When your gourmet organic cookies win two prestigious food industry awards in 2021 and are sold in over 400 locations across North America, seven years of hard work is paying off.
Jacqueline Day of Cochrane, Alberta, started Real Treat, her food-based business, through frustration at being unable to find good-tasting, organic cookies. A long-time healthy food enthusiast, she is committed to organics but also believes in food for pleasure. "I come from a family of cookie monsters!"
Her path to becoming a recognized force in the organic gourmet cookie realm was a winding road, a journey she feels is often the experience of many entrepreneurs. " I always knew I would start a food-based business one day, even when working in other fields."
It was a random day in 2014 when the perfect business idea materialized. "I was looking for organic cookies that also tasted good and couldn't find any. An anvil hit my head - I need to make them myself!" An avid recipe developer, Jacqueline scoured her files for inspiration, then refined her favourites. "I started selling at the local farmers' market, and when they regularly sold out, I knew I was onto something. My original plan to take a year to write a solid business plan and do some number crunching while still working in oil and gas was immediately accelerated when I was suddenly laid off."
Free to concentrate full time on her business, by November 2014, ten stores carried her cookies – a great start, but far from the international distribution her brand enjoys today.
Jacqueline's dedication and passion for her product received recognition from two prestigious food industry associations. She is the 2021 Expo West – Nexty award recipient, the highest honor for organics and natural products. She also is the 2021 recipient of the Specialty Food Association (SFA) Gold SOFI award in the cookies and bars category – earning a stamp of approval from Michelin chefs.
Since then, orders and inquiries have taken a leap, a welcome turn after challenges of the pandemic temporarily affected her operations. "It's great to be on the upswing after a difficult time. Covid allowed us to look for efficiencies, and we've become leaner and better at what we do." Her team produces and packages all products in their production facility in Cochrane.
Jacqueline credits her local Community Futures Centre West office for their support before and during the pandemic. "The group at CFCWest has been integral to our success. Whenever I call them, they are interested in me – and my business. They were there when I needed financing to buy equipment for growth and expansion.
Returning to the "why" always guides me - I believe supporting organic agriculture is critical to helping our ailing planet. By offering indulgent and delicious products, we might persuade more people to choose organic. People eat what makes them happy, so let's create organics that spark joy!"
Two significant awards later and with a growing clientele, Jacqueline is on the right path.