Back from the Brink: Awrey’s Launches Gluten-free Products

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Livonia-based Awrey’s Bakery revealed Wednesday a new gluten-free bake room — exactly one year after CEO James McColgan and Chairman Ron Beebe saved the more than 100- year-old company from closing its doors.

“We are going to produce a full line of gluten-free products, not because gluten-free products are hot right now, but because gluten-free products are very healthy food,” Beebe says. “We are committed to becoming the largest supplier of gluten-free products in North America.”

The new bake room was been designed to operate without the possibility of contamination from other products being made in the Livonia plant, including such ingredients as the protein complex found in wheat, barley, rye, and triticale.

Awrey’s has already launched close to 40 gluten-free products, including flour, brownie mix, pasta, bread, buns, muffins, and dinner rolls. The products are expected to be in Michigan grocery stores next month.

When McColgan and Beebe purchased the then 104-year-old company eight minutes before it went up for auction last year, the operation was back up and open within three weeks, but it took several months to convince former vendors and customers that Awrey’s was capable of a comeback, McColgan says.

“Has it been a rosy picture? Absolutely not,” McColgan says. “It took our vendors a long time to believe we were actually going to pay our bills. It took our corporate customers a long time to believe that we were still here. We are very fortunate to have a lot of our old customers coming back.”

Since then, the company has expanded its USDA production facility, recently became Safe Quality Food certified, and launched a new line of pastries that include a meat pie. Its customers include Gordon Food Service, Sysco Detroit, U.S. Food Service, Kroger, and Meijer.

“A year from now we intend to more than double the employment of this company,” Beebe says. “We intend to more than double the sales of this company, and we intend to become the best company that Awrey’s has ever been.”

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