Local food companies praised

Representatives of the Appalachian Regional Commission got an upclose look Tuesday morning of two small businesses that are making their mark in the food industry.

“These local food companies are growing in the marketplace. It is important to encourage them,” said Earl Gohn, ARC co-chairman. “Right here, you see two creative and energetic entrepreneurs. It is great to see what Southern Alleghenies has done to support these entrepreneurs who are in this new market and will grow.”

Southern Alleghenies Planning and Development Commission officials also joined in the visit at Bella Lucia Gluten Free Pizzelles, 716 N. Fourth Ave.

Southern Alleghenies has been providing export assistance to both Bella Lucia and Better Batter, 1885 E. Pleasant Valley Blvd.

Better Batter has expanded into the Canadian market, while Bella Lucia hopes to in the near future.

Better Batter, founded By Naomi Poe in 2006, which makes gluten free all-purpose and seasoned flour and mixes for pancakes, biscuits, brownies, yellow and chocolate cake, expects to do between $600,000 and $650,000 in sales this year.

“Next year, I hope to double that and then have 20 percent growth each year,” Poe said. “We have some new products we will be coming out with. We are always looking at the next thing. Our goal is to be the Coca-Cola of the gluten-free world.”

MaryAnn Petta Cook, who founded Bella Lucia in her home in August 2009, recently moved her business to a bakery and distribution center at 716 N. Fourth Ave.

Cook said she expects to do about $350,000 in sales this year.

“We are up in sales about 40 percent this year,” she said.

Cook said she expects her business, which makes gluten free pizzelles, to continue to grow.

She recently introduced her fourth flavor – lemon – to go along with Saigon cinnamon, anise and vanilla.

The two women work closely together with Better Batter flour being used to make the pizzelles.

“I think of her as my sister and my sister company. Her flour is amazing and works well with our cookies,” Cook said.

Poe said the women appreciate the attention of the ARC and SAP&DC.

“To get this recognition is important. We are the little guys in the business world, but we are big enough to be taken seriously,” Poe said.

Gohn visited Shirley’s Cookie Co. in William Ward Industrial Park, Claysburg, on Tuesday afternoon to spotlight its growth as a manufacturer of ready-to-bake and thaw-and-sell cookies.