Pamela's Products have remained in the top tier of gluten-free baked goods since 1988. The company's founder, Pamela Giusto-Sorrells, has worked hard to create a repertoire of cookies and cake mixes that use premium ingredients to ensure a rich and flavorful outcome, even for the inexperienced baker. Pamela's Products are sold at popular supermarket and health food chains nationwide, and her focus on superior ingredients has helped increase consumer acceptance with regards to gluten-free foods.
Interview with Pamela Giusto-Sorrells
A Little Family History
LovetoKnow: Your family has been in the business of allergy-conscious foods for more than a generation. Have you or any family members personally struggled with gluten-intolerance or any other type of food sensitivity?
Pamela Giusto-Sorrells: I'm actually a third generation in natural foods but no one in my family has a gluten intolerance. My Grandmother was a vegetarian from the early 1920s. She practiced yoga, meditated, juiced, took herbs and embraced those with alternative lifestyles. The story goes that my grandfather purchased the Golden Crescent Health Food Store in 1940 so she could be with her "type" of people. In our health food store there was a bakery in the back where we made all sorts of alternative baked goods: salt-free, honey sweetened, whole grain and gluten-free products. In those days, if you had special dietary needs, natural food stores were one of the only places that supplied these types of foods.
The Rudiments of Taste
LTK: Gluten-free baked goods have evolved a lot over the last decade, particularly because many gluten-free flour alternatives. Still, most of your products feature a rice flour base. Could you describe the advantage of using rice flour as a baking fundamental over other alternatives?
PGS: I started playing with rice as a flour substitute over 20 years ago. There are many gluten-free grains available but most of them have very strong flavors and make it difficult to mimic the taste of wheat. I use a variety of ingredients, rice is only one, but its neutral flavor is perfect for blending with a variety of other items.
LTK: Where texture and consistency are concerned, what do you think are the greatest challenges of gluten-free baking?
PGS: Graininess has always been a challenge in gluten-free baking. Another issue is the tendency to be dry and crumbly.
LTK: Some of your products, such as your Butter Shortbread Cookies, headline agave nectar as the main sweetener. Agave nectar is now commonly used as an alternative to sugar in many natural and organic foods. Does agave nectar offer any advantages in comparison to other sweeteners?
PGS: Agave nectar has a low glycemic index which allows your body to assimilate it more slowly and help prevent a sugar spike. I also think its mild sweetness and simple flavor make our butter shortbread even more creamy and lovely.
LTK: The "Our History" section on your official product site mentions your battle to bring butter back into your recipes. For decades butter has suffered poor publicity from a health perspective, but slowly it has been making its way back into health foods. Is there a reason, aside from the texture factor, that you prefer butter over oil?
PGS: It's not a question of preferring or not preferring. I love the taste of butter in many baked goods and use it when I feel it is necessary. I use what I feel will give the best results. Some recipes just work better with oil such as with my cake mixes. Gluten-free is my main goal, so I strive to make the best products starting with the gluten-free issue first. If I am also able to remove the dairy or eggs without compromising the taste or texture, I will.
Rising to the Top
LTK: Your products receive excellent distribution throughout the United States. Has it been a fight to make gluten-free foods more accessible to the public?
PGS: When I started my company in 1988, distributors and retail stores were not looking at gluten-free products. I knew my products would have to stand on their flavor alone. The taste and quality of my products created our following for those with and without special dietary needs. Pamela's are simply great tasting foods that also happen to be gluten-free.
LTK: Are there any particular items within the Pamela's Products line that deserve special attention?
PGS: I am so proud that the Pamela's Baking & Pancake Mix is the #1 selling pancake mix in all of natural foods, including the wheat ones. When I meet people across the country, it seems everyone has at least tried that one item. It's a multi-purpose mix that makes all kinds of recipes which makes a gluten-free diet so much easier to maneuver. I'm thrilled that I could make life easier for so many people.
Purchasing and Product Information
You can learn more about Pamela's Products by visiting the company's official website at Pamela'sProducts.com where sales locations and ingredient specifics are available.