The last thing you would call Namaste Foods is braggadocious. In fact they are humble, to a fault. So much so that you may never even know they are a thriving food manufacturer in Coeur d’Alene with a glowing, national reputation.
Namaste Foods, which has been located in Coeur d’Alene for 14 years, creates and manufactures a line of gluten-free, allergen-free foods – but not just a line of foods, one that meets a growing need for those sensitive to both gluten and food additives. Their line of foods includes brownies – that I sampled. (I’ll come back to this important point).
Over time this endeavor evolved from kitchen table experiments (picture kids running from mom as she tries to feed them the latest gluten-free experiment, again) into a true success story in a competitive, big money niche where Namaste brings hope and home-style cooking to a hungry crowd.
Daphne Taylor, Namaste’s owner and CEO, set out to both discover and create gluten and allergen-free foods when she began to see a growing need in her community. In her quest for good health and an appropriate diet, there was not a more logical place to start than with brownies, of course. She quickly pressed forward to find new ways to mix fours, flavors and techniques. From pizza crust to pasta, the variety grows each year, as does Namaste’s following.
The smell of brownies at the Namaste Foods facility is just too much – it’s almost torture. It’s one of the items they have to bake and “test” on a daily basis (for “quality control” they tell me) and a visit to the test kitchen revealed a still warm, fresh pan of brownies just waiting to be “tested”. (Before I beat this into the ground – the brownies are amazing. They’re moist, chocolate-y, fluffy, and I ate one that was the size of a cheeseburger. Also, their cups of soup are also quite good.)
Namaste is all about the quality of their foods. The amount of quality control that goes into everything is mind boggling. Everything they do is recorded on paper, tested, double checked, triple checked and verified, usually by two people, for all ingredients, recipes and flavors they produce. It’s impressive. It all tastes amazing. Quality testing is important, but you can’t “test” your way into delicious. That’s where 17 moms and cooking enthusiasts who make up almost the entire staff at Namaste Foods comes in to play. The variety of foods they have looks like grandma’s recipe book, and the few I’ve tried have been excellent.
Namaste fills an important need and they do it well. Gluten and allergen-free foods are a billion dollar market as more people look for solutions to solve the sluggishness, pains and concentration issues that have been tied to a diet containing gluten and additives. As a company, addressing this niche is their mission. For Daphne, it is personal and gives her an amazing amount of drive and energy to keep growing in a competitive niche – double digit growth year over year for the last 10 years, actually. But she won’t talk about that nor her role in that. She’s very careful to deflect credit to others in her company while taking a very personal, high-touch approach to how she runs a business and manages people. That’s where she starts to shine, eyes lighting up and rate-of-speech doubling quickly. Get CEO Daphne talking about the people she works with and her love for them and she’ll never stop. Bring up the topic of good food, community and “keeping it local” and the conversation goes on without a break. Ask her about a marketing strategy and she’ll turn green and change the subject back to food and people. Again, this is a humble spirit at work. I’m not supposed to say that she’s the driving force behind the company, but she is the driving force, and it shows. Her personality is on everything they manufacture, and all things business and marketing. This low-key approach is unexpected because of how much they appear to overdeliver.
And there may lie the secret of success for this unique, local company. Daphne’s passion for people and food seems to supersede her desire for gluten-free world domination (ok, they are in Costco), nor does she seem to fear the mega-sized food manufactures who are quickly flooding the market with versions of gluten-free foods for the masses. Namaste is a proud, small town company with a heart for those who need a viable alternative for mild to rather serious food sensitivities. The fact that they’ve been around years before gluten-free became “popular” should tell you something. You can find them in many local health and specialty food locations (Pilgrim’s, The Flour Mill, Super 1 Foods, and alike), at CDA Costco, across the country and on the web.
Written by Miles Torres