Allergy-safe food making a difference

DEDICATED DUO: Brothers Galen, left, and Sennen Conte display bags of the whole pumpkin seeds that are part of the product line offered by Gerbs Allergy Friendly Foods. The Contes are co-owners of the business.
PBN PHOTO/TRACY JENKINS
DEDICATED DUO: Brothers Galen, left, and Sennen Conte display bags of the whole pumpkin seeds that are part of the product line offered by Gerbs Allergy Friendly Foods. The Contes are co-owners of the business.
PBN PHOTO/TRACY JENKINS

2019 PBN Innovative Companies: Food, Beverage & Agriculture
Gerbs Allergy Friendly Foods


WITH A HISTORY of food allergies impacting their family growing up, Sennen Conte and his brother Galen decided to take action by diving into the research surrounding the prevalence of food allergies across the United States.

Discovering a very limited number of options available for families in the snack-food market and believing they could do better, the Contes founded Gerbs Allergy Friendly Foods in 2006 based upon a mission to provide delicious foods and support to families affected by food allergies.

Gerbs, with a non-GMO, vegan, kosher, and top-14 food allergy-free product line, has grown from a small operation offering two lines of in-shell whole pumpkin seeds sold primarily in local independent grocery stores, to an e-commerce giant with more than 300 products – including bagel chip snacks, gluten-free flour, coffee, dark chocolate, dried fruit, grains, granola, oats, rice, salad mixes, seasonings, seed meals, seed mixes, seeds, and healthy snacks – available in 22 select gourmet categories.

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With two young boys of his own at home, Sennen said his work at Gerbs is personally meaningful.

“It’s truly humbling to speak with a mother who is crying, thanking us for offering safe foods,” Sennen said. “Stories of kids being able to sit in the dugout of a Little League game for the first time eating safe sunflower seeds; a teacher having a parent provide our snacks for the entire classroom so their child doesn’t have to be alienated at snack time. We make a difference, and it’s this service to these children and their families that drives us to be an extension of that security a parent provides.”

After extensive recipe and shelf-life testing, Johnston-based Gerbs launched four lines of gourmet allergy-safe salted and sweet pumpkin and sunflower butters last spring. The company, which recently entered into a vendor program with Amazon.com Inc. that ties into overall monthly and quarterly sales on the Amazon platform, is hoping to gain organic certification and invest in new equipment in the coming year.

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