Zero G History

by Liz Irwin, recipe developer for Zero-G Wholemeal Bread Mix

In 2002, my boys — two sons (then 2 and 4 years) and a husband (looking beyond his years!) — were diagnosed to need a gluten free diet. To make life easier, I went along for the ride. I’ve been climbing the GF learning curve ever since. For years it was a real struggle to find replacements for breakfast and lunch. Toast and sandwiches made from shop-bought GF bread were disappointing and expensive. I’d bring home a loaf that cost three times as much as “normal” bread, only to find it dry and crumbly, and likely to disintegrate before I got the butter spread. More insidiously, it lacked much nutritional value. Going gluten free makes it harder to get the fibre your body needs, and I needed a bread for my family that had more fibre in it, but one that my 2 year old would not be tempted to spit out all the seeds.

Like many other GF cooks before me, I turned to baking my own bread. My early efforts were sometimes worse than the bought ones; lots of collapsed loaves, many like bricks, and some the ducks wouldn't even touch. But over time — it took 4 years! — my husband finally said “this is it, you’ve done it!” And the kids said “please may I have some more bread” or words to that effect. At last I had learned how to reliably turn out a wholemeal bread with a moist texture and good flavour. The boys could have sandwiches in their lunches again. The bread wasn’t crumbling even after 3 days, and it made great toast, French toast, and toasted sandwiches. I even served it up to non-GF family and friends, and they were none the wiser, in fact they complemented me on my lovely home made bread.

I realised that gluten free people were all searching for that special loaf of bread...

I decided to take the bread along to one of the local Coeliac Society meetings to gauge their response. The majority said it was the best gluten free bread they had ever tasted! This was encouraging. I realised that gluten free people were all searching for that special loaf of bread that was like “real bread” and that had more substance to it than plain rice bread, but that many did not have the time or inclination to embark on their own experimental bread making exercises. Gluten free acquaintances also loved the bread I was making and asked me to bag up the mix for them, as they didn’t have the time to shop for all 11-plus different ingredients, let alone painstakingly and precisely measure each one of them. Nothing happens overnight, but I soon found that word of mouth was spreading and a business was developing. My next obstacle was to come up with a name for my new business. This was way harder than I could imagine and after months of sleepless nights lying awake thrashing out different combinations of possible names, it was my husband who finally thought up Zero, and a friend suggested the G on the end. Thankfully my new neighbour turned out to be a graphic designer (Decipher Designs) and her family ended up needing a gluten free diet also, so she developed Zero G for me and I paid her in bread mix. Funny how life works out!

...the best thing for me was realising that I had made a difference...

My husband says I’m not a very good business person, mainly because I gave away too many free mixes, but I felt I needed feedback about the mix and if it worked on different machines and what problems people encounter. Although not everyone gave me feedback, the majority did, and this helped me develop better instructions and build up a customer base. Soon I was sending my mix to Auckland, Hamilton, Blenheim, Dunedin, Southland and throughout Christchurch. But the best thing for me was realising that I had made a difference to the simple things in life for people with this difficult dietary requirement. It still hurts the I have not been able to keep the cost down as much as I would have liked, as I know first hand just how expensive a gluten free diet is. I am continuing to try out new flour recipes in the hope I can develop a cheaper mix, but at the same time I do not want to sacrifice quality. So there you have it.

Today, there are more gluten free breads available on the market, but to get a nutritious wholemeal loaf is still not easy, so we’ve solved the problem for you. No more travelling across town to buy all the ingredients, or to find the loaf you wanted to buy had sold out. Just order online or txt your order to have it delivered to your door, follow the easy instructions developed for bread machines (you can cook it in a conventional oven but it is better in a machine) and you can turn out a lovely nutritious sandwich loaf. The only difficult bit is deciding what to put in your sandwich or on your toast!

- Liz Irwin.

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