–by Dan Lemke
>Listen to a radio segment about Kakookies
The whole idea just seemed wrong to Sue Kakuk. Her daughter, a competitive collegiate bicyclist, would travel around the country to race, powered by nutrition from a less than ideal source.
“They would pack up their bikes and vans for the weekend and have teams of 15-20 people crash on the floor of someone’s home,” Sue Kakuk says. “They would race 50-80 miles one day, then get up and do it again the next day. When I asked what they ate for breakfast, my daughter said ‘donuts.’ I just didn’t feel right having them burn that much energy from donuts.”
An avid cook, Kakuk experimented with different ingredient combinations for a healthier breakfast alternative. She eventually hit on a winner and began making oat-based breakfast cookies to give racers a healthier, more energy-packed option.
After her daughter graduated from college, Kakuk and her family continued to host bicyclists in their Plymouth, Minnesota, home when teams came to town for races. And of course, she would give them some of her cookies. After years of giving away her baked goodies, Kakuk’s husband suggested they try to make it into a business.
A seasoned veteran
Kakuk is an accomplished cook with a background in kitchen design. She has entered numerous recipe contests and has twice been a finalist in the Pillsbury Bake-Off. Experimenting with recipes comes naturally.
“Cooking came easy to me because I could improvise and the meal would still turn out,” she says. “Baking is more precise so it was more challenging with my creative nature to achieve good results.”
After taking feedback from those who have eaten her cookies and experimenting with different ingredients, she developed an allergy-free recipe that contains no eggs, gluten or dairy. She ditched the flour and instead relies on nuts, oats and fruit to make her healthy offering called Kakookies.
Kakookies come in four flavors: almond-cranberry, boundary waters blueberry, cashew blondie and pecan-apricot. Kakuk says there are other flavors in the works, but those have yet to hit the market.
“These are made with simple ingredients,” Kakuk adds. “I’m very proud of how clean the nutritional labels are because there aren’t any artificial ingredients in them.”
AURI scientist Charan Wadhawan worked with Kakuk on nutritional analysis, shelf-life guidance and navigating regulations.
“AURI was extremely helpful. Part of my success is the fact that I have a clean ingredient label because they’re made with natural ingredients,” Kakuk adds. “Charan helped walk me through the process that can be very exhausting for a start-up business. It’s very much appreciated.”
Wheels are turning
Kakuk launched a website in April 2014 to begin test marketing Kakookies. Since then she has added a range of retail outlets including bike shops, coffee shops and food coops from Arizona to New York. They’ve even sponsored a bicycle racing team, “Kakookies Collegiate All Stars Women Team.” Kakuk is currently working on new packaging for her portable, healthy snack.
Kakuk’s entry into the market has been steady and measured. She now contracts with a bakery in Becker to make the Kakookies and has started to work with a distributor that she hopes will help get the Kakookies into the hands of more people.
“Instead of putting a granola bar or bag of chips in their backpack, I hope people will put in a Kakookie,” she says.
Find out more about Kakookies, including how to order, at kakookies.com.
AURI and Kakookies
Idea to reality: Create and sell an oat-based breakfast cookies that gives racers, outdoor enthusiasts, busy families, a healthy, energy-packed food option.
AURI’s role: AURI Scientist Charan Wadhawan provided nutritional analysis, shelf-life guidance and assistance navigating regulations.
Outcomes: Kakookies are now available via kakookies.com and in a range of retail outlets including bike shops, coffee shops and food co-ops from Arizona to New York.