Stella's keeps it simple 0
Contributed - From left, Keri Adams, and her son Korbin, get ready to enjoy a plate of Stella's gluten-free perogies, manufactured in Lacombe. Adams began her company after struggling to find gluten-free foods her son would enjoy eating.
When you're a child, finding a food you like can be a challenge. The green veggies your parents put on your plate are less than desirable, the dry pork chops are as appetizing as an old shoe, and tuna casserole is enough to make you run away.
But on those special nights, your mom or dad would present you with a treat as wonderful as ice cream, but substantially less sugary. Sometimes it was perogies, others it was a plate of ravioli drowning in pasta sauce, and if you were extra good, you might even find a pizza pop in your lunch.
This was the motivation for Keri Adams when she began making homemade, gluten-free meals for her son Korbin. She realized the selection in grocery stores weren't good enough for a growing child, especially if he wanted something special on his plate.
Her son has autism, and after trying numerous natural remedies to help with his development, she eventually cut out certain foods from his diet, one of which was gluten.
"Within two days he was sleeping through the night, and was starting to talk and walk and all these great things, so I just kept up with (the diet)," said Adams.
But since she's Ukranian, it's hard to give up gluten completely, especially around the holiday season when perogies are everywhere. Unfortunately, for Korbin, perogies were off-limits.
"We'd be having Christmas dinner, and he loves perogies like the rest of us, but he wouldn't be able to have them," said Adams.
That's when Adams came up with the idea to try and create a gluten-free version of her Baba's perogy recipe. This way Korbin could enjoy the tasty treats just like other children who ate gluten products.
"I put my Baba's recipe with rice flour or non-gluten flour and it wouldn't work, it wouldn't work, but I had a three-year-old wanting perogies," said Adams.
After numerous attempts, Adams finally cracked the recipe. She successfully made the much-desired gluten-free perogies for her young son. She soon began making gluten-free versions of his other favourite foods, including pizza pops and ravioli. From there it was all about word of mouth and soon Adams was getting orders for her gluten-free and kid-friendly foods.
"It's just kind of progressed and within about nine months we went with a distributor because we just couldn't handle the (demand)," said Adams.
And so Stella's Inc. was born.
Named after her Baba, whose altered recipe is still used today to make the perogies, Stella's is available in a number of grocery and health food stores across Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
"Word got around and local health food stores started asking for it," said Adams. "We just signed with corporate Sobeys two months ago."
But signing with a major company doesn't mean the product will suffer in any way. The perogies, pizza pops, and raviolis will continue to be made in a dedicated gluten-free facility in Lacombe and be shipped out by the distributor, just as before.
"We're very strict about that, we only use certified gluten-free flour, and we use all local ingredients when we can," said Adams.
Despite their success, Adams said she has no intention of opening their own store; instead they'll stick to making the products and have someone else distribute them.
"I love making perogies but I'm not (a chef)," said Adams.
In the end it all came down to wanting to feed her son something he'd enjoy, something that any child would enjoy, rather than the typical gluten-free found at grocery stores.
"Having products like ours out on the market, people don't have to do without," said Adams. "They can still have perogies at Christmas or they can throw a pizza pop in the microwave for their kids before soccer practice."