Company finds market for allergen-free cookies

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Lucy Gibney’s son, Colin, was diagnosed six years ago with severe allergies to milk, wheat, eggs, nuts and other basic ingredients. That development prompted her to create meals and snacks in her kitchen that were tasty and safe for the child. The cookies turned out so well that Gibney and her husband, Paul, both emergency room physicians, decided to create a business.

Allergen- and gluten-free cookies from Norfolk-based Dr. Lucy’s LLC hit the market in late 2007 and quickly gained a following. The cookies — which come in chocolate-chip, oatmeal-raisin, sugar and cinnamon-thin varieties — now can be purchased in more than 7,000 stores, including major grocery chains.  Recently, the company struck a deal with Starbucks to sell cookies in 6,000 of its 11,000 coffee shops.

Dr. Lucy’s has increased production from 30,000 cookies a week at the beginning of 2009 to more than 400,000 cookies now. The number of full-time employees rose from two to 42 last year.

Gibney is surprised at the diversity of her customers. They include people following vegan, kosher and low-fat diets, as well as those with food allergies and celiac disease. ‘The truth is, though, we’re selling to everybody,” she says. “People buy them because they’re just really good cookies. They look like and have the texture of a normal cookie.”

Gibney and her husband plan to eventually expand their cookie flavors and add other types of snacks. She hopes that her products ultimately will make life a little easier for people with food allergies and special dietary needs. “I recently got a message from a mom who was excited because she was able to go to her favorite coffee shop and pick up a safe treat for her son as well,” she says.

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