Parkites bring new product to the States
February 8, 2014
David Wintzer was born and raised in Park City and was always a health-conscious eater, but it wasn’t until a trip to Kenya with a nonprofit organization called Youthlinc that he discovered a handmade ingredient that taught him all about gluten.
Wintzer traveled to Kenya to help distribute micro-loans from the Kenyan government, ranging from $50 to $250, to female business owners in small market in Kenya with the Women Entrepreneurs Development Organization, or WEDO.
One of the women, Monica, and her husband were working with several other women sun drying, hand peeling and hand slicing unripe green bananas and making flour out of them.
"Since the bananas are not ripe, they have a more earthy, whole wheat flavor," Wintzer said. "Because it’s high in starch, it allows for a light, fluffy texture, which can be used as a whole wheat substitute."
Wintzer decided that he wanted to take banana flour back to the United States, so when he returned home from a visit to Kenya, he told his best friend, fellow Park City native and now business partner Todd Francis all about it.
Together, they entered a business competition at Westminster College and won not only a small amount of money but a large amount of confidence to start their own business, WEDO Gluten Free.
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They then bought Monica and her business a dehydrator so they wouldn’t have to sun dry the bananas and distribute the product to a larger customer base. They would work with Monica for another year before running into business practice issues.
They spent the two years after that attracting an investor, Chris Marchetti, and traveling to places like the Philippines, Ecuador, Peru and India to find the best banana flour in terms of price, quantity and quality.
"Quality was the biggest issue, but through our travels, we found about three suppliers and received our first shipment just before Christmas from Ecuador," Wintzer said. "We have just launched the business basically about a month ago and started a Kickstarter campaign on our website."
Kickstarter campaigns are "crowd-funding" sources allowing people who support certain products to donate money to causes or businesses. WEDO Gluten Free will use the funds for their first large-scale order of banana flour. They were seven days into the campaign and had raised $16,000 of their $30,000 end-of-the-month goal.
Wintzer said they are currently in talks with Harmons grocery stores in Salt Lake City to sell their product, and according to him, theirs is the first and only banana flour business in the U.S.
Orders are currently being placed online, and Wintzer and Francis will be at grocery stores throughout the state every Saturday and Sunday performing demonstrations, handing out samples and informing customers about the product.
The goal of WEDO is not only to inform customers about the health benefits of their product, Wintzer said, but to give back to the community that first sparked his interest in the new ingredient.
Rather than being "that person that just writes a check," Wintzer and Francis have worked with the United Nations World Food Programme to create a "Buy One, Feed One" promotion. For every purchase of banana flour, they will provide 25 cents to the World Food Programme, which is able to create one meal for a child in need.
Wintzer said he worked with the World Food Organization to make sure the meals go to the children of the village in Kenya where he first heard of banana flour. He continues to work with Youthlinc, the organization that took him to Kenya, on its board of directors.
He said he and his business partners are confident their years of struggles and efforts will pay off and they will be able to bring banana flour into grocery stores across the United States.
"This whole business has been a long journey, and we’ve had quite a few ups and downs, maybe more than any first-time business should experience," Wintzer said. "We fought hard for the last three years, and it’s exciting to have in our hands a tangible product we can actually get into the hands of people that want it."
WEDO Gluten-Free Banana Flour can be purchased online, at The Market or at Park City Meat and Provisions. Wintzer said they will be at The Market performing demonstrations in the next several weeks.
WEDO Gluten Free
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