Over the last decade, the gluten-free trend has grown from a niche market into a global industry.
The market is especially strong in North America. Since 2009, the number of Amercians who have gone gluten-free has tripled—and looking forward, more are expected to follow. In 2018, North America was the dominant consumer market for gluten-free products, with an overall market share of 53 percent. On a global scale, analysts predict the gluten-free sector will boast a 9.1% CAGR through 2025, when it will reach $32.39 billion.
This growth has been both a blessing and a challenge for gluten-free food manufacturers. Many companies, like Tutti Gourmet, started doing business before the gluten-free explosion. A decade ago, nobody could have predicted how big the market would get. As a result, companies like Tutti have had to scale their operations to meet the growing needs of their customers.
The Challenge: Digitizing Tutti Gourmet
Tutti Gourmet manufactures a variety of gluten-free and allergy-free snacks and cookies from a highly regulated facility in Quebec. The company is rapidly growing, and now serves a loyal customer base that extends across Canada, the U.S. and the U.K.
Tutti Gourmet has experienced significant growth in recent years, which has forced the company to change its underlying management system—a task that was spearheaded by Operations Director Elijah Magrane.
Like most AppSheet developers, Magrane does not have a technical background. His area of expertise is in food science and biological and statistical research.
“I consider myself a moderate to advanced Excel user,” says Magrane. “When I came here, everything was done manually by hand—either with paper or by physically entering data into a spreadsheet. So, my first order of business when I started was to overhaul the process.”
Originally, Magrane attempted to automate several processes by entering various formulas into an Excel spreadsheet. Tutti Gourmet was using a data entry tool called Canvas, a leading program for designing mobile business apps.
This, Magrane says, was his first introduction to low-code and no-code app development.
“I thought Canvas was interesting but, for what we were doing, it didn't meet our needs,” Magrane says. “It was clunky and awkward. The customization just wasn't there. I knew there had to be a better way.”
Solution: AppSheet’s No-Code Platform
Seeking a better way forward, the Tutti team decided to explore their options.
“We looked into several solutions, such as Microsoft Power BI, and finally came across AppSheet,” says Magrane. “AppSheet was amazing. We were able to use the same Excel sheets we had already been using. It even accepted the formulas I had been using, which was a big deal.”
After selecting AppSheet, Magrane went to work.
“The first thing I did was make a timesheet app for employees to track their hours; next was production logs and summaries,” Magrane explains.“It just spiraled from there.”
To date, Magrane’s created roughly 40 apps to handle all kinds of processes: ordering, dealing with suppliers, shipping and receiving, quality control, scheduling audits, project management, password management, and more.
Here’s a breakdown of the three most popular apps Magrane’s team uses:
Production: In a fast-paced food manufacturing environment, staying on top of production metrics is critical for success. Small errors can lead to delayed shipments, lost profits, and unhappy customers.
This process has been simplified with an app. Now, after a shift, a production employee can use an app to describe how production went—entering data for quality control and verifying figures for raw materials. Once that data is entered, a workflow is automatically filed and sent to team members via PDF.
The app also includes a dashboard that tracks benchmarks—like how many cases the company generates for specific flavors. The team can then sort through the data using filters. If any area is lacking, Magrane will know to dig deeper and find the root cause.
Inventory: Tutti Gourmet had been using a simple account program to manage inventory.
“It was a very basic accounting software,” Magrane says. “It just told us what we had on hand. There was no barcode scanner or anything like that. This made traceability an issue. We knew moving forward we’d have to use barcode scanning and get our inventory management on track.”
Magrane fixed this problem by designing an app with a barcode scanner, specifically for keeping inventory. At the end of a production day, employees can simply scan QR codes, enter how many cases they made for a particular item, and enter it into a finished inventory database. Now, each case has a QR code that’s linked to AppSheet, which now serves as the company’s complete inventory management system.
Documentation: When managing a gluten-free facility, there’s little room for error. It’s critical to document every ingredient—for safety and auditing.
“I also double as a Food Safety Coordinator at Tutti Gourmet,” Magrane continues. “For me, one of the best parts of using AppSheet is that it’s helped us manage our approved supplier program. We’re a gluten-free facility, so our suppliers are central to our business. We don’t allow any gluten in the facility. Every ingredient goes through a rigorous approval process before it enters the building.”
Last year, Magrane made a special supplier management app that acts as a document management and notification system. This app has specific forms, with check boxes for items like gluten-free statements and kosher certifications.
From a safety and operational standpoint, this is probably Tutti’s most important app.
“If we’re not up on our documentation, we could get a recall, which would probably put us out of business,” says Magrane. “Now, I receive notifications when expiration dates are approaching. This way, I can stay on top of all our documentation for our suppliers. This has been really really helpful.”
AppSheet is more than just a tool for Tutti Gourmet. The platform now serves as the underlying engine powering most of the company’s backend management processes.
“AppSheet is very scalable,” Magrane says. “And whenever there’s something that we need to add, it’s very easy to update our apps. At the same time, there’s almost no implementation cost. It costs almost nothing when I introduce a new app. And our employees already know how to use them, so they are able to hit the ground running with no training.”
Tutti Gourmet’s apps, Magrane says, are used by workers of all backgrounds, from 17 year-olds who have been using phones their whole lives to older employees who aren’t as technically savvy.
Like any new technology, there was a bit of a learning curve when Magrane starting using AppSheet. But he was determined. After a few passes, it came easy.
“The biggest challenge was designing the user interface (UI) components,” Magrane says. “But I really enjoyed learning and I thought it was a positive experience. The great part about using AppSheet, too, is that everything is so customizable.”
In fact, Magrane has become the go-to person for creating custom solutions.
“If someone has a problem they need to solve with an app, I can come back to them and say, ‘ Not a problem, I’ll have that for you in no time at all!’” Magrane says.
Tutti Gourmet has had such a positive experience with AppSheet that—even as they scale—they have no intention of switching to an enterprise resource management (ERP) solution.
“Moving forward, even though we are expanding, we’re still not in a position where we can go out and get a $10k ERP or anything like that,” Magrane says. “In fact, even if we had a blank check, I don't know if we’d transfer over to an ERP. We’d just continue using AppSheet.”
This, Magrane says, is because AppSheet helps his team move with agility.
“Depending on priority (and scope), I can create an app with AppSheet in a day or so,” Magrane continues. “This is one of the main differentiators for AppSheet over an ERP. It comes down to time and flexibility.”
Looking ahead, AppSheet will play a critical role in Tutti Gourmet’s next growth phase.
“I’m starting to do more with document management within AppSheet,” says Magrane. “I find it very helpful to upload documents, track workflows, and set permissions. This way, we can ensure things are traceable and protected by tiered access. AppSheet does that really well, and it will be very important as we prepare to move into a new facility and receive a high-end food safety certification. I can use AppSheet for everything.”
Courtesy Tutti Gourmet
Magrane offered the following advice for developers.
“With AppSheet you get what you put into it,” says Magrane. “If you take the time, participate in user forums, and look at their documentation, you can create something that’s very customizable and something that is really suited to meet whatever needs you may have. You can also create a very basic app in no time at all.”
For Tutti Gourmet, AppSheet is more than just a great tool.
“The community and support around AppSheet are great,” Magrane concludes. “There’s been many times where I’ve banged my head against the wall, took a deep breath and went back to look over documentation or browse through their forums—and I always find what I’m looking for. You can really do almost anything with AppSheet.”
To build apps like the ones Tutti Gourmet uses, we encourage you to check out AppSheet’s sample inventory management app.
To learn more about AppSheet’s approach to manufacturing, click here.