The Mariposa Blog
Tuesday July 21, 2015
The Gluten Free Cup of Coffee
Guest Blog courtesy of Milt Gillespie, Owner of Mariposa Labs.
The other day I rolled into my favorite coffee shop and was surprised to learn that my favorite coffee was gluten free. I suppose I just assumed that coffee did not contain wheat protein. By making this claim the shop was telling me that some customers are asking about glutens in their coffee and the shop responded.
A similar dynamic is happening in our personal care products business. Many customers are asking for gluten free, organic, natural, non GMO, or kosher products. Sometimes they ask for multiple features because the features allow them to make desirable marketing claims. Researching and formulating for these claims is now an important part of our business at Mariposa Labs. As we have worked on these products we have learned a few things we think are important.
First, in the personal care product space there are no government standards for any of these types of claims. For example, the FDA has defined what “gluten free” means in food products, less than 20 parts per million (ppm) as measured by a clearly defined analytical tests. But the FDA has made no determination about what gluten free means for personal care products. Apparently the FDA does not feel that gluten in personal care products presents a health risk of sufficient size necessary to justify spending resources to develop and inforce a gluten free standard.
Second, in the absence of government standards many private firms have developed their own standards for what these claims should mean. These firms develop standards and often sell the certification services required to use their particular label mark that they have trademarked. For example a private company in Seattle will issue a gluten free certification and the right to use their label mark for a fee for a specific product and manufacturing process. Their standard is tighter than the FDA standard for gluten free food and they complete a physical inspection of the manufacturing facility. Other gluten free certifications have different standards and procedures. In addition to private certification firms, many retailers have developed their own standards for acceptable ingredients and label claim requirements. Whole Foods is the best known example.
Third, given the detection capabilities of modern analytic methods, it is extremely difficult to prove that a product is completely free of anything. A modern lab can detect gluten proteins down to the parts per billion range given enough time and money. Similar measurement problems are associated with natural, organic and non GMO claims. That means that it is practically not possible to guarantee that any product is completely free of glutens, inorganic compounds, and other trace contaminants.
So when customers come to Mariposa Labs and ask about ingredient claims we work closely with them to identify the private standard they are looking to meet. This generally comes down to a marketing problem for our customers and what label mark they are looking for. We help them assess the extra cost associated with meeting the standard and encourage them to assess the costs and benefits of the claim. After choosing a standard we work closely with the certifying company to complete our part of the process.
And when we are all done and the product is selling like hotcakes we head out for a Cup-a-Joe, gluten free of course.
Director of Business Development