Finding clean food is rarely anything but simple, but the Joyful Food Co. is changing that.
Now with two locations – one in Hoover’s Bluff Park community and another in Shops on Montevallo in Birmingham – the Joyful Food Co. is Alabama’s only 100% gluten-free and paleo-friendly food company. Serving a specialized clientele is a benefit for co-owners Elizabeth Wood and Rebecca Wanagat, but it was also the influence behind opening the business.
Wood and Wanagat have been eating clean for the latter part of a decade after health concerns within their families motivated drastic dietary changes. And they have found there are many other families who also eat clean but struggle to find means for buying the necessary ingredients and food to fit the lifestyle.
Back in 2012, Wood learned to make nutrient-dense muffins, cupcakes, cookies and crackers and found that she loved doing it. A few skips and a hop later, she turned her struggle into a job, opened Joyful Food Co. and added Wanagat as co-owner and chef.
Here are five things you should know about how Joyful Food Co. is helping the Magic City eat clean.
1. Joyful Food Co. isn’t new to the block
There are a lot of trendy diets out there, but Joyful Food Co. should not be lumped into that crowd. Wood and her family cut grains, refined sugar and processed foods from their diets in 2012; Wanagat and her family started a Paleo diet more than five years ago.
Joyful Food Co. also beat most trends, opening as a bakery for more than four years ago. About six months after the store opened, Wanagat transitioned from an employee to co-owner and full-time chef. Meals were also later added, making Joyful Food Co. more than just baked treats.
“When I do anything I do it 1,000% and everyone kind of hears about it. People saw the successes we were having and started asking if we could make stuff for them. And it grew to where I had to make a decision of if I was really going to do this and get a kitchen,” Wood said. “There’s just a huge need.”
Joyful Food Co. remains in the same location where it has been since opening. The address is 759 Shades Mountain Plaza, Hoover, AL 35226.
2. The benefits of eating clean are evident
Honestly, the results speak for themselves.
Wood found one of her son’s chronic stomach issues were solved by changing their diet. She also noticed daily soreness and pain she was experiencing disappeared. Wanagat says one of her children was having trouble focusing in school prior to they began eating clean.
“The teacher saw enough of a difference to start suggesting what we were doing to other parents,” Wanagat said. “That was when he was in second grade and he’s going into 10th this year. We’ve been eating that way since then.”
Customers range from individuals who have allergies or grain or dairy-free diets to people who work out and want higher protein options.
“We are so specialized that we check a lot of boxes for a lot of people,” Wood says. “I’d say our biggest market are moms who just want to feed their kids real food. They’re ingredient label readers, and we list all of our ingredients. We use organic chickens, local meats from farmers that are pastured, that’s important to these people.”
3. Joyful Food Co. is dedicated to being gluten-free
Being gluten-free is something Wanagat and Wood really pride themselves on.
“We’re a dedicated gluten-free place, so we’re a safe place for people who have Celiac and can be extremely sensitive to even the smallest amounts of gluten,” Wanagat said. “It can be complicated and overwhelming at first and they come in here and they realize they can eat anything.”
The co-owners have numerous stories about children with a gluten allergy being thrilled to learn they can have a cupcake, cookie or literally any other sweet treat at Joyful Food Co. For Wanagat, her recipes are more about what’s not included rather than what is.
“We’re not using grains. Corn is a big inflammation and gives me a lot of problems, specifically, so we’re not using corn. We don’t use dairy. Nothing is processed,” she said. “For like the ranch, I make the mayonnaise to make the ranch. Everything is made at the most basic, scratch level here because it’s those processes – the added sugars, the added preservatives, the added dyes – that cause a lot of problems for a lot of people.”
4. Finding clean food is harder than you’d think
Wood and Wanagat meet customers from all over. And they don’t mean all over the Magic City, Alabama or the Southeast – they mean all over the country.
The expanding clientele is due to the rarity of finding high-quality clean food. The challenge of finding clean food is something Wood and Wanagat experienced when their diet changed and it continues to be a struggle today, though it has improved some.
“It is very hard to find food this clean,” Wood said. “I think that’s one of the reasons we can be tucked away in a shopping center in Bluff Park, because people who have to eat this way will seek us out.”
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In the past 24 hours we have had new customers traveling from/to New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Florida and @troyuniversity😉 (that’s a long road!) Wr love the excitement as travelers can “finally eat good gluten-free and Paleo food” Thank you for your support and kind words! If you are local and traveling this summer, come stock up for your time away! #paleo #glutenfree #grainfree #soyfree #dairyfree #simplecleandelicious #eatrealfoodfeelrealgood #summertraveling
5. Talk of expansion has become a reality
There has been talk of the Joyful Food Co. adding a second store to its original location in Shades Mountain Plaza.
In mid-September, the addition of the store in Shops on Montevallo became official. The new location will be able to reach the Mountain Brook, Homewood, Vestavia Hills, Crestline Park and Crestwood markets easier.
“Our Bluff Park location is tucked away and while many people make the drive or order delivery, we’ve been getting requests for years for a second location,” Wood said in a press release. “We love the location on Montevallo Road and feel that this will be a convenient spot for people from many different Birmingham neighborhoods and suburbs to visit us.”
Joyful Food Co. is also on the move in another way, recently adding a refrigerated van that is used for catering and deliveries.
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We are beyond excited for the first deliveries to go out using our new refrigerated van!! Delaney will be making the deliveries on Tuesdays solo, but today you might see Rebecca riding shotgun with her head out of the window! Honk and say “HI” 👋🏼 if you see them! If you are interested in receiving your orders on Tuesdays, visit our website and place your order on Saturday before the midnight cutoff #paleo #glutenfree #grainfree #soyfree #dairyfree #simplecleandelicious
Bonus: Give Joyful Food Co. a follow on Instagram
Anyone who doesn’t like food pictures on Instagram hasn’t seen Joyful Food Co.’s page. Each perfectly framed post shows some of the snack, meal and dessert options offered by Wanagat and Wood. You can view the page by clicking here.
You can learn more about Joyful Food Co. and see a full menu by visiting its website by clicking here.
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