By Jennifer Iscol
Mark Berger has two passions in his new career: making healthy, amazing-tasting gluten-free treats, and finding a way to give back to the local business community that has supported his new venture. Mark is a landscape contractor who launched a second career after he was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease; friends who tasted the new gluten-free recipes he developed to satisfy his own cravings encouraged him to go into business.
Mark forgoes the gluten-free staple of rice flour — too gritty, he says — and uses ingredients that have more protein and fiber. Mark uses organic ingredients when possible, and keeps his products all natural with no preservatives. He is impressed by the health properties of coconut oil, and has developed a business connection with Nutiva, a local supplier of coconut products in Richmond.
I picked up samples of the cookies for our recent support group meeting, and sacrificed a package of four cookies for the four teenage girls in my car to do an unofficial taste test. I received some surprisingly detailed and sophisticated positive feedback about the cookies’ moisture, texture and flavor. Only one of the girls is on a gluten-free diet, but they were all enthusiastic about the cookies and specific in their praise.
Mark lives in Marin with his wife, Laurie, who works on sales and trade shows for The Goods. Mark drives down the peninsula to make his products during off hours at Zest Bakery in San Carlos, which is all gluten-free. Mark would like to give back to the community in the way that the owners of Zest have supported him. His goal is to keep expanding his business and ultimately build a production facility that would serve as a community-based gluten-free kitchen and incubator for other entrepreneurs.
Mark’s cookies, filled cookie jars, sweet breads, coffee cake and cookie crumble topping can be purchased online and in local stores. The Goods was recently chosen in Whole Foods’ Next Entrepreneur contest as one of 30 companies out of 600 to present their product line to the chain’s NorCal and Reno region. We wish Mark and Laurie the best of luck in this next phase of the contest, and hope to have even more places to buy their products soon.
[Update 2014: The Goods closed]