By Gregory Daurer | Feb 20, 2023
Cedar Hills, Utah
Gluten-free baking mixes
Food allergies and celiac disease run in her family, says Cooper. A few weeks after she got married nearly 18 years ago, her husband's severe gastrointestinal issues forced him to go dairy-free and gluten-free. And Cooper's two youngest children had "food allergies from the time they were infants -- so I had to bake literally everything from scratch because they couldn't eat anything store bought without getting very sick," she says. After one of her kids was officially diagnosed with celiac disease, Cooper's husband had himself tested, as well, and learned he had been suffering from the same disorder all along.
In addition to ensuring her own family's well-being, Cooper began counseling others on dietary issues, helping them to plan meals. "People would essentially pay me to create recipes for them, to find safe groceries for them," she says. Then, in 2020, she launched Rustic Scoop with a line of baking mixes for people with food sensitivities.
The catalog now includes mixes for pancakes and waffles, cookie dough, pizza crust, and sandwich bread. Instead of wheat flour, several products substitute brown rice flour and white rice flour. On the other hand, the cookie mix utilizes oat flour, because the desirable results turn out "softer" and "more sticky." Cooper says, "I just kind of tried it all until I figured out what I thought tasted best."
Cooper sells her baking mixes online. Customers have ordered Rustic Scoop products "from Hawaii to Alaska to Florida, to people up in Maine and Maryland. I mean, it's really kind of nationwide."
The company's products are also included within monthly delivery orders along Utah's Wasatch Front from the Food & Meat Co-op. In Provo, the recently revamped shop, The Social, will not only be selling Rustic Scoop baking mixes, but also the company's "take and bake" items. Customers can also order to-go goods for pickup at Cooper's property in Cedar Hills. It's where the company assembles, using organic ingredients, and then packages its goods, within its small on-site facility.
Oftentimes the company's best-selling product has been either its pancake/waffles mix or its chocolate cake/cupcake mix. But Cooper says, "I think, recently, it's been pizza [crust mix]," adding how "all of our mixes make other things." That's right: if someone wants to make Asian-style pot stickers, they can use the Pizza Crust Mix for that, as well.
In addition to recipes, Rustic Scoop's website provides instructional videos for each of the products, showing how to best combine the ingredients. As a result of what she laughingly refers to as "mixer's elbow," Cooper utilizes an electric mixer herself, but informs others that a whisk is all that's needed.
It's not like Cooper learned about baking at a young age. "I grew up in the '80s and everything was out of a box," she says. "I could bake simple things like cookies, but I was not making anything from scratch." It wasn't until her family lived in Rwanda, spending half a year helping to run a home for former street boys, that she began baking bread regularly for her family. Gluten-free flours made from teff, millet, and brown and white rice were readily available at the corner market in Africa, she says, "so I started baking bread every day."
Cooper says her products bring families together. Instead of needing different food preparations for different family members -- costing additional money and requiring additional time in the kitchen to meet everyone's needs -- she says, "You can have amazing food that everybody loves."
After starting the company in Washington state, Cooper now leads a self-described rustic lifestyle in Utah. But wherever she does business, Cooper places a high value on interactions with her customers.
"Our heart is to serve our customers well and to know them," says Cooper. "We like the personal relationships with our customers. And we want them to be able to live the best life they can, even with food restrictions."
Challenges: "I would say moving to a new state," says Cooper about her family's relocation to Utah four months after the company's startup. "We were well-connected in the food allergy and celiac community in Washington [state], and so we had a big community of support. And we had a big community of people that were really excited about our products." She adds, "Now we have a great community here that we love, but I think that it's been slower growth because of that."
Opportunities: Participating within her new community by appearing at, for instance, trade shows and farmers' markets: "We're the new face, a new name. And so people are excited to try new products and learn new things."
And while all of the ingredients within Rustic Scoop products are certified as gluten-free, the company hasn't received gluten-free certification yet, which would allow it to place the associated promotional symbol on its packaging and website. Cooper hopes to finish that paperwork-heavy process "in the next 18 months."
Needs: Besides a need for marketing and sales subcontractors, Cooper jokes, "Ten of me!"