The Force Behind The Teff Cookie Company

We caught up with the founder to talk about the birth of The Teff Cookie Company, her challenges to date and the ethos she lives by.

A look into Jessica Rogers’ story is by no means your average adult story. Whether it was catching the attention of Anna Wintour with her own fashion magazine when she was just 14, or gaining experience at ten high-profile companies at 18, Rogers has consistently pushed the boundaries of her skills. Fervent in her ambition, Rogers branched her innate entrepreneurial skills well beyond a specific sector, developed literacy campaigns while working for Swarovski, and then became a successful founder in one of the most competitive industries of the zeitgeist.

How was this achieved? It all started for Rogers on a trip to visit her friend at the UN in Ethiopia, who discovered the grain teff on her travels. She ignited an exploration of nutrition and sustainable development, creating a product that not only encouraged camaraderie and community (with its two-in-one-pack design), but also offered numerous nutritional and flavor benefits – a product that would be born The Teff Cookie Company . Rogers creates conscious and clean cookies, leveraging teff’s many health benefits to offer everyone a product that makes them feel good inside and out.

After two rounds of funding and three years of development, we sat down with Rogers to find out what it takes to build an empire that revolutionizes the fashion, food and fitness sectors alike. Now go below for the full interview…

Hey Jessica, how are you today? From where are we speaking to you today?
Hi! Really good, thanks. Happy to chat with Wonderland today! I am currently speaking to you from my office in London.

What did you eat for breakfast this morning?
A filter coffee, a cinnamon sultana teff cookie with crunchy peanut butter spread, and a vanilla protein shake with banana. It’s my favorite breakfast – it’s quick, tasty and will get me through all my meetings throughout the day.

How did your journey into nutrition begin? I know you started out in fashion, but what inspired you to branch into food?
I’ve always been a foodie! Even as a small child I was fascinated by aromas, combinations and always new things. When I was 4 years old I suddenly stopped eating one of my favorite dishes – my family was so concerned they called the company to check if they had changed anything in the recipe. Turns out they had changed one ingredient! I think I’ve always been very conscious of what I eat and paid attention to food. Over the years I developed an interest in nutrition. When I visited Ethiopia a few years ago, I stayed with local families and got to know teff – for generations, teff, one of the oldest and smallest grains in the world, has been a staple ingredient that Ethiopians use in their meals and is credited with providing support of long-distance endurance athletes. When I returned home I couldn’t stop raving about teff as I had experienced a difference adding it to my diet and couldn’t believe the research I had read. The idea for the company came about while I was baking teff cookies with my father at home. I was in the kitchen baking with my dad and he suggested adding the grain to the mix. After making the original teff cookie in our kitchen, he decided we “wouldn’t do this all the time” and went to Amazon to buy some ready-made teff cookies. He couldn’t find anything there and approached me and said you should start The Teff Cookie Company – and that’s where the idea started. When I first started delving into the idea, I couldn’t believe how many products were advertised with health claims when in reality they were full of refined sugar, unnecessary additives, and food-substitution problems. Realizing there was a huge gap in the market for a snack that was actually good for you, I wanted to create the ultimate allowable treat. I then spent years studying nutrition and learning about food development. I wanted to create something I’ve always dreamed of – a cookie that’s actually good for you and serves a functional nutritional purpose!

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Let’s talk teff! Can you describe the exciting grain to our readers? What are its health benefits?
Where do I start – when you start looking into teff, you won’t believe how many benefits there are. Teff catches the eye of fitness enthusiasts around the world thanks to its gluten-free nature, mineral content, low glycemic index, high crude fiber content and as a unique granola rich in vitamin C. It is rich in essential amino acids, has an amino acid composition comparable to eggs and is rich in glutamine and lysine. Teff is also high in fiber, minerals (especially calcium and iron), and phytochemicals (polyphenols and phytates). Based on the mineral and vitamin composition of teff, as little as 100g of teff per day can improve metabolism, contribute to a more robust immune system and help build and maintain a healthier neurological system. It provides energy for better performance – gives an energy boost comparable to coffee but without that caffeine crash. It can increase your physical endurance by 25% and is extremely useful for replacing iron stores lost during exercise (especially important for women). It’s the best grain source of prebiotic fiber, which is essential for maintaining gut health. There are also studies showing significant effects of teff on improving athletic performance. Cornell University also found that teff significantly helps the stomach microbiome and increases the nutritional value of iron and zinc. Several important bacterial metabolic pathways have been enriched by the teff extract. I can go on, but we’ll be here for hours!

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And teff is the core element of the cookies you sell under your business, The Teff Cookie Company, part of The Teff Creations Company, which you founded at the age of 23! What was it like starting a business at such a young age?
I was 23 when I started the company and I had no idea what was going to happen next. It took almost 4 years of development/strategy work and 2 rounds of funding to bring the concept to market just this year. It has been an incredible journey so far and every day is a learning process. No day is the same. I have encountered some challenges such as showing up for meetings and being overlooked as a business owner – instead I was assumed to be a company intern. Also, I have attended meetings where it was assumed that I would fail to do my due diligence or be aware of the costs – I’ve had a few outrageous suggestions in the past that were also factually incorrect. It was a journey that taught me resilience, perseverance and faith.

They also have some very fun packaging that can best be described as a plethora of cheeky slogans! What inspired this?
Why not make healthy eating fun and engaging! I wanted to create a brand that makes people smile. Something that not only tasted good, but also put you in a good mood physically and mentally. This is actually why there are two cookies in one box, I wanted to create something that encourages sharing but also spreads warmth and laughter.

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The company ethos is based on disrupting fashion, food and fitness at the same time! In your opinion, how are these three spheres connected?
There is an intersection between these spheres. They are all their own art form and the way we express ourselves and our individuality every day. I truly believe that life is a series of moments and fashion, food and fitness are all ways we can build moments of personal and shared joy into our lives. Fashion, food and fitness provide insights into our lifestyle and culture, our daily means of self-expression and how we shape our own image. There is also a high level of care required when looking for high quality, nutrient dense food and this becomes an art form to create your final product. Each ingredient is handpicked and individually crafted just like a garment and tantamount to the daily work to contribute to the body that makes you who you are today. Every ingredient tells a story, like every thread in a garment and every muscle in your body. Food is universally central to life – it has the power to connect us to our bodies, our community and our joy. Food shapes our culture and brings generations together. As a company, we want to unlock the potential of food to connect and empower, foster extraordinary lives and inspire future generations to make a positive impact. In the meantime, let’s not forget that at the end of a fashion show, a shopping spree or a workout, we usually gather in the kitchen!

Do you have a favorite flavor from the cookie you’re selling?
I can’t decide between my kids haha. Every ingredient in every cookie has a story that makes it impossible to choose.

What do you think are the next steps for The Teff Cookie Company and The Teff Creations Company? Do you have plans for the rest of 2022?
For The Teff Cookie Company we have an exciting range of flavors and some exciting collaborations. On the Teff Creations side, we have an exciting product pipeline of teff-based products that we plan to bring to market, starting with the flour itself.

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