Matthew Albert has been baking up a business, Matt’s Cookie Bars, with the mission of satisfying the sweet tooth of his customers in a healthy way.
The cookie bars are gluten free. They are also made with 95 percent organic ingredients, including flour, eggs and butter. They’re also free of chemicals and artificial stabilizers.
“The only non-organic ingredients are one of the chocolate flavorings, and I use that in very small amounts,” Albert said. He added that he also uses an alternative form of sugar to sweeten them. “Instead of using cane sugar, I use coconut sugar, which has lower glycemic levels, retains nutrients and doesn’t give you a sugar rush,” said Albert, who lives in Pittsfield. “So, while they’re tasty and satisfying like other cookies, they’re more like a food.”
Albert, who started the business about two years ago, currently sells four flavors of the cookies, including Chocolate Chunk, Triple Chocolate, Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chip.
They are sold individually wrapped through a small network of food outlets he has developed, including Berkshire Co-op Market in Great Barrington, Berkshire Organics in Pittsfield, PJ’s convenience store in Sheffield, Shots Cafe in Lenox, and Wild Oats Market in Williamstown, among others.
The cookie bars are also carried in stores in Northampton and the Pioneer Valley.
Albert sells them to stores at a wholesale price of $1.50 per cookie bar, and each outlet determines the retail price. He said they are generally priced in the range of $2.29 to $2.49.
“I primarily focus on natural food stores,” he said. “And, so far I’ve been concentrating on smaller stores, where they are more visible. I don’t have a big advertising budget, so sales depend on their visibility in the stores.”
He also sells them at the Pittsfield and Lenox Farmers Markets and at the Berkshire Grown Winter Holiday Market.
They are also available by the dozen online through the company’s website, MattsCookieBars.com.
Albert noted that he is also is in the final stages of negotiations with a business in Northampton that sells natural foods though vending machines.
Matt’s Cookie Bars (413-446-6694) is a one-man enterprise. Albert handles the baking, packaging, marketing and distribution himself.
He makes the cookies in The Berkshire Harvest Rental Kitchen, a commercial food preparation facility in Lee.
Albert is also a professional massage therapist. A native of Peabody, he moved to Berkshire County 28 years ago to take a job as a massage therapist at Canyon Ranch in Lenox, a job he still holds.
He originally developed the recipe and started making his cookie bars for himself, to address his own health needs.
“Years ago, I discovered I was allergic to wheat,” he said. “It was difficult to find wheat-free snacks in stores, so I started baking cookies for myself. I also wanted the cookies to be natural and healthy because that’s how I generally try to live.”
After experimenting, he came up with a recipe that had a satisfying consistency and flavor. “They taste like real cookies you’d make at home,” Albert said.
Apart from the organic ingredients, there is one other difference from conventional cookies, which also explains the name “cookie bars.”
“Unlike a regular cookie they’re square rather than being round,” he said. “When I started making them, I didn’t know how to make a round cookie. So I improvised with my own method of placing them on a baking pan and cutting them into squares. So it’s a square cookie.”
Albert said the process of launching the business started a few years ago.
“I was thinking about where I would be financially in about 20 years when I reached retirement age,” he said. “To prepare for that, I decided I needed to do something that would allow me to generate additional income, and eventually make a career transition. I also like building things, and the idea of building a business appealed to me.”
He said he was inspired by a friend to take the step toward becoming a cookie entrepreneur. “I got the impetus to do it from one of my friends who started a pie company,” he said. “That motivated me to start a business with my cookies.”
Albert goes to the commercial kitchen and bakes large batches, which he freezes to retain their freshness. He replenishes his supply as needed.
He said he is working to grow the business on a manageable basis, while continuing to work as a massage therapist.
Albert noted that he travels back to Peabody to visit his family on a regular basis, and has used these trips to expand his network of outlets in other parts of the state. “I’ve combined those trips back home with a delivery route at stores along the way,” he said.
He noted that most of the work involves developing the market. “The most time-consuming aspect is getting people to notice and sample the cookie bars,” he said. “Once they try them, people usually love them.”