Chicago company rolls gluten-free soft pretzels

April 14, 2011 10:00:17 AM PDT
With the increase in the number of children diagnosed with severe food allergies and intolerance, many companies are making gluten-free products.

A popular soft pretzel company is giving kids a special treat.

Last year Kim and Scott Holstein opened Cafe Twist in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood. It's a place where parents can take their kids to enjoy various types of pretzel sandwiches.

The Holsteins have been producing stuffed soft pretzels in a nut-free facility since 1995.

"When we first started our business we had friends' child across the street with a severe nut allergy," said Kim, "and we really saw firsthand how hard it can be when you have a child with an allergy to even go out to lunch, go out and have a meal."

In February, the company rolled out the first gluten-free soft pretzel.

"We've been working on a gluten-free pretzel for the past over two years," said Kim. "Gluten is the ingredient that makes a pretzel elastic, which enables you to twist it, so creating a twisted product is very challenging...The ingredients themselves cost a lot more, and especially putting in those ancient grains, but that was important to us."

At Cafe Twist, 10-year-old Rachel Zemil enjoys her gluten-free soft pretzel sandwich.

"They taste really good," said Rachel. "I have celiac disease, which is when you can't eat wheat, oats, barley, rye, malt.

"It is frustrating, because at school we have birthday celebrations, and, well, I can't eat the cake and the things that my friends can eat, so I feel left out."

Laura Suskin's 3-year-old son Max also has celiac disease

"He was very sick when he was a baby, and so he's still recovering from that. His liver wasn't functioning probably, so health-wise, it's affecting him, and it affects him socially because he can't eat," said Laura. In pre-school we have to be careful about what he puts in his mouth.

"This is a normal experience to get to come here and eat something, and a lot of times we just don't get that experience, and there's only limited places we can go."

Kim and Scott's soft pretzels are available in the frozen section at stores like Whole Foods.

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