FeaturesJune/July 2018 Issue

Trailblazers in Gluten Free

Eden Foods takes pride in product purity & strict manufacturing processes.

eden foods navy bean field

Eden Foods

Eden Foods is one of the oldest natural and organic food companies in North America. Blazing its own trail since its founding in 1968, the company is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

“We’re into healthy, good-energy food—and we’ve been doing it a long time,” says chairman and president Michael Potter.

From kidney beans to kombu seaweed, Eden Foods offers more than 400 products—most are organic and more than 65 percent are gluten-free. The company has been a pioneer in many areas—all foods have been non-GMO since 1993 and beans have been sold in BPA-free cans since 1999.

It all started with macrobiotic values that emphasize balance, Potter explains.

“Macrobiotics is not a diet; it’s a set of principles of trying to live your life on all levels—including dietary—in a balanced manner. Balance is a key word. It’s not exclusive of anything. It’s just an acknowledgement of, and a discipline toward, a nourishing balance, as opposed to the destructive extremes—which I’ve played with in my day.”

eden foods original store

Eden Foods

Eden Foods’ company store circa 1973.

Such principles undergird the mission of Eden Foods, based in southeastern Michigan, and prompt the company to supply organic, biodynamic foods.

“We wanted pure foods. We wanted to eat a different diet,” says Potter, explaining that he stumbled into macrobiotics when he was 18. “I decided to quit eating meat and sugar and started looking for brown rice, miso and sea vegetables. This quickly led me into the food business because those products simply weren’t available.”

The company was a leader in offering traditional Japanese macrobiotic foods, such as miso and fermented foods.

eden foods 1983 catalog

Throwback ’80s Eden Foods catalog.

“When we started selling sea vegetables, the average American would look at us like we were nuts. They couldn’t even believe it. But today, people understand that sea vegetables—whether they’re dulse or nori or kombu—are enormously healthy.”

Potter promotes the life-giving nature of food, which includes how it is grown.

“We don’t think agricultural chemicals do anything for the life-giving energy and nourishment that food delivers,” he says.

He recounts the story of a bean farmer he met in the early ’70s. The farmer had been using conventional growing methods and had watched the dramatic depletion of life in the soil, most notably the disappearance of earthworms. The farmer had made a decision to manage his land without agricultural chemicals so that the earthworms would come back. It was a watershed moment for Potter.

“We try to determine what motivates the grower—whether it’s a cabbage grower, a kidney bean grower or a millet grower. What’s motivating these people? Are they just in it for the extra [profit] margin or a higher price? Is it to make the earthworms come back?”

eden foods soybean production

Inspecting the soybean crop.

Eden Foods started marketing food as gluten-free without direction from Potter. The importance of safe gluten-free food hit home for him, though, when his granddaughter Samantha, now 19, was diagnosed with gluten intolerance.

“The first four or five years of her life were very difficult for both her and her mother because, as we came to learn, Samantha was very sensitive to gluten and had some very nasty reactions to it,” Potter says.

Eden Foods’ gluten-free products contain less than 10 ppm of gluten, lower than the FDA’s 20 ppm threshold. The company is rigorous in its processes, tracking details from every food surface an ingredient touches to every means of transport.

“I’ve got a keen personal interest. I love my granddaughter. I want to make sure that anything that I tell her is gluten-free is gluten-free,” Potter says. “We want our products to be pure and purifying. We do this for our children. We do this for our grandchildren.”

For more information, visit edenfoods.com.

Eve Becker is associate editor of Gluten Free & More magazine.

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