Breaking into the Bakery: Gluten Free Bakeries Coming in Hot

Gluten free cooking is a test of character. Just ask Ali Kuhfus, the Iowa State student who tackeled bringing sweet delights to celiacs.

Kuhfus, owner of Ali’s Cupcakes in Ames, a private, in-home bakery started her bakery off of gluten-free products. With her mother and brother both having Celiac, Ali grew up eating a lot of gluten-free foods, and seemed to find no major difference between them and regular, non- gluten-free foods.

“I always loved baking, especially cupcakes, and did some research. I found very few bakeries that even had anything gluten-free, because they were worried about cross-contamination with their non-gluten-free baked goods. Since my family has always had a gluten-free oven of sorts, I figured why not start something,” Kuhfus said.

Kuhfus, a sophomore at Iowa State, is studying Education and wants to become a Home Economics teacher at the High School level.

“Even though my business is in no way “thriving,”  yet, I do have some religious customers who thank me every day for what I am doing. I want to teach that to my students someday. Not only the value of a customer, but also the idea of going out of the box with your creativity. That’s what I’m striving for with my gluten-free cupcakes,” said Kuhfus.

Though the gluten-free industry is growing by the minute, the challenges that come with having a successful gluten-free business are countless.

“Even though I’ve only really considered my business a “business” for about a year and a half, I’m already learning the hard way about the many difficulties that come with it,” Kuhfus said.

Celiac disease, levels of intolerance and allergies to wheat and gluten vary greatly between each person. While some people with a low intolerance might not react to eating a product with gluten in it, some people with high intolerance can’t even be exposed to gluten physically. The same levels vary in people with Celiac Disease.

“I have two people in my family who have Celiac, so I like to think I’m as “gluten-free” as possible when baking. But I still have to be cautious of it every day when baking and with every order. You never know when someone is going to come knocking at your door saying they ate one of your supposedly gluten-free cupcakes, and was sick for the next week over it,” said Kuhfus.

It costs her twice as much to make a cupcake, but despite the pressure on the wallet, Kuhfus is determined to make a difference.

“Oh yeah, it’s definitely expensive,” laughed Kuhfus. “The thing is, you really have to be passionate about what you’re doing when you are baking gluten-free because you probably aren’t going to profit much for awhile. The ingredients are so expensive, so unfortunately you have to charge a lot more for the cupcakes for things to even out. So that eliminates a lot of my customers who don’t HAVE to eat gluten-free, because why would they spend 2 more dollars testing out a gluten-free cupcake when they can just have a normal one for a lot cheaper?”

So why a cupcakery? Over the last several years, the growth in a selected type of bakery boomed, cupcakes taking the lead. While some people believed the industry would fade out, a recent report from Balboa Capital, a business equipment company, shows no sign of decrease in cupcakeries to happen anytime soon. In a recent blog from Balboa, they report that cupcake sales are expected to rise 20% in the next five years. The tasty treats are becoming increasingly popular for graduation parties, birthday parties, and even weddings, replacing traditional cakes.

“People love the diversity that cupcakes can bring to a party or celebration of sorts. You no longer have to serve only one flavor of cake, and have people not eating it because they don’t want that flavor. Cupcakes give you the availability to have numerous flavors at your events and everyone can be happy!” Kuhfus said.

Although the industry of only gluten-free bakeries is still on the rise, already famous cupcakeries are making the change and adding them to their menus, like this red velvet gluten-free cupcake from Sprinkles Cupcakes. Sprinkles has locations in Beverly Hills, Chicago, Dallas, Groveton, Houston, Los Angeles, and New York to name a few.

They are one of the most popular, celebrity-endorsed cupcakeries in the US serving up celebrities like Tyra Banks, Kelly Rippa, and even Martha Stewert.

Making a gluten-free cupcake has only sky-rocketed their already booming business in the big name groups, even using the cupcakes for charity fundraisers. From October 29- November 6, Sprinkles donates the profits made off of their vegan and gluten-free cupcakes to Americans for the Arts, a non-profit organization that works to serve, advance and lead the network of organizations and individuals who cultivate, promote, sustain and support the arts in America.

With the cupcake industry booming comes the shadowed industry behind it, the gluten-free cupcake business. Though the numbers aren’t quite as big as non-gluten-free cupcakeries, the gluten-free business is making a name for itself in the best way possible, by serving the overlooked customers, who may soon become THE customers.

Ali’s Cupcakes, and other bakeries like it will continue to grow, because according to Ali, “Everyone deserves a good cupcake.”


Q & A with Dietitian, Dean Schillinger

I sat down with Hy-Vee’s Certified Dietitian in pursuit to learn more about Celiac, Gluten free

Imagefoods and how he has adapted in his career to the changes in those industries. After the Q & A session, I was given a tour of the Health Market of Hy-Vee containing sections of organic and gluten free, and other food-allergen foods. While touring, Dean informed me they are going to beginexpansion of the Health Market as they feel the increase in food allergens and healthy food choices is something that could change the grocery store industry in major ways.

Q: How did you decide on this career path?

A: I was always into running, started training for trialthalons and realized I needed to be putting the right things in my body to keep up my energy. I was 23 before I started college though so I was a non-traditional student and chose to attend the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point for my Undergrad, then attended Iowa State University to complete my Dietetic internship.

Q: How often do you meet with people with gluten intolerances or people who have Celiac disease?

A: It varies. Some weeks, I may not talk to anyone with it, some weeks I may talk to 6 people. I also recommend gluten free diets to people who may be having stomach problems or problem losing weight, so it comes up in a lot of my conversations.

Q: What changes have you had to learn to adjust to in the gluten free or allergen industry?

A: Simply put, there’s a lot more people being diagnosed so a lot of changed had to be made, awareness being the biggest thing. I now go to yearly conferences and a lot of meetings in the community about celiac awareness and the gluten free lifestyle. We also have a much more accurate listing of GF ingredients and cookbooks for people since 1 in 133 people will be diagnosed.

Q: Why do you think it’s important for people with celiac to meet with a dietitian?

A: Since the statistic is so high for people who will get celiac or an intolerance, it is important for them to fully comprehend what it means to be gluten free. Also, people are diagnosed so much later in life sometimes, so people have been consuming foods their entire life that are hurting them. We are able to provide them with resources and support of how to make that lifestyle change and make them feel worlds better.

My tour with Dean can be found here: