Local entrepreneurs take trip to TastyTowne

Tulsa StartUp Series winners introduce tasty treats for diabetics

By Rhett Morgan Tulsa World July 6, 2018


While P.J. Daugherty was in the throes of dieting hell, she went in search of some palatable dessert recipes online.

The results were disastrous.

“It tasted like kind-of-yummy chalk or kind-of-yummy sand,” she said.

What went down much better were the low-carb cookies and brownies her friend Susan Denney had developed for her diabetic mother. Realizing the potential of the treats, Daugherty, 33, goaded Denney, 28, into partnering on TastyTowne, the food business they founded in September.

“I told her I don’t want you to be the Emily Dickinson of food science,” Daugherty said of Denney’s litany of recipes. “This needs to get out in the world.”

It is starting to.

TastyTowne last month won the food/retail/physical product segment and $2,500 at the Tulsa StartUp Series at 36 Degrees North, a pitch contest powered by the Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation. On July 15-18, the pair are planning to hawk their products at the Food Technologists Expo in Chicago.

Denney has spent at least five years developing the baked goods behind TastyTowne. Part of a family with an extensive history of diabetes, she began feeling doomed to the disease when her blood sugar levels rose to the prediabetic range when she was in her early 20s. She also wanted her mother to balance her cravings with a healthier diet.

“I really deep-dived into ‘let’s look at the science and what is the research so far,’ ” Denney said. “Everything was pointing to you have to decrease carbohydrates if you have glucose intolerance, of which diabetics fall into that category.”

With help from the Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center at Oklahoma State University, Denney said she is reaching her goal, which is “getting taste-chew texture by looking at the actual functional physical properties of sugar and what you’re trying to replace and then looking at the low-glycemic toolbox that you have and trying to re-create those parts.”

A heap of folks could benefit from TastyTowne’s creations.

More than 100 million U.S. adults are now living with diabetes or prediabetes, according to a 2017 report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC report also found that as of 2015, a total of 30.3 million Americans — 9.4 percent of the U.S. population — have diabetes.

Another 84.1 million have prediabetes, a condition that if not treated often leads to type 2 diabetes within five years.

Denney credits her mother, Alicia Denney, for helping her create what she hopes are “texture- and taste-perfect” treats.

“I would definitely say she’s probably my toughest critic,” Susan Denney said. “Honestly, I can be thankful for that.”