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Image: Anna Reeser

Buddies since elementary school, Park City natives David Wintzer and Todd Francis talked often while growing up about starting a company together one day. What they didn’t know is that inspiration for their joint venture would come from a very unlikely and faraway place.

While a student at Salt Lake City’s Westminster College, Wintzer spent a summer in Kenya completing a service project with the Women Entrepreneurs Development Organization (WEDO), a group working to fight poverty in East Africa by distributing microloans to women-run businesses. One of the loan recipients was a small banana-flour operation. When Wintzer discovered the benefits—and potential market—for this wheat-flour alternative, he approached Francis about partnering to introduce banana flour in the US. “We didn’t know exactly what market we wanted to be involved in,” recalls Francis, “but when David told me about this group of women and banana flour, the opportunity truly touched and connected with both of us.” Wintzer and Francis tested their idea through an entrepreneur competition back at Westminster. Buoyed by a third-place finish, the two launched WEDO gluten-free banana flour in 2010.

Banana flour is made from unripe—and therefore not sweet—bananas that are dried and then ground into flour. Wintzer and Francis describe the taste as earthy and wholesome with a light and fluffy texture that requires less volume than wheat-based flour for baking. (A general conversion is 1 cup of wheat flour to ¾ cup of WEDO banana flour.)

Reception for the product has far exceeded both Francis and Wintzer’s expectations. WEDO is now sold widely in California, Colorado, and at more than 30 stores here in Utah, including Fairweather Natural Foods (1270 Iron Horse Dr) and The Market (1500 Snow Creek Dr) in Park City.

Though WEDO is no longer sourced in Africa and now comes from suppliers in South America and the Philippines (“we needed a more stable source to meet growing demand,” explains Wintzer), the company’s original inspiration—and name—has remained. Through the Buy One, Feed One program, WEDO feeds a hungry child in Africa with every canister of banana flour they sell. “Because this business was originally started with microloans and helping the community,” says Francis, “we will always give back a portion of our profits to those in need.”

Waffles

1/3 cup WEDO banana flour
1/3 cup rice flour
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp xanthan gum
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk (add vinegar and oil to cow’s, almond, or coconut milk to make buttermilk; optional)
2 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 egg

Mix the dry ingredients first, and then add the liquids. Mix until just combined. Use as you would a traditional waffle batter.

Pound Cake

1 cup WEDO banana flour
2 cups all-purpose, gluten-free flour
11/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
11/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp almond extract
21/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
21/2 cups sugar
6 large eggs, room temperature

Preheat oven to 360 degrees. Grease and flour a large Bundt pan and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine flours, xanthan gum, baking powder, and salt in a medium-size bowl. Mix the milk, vanilla, and almond extract in a separate bowl.

With an electric mixer at medium speed, beat the sugar and butter until fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Turn the setting down to low and add flour mixture, alternating with the milk mixture. Mix until incorporated; however, do not overmix. Pour the batter in the prepared pan, smooth the top, and give the pan a light bang on a counter to remove air bubbles from the batter. Bake for 75 minutes. Cool in the pan for 20 minutes, and then flip over onto wire rack, cut, serve, and enjoy.

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