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Natural foods manufacturer brings national operation to Zanesville

A+crew+of+six%2C+including+Cecilia+Ciarlo+%28middle+left%29+pack+the+baking+mix+bags+in+the+Foodworks+Alliance+kitchen+on+Nov.+30.
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Natural foods manufacturer brings national operation to Zanesville

A crew of six, including Cecilia Ciarlo (middle left) pack the baking mix bags in the Foodworks Alliance kitchen on Nov. 30.

A crew of six, including Cecilia Ciarlo (middle left) pack the baking mix bags in the Foodworks Alliance kitchen on Nov. 30.

Jessica Johnston

A crew of six, including Cecilia Ciarlo (middle left) pack the baking mix bags in the Foodworks Alliance kitchen on Nov. 30.

Jessica Johnston

Jessica Johnston

A crew of six, including Cecilia Ciarlo (middle left) pack the baking mix bags in the Foodworks Alliance kitchen on Nov. 30.

By Jessica Johnston, Assistant News Director

From Boulder, Colorado to Florham Park, New Jersey, Bella Gluten Free is selling products across the country, and Zanesville is the current manufacturing hub to supply the demand.

Foodworks Alliance has been an incubating kitchen to help many locally known names manufacture their food products. Names like Lapp It Up! Kombucha tea, Maria Adornetto’s sauces and seasonings, Huston Farm’s canned products and many more.

While the alliance has helped small manufacturers out of neighboring states, picking up a food manufacturer out of Austin, Texas was a little outside of the kitchen’s element.

“I’m literally a food manufacturer out of Austin, Texas and living in the east coast right now in Florham Park New Jersey, which is a little bit south of New York and here I am in Zanesville, Ohio with my product,” Cecilia Ciarlo, owner of Bella Gluten Free, said.

Bella Gluten Free was founded in 2010 as a regional food manufacturer whose focus was on all natural, non-GMO, allergen-free baking.

Ciarlo decided to keep her manufacturing regional to the area of Boulder, Colorado from the company’s founding in 2010 until 2015 when she began to expand her operations.

“They (Colorado) were a hub for natural foods, and we felt we fit the natural foods the most because Non-GMO, gluten free and allergen-free, which is a really great thing in this space but also lends to a lot of trials and tribulations for finding, much of what we’re doing here, co-packing,” Ciarlo said.

Due to an unforeseen manufacturing issue, Bella Gluten Free was forced to find a new manufacturing company as the automated company Ciarlo, and about 20 other manufacturers, had been using became dominated by a much larger manufacturer with daily production needs.

“You can see how it’s very appealing to them to get somebody who they just bring their line in and never have to change it really, you know cleaning down and all of that,” Ciarlo said. “So, we were bumped, and I was looking for, again, everything that meets the criteria of my product, which is several credentials or certifications and so Foodworks Alliance provides a really cool space.”

Jessica Johnston
Carol Humphreys husband and daughter assemble packaging for the baking mix units on Nov. 30.

A team of up to eight people have been contracted through Foodworks Alliance to manufacture Ciarlo’s gluten-free baking mix during a 10-day period. About 4,500 units of the baking mix was anticipated to be completed before Ciarlo wrapped up her operations in Zanesville on Saturday, Dec. 1.

“The beauty of it is, I pulled one (baking mix) from here and one that was produced on the machine and looked at them side-by-side and you would never know, inside and out,” she said. “And these are actually better because I have the zip-lock.”

Bella Gluten Free has products on 1,020 grocery store shelves spanning from a concentration in the west and sprinkled in across the country to newer partnerships on the east coast.

While the all-purpose baking mix was the most immediate need Ciarlo needed to fill, she also produces baking cups tailored to specific recipes that encompass her natural foods model.

Not only has the opportunity filled a need for Ciarlo and her business, but it has been beneficial for Foodworks Alliance who opened its kitchen doors in 2015.

“It’s been really good,” Carol Humphreys, Foodworks Alliance Interim Director, said. “My husband said it best yesterday, we didn’t know what we could do because this did stretch us and allowed us to understand and feel like we are stronger than we might have appeared to ourself. So, a great opportunity for that reason.”

Humphreys added that the whole goal of an incubator is to grow their clients and see them be able to move on to larger productions and expand their market. While Foodworks Alliance is filling an immediate need for Ciarlo, Humphreys is hoping that Bella Gluten Free will find another automated service to produce and co-pack the natural product.

But, for now, Ciarlo is grateful for the space, team and expertise that the Foodworks Alliance organization has provided her from halfway across the country.

“There’s a lot of potential, and it’s meeting a great need and my whole point in this is it doesn’t matter where you are in the life cycle of your product cause we were rockin’ n’ rollin’ and just had kind of the rug pulled out from under us and yet we’re still able to produce and meet our orders and do all of this because of Foodworks Alliance,” Ciarlo said.

Bella Gluten Free products have not found their way to the shelves of any local grocers in the Zanesville-Muskingum County area as many of Ciarlo’s grocery partners are out west or on the east coast. Anyone interested in purchasing the products can find them online at bellaglutenfree.com or on Amazon.

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