By Margaret Jackson | Sep 25, 2015
Park City, Utah
Banana based products
Park City, Utah
After graduating from college, Wintzer travelled to Kenya in 2008 and 2009 distributing microloans to women entrepreneurs through the Utah-based nonprofit Youthlinc.
One of those businesses was a banana flour factory, WEDO's original supplier. Today, the company imports the flour from Ecuador.
"We had to find already-established suppliers," Wintzer said. "We didn't have the money to buy the machinery, pay the wages or pay the rent -- that's what the women needed."
Wintzer and longtime friend and business partner Todd Francis spent the first three years traveling to meet suppliers and learn about quality control. In 2014, they launched a Kickstarter campaign, raising $36,000 to fund WEDO.
"I have zero business experience," said Wintzer, who previously has worked at restaurants, bars and golf courses while attending Westminster College, where he graduated with a degree in international business.
WEDO is the first company to import banana flour to the United States. The flour is made with unripe, green bananas to create a low-sugar product with a bran-like taste, rather than a banana flavor. It can be used for all cooking and baking, as a thickener for soups and sauces or in smoothies.
Banana flour is a "resistant starch," which resists breaking down into sugars and keeps you full longer and burns more fat. Resistant starch also may help prevent colon cancer by sweeping the colon and eliminating toxins from the body.
Currently, WEDO is not organic, but the company is working with its suppliers to develop an organic product. WEDO banana flour is natural, gluten free, GMO free, soy and nut free and vegan. It packs 9 percent of the recommended daily nutrition of potassium, 8 percent carbohydrates and 8 percent dietary fiber.
WEDO banana flour can be found at King Soopers and numerous independent natural grocers. Next month, the shelves at Sprouts, Kroger, and Associated Foods will be stocked with flour, and it's also available on the company's website, which provides recipes for everything from donuts and pancakes to zucchini fritters and meatballs.
The company also is socially motivated and is dedicated to feeding the hungry. Through its BUY ONE-Feed ONE program, every purchase of a WEDO Gluten Free product provides a meal for one hungry child through the World Food Program USA. The company also provides economic opportunities for small-scale farmers by purchasing bananas that have slight blemishes or odd shapes -- about a third of each crop -- to make the flour.
Challenges: Educating people not only about the health benefits of banana flour, but also the advantages of cooking with the product is one of the biggest challenges facing WEDO. "It's high in starch, so it reacts really well," Wintzer said. "You use 30 percent less banana flour than you do regular flour."
Opportunities: Banana flour's versatility is the biggest opportunity for WEDO. "When we started this business, we didn't realize the true capability of it," Wintzer said. "We were just making a gluten-free alternative. Now we have customers packaging these products in dog treats. We're experimenting with livestock -- it really helps with digestion and the coat of the animal. Now we're also starting to market it as a supplement."
Needs: WEDO's biggest challenge -- consumer awareness -- also is its biggest need. "There are so many diehard gluten-free people and paleo people who have never heard of it," Wintzer said. "It's a constant battle for us to get the word out there."