Natural Foods Merchandiser

Industry Innovator Award: Pamela Giusto-Sorrells of Pamela's Products

Giusto-Sorrells has serious naturals cred. In 1940, her grandparents opened a health food store in San Francisco, where her dad manufactured, among other things, nasty-tasting gluten-free cookies. Giusto-Sorrells baked 50 batches of gluten-free cookies before she hit on the right flavor combination. She launched Pamela’s Products in Ukiah, Calif., in 1988, pioneering the concept that gluten free doesn’t have to be taste free.

In a world of white Wonder Bread, I was the girl with the brown bread. So even though I’m not a celiac, I understand food stigmas because I was always the girl eating the weirdo natural food.

I think there should be huge communities for older people that encourage nutrition, bodywork and meditation, that aren’t expensive to live in, that give you privacy and where you can have your friends all around you.

I was a drama major. I was going to act and get an Academy Award, but there was too much rejection. No one rejects you when you give them cookies.

When I was growing up, we never thought natural foods could be a countrywide movement.

Starch foods are comfort foods, and comfort foods are part of being human. Because celiacs are across the country, every store needs to carry starch foods they can eat. That is my goal.

I think the biggest reason why Americans are overweight is because we’re always looking for food that’s going to give us 100 percent physical and emotional satisfaction.

It always fascinates me when I meet people who aren’t food people. I’m interested in the taste, the texture, everything about food. I even love how it’s plated.

I think beautiful packaging makes food look enticing, so I put gold on my first packages. People in the industry just freaked out. They thought no one would buy it if the package didn’t have tie-dye or a marijuana leaf on it.

I’m worried about the new companies that are making “gluten-free” foods that aren’t really gluten free. This isn’t a frivolous diet—it’s about someone’s health. That’s why I’m trying to get the [Food and Drug Administration] standard of gluten free to be 20 parts per million.

A 9-to-5 job scares me to death.

My dad told me I couldn’t run the family business because I had two brothers who would do it. When I started my company, for years they thought I was a girl just playing. But now, 21 years later, my dad says, “I should have had her run the business.”

–Interview by Vicky Uhland

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