Mother knows best, especially when she is a registered and licensed dietitian nutritionist.
“About five years ago, our family became gluten-free,” Peters Township High School sophomore Julia Scarton recalled. “It was challenging at first, because, as a kid, I was constantly baking with my mom and my grandmother. So living without cookies was kind of hard.”
Her mom, LuAnn, brings the experience of 25-plus years in the food and nutrition industry, specializing in the care of patients with autoimmune disease, gastrointestinal dysfunction and other conditions.
“Gluten-free has become more popular in the last five to 10 years, for several reasons. There’s been an increase in diagnosing Celiac disease, which is the medical condition where people cannot have gluten. And then there has been a rise in people with nonCeliac gluten sensitivity,” she said. “So there certainly is a market for people who enjoy cookies, but with wheat being the primary ingredient in traditional cookies, it doesn’t work out.”
The Scartons have a solution.
As their “quarantine project,” developed while they were obligated to spend more time than usual at home, Julia and LuAnn launched Sweets Without Wheat, baking cookies that by extension lack gluten, the substance in cereal grains that is responsible for the elastic texture of dough.
The business – it’s licensed through the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and set up as a limited liability corporation – is led by Julia, who’s 16.
“This one doesn’t let the grass grow under her feet,” her mother said.
A highest-honors student, Julia decided to add entrepreneurship to her résumé while baking batches of gluten-free cookies last Christmas.
“I reached out to all my friends, and we posted it on Facebook to see if people were interested, and we got a very positive response,” she said. “The support of my friends has been overwhelming. They’re buying products and posting on their social media to promote the business.”
Julia also is receiving a boost from at V&V Scratch Kitchen in Union Township, where she works with Washington residents chef Martin Lamarche and his wife, Kristin, who named the restaurant after their children, Vincent and Vivien.
“I talked to them about my cookie business, and they are now buying the cookies from me and selling them to the public,” Julia said.
The Scartons had planned to have a Sweets Without Wheat presence at the weekly Peters Township Farmers Market at St. David’s Episcopal Church, but COVID-19 interfered.
They did have the opportunity to greet the public and hand out cookies during the recent “Trunk or Treat” drive-through event at Peterswood Park, during which they talked with a lot of the folks in attendance.
“We were really surprised at how somebody would say, ‘My sister has Celiac. My nephew has Celiac.’ Everyone seemed to know someone who is on a gluten-free diet,” LuAnn said.
She said she continues to help the cause at home by “making sure that our kitchen and oven and all the ingredients are completely free of cross-contamination, which is a really big issue.”
With the holiday season approaching, the Scartons are looking forward to providing cookies to even more people who aren’t able to enjoy sweets with wheat.
For more information and to place orders, which are being filled with a five- to seven-day notice, email firstname.lastname@example.org.