Nuh Gluten was born from an act of love by the owner for her husband who cannot eat gluten. Her mission was to create delicious gluten-free cakes so people, like her husband who cannot eat flour, can still enjoy desserts and cakes.
It was our pleasure to interview the company’s owner, Yaneika Walker-Tomlinson and to learn how she created her artisan bakery that develops and makes fully non-gluten products.
Nuh Gluten comes at a time where more and more people are discovering the need to look for alternatives to wheat as a result of allergies or other health conditions. There is no reason that everyone should not be able to enjoy a cake or a dessert and to satisfy their sweet tooth!
QUESTION: What does your company do?
ANSWER: Nuh Gluten is a gluten free artisan bakery. We produce gluten free cassava cakes from locally grown and manufactured cassava. This means we don’t use imported cassava flour. It is all local.
Q: When did you start the company?
A: My company started in 2018 and we decided to start the business as my husband has atrial tribulation and cannot eat gluten because of this condition. So I started experimenting and I came up with the gluten-free cassava flour.
When we were out, we would realise that there were very few gluten-free cake options. There aren’t many desserts apart from ice-cream that are gluten free either so I began making these cakes and I now have my gluten-free cakes in three cafes around Kingston; Island Coffees Café Devon house, Ocho Rios-Island Village Plaza and Wholesome Café in the Digicel Building on Ocean Blvd.
The cakes are gluten free and flexible as they come in a variety of flavors. I have Jamaican Fruit Cake, Rum and Raisin, Banana Pumpkin Seed but the cassava flour can be used with traditional flavors like carrot cake, chocolate cake. They come at a reasonable cost also.
Q: Tell us a bit about the company’s name – Nuh Gluten.
A: Well, when I was researching about a possible company name, I wanted a name that was authentically Jamaican. I didn’t want to use No Gluten, I wanted a name that would represent Jamaica and the Patois language so that is how I came up with Nuh Gluten.
Q: Has the market in Jamaica grown for gluten-free products?
A: Well, what I have realized over the years and since I began the business is that most of the people that look for gluten-free products have rheumatoid arthritis and other illnesses as the gluten causes inflammation.
Some people go ahead and do their own research about the problem. It is more like a self-diagnosis but they come to that conclusion.
People who are receiving cancer treatment also look for gluten free products and eat “clean”. Most of my customers would like to eat clean and they don`t want to eat any type of food that will cause inflammation in their bodies.
The market is definitely growing.
Q: Tell us a bit about what process you went through to when you started your business.
A: Firstly, I started alone. I went through all the steps of the formal process to register my business. I went to the company’s office to register the business and this was a pretty easy process.
I decided on our how I was going to get my product to the market which was through distribution and person to person selling. I began visiting cafes as they were already established so it was the best way to get the cakes into the cafes.
Nuh Gluten is an artisan business and it is based at home. But, I have purchased the Food Handlers Permit and I have a background in catering. I have a Certification in Catering. So I have the equipment and the knowledge to know what I am doing.
Q: Has anything changed since you started the business? What are these changes?
A: When I started, I began with fruit cake only and I soon realised there was a need for more cakes. That let me to add the other flavours.
A lot people tend to gravitate to eat and then in some areas, the demand lowers so I have to go out and look for new places to sell my cakes.
I really had to do a lot of market research to understand where my customers were and then look for a café in that particular area to fill that demand.
Q: Why is it important for you to be on line as a small business owner?
A: For me, as an artisan who works from home, I don’t have a store front so to have a website, will give me that exposure for people to see me, to see the product and to get to know it.
In this day and age, the first thing a person does when verifying a business is to go online and if you are not online, you don’t exist.
It is very important to be online nowadays.
Q: Do you advertise your product on other digital platforms or with traditional media sources?
A: I don’t really. I started an Instagram page but I didn’t keep up it up to date or upgrade it. I am weak when it comes to marketing the product. My strongest point is producing the product and talking to people. With the marketing side of the business, I could definitely get some help from someone.
Q: Do you work alone or do you have more team members?
A: I work alone but when the workload is heavy, I have casual workers that come in and help out. I take them on under-contract. I don’t want to hire people and have to pay over-head so with contract workers, it works out fine and we are able to reach our product production goals.
Q: Do you have a lot of completion in the creation of gluten free cakes?
A: There isn’t a lot of competition in general terms. There are other companies that make or are dabbling in gluten free products but they also make products with wheat. They also make desserts using regular flour.
I don`t do that and that sets me apart from the competition. Because of my husband’s heart condition, I don’t use any wheat flour in my cooking. I have a completely gluten free kitchen.
Q: Based on your experience, what would be your top three tips you would give to maybe a new generation who wants to become a business owner, start their own business, or is in the process of a startup.
A: Firstly, understand and be knowledgeable about the field you are going into. Secondly, do your market research, because you might have a product but if there is no customer base to purchase your product, you are not in business.
Lastly, your team, whatever you do, you have a have a team. While, I don’t have employees on a full time basis, I don`t do this alone.
And always have a plan! You can’t build a business with a plan!
Q: What do you most enjoy about your business?
A:The greatest thing for me about my business and what I most enjoy is to see the smile on people’s faces when they eat the product. The can`t believe it doesn`t have any flour in it.
This is what I most like about it; the joy people feel when they try my product, especially for the first time. The understand that it is just as delicious as cakes made with regular flour.
Q: What has been your greatest challenge?
A: I would have to say our greatest challenge is finance and getting the products to the market. I am working on getting the products to the market through marketing but if you don`t the financial backing, to get the product where you would like it to be, it is very difficult or won’t be as effective.
If you would have asked me that question before, I would have said business knowledge and finance but I am currently studying entrepreneurship so that is helping me with business knowledge aspect with how to run the business, how to structure the business and all that. So, now it is a financial thing.
Q: Where do you see your business in the next 5 years?
A: In 5 years, I see my business in more store front businesses, cafes and supermarket shelves.
I am not interested in having my own store front business as that would limit us to just one space but I would like to be on a lot of supermarket shelves and possibly even start exporting to other countries.
Q: Do you have even motto that you live by?
A: Well, our company’s motto is “Gluten Free – Delicious Treats without Wheat”. This is simple but sums up what we do and what we are about.
Every week, we highlight a company from Jamaica, within the framework of the MSME Digitalization Plan, whose trajectory, achievements and experience are an inspiration to all of us. It is an honor and a privilege to be able to bring these great stories together and learn from them.