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NE Ohio-based Whoa Dough 1 of 9 companies selected for special business engagement program

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HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ohio – Todd Goldstein is making a lot of dough.

Literally, in 2020, he created Whoa Dough, a certified gluten-free, vegan, dairy-free, soy-free, egg-free, kosher and non-GMO product with allergy-friendly ingredients. The cookie-dough bars come in seven flavors – sugar, sugar sprinkle, peanut butter, chocolate-peanut butter, chocolate chip, brownie batter and now oatmeal.

The Highland Heights-based business has grown steadily. And its popularity has caught the eye of a company that specializes in snacks.

Whoa Dough is one of nine snack brands chosen to participate in Mondeléz International Inc.’s CoLab start-up program, a business-engagement initiative that launched in 2021. It’s designed to help build a portfolio of brands and venture pipeline for the Chicago-based global snacking company whose holdings include Oreo, Ritz, LU, Clif Bar, Tate’s Bake Shop biscuits and baked snacks, Cadbury Dairy Milk, Milka and Toblerone chocolate.

Participants will receive access to Mondeléz’s experts, global support network and a $20,000 grant.

So the cookie-dough business is bringing in more dough.

Goldstein said he was one of the first to apply in this round.

“Perseverance pays off,” he said. “As they were evaluating us, we continued to innovate as entrepreneurs and as a company. We kept sending them some of our newest innovations, like oatmeal cookie dough.”

The grant that comes with the 12-week virtual and in-person program probably would be targeted for marketing purposes as well as continued emphasis on innovation, he said.

Jackie Haney, head of CoLab, said recipients met the program’s criteria for being “disruptively delicious.”

“This meant having innovative ways of making snacks delicious, and we loved that Whoa Dough had found a way to deliver a shelf-stable, plant-based promise on cookie dough,” she said.

Whoa Dough is available in 2,500 retail locations, but Goldstein said by the end of summer he expects that number to rise to more than 3,500. Last year, he landed a deal that put Whoa Dough on American Airlines flights. And the product also received “smart snack approved” designation and is sold in 40 school districts either on plates or as a snack.

“It’s really tough to qualify to be in schools,” he said. “Because our products have the right nutritional makeup we give kids a healthy indulgent treat that they can eat every single day.”

It remains a lean operation, with only four full-time staffers, including Goldstein.

“Year over year we grew over 380 percent,” he said. “For us it’s just continuing to get products in people’s mouth. We’re putting a really big focus on K through 12 market and retail. The market is really trending toward better-for-you snacking, and we believe that Whoa Dough kind of fits that bill being a healthy cookie-dough option that you can eat on the go and is shelf stable.

Coming up: In the third quarter the company will launch a new non-bar product, Goldstein said.

“Just to be selected to go through this accelerator program is such an honor,” he said. “They have done their due diligence, they have tried the product, they have identified this really is the market opportunity. For me it helps to validate the opportunity we see ahead.”

2023 CoLab recipients

In addition to Whoa Dough, here are the other recipients:

• CocoTerra is a personal tabletop chocolate maker.

The creators of DreamPops wanted to enjoy iconic flavors in simple, non-dairy treats. The items are plant-based, clean-label frozen pops, bites and shelf-stable candy crunch.

• Freezcake delivers small bites of creamy cheesecake prepared from scratch and ultra-dried at the height of its freshness.

• Incredible Eats allows consumers to treat themselves a little longer with edible spoons and straws, which provide an alternative to single-use utensils. They come in sweet and savory options.

• Legally Addictive offers cracker-based cookies for a sweet and salty, all-in-one-bite experience. The cracker base is topped with chocolate and handmade salted toffee and comes in different flavors.

• Mezcla is a plant protein in a crunchy snack-bar experience. Each bar contains plant protein in various flavors.

An alternative to bread, tortillas and seaweed, New Gem makes plant-based wraps.

• Steiner’s Coffee Cake is gluten-free.

Related coverage

Highland Heights-based Whoa Dough lands deal with American Airlines

NE Ohio businessman’s Whoa Dough eyes expansion for ‘healthy, indulgent’ gluten-free snack

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