Cookies are not the first thing that comes to someone's mind when they think healthy food, but fitness enthusiast Robert Puentes hopes to change that point of view with his product, The Gorilla Cookie.
“Honestly, I think the healthiest food is actually the best-tasting food. Since I don't eat a lot of sugar and a lot of desserts, but I wanted something that actually tastes good, and the response I've gotten is overwhelmingly good,” says Puentes.
The Gorilla Cookie Co. is run entirely by Puentes, selling high protein cookies in four flavors: chocolate coconut, banana, pumpkin spice, and chocolate peanut butter. Puentes hopes this high protein, high fiber, and low-sugar snack will help people curb their unhealthy eating habits.
“I always wanted to be in health and fitness, and I've always been a workout guy,” says Puentes, who also sells fitness equipment and works as a fitness trainer on the side. “I've been into health, fitness, and weight lifting for about 40 years. I kind of created the cookie for myself, and then I saw what was on the market and I decided to take it to the market. I think I'm unique in the way I tried to build this business.”
Puentes began The Gorilla Cookie Co. in 2016 out of his desert home and has introduced it to the valley by participating in events such as the Palm Springs Health RunFitness Expo where he uses the stage to teach people about improving their nutrition and health.
“The gorilla cookie is a nutritious and healthy snack that would complement any of our healthy tastings from our restaurants,” says Diana Marlo, who invited Puentes to bring his product to the upcoming Greater Palm Springs Food & Wine Festival Feb. 16 at the Renaissance Indian Wells Resort & Spa.
Initially a smaller part of the Desert Women’s show, the Greater Palm Springs Food & Wine Festival gained significant traction on its own to convince Marlo that it needed to be rebranded as its own event. The festival will include a number of food vendors like Eight4Nine Restaurant & Lounge, Mastro’s Steakhouse, and Wildest Greens, along with live music entertainment provided by the Big Rock Golf & Pub.
This will be Puentes’ first appearance at the event, and he answered a few more questions about The Gorilla Cookie.
Why did you pick a healthy cookie? You mentioned that you don't normally eat sugary foods.
Just because I like protein bars on occasion. I didn't like what was out there, and I wanted something alternative that was kind of different. There's a couple protein cookies on the market, but they're not very good.
What do you mean? Like some products are falsely representing themselves?
Extremely. I tell people you have to read the label. You have to read the label because the label will tell you how much sugar is in there. They just have a ton of sugar in there and promote themselves as healthy, which is kind of dishonest.
Was there a trial and error period with creating this product?
Yes, because I did a lot of Farmer's Markets, and I was making a lot of them, and wasting a lot of product. I was still getting good response, and then I went to a mix. That's been selling well. Sometimes people don't like to bake, so that's a drawback for that, but now we're looking at selling the cookies frozen, which I haven't seen any on the market — frozen protein products.
What advice would you have for another small business that's just starting up?
Just grind, grind, grind, and don't give up. You're going to have all kinds of setbacks. Financial, everyone's hurting for money, so it's just a question of getting yourself out there. I'm trying to get to a different market here, which I don't know if I've reached that market in the fitness and health industry, but we'll see.
Greater Palm Springs Food & Wine Festival, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 16, Renaissance Indian Wells Resort & Spa, 44400 Indian Wells Lane, 760-902-9532; greaterpalmspringsfoodandwine.com.