and as if that was not enough, she took one of our books around along with business-cards and showed it off to many of the conference attendees. Sande has a great personality and is very outgoing and engages in conversation with others easily, which is a huge plus for this kind of thing. And, it seems she has a very strong background as an executive in the marketing field (who would have guessed!). She was their with her husband and daughter (all equally nice) this year, and I am guessing we will meet up with them again in the future at other CD/GF events around the area.

Well, I could write more, but my wrists and fingertips are going numb using the keyboard now. So, that's the quick summary of things! I'm sure I will think of other important noteworthy things - they'll just have to wait for a later posting on my gluten free blog.


Lynn Barry said...

What a detailed accounting of your day. It all sounds like it was worth the trip (maybe not the lunch hehe)and I thank you for the donut info. I already printed out the order form off the website.
You will probably have a display or booth next time with your cookbooks.

Mike Eberhart said...

I didn't even know the donut place did mail-order. Now I do :)

I hope you enjoy them. Everyone at the conference was really into them. Laura thinks they taste like the real thing too for the most part.

Yeah, next year we will probably setup a booth there. I have to figure out how to take credit-cards and such first though. More work.