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Gluten-free foods can be pretty hit or miss when it comes to flavor and texture. So, when HamdAllah Olona of Haverhill wanted to treat her gluten-intolerant friends to something beyond what she calls the typical “starchy, boring, unpalatable snacks” she channeled her grandmother, headed to the kitchen, and started cooking.

The result was GoodieKrunch, a coconut cluster snack that takes inspiration from the snacks that Olona’s grandmother, a Yoruba woman of the Oyo Kingdom in West Africa, used to make all the time for family and friends. 

“I went down memory lane and one of my grandmother’s…recipes was this coconut one,” says Olona, founder and CEO of Yvesta D’Or LLC, the company that makes GoodieKrunch.

Unlike other foods that try to be gluten-free versions of things like bread and cookies by swapping out gluten-alternative ingredients, GoodieKrunch is naturally gluten free and vegan, packed with fiber, and “made with simple, clean ingredients you can pronounce,” Olona says.

Its classic, original recipe includes just five simple, natural ingredients—organic coconut, organic coconut sugar, raisins, Bourbon vanilla extract, and sea salt—that combine to make an addictively sweet and crunchy treat. 

“It is an affordable, healthy…coconut snack for individuals who are health-conscious and have a busy lifestyle,” Olona says. “There’s nothing artificial in my products.” 

Olona’s journey with GoodieKrunch mirrored her grandmother’s in another way: It was very popular with her family and friends. 

“Like my grandmother, I entertained friends and family with it until friends persuaded me to share it with the world in 2017 when GoodieKrunch was born,” she says.

Although it was inspired by Olona’s grandmother’s recipes, GoodieKrunch is decidedly modern. Not only does Olona work in a commercial kitchen (as opposed to the outdoor clay oven that her grandmother used), but GoodieKrunch uses additional ingredients, like raisins, to add extra flavor and fiber, and vanilla for a sweet scent.

It also comes in three other varieties: The rich and subtly sweet dark chocolate; flax seed; and peanut butter, which is Olona’s favorite. Olona is working on developing more flavors, too, including a fig variety that’s suitable for diabetics, but is mum about the others. 

“I do have other products in mind, but I’m a strong believer in, do it quietly and then announce it big,” she says.

That instinct for business and marketing is something that is built into Olona’s DNA. 

“I come from a business family with culinary and various business backgrounds,” she says. “My mother owned a restaurant and was also the regional distributor for Coca Cola. My father had a car dealership, gas stations, and was in the yarn business.”

Since launching in 2017, GoodieKrunch has expanded its distribution channels to include shops and stores ranging from Cider Hill Farm in Amesbury and Tendercrop Farms in Newbury and Dover to Butcher Boy in North Andover and Tuscan Market in Salem. Customers can also order online and at local farmers’ markets. Olona isn’t stopping there and aims to bring GoodieKrunch to additional health food stores, grocery stores, and eventually hopes to sell her products nationally. 

One of the things that makes GoodieKrunch so popular is its versality. While GoodieKrunch is delicious as a standalone snack, it’s also a great addition to a number of other dishes. 

It tastes great when you break up the clusters into smaller bite-sized pieces to sprinkle over ice cream, oatmeal, or yogurt. Another way Olona likes to eat it is adding the crumbled clusters into a peanut butter sandwich with sliced bananas, which creates a filling and satisfying breakfast, lunch, or snack.

“If you bake something you can actually put it on your cake batter,” Olona says. “After you’ve put your batter in your baking tin, you can sprinkle your GoodieKrunch on top of it.” The cake will rise in a way that’s reminiscent of a Dutch apple dessert with crumbs on top, she says.

It also speaks to the way Olona approaches her products and how they’re enjoyed. “I believe everything in life is an art,” she says.

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