Foray into business results in creating vital gluten-free products

A.M. Costa Rica/Kayla Pearson
Johanna Morris displays one of her gluten-free products.

Twelve years ago Johanna Morris was sitting around her table eating plantain porridge when her father brought up the idea that they should start a business.

When she inquired what kind, he responded “Why not this?” pointing to their meal. From that moment, she switched her gears to developing a natural product from her childhood to share with all of Costa Rica, she said.

The family business Tropics Nature was born, and Ms. Morris served as the general manager. They harvested fruits and vegetables native to Costa Rica to make the products.

“We get the bananas and make the flour. We have industrialized all the processes,” she said.

The first product in the market was green plantain flour. However, it took one day in the grocery store, for Ms. Morris to realize the value of their work.

“A lady stopped me and said ‘You’re the lady that makes this?’ I was shocked and was like ‘Yeah.’ Then she said, ‘You don’t know how important this is,’” she said.

The lady had celiac disease, a condition where lining of the small intestines is damaged from gluten consumption. At the time Ms. Morris didn’t know what celiac was. When she found out, she realized that there were only three companies in the country providing gluten-free products. She went to work making more options, she said.

“We started to investigate and develop different products,” she said. “We are like the pioneers of this product right now.”

Now Tropics Nature has a full line that includes pancake mixes, bread, green banana flour, garbanzo bean flour and instant porridges.

Ms. Morris represented one of 10 different women entrepreneurs who came to Banco Nacional Monday to show their ingenuity to former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet. Currently Ms. Bachelet is executive director of a United Nations agency for the equality of women.

“Michelle Bachelet is an important person at defending women’s rights. The bank chose 10 of us to show our products. They are looking to support women’s businesses,” Ms. Morris said.

Ms. Bachelet commented that her program is very important for the future of Costa Rica. Women aren’t making equal salaries and don’t have the same opportunities as men. They climb and climb, work and work, but stay in the same place, she said.

She is working to put laws in place to stop this, but she also said laws aren’t perfect.

The former president also works with themes against women’s violence, prevention and services for victims.

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