Whoa! New plant-based, gluten-free cookie dough bar satisfies the sweet tooth, avoids allergens

As a child, Todd Goldstein often got sick and experienced stomach pains after eating bakery items at his family’s restaurant. It wasn’t until he was in his 30s that that Goldstein was diagnosed with a gluten allergy after a friend suggested he see a doctor about the continued pain.

Then his two oldest sons, Henri, 5, and Grayson, 3, were born with the same allergy. Goldstein assumes his youngest son, eight-month-old Remy, also has the allergy, but he hasn’t yet been tested.

Todd Goldstein founder of Whoa! DoughBut Goldstein wasn’t going to let his gluten allergy prevent him, or his family, from enjoying his favorite treat: cookie dough.

So, he went on the hunt to find indulgent snacks to feed his sweet tooth, and quickly struggled to find an on-the-go treat that fulfilled those cookie dough cravings. So, in late 2020, Goldstein launched Whoa! Dough—offering indulgent cookie dough bars.

Whoa! Dough bars are gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, egg-free, plant based, non-GMO, packed with four to five grams of protein, and 140 to 170 calories. The bars come in six different flavors: sprinkle sugar cookie dough; sugar cookie dough; peanut butter chocolate chip cookie dough; peanut butter cookie dough; chocolate chip cookie dough; and brownie batter.

Whoa Dough’s office is out of LaunchHouse, a Highland Heights community entrepreneurial center that Goldstein co-founded in 2008. The passion behind LaunchHouse started when Goldstein moved back to Cleveland after graduating from college and saw there wasn’t really a place for young entrepreneurs.

He noticed most of his friends were moving to places such as New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles because of the entrepreneurial opportunities. LaunchHouse gives businesses resources, capital, mentorship, and connections to entrepreneurs to kick start their businesses.

With that background in fostering entrepreneurs, Goldstein wanted to create something himself—and Whoa! Dough was born.

“As we started to create the product, right away [my team and I] looked and asked, ‘what makes cookie dough today and how do we make it in a way that still has that taste and texture of cookie dough but can satisfy people who have allergies?’” Goldstein asked.

Creating a perfect recipe with dietary restrictions in mind was a lot of trial and error for Goldstein and his team. After 19 variations of the recipes, Whoa Dough had their first soft launch in 2019. Bars were stocked in local stores like Heinen’s. Goldstein took feedback from community members and altered the recipe so that even more could enjoy his product.

“I recommend for any entrepreneur, you create something, go out to the market and get feedback, and then you take that feedback and refine your idea until it’s something the market wants,” he says. “Getting that feedback allowed us to go in and improve the recipe even more. That was recipe number 21.”

The 21st and final recipe that came out in November 2020 had 100 fewer calories than the original bar. Four of the bars became allergen-free. Goldstein introduced a brownie batter bar—stemming from customer feedback during the soft launch.

Additionally, Goldstein decided to bring production from California back to Northeast Ohio after he found a Youngstown company that matched the visions he wanted for his company.

Goldstein says he had his friends took a blind taste test of Whoa Dough against popular cookie dough recipes and his recipe comes out on top.

“You always try to peg yourself against the best in the industry,” Goldstein explains.

Whoa Dough can be found at a variety of places in Cleveland. These include Heinen’s grocery, Lucky’s Market, Dave’s Supermarkets, Plum Market in University Circle, Murray Hill Market in Little Italy, and Hungry Bee in Chagrin Falls. Goldstein also has a national presence—shipping from the Whoa! Dough website and through Amazon.

“[Whoa Dough] has a program where we sell to a lot of independent stores, so we are represented in almost all 50 states,” Goldstein says.  

Since the beginning of the year, Goldstein says Whoa Dough sales on Amazon are up 2,000% and in retail more than 300%.

“I think we’ve really hit our sweet spot. It’s not just a snack for people with allergies, it’s for everyone. People want that indulgent taste and to feel like they are eating right out of the mixing bowl,” he says.

Goldstein made it a goal to take a snack everyone loves and make it so that he, his sons, and anyone else with food allergies can enjoy the foods they crave.

“Everyone loves licking the spoon—that’s the best part of baking,” he says. “My thought was [to find] a way we can translate that thing everyone loves in the kitchen but bring that with them everywhere they go.”

The bars can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. Goldstein’s favorite way is as an on-the-go snack. But the bars can also be refrigerated and then baked at 350 degrees for three to five minutes to mimic a cookie. Each bar has a shelf life of 12 months.

Goldstein says his sons are his taste testers and his hardest critics.

“Every time I would bring a different version home, they were the first people to try it,” he says. “When it got to the point where every day my kids asked me, ‘where’s my Whoa Dough!’ that’s when I knew I had done it.”

Grayson’s favorite flavor is peanut butter chocolate chip and Henri enjoys the Brownie Batter.

Every day his son, Grayson, asks for his whoa dough after school. But first Grayson must go to the office and work for his dough—at age three he earns his treat by packaging orders and helping in any other way he can.

Read more articles by Jylian Herring.

Jylian Herring is a current journalism student at Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. She has previously worked with two student-run campus magazines and is also a member of Alpha Xi Delta sorority. She enjoys writing about topics such as social justice and locally owned businesses. When Jylian isn't giving her time to one of her student organizations, she likes to listen to podcasts and try new restaurants.