NOBLESVILLE, Ind. — A local gluten-free bakery is now available nationwide through the click of a button.
Jennifer Wiese lives with her husband and four sons in Noblesville.
Her son, August, was diagnosed with autism when he was younger. That's when Jennifer learned a gluten-free diet could help August.
"We first spent several years in our kitchen really just learning about gluten-free, and learning how to make really good, delicious food with simple ingredients that just happened to be gluten-free," Jennifer said.
"I can't choose to not be gluten-free," August said. "For me, it really does help my mood. It has really helped me focus more."
After a few years of testing recipes and navigating gaps in the gluten-free food market, Jennifer and her family started their small business called BeeFree Gluten Free Bakery.
When the business launched in 2010, Jennifer said taste was just as important as nutrition. Her products quickly gained the approval of her four young sons, and it expanded to family and friends.
"People were really paying closer attention to reading labels and looking at the food that they were eating, and how it impacted their body and the functionality of their body," Jennifer said.
Once the business gained traction, Jennifer's husband helped expand BeeFree out of the Noblesville community.
"Let's get this thing across state lines," Jennifer said. "Let's get it to different regions. Let's get it coast to coast."
Because BeeFree products can easily be transported without refrigeration, those goals quickly became a reality.
"Today, we are in about 3,000 retailers across the country, and every state in the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii," Jennifer said.
The newest retailer on the list is Walmart.com, after the company's largest open call event ever.
BeeFree prides itself on its Warrior Mix, which is similar to a trail mix and granola combination.
August works as a team lead, where he helps package Warrior Mix samples.
"There are five different flavors," August said. "There is berry, chocolate, original, salted caramel and apple pie."
Each flavor is named after a member of the Wiese family, with the original flavor named after August.
"We were the ones making it," August said. "So Mom was like, 'Alright, why don't we name one after each person, since it was kind of a team effort?'"
Selling nutritious and tasty gluten-free products is only part of BeeFree's mission. Creating more jobs for people with autism is also part of the company's purpose.
"We realize that 85% of people that are diagnosed with autism are un-or-underemployed," Jennifer said. "It's massive. It affects every community all over the country. No one is immune to that. We feel like having a company and being able to employ people, that is one thing that we can do to help make a change."
August is one of five BeeFree employees, working with his fellow teammates on Tuesdays.
"I'm blessed enough that I can be part of that small 15% that can be employed," August said.
"Tuesday is my favorite day," Jennifer said, "because that's the day I get to work with our team. They are so joyful and happy. They are so happy to have the opportunity to have a job in a place that is friendly, that is uplifting, that allows them to earn a paycheck."
Jennifer said the Noblesville team primarily focuses on small projects, like making bite-size samples to send to retailers and events.
Mass production of BeeFree products is then done at facilities across the Midwest, according to Jennifer.
"It is really kind of hard to put it into words, because it has been 12 years, and there has been a lot of blood, sweat and tears along the way," Jennifer said.
Jennifer said BeeFree is available through retailers like Kroger, Whole Foods, Target and Earth Fare.
Walmart.com is the newest on the list, with some products available now and the rest of the lineup coming online by Sept. 1.
"It's momentum — a big part of it is momentum. Some of the biggest retailers in the world have their eyes on us," Jennifer said.
Jennifer said BeeFree has nearly doubled sales every year since 2010, thanks to the support of family and friends.
"It's kind of like a tumbleweed effect, but it's super fun," Jennifer said.
Now, August and Jennifer say BeeFree will reach even more communities nationwide through its new partnership with Walmart.com.
"Things are not always easy, but with determination and hard work and persistence, you can make your dreams come true," Jennifer said.