Lillie Mae Chocolates pivots to gluten-free options
Lillie Mae Chocolates of Marshalltown, owned by Aimee Deimerly-Snyder and Tom Snyder, has been taking proactive measures to ensure the safety of customers with celiac disease, an immune reaction to eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye.
The catalyst for the change came to light thanks to longtime friend Ruth Peterson, owner of the online farming supply company PeteCo Supply out of Conrad, who has been diagnosed with celiac disease and was given Lillie Mae chocolate candies as a gift from a financial advisor. Ruth reached out to confirm whether or not the chocolates were in fact gluten free, and upon further investigation and explaining her condition, Aimee realized that some of her products were not truly gluten-free as the standards are much more strict for those with celiac disease as opposed to those who are simply gluten intolerant.
For instance, food containing gluten cannot even touch gluten-free food that is intended to be consumed by a person with celiac disease. Otherwise, if a person with celiac disease consumes gluten, they can potentially experience severe digestive symptoms such as diarrhea, weight loss, bloating, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and constipation as well as symptoms unrelated to the digestive system including anemia, loss of bone density, blistered skin rash, mouth ulcers, headaches, numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, joint pain, fatigue and cognitive impairment.
Aimee took Peterson’s concerns to heart and made necessary changes to her operation in order to accommodate the growing number of people with celiac disease. Research was conducted on this unfamiliar condition, and Aimee took a food safety class with her son Spencer to pass along crucial information to employees in order to raise awareness on the severity of celiac disease and the importance of implementing newly found safety measures.
One of the biggest food safety practices implemented is setting aside specific gluten-free dipping days in order to avoid cross-contamination. On these days, all surfaces are cleaned, all pans are recleaned, the chocolate machine is taken apart and cleaned top to bottom, gluten-free labels are used and, of course, only gluten free products are prepared.
“Mentally, when we have gluten-free day here, it kind of puts everybody in a different state of mind that this is really the process, and today we’re focusing on extra safety for our customers,” Aimee said. “This is actually a safety issue because it [gluten] can make them [celiacs] have major responses in their bodies. They get insanely sick.”
Food safety practices implemented at Lillie Mae also include glove changes for employees before handling gluten-free products, using contrasting white cupcake liners, using contrasting white boxes with special labels, covering gluten-free items with glass domes and labeling online orders immediately with a red marker indicating which products are gluten-free. Aimee also does her due diligence when shopping for gluten-free ingredients including gluten-free nuts, which can be hard to find as many nuts are processed in facilities that also process cereals that contain gluten, creating a higher possibility of cross-contamination.
Peterson is relieved and appreciative that a small business like Lillie Mae Chocolates is seriously taking celiac disease into consideration for their customer base. The employees at Lillie Mae do not make a fuss or view the accommodation as a hassle, and they are not only willing, but happy to meet the needs of those with celiac disease.
“Lillie Mae is a prime example of a small business that can do it and can do it extremely well,” she said. “Celiacs, when they walk into a place [restaurant], they automatically have anxiety. They feel like they’re being pushy or demanding in their requests. They’re made to feel like they’re an inconvenience. Aimee’s staff goes above and beyond that like it’s no big deal which is such a relief because celiacs just want to go out and feel like a normal human, like they did before they got sick. In terms of a small business, it really shows that it’s completely doable.”
Lillie Mae Chocolates is located at 217 N. 13th St. in Marshalltown, and their website is lilliemaechocolate.com. They can also be reached at email@example.com or (641) 758-3155 by phone.
Contact Andrew Ubben at 641-753-6611 or