Renee and Wendy at the Library
Creating Our Team
Mattson Food Product
Partnering with Plastics
University of California, Irvine
Producing Our Products
Cal Poly University, San Luis Obispo
hen Renee and Wendy first met in 2004, both quickly discovered that they shared similar appetites for adventure, learning, growing, giving, and helping. These were the ideals that brought them together. But it was the compassion, humor and perseverance that cemented the enduring friendship. As they discussed each other’s histories, they realized that they had both cared for loved ones who had experienced dysphagia and the frustrations of preparing appealing, pureed foods. Suddenly the heavens parted, the earth shook, and a radiant light bulb switched on. With notebooks, computers, and a healthy amount of determination tucked snuggly in their briefcases, Wendy and Renee were off to the library. With Renee’s BA and MS in hand, and Wendy’s BA, MA and PHd in her back pocket, these gals were no strangers to research. After weeks combing through documents, medical literature, periodicals, and consuming a hefty supply of chocolate bars, both women emerged triumphed with conclusive data. Their findings revealed that there were 25 million people in the United States who were afflicted with dysphagia. Evidence further suggested that these individuals were subjected to malnutrition due to substandard diets. Patients were rejecting their blended foods because they lacked shape, taste, and robbed them of their dignity. Malnutrition was becoming one of the leading causes of death among dysphagia patients. It was obvious to Wendy and Renee that there was a need that begged to be addressed. Wendy’s one minute phone call to Renee announcing that she wanted to work on a solution to the food dilemma became a pivotal point in their lives. When asked “Well, Renee, are you on board or not,” Renee, without hesitation, enthusiastically replied, “Yes!” And thus, Gourmet Puree was born.
The journey from farm to fork was rigorous. Although Renee had a successful therapy practice, and Wendy had been a school administrator and founder of a children’s museum, a Julia Child, they were not. Their cooking skills were comprised of putting together daily meals for their growing families. Renee’s bundle of six youngsters, and Wendy’s three, meant the two moms learned to ingeniously camouflage hamburger helper in countless, mysterious ways. But nothing in their diverse experiences could have prepared them for the daunting task of creating recipes that would taste good, provide the necessary nutrients, and look appealing. In addition, the foods would also need to be easy to heat, smooth in texture, and simple to prepare.
After two years of experimenting with various ingredients and binders, Wendy and Renee had reached their limit. It was time to bring in the experts! Mattson, one of the largest food development companies in the nation, was hired to take on the challenge. After 2 1/2 years of sampling and modifying the foods under the careful guidance of project manager, Debra Abram, Renee and Wendy came to a delicious conclusion that they finally had their products.
During this time, the two business partners were also wrestling with the development of the molds for each food. Both ingredients and molds had to be created in unison to test the products correctly. These were grueling times filled with one step forward, 150 steps back. Crossed fingers and crossed toes became the exercise routine each morning. The women consulted RapidTech with the Engineering Department at University of California, Irvine. With their engineering genius, sprinkled with three years of creativity, patience, and a good dose of humor, RapidTech produced a prototype for each food.
Gourmet Puree, at last, was prepared to manufacture their first small run. With the assistance of Dr. Keith Vorst, 3600 molds were produced at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. Dr. Hany Khalil, Dr. Robert Delmore and their competent team in the Food Science and Nutrition Department cooked, filled, packaged, and froze our foods in the manufacturing plant on campus. Their professional staff and wonderful leadership made the experience productive and enjoyable.
Now Wendy and Renee are thrilled to be able to share Gourmet Puree with you and are extremely proud and grateful to have experienced this journey with so many invaluable team players. Their goal is to bring healthy, realistic-looking, pureed food that is easy to heat, and smooth to eat to any patient with chewing difficulties. Enjoy!