Alabama grain-free bakery goes 'Beyond Paleo'

North Alabama's Liberated Specialty Foods expanding across U.S.

Jennifer R. Statham for AL.com

Over the last two years Stacey Schlaman and her crew at Liberated Specialty Foods has moved from primarily serving patrons in North Alabama to serving those with special dietary needs across the United States.

Originally known as Nourish Bakery, Schlaman established the business now known as Liberated Specialty Foods in 2015 as a way to give those with special dietary needs easier access to premium baked goods, sauces, and other fine foods.

The commercial bakery, whose motto is "Beyond Paleo," has introduced more than 75 grain-free, gut-friendly processed foods to the market, making it easier for those with special diets to partake in their favorite foods without breaking the bank or spending hours in the kitchen.

Gut check

Inspired by her love of healthy eating and the necessity to treat her daughter's autoimmune conditions, one of which is Celiac's disease, Schlaman began further research into how to improve gut health. She said two books changed her way of thinking. She learned about the effects of eliminating a diet of starches and sugars through "Breaking the Vicious Cycle," by Elaine Gottschall, and "Gut and Psychology Syndrome" by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride.

While she had been a long-time advocate for avoiding gluten and eating "Paleo", she learned many autoimmune conditions, such as Celiac's disease and Crohn's disease, can be helped and controlled by a Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) and a Gut and Psychology Syndrome diet (GAPS).

"There's no room for failure because that's what triggers flares with autoimmunities," Schlaman said.

The problem with dietary restrictions is that many foods have additives or unlabeled ingredients. As Schlaman began to understand her daughter's health needs she also began to spend hours in the kitchen baking "safe" food for her family to eat. Having to bake for a grain-free household began to feel like "recreating Thanksgiving daily," she said.

Schlaman spent more than a year exhaustively baking and creating grain-free recipes for her family. However, the more she spoke with others she realized she was not alone, and there was a real need for convenient grain-free foods.

So, as fate would have it, she and her husband, Jeff, found a small church for sale not too far from where they live. They decided to buy the place and open a bakery.

"Where the oven and stove center is now, is where the baptismal was, and really it didn't take much reconfiguring," Schlaman said. "It's kind of prophetic in ways, it's re-establishing people's health. There's several people who come in here who get teary-eyed...There is not a better population to serve. They literally are so thankful and they give us our ideas."

Liberating others

Schlaman has a professional background in distribution and business, but she gathered her skills in baking from her mother, an at-home baker, and working at a bakery during her college years. She had been a long-time Paleo supporter but for people like her daughter, she said, the diet has to go "Beyond Paleo."

Liberated Specialty Foods follows Paleolithic or "Paleo" diet guidelines, excluding dairy products and processed foods, typically focusing on a diet including proteins, vegetables, fruits and nuts.

However, the Paleo diet allows disaccharide and polysaccharide sugars, where the Liberated Specialty Foods commercial bakery goes "Beyond Paleo" to implement a Specific Carbohydrate Diet, only using monosaccharide sugars, leaving out all grains and complex carbohydrate foods.

The bakery's recipes are also vegetarian.

Monosaccharides, or single sugar carbohydrates, are easier to digest for those who struggle with autoimmune diseases, allergies, etc., thus giving their stomach and intestinal tract time to reduce inflammation, heal and absorb the nutrients their bodies need from the foods they eat, Schlaman said.

"The marketplace had to come around to understanding what we brought to the table. Paleo was already present in a lot of the retailers, but the autoimmune community really hadn't blown up as much and demanded a little bit more from them. Gluten-free was everywhere, but finding grain-free was tricky and in that year I think the market caught up to what we were on to," she said.

As the market caught up, her business grew exponentially. Liberated Specialty Foods began in 2015 as a bakery with a four-person crew including Schlaman. It was opened six days a week and had a limited menu.

Now, the bakery is opened to public dining only on Fridays and Saturdays. However, since becoming a certified commercial bakery, Schlaman has an all-women crew of 14 "baker babes" that produce more than 75 products for orders online and large retailers across the United States. Schlaman said, the business added a warehouse to accommodate more than 100 percent growth in the last year.

"People want a transparent label. They want to know exactly what they're eating. I think people are really cautious and not so quick to take the antibiotic anymore. They're asking more questions, and I think that trickled down through the food industry to asking 'what in the world is that in my food?' Even bigger food manufacturers are being held to higher standards now, just with their labeling," Schlaman said.

Liberated Specialty Foods can be found in all southern and midwest Whole Food Market stores, and nationwide in Earth Fare stores. Earth Fare was the first large retailer to take the entire Liberated Specialty Foods line. Liberated Specialty Foods can also be found in west coast stores Nugget Markets and Rainbow Grocery.

The top three most popular products sold by Liberated Specialty Foods are the pizza crust, waffles and coconut breads. The company sales a wide-variety of breads, condiments, breakfast treats, crackers, snacks, buns, crusts, and desserts, all abiding by SCD, GAPS and vegetarian standards.

"I don't like using the word simple because the process is not simple in making this food but the ingredients are insanely simple. There's not an ingredient anywhere in here that you shouldn't be able to find in your pantry at home. They're not lab-created, they're hand-made. The baker that developed the recipe is the one making it."

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Article Alabama grain-free bakery goes 'Beyond Paleo' compiled by www.al.com

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