Minnetonka, Minn. — Theresa Oslund began baking as a child, learning from her grandmother’s expertise. As a grown-up, she developed her own specialties, including a cranberry-macadamia snack mix for gifts and special occasions.

Family and friends urged her to sell the snack and, 15 years later, it clicked. Oslund decided it was “time to do my thing” and turned her passion for baking into a career.

In 2007, she launched Special T’s Oh So Good Gourmet. Besides her cranberry macadamia snack mix, she developed new flavors: blueberry almond, triple cherry pecan, smoke’n chipotle and a granola breakfast blend. Ingredients include honey, butter, flax and maple syrup from Minnesota, and heart-healthy nuts, whole grains, fruits and spices.

“This is a real food with real ingredients,” Oslund says. “My mixes contain no added sugar, sodium, preservatives or trans fats.” She laughs that a food show customer “couldn’t believe they could pronounce every ingredient in the mixes.”

Store-ready with AURI expertise

A Minnesota Department of Agriculture employee connected Oslund to AURI food scientist Charan Wadhawan. “Charan looked over my recipes and made adjustments if needed, along with shelf-life testing, nutritional label development and connecting me to wholesalers and commercial kitchen space,” Oslund says. “Charan is phenomenal. She is a walking wealth of information.”

Currently Oslund and Wadhawan are working on cutting fat grams in the snack mixes to meet school requirements. To appeal to students, they are also developing a

nacho-flavored snack.

Special T markets

The business is steadily growing. Oslund is the only employee and enjoys “keeping the quality there and keeping the personal, hands-on situation,” but relies on family and friends to help her out if needed.

This past year, Special T’s Oh So Good Gourmet snacks were picked up by a distributor that delivers to Upper Midwest businesses and schools. The Hopkins school district replaced Chex Mix with Special T’s snacks in its cafeterias, vending machines and concession stands.

Special T’s are also sold through food co-ops, farmers markets, food shows, the University of Minnesota, a national hotel chain and gift basket companies in the United States and Canada.

Four snack mix flavors in 3 and 10 ounce bags sell for $1.95 and $5.95, and 16 ounces of granola sells for $6.95 on Special T’s website: ohsogoodgourmet.com. Gift baskets are

also available.

Oslund says she hopes to expand her operation, retail outlet and add more products to the Special T’s line.

On her website, Oslund writes that she never tries a recipe as is. “When I decide to make something, I select many renditions of the recipe, study their commonalities and differences, and then, develop “my recipe” with “my twist.”

“I am always creating and perfecting, so there will never be a shortage of new products.”