How does an old family cookie recipe go from being a Texas family favorite to being sold on Walmart shelves all over the country?
By being accidentally gluten-free, of course.
At least, that’s part of the story behind Meli’s Monster Cookies, a Texas-based company co-founded by Melissa Blue and Melissa Mehall. Mehall lives in Fort Worth while Blue lives in Austin.
Meli’s Monster Cookies are sold in frozen pre-baked packages and as dry mixes, and starting this week they will appear in Walmarts all over the country.
So how does a recipe turn out to be accidentally gluten-free? Well it started when Blue got married. Her mother-in-law gave her a mixer with a cookie recipe, the same cookies that she used to bake for her son (Blue’s husband). Blue’s mother-in-law asked that she continue to make them for her husband and then eventually for her children.
Blue went on to have three children, and she did as her mother-in-law requested — she made the cookies for all of them.
Then Blue’s family found out that her niece had a gluten intolerance. She and her family were looking for gluten-free recipes, and that’s when she realized the cookie recipe that had been passed to her was perfect for her niece.
“She realized the original recipe had no wheat or flour in it — it just happens to be gluten-free,” Mehall said. “That’s why we say it’s accidentally gluten-free.”
And these cookies aren’t like other gluten-free baked goods on the market. Most use gluten substitutes like rice flour, and while that makes it gluten-free, it doesn’t make it taste the same. Blue’s family recipe doesn’t rely on gluten substitutes, which is what makes them taste so good to begin with.
When Blue realized she could sell these cookies, she turned to her friend of more than 30 years: Mehall. She called Mehall and asked her to be a partner in Meli’s Monster Cookies.
The two started out in 2012 with no knowledge of food manufacturing, but after a year of research and learning the ropes, they started selling their cookies. Then they took the cookies to a specialty food association conference in New York that connected producers with retailers. There, Mehall and Blue met a buyer from Walmart. The buyer was so impressed with the quality of the cookies that they started appearing on shelves in Walmarts in Texas.
Back then, Meli’s Monster Cookies were still just sold in frozen pre-baked packages. After a while, though, Mehall and Blue both decided to expand their product line to include dry mixes. For a year, the dry mixes were exclusively in HEB markets. But now, all of the Meli’s Monster Cookies products have expanded to almost all Walmarts in the U.S.
“It’s a dream come true,” Blue said. “It’s been five years of perseverance and working really hard and it’s exciting for us to see it come to fruition.”