March Staff Picks: Erin & Sierra

The first staff-person I spoke with this month was Erin, who has been working at the Co-op as a cashier for almost 10 months. For her pick this month, Erin chose the Hail Merry chocolate tarts that can be found in the refrigerated case across from the beer cooler (top shelf).

Erin selected this product because she says that she likes that these tarts are made from simple ingredients, yet they are so rich and delicious. She says they are always the perfect treat to take her mind off of a challenging day.

Hail Merry is a snack food company from Texas that was founded in 2008 by Susan O’Brien. O’Brien’s pursuit towards a healthy lifestyle began in her teens when she was diagnosed with scoliosis. She began practicing yoga as therapy for her back. In 2004, on a trip to the island of Maui, she discovered the Superfoods/ Raw Foods lifestyle after meeting raw foods author and guru, Renee Loux (Vitucci, 2015). As a long-time yoga practitioner, this lifestyle seemed like a natural evolution for her and her family.

After training with the well-known raw foods chef, Juliano Brotman, Susan decided to turn her home into a test kitchen for new raw creations, with the goal of making them tastier than anything she could find on the market. She began small, selling her limited line of products to a few local health food stores and delivering them out of her car. She quickly gained a loyal following of people who loved her great tasting, healthy snacks.

In 2009, O’Brien met her soon-to-be business partners, who each had over 30 years of experience in the commercial food industry. Their expertise allowed the company to scale the operation while ensuring food safety, creating a solid supply chain, and keeping the product delicious.

Hail Merry currently sells a line of products including, “Miracle Tarts, Grawnola, Macaroons, and Seasoned Nuts and Seeds made from pure natural ingredients” (Hail Merry, 2015). The company is unique in that their snacks are not baked, but instead dehydrated at low temperatures to preserve the integrity of the raw plant oils and fatty acids. Rather than using refined sugars to sweeten their products, they use organic maple syrup, sustainably sourced palm sugar, and raw agave. All of their products are free of corn, soy, starches, gluten, and grain, as well as being 100% vegan and Certified Kosher. The company has won a number of awards for innovation, entrepreneurship, and “best of class” for their vegan products.

The next staff person I spoke with this month was Sierra, who has been working at the Co-op as a deli server for around 4 months. Sierra’s recommendation is the Northwest Cheesecrafters golden ghost cheese bites.

Sierra said that she enjoys this product as a snack because it has a slightly exotic curry flavor and is spicy, but not overpowering. Sierra says they are really addictive and recommends enjoying with friends so you don’t eat the entire package. She also thinks they would be really yummy on some salted French bread with a bit of mustard...I am thinking grilled cheese myself.

Northwest Cheesecrafters is a local company based in Palouse, WA that was founded by Johnny and Sharon Parkins in late 2013. The idea for the business stemmed from Johnny’s day job as the Production Supervisor at the Washington State University (WSU) Creamery, where he helps create new cheese flavors among other responsibilities. While working at the creamery, Johnny and other creamery staff created a small batch of the ghost pepper cheese that everyone loved, but ultimately they decided that since a main ingredient is the incredibly spicy and volatile bhut jolokia pepper, that they didn’t want the students to be exposed to it in large quantities.

ohnny met with the WSU Innovation Assessment Center to see if the University had any proprietary interest in the product, and when it was determined that they did not, he was given their blessing to move forward with the development of his own product that was similar to (but not the same as) the small batch initially developed at the creamery. The spicy ghost pepper bites were the first product created by Northwest Cheesecrafters and was followed by the golden ghost pepper bites. The two have plans for other cheeses in the future.


Hail Merry. (2015). FAQs. Retrieved from Hail Merry:

Vitucci, J. (2015, October). Mom Next Door: Susan O'Brien. Retrieved from Dallas, Fortworth, North Texas Child: