IOWA CITY — Anna Sobaski was making her mark on the gluten-free world, long before nutritionists, dietitians and celebrities uttered the phrase.
A Type 1 Diabetic, Sobaski was diagnosed with celiac disease in 1999. “Food is so social and something you take for granted until it’s taken away from you,” she said.
She along with family members and friends with the gluten intolerance lamented the fact they could no longer eat bread.
“What existed then (for gluten-free bread), I couldn’t even swallow.”
Sobaski grew up in Iowa City and got her undergraduate degree at the University of Iowa before moving to the East Coast for about 20 years. She got her Master’s of Fine Arts at the Maryland Institute College of Art and her chef training at the Natural Gourmet Institute for food and health in New York City.
After working as a teacher for many years, Sobaski sought to become a personal chef. She even traveled to Los Angeles to explore options before finding herself back in Iowa City.
“I realized I really liked being in Iowa. I felt like I could focus,” she said. “But my work was so specialized then that I had to create my own job.”
And so Sobaski, a trained chef, began experimenting with ways to create better gluten-free bread. She started researching and traveling to conferences and came up with a bread that had a nutritional profile very close to whole-wheat bread.
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“Then I found out about packaging and took it step by step,” she said. “Every day I just made a list of what I needed to accomplish,” she said.
That was in 2002. Today, Breads from Anna features 12 different mixes, including pancake mixes, pumpkin bread, banana bread and a pie crust — all of which are gluten- and allergen-free.
“What has always mattered most to me is knowing my customers, understanding what they need,” she said.
Sobaski works with a team of 12 employees to keep up with the growing business. From the Iowa City location they handle research and development, source the ingredients, and facilitate the production, packaging and distribution.
She’s also worked with the Entrepreneurial Development Center in Cedar Rapids, for funding and marketing assistance. Sobaski said she is proud to have started her business with her own dime, but needed assistance to keep up with increasing competition. She recalls that in 2009 alone, some 1,200 gluten-free companies were created.
Breads from Anna mixes can be bought online through its website and at Hy-Vee, Fareway and New Pioneer Co-op. The mixes are carried in every state and overseas.
“We are still developing new recipes and working on new products,” Sobaski said.
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At a glance
•Name: Anna Sobaski
•Company: Breads from Anna
•Address: 3007 Sierra Ct., Iowa City
•Video online: Find this story at www.TheGazette.com/b380 for a video about Breads from Anna.