Jeanine and Todd Morgan have a unique product--some of the best Italian food in the country, and it's gluten-free. Gluten-free pizza may not sound too exciting to some of us, but it's got a definite market. People with Celiac Disease must adhere to a lifelong gluten-free diet in order to avoid the extreme reactions their bodies can have to gluten. Jeanine developed Celiac Disease 15 years ago, motivating her to develop gluten-free alternatives to the standard Italian cuisine that she loves. And she has a passion for sharing the mouth-watering dishes.
The couple moved from New Jersey to Reno shortly after 9/11 to open their own restaurant (first known as The Big Apple and later re-opened as 7 Sisters Italiano), creating a buzz by bringing an authentic New York flavor to the West Coast. More than the excellent food and service, word of their gluten-free menu spread. "You get a recommendation for your good pizza, and you might get 10 new customers," Jeanine says. "You get a good review for gluten-free food, you might reach 500 new customers." One way the word about the restaurant spread was through the local Whole Foods Market, which attracts many people who have Celiac disease. In fact, some Whole Foods managers, who were regulars at the restaurant, approached Jeanine about the possibility of selling her gluten-free products at their store.
This prompted the Morgans' to create a new product line from their gluten-free recipes called 7 Sisters Gluten Free, named after Jeanine and her 6 sisters who have Celiac Disease. The Morgan's also re-opened their restaurant and newly added store under the new name, 7 Sisters Italiano, in Citrus Heights, CA. Their products have been tested and approved by the Celiac Sprue Association, or CSA, making them the only gluten-free restaurant in the state.
A major challenge along the way has been obtaining barcodes to market and sell their new 7 Sisters product line. After speaking with other local business owners, Jeanine realized that obtaining barcodes would not be a simple process. Her online research was overwhelming and confusing, revealing prices that a start-up business could never afford. Persevering in her research, she came upon The Barcode News, a reputable source for barcode news, research, and information. Using the web site and speaking with the web site owner, Craig Aberle, she pinpointed Bar Codes Talk, Inc., a barcode company that seemed to have prices and products to meet her needs.
The conflicting information online, as well as warnings from her neighboring business owners about the "sharks out there," gave Jeanine cause to be skeptical. However, Brandon Gordon's "East Coast, no nonsense attitude" put her at ease. He spent time giving her all the information she needed, and was willing to let her call the shots. He offered to buy back any barcodes she had problems with, and let her buy one at a time to see if Whole Foods would approve them.
Brandon at Bar Codes Talk says that many of his customers approach him with this skepticism:
"The internet has a lot of poor and misleading information about getting barcodes for your products. Since barcodes are a digital item, it is hard for the average person to know what a fair price would be. But when companies like the 7 Sisters see prices like $700 for one barcode, they know they could never afford that. Then they come to us and they wonder why ours are so much cheaper. They want to make sure our barcodes work and are legitimate. When you're selling a product, every barcode has to work, you can't take chances."
Brandon says that one way they offer lower prices is having 30 different barcode prefixes. This allows them an "endless supply" of barcodes to meet the "huge demand" in the business world. Bar Codes Talk strives to offer affordable barcodes that are hassle-free and that are guaranteed to work.
Jeanine was thrilled when she received her first shipment of barcodes from Bar Codes Talk, took them to Whole Foods, and began the process of getting them approved. Their new packaging has the barcodes printed right on the bags, and Morgan says that they have not had any problems. While the process was "very difficult and challenging," she felt that the service she received from Bar Codes Talk made it much simpler than it could have been. In addition to their own location, the 7 Sisters products are now selling at three Whole Food locations and three other grocery stores. Morgan expects to increase the number of locations once she partners with a distributor.
Written by Erin Thayer
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