Cheryl’s is preparing to jump on the gluten-free bandwagon with its own line of gluten-free cookies. The need for gluten-free products is not disappearing, and Elisabeth Allwein, product development director, thought it was time the company looked into it. “It’s a whole new ball game with ingredients and dough texture,” she said.

The bakery ran a test of the new line of cookies, which includes snickerdoodle, frosted sugar cookie, brownie walnut, fudge brownie and chocolate chip varieties, in its own facility after a thorough gluten-free cleaning regimen. The samples from that production run sent to be tested came in at less than 2.5 ppm. “From a food safety standpoint, though, we wanted to investigate the possibility of a dedicated facility,” Ms. Allwein said.

Cheryl’s found an answer to this dilemma in ARC Industries in Columbus, OH, an organization that aims to offer employment opportunities to developmentally and intellectually disabled adults. This organization had a gluten-free bakery that suited Cheryl’s needs and one that the bakery had worked with before to employ some of its members. “We have a great community partnership,” Ms. Allwein said. “We already employ some people from ARC, and we’d like to take this gluten-free opportunity as a training ground for seasonal hires in the future.”

Cheryl’s brought in some of its own gluten-free equipment, sanitation and production processes as well as management to work with ARC employees. Test runs in the new facility began at the end of July, and the company expects to have product available mid-September.