Thursday, May 28, 2009

Why I love My Job as a Gluten Free Product Specialist

When I was diagnosed with celiac disease more than 12 years ago, I couldn't have imagined it would lead me to a new career. I am the gluten-free product specialist at Return to Eden, a health food store in Atlanta. And it's the most fulfilling job I have ever had.

Through my job at Return to Eden, I get to be the person I desperately needed twelve years ago. Someone who could help me grocery shop, find recipes and give me cooking tips. Someone who could help me find restaurants with gluten free menus, direct me to local support groups, and most importantly "hold my hand" and guide me as I negotiated the gluten-free diet. I can't describe the joy I feel when a customer's face lights up after having discovered there is good gluten free food at their fingertips.

I do a lot of things at the health food store to help gluten-free shoppers, but most importantly, I label all of our gluten-free grocery products with a purple "Gluten Free" sign. The sign makes it really easy to identify the gluten-free products available at the store while eliminating all the tedious ingredient label reading (unless there are more allergens to avoid).

The second most important part of my job is to research and recommend new gluten free products. After all, all gluten-free food is not created equal, so it needs to be evaluated by someone with gluten-free expertise before a decision is made to carry/not carry the product. With the growing number of vendors manufacturing gluten free products, there is almost an overwhelming amount of new products to consider, so it is crucial to have someone with experience reviewing them.

The third most important part of my job at Return to Eden is giving guided store tours. I point out all the gluten-free products we carry while walking a customer through the store and I let them sample products. The gluten free diet can be quite expensive, so it is nice to be able to try a product before buying. I personalize their shopping experience.

Meanwhile, the kinds of things I do continue to grow as the needs of our gluten free shoppers evolve. I participate in support group meetings, coordinate in-store events, speak at local doctors offices and attend trade shows. I stay current on gluten-free topics through research using magazines such as Gluten-Free Living and groups, such as National Foundation for Celiac Awareness

I feel so lucky to have found my calling as a gluten-free product specialist. I suspect there aren't too many others out there with a job quite like mine. I worked in the 'corporate' world for more than ten years prior, so I know how hard it is to find the one job that is completely fulfilling and meant for you.

Return to Eden is a Natural Foods Market that has been in business for more than 15 years. They strive to support those who are on restricted diets, especially the wheat-free/gluten-free diet. They have made it their mission to provide pure foods and supplements, support organic products and encourage health education. Check out the website for more information.

1 comment:

  1. Good for you! Its so hard to find a job u like. "If you love what you do it ain't work" -- Mark Twain