If you are a food allergy mom, you are no stranger to Enjoy Life Foods (ELF) Products. Most likely their foods are a staple at your house, as they are at mine. When good friend and fellow food allergy blogger, Keeley McGuire of the Keeley McGuire Blog contacted me about attending a special behind the scenes tour of the Enjoy Life Foods (ELF) Factory I was beyond excited! We were also joined by our dear friend and fellow food allergy blogger Cindy Gordon of Vegetarian Mamma and her family. Our entire families were invited, but we left our men at home to work and turned it into a fun mom & kid trip.
I don’t know what I was more excited about: getting to tour the factory or getting all of our kiddos together. My little men haven’t really been around other kids their age who have life-threatening food allergies, too. Lucky me – we got to do both!
Our day started out early as we were driving from Indy to Schiller Park, Illinois (north of Chicago). My mom decided to join us for the trip and was a great help with my little men. My youngest is always thinking about food so the whole drive up he kept asking if he was going to get to eat Plentils and Chocolate Chunks! HA! One of the highlights from the trip was introducing my little men to Cindy’s boys (our boys are about the same age). I overheard my youngest say to her youngest, “Do you have food allergies just like me?” It melted my heart and brought tears to my eyes to watch them interact.
From there we met up with Keeley, her beautiful daughter “Little Miss,” and the ELF Team in their conference room. Kasey & Carolyn from ELF busted out some yummy treats (Cocoa Loco Chewy Bars & Chocolate SunButter Decadent Bars) for the kiddos while they shared a bit about their history, recently expanded factory, and answered our questions.
From there we were given our fashionable white coats and red hair nets so we could begin the factory tour. What fun we had! Just like playing dress-up in the basement! As soon as we entered into the factory we all had to stop and scrub our hands and arms with soap and water. I felt like a doctor scrubbing up for surgery. The ELF Factory is a dedicated nut-free and gluten-free facility and they take that very seriously. (Which is one of the many reasons we love them…right?!?!?)
From the moment we walked into the factory we were all taken by the wonderful aroma of freshly baked cookies. I imagined that this is what it would be like to be a child in Willy Wonka’s Factory. The smell was so intoxicating that it made me want to lick the walls as I’m almost certain that every inch of the factory was permeated with the smell and taste of chocolate and cinnamon. To be honest, I don’t know how you could work there all day long and not weigh 500 lbs. (Just saying!)
We seriously lucked out in that it was cookie baking day! WOWZERS! We watched as they poured the ingredients into super-sized mixers (it puts my KitchenAid mixer to shame). My little men were captivated by the entire process. I kept explaining that they are doing the same thing that mommy does at home when I bake, but on a much larger scale. But my oldest kept saying, in a very serious manner, “No mom, it’s not like what you do!” HA! One of the most precious parts of the tour were watching the eyes light up of the workers as we toured through the facility. ELF doesn’t do factory tours very often so it means a lot to the workers to get to see the faces of the children that they are baking for.
One of the things that struck me the most was the fact that every single cookie is hand packaged. I’m not kidding. Every single sprinkle on the Snickerdoodle cookies is sprinkled on by hand, too. Watching this process made me appreciate ELF in such a new way. The amount of love that goes into every step of the process is incredible. To know that each cookie that I pull out of the package was single-handedly placed there by someone else is special to me.
Perhaps the highlight of the trip for my little men was getting to enjoy a warm, fresh-from-the-oven cookie. They allowed us to sample a Snickerdoodle Cookie and a Double Chocolate Brownie Cookie. Just sitting here writing about it makes my mouth water as I can still recall the warmth of the cookie with each bite I took. Since then, I’ve tried to recreate the experience in my kitchen by zapping an ELF cookie in the microwave for 8-10 seconds but I’m not gonna lie…it’s still not quite the same. (Good though…you should try it!) The joy on my little mens’ faces as they ate their cookies made my day. Rarely can they go anywhere and eat a baked good. But here – it was all 100% safe.
From here we got to see where they unload and store all of the ingredients that they use. Did you know that they test each ingredient for allergens before they fully unload it? They do! Literally, nothing comes into the factory that isn’t safe. We also got to see where they package the Mini Chocolate Chips! That was fun, too! My youngest wanted to eat the chips that had fallen on the floor. HA! Slow up there, tiger! It may be safe for you to eat things in here, but not from the floor!
To wrap up the tour we headed back to the conference room where we were each given a goodie bag filled to the brim with ELF Products and a fun new t-shirt! From the moment we arrived we were treated like food allergy royalty and my little men couldn’t have been more excited. My youngest kept saying, “I don’t have to ask you before I eat things here, right?!?” Of course, I told him he still needed to ask first because that is what we do to keep him safe.
Following the ELF factory tour, we all headed to Red Robin for lunch. It was fun for the kiddos to hangout together and for us food allergy mammas to chat. It was probably the first time eating out (with the exception of Disney) that I wasn’t worried about my little men because everyone at the table was in the same boat.
Of course our trip home was quite a bit longer as we hit rush hour traffic in Chicago, but my little men didn’t mind as they had lots of yummy “safe” treats to nibble on. My youngest loved his red hairnet so much that he wore it the entire trip home.
Thank you Enjoy Life Foods for inviting us to tour your factory, for sharing your products with us, and above all for showering us with food allergy love! It was the highlight of our summer and my little men are still wearing their red hairnets when they play in their play kitchen. You may have some future employees in the making! Until then – we’re you’re biggest fans!
What’s your favorite Enjoy Life Foods Product?