Goodles Cheddy Mac & Cheese
Santa Cruz-based Goodles launched its boxed mac & cheese product in four varieties on Tuesday.
(Courtesy Katrin Bjork)
Food & Drink

A Santa Cruz superfood, superhero-approved: Wonder Woman endorses Goodles’ new mac & cheese

Santa Cruz-based Goodles launched on Tuesday with a plant-based boxed mac & cheese product in four varieties. The founding team includes actor Gal Gadot and former execs at Annie’s and Kraft.

A new Santa Cruz-based company has teamed up with Wonder Woman to take on the boxed mac & cheese status quo.

Lily

On Tuesday, Goodles: Noodles, Gooder launched a brand-new boxed mac & cheese product on its website, featuring a proprietary noodle recipe that’s packed with nutrients and protein but tastes like the noodles many people grew up eating. The founding team is headed by CEO and Santa Cruz resident Jen Zeszut, and includes the co-founder and former president of Annie’s Homegrown, Deb Luster, former Kraft Macaroni & Cheese executive Paul Earle, and award-winning actor Gal Gadot, who starred as Wonder Woman in the DC Comics movie franchise.

Goodles is currently only available online. The company intends for it to be available at grocery stores in the first half of next year, although they are still finalizing things with retailers, says Deb Luster, Chief Impact Officer at Goodles. This is because they wanted to launch the product online first to see how it resonates with consumers and to dial in any aspects of the product that need adjusting.

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Zeszut laughs when asked how her partnership with Gadot came about, and says she thinks about it every day. She met Gadot a few years ago and knew her to be a lover of food, but found out only later how much she loves mac & cheese.

“She tells this incredible story that she grew up in Israel and had an aunt and uncle that lived in the U.S. When they would come to visit once a year, all the kids in Israel would put in their requests. They would want this doll or a toy or something from America. All Gal asked for every year was a giant bag of boxed mac & cheese.”

Zeszut and Gadot also connected over a passion for nutrition, and as busy working mothers seeking an easy, nutritious meal that the whole family could enjoy. “It’s a tiny little noodle made gooder,” Zeszut says. “But we really think that that’s a big idea, and that can be transformative. We love this idea of the little things in the world that can actually have big impacts.”

Goodles is plant-based, but it is neither gluten-free nor vegan. Rather, the pasta in Goodles has been reengineered to include 15 grams of protein, 6 grams of fiber and 21 nutrients derived from plants like chickpeas, kale, pumpkin, and maitake mushroom in every serving. The company also uses prebiotic flour to support gut health, and real cheese.

Goodles is the first mac & cheese to receive the Clean Label Project Purity Award, a certification given to products that omit substances of chemical concern such as heavy metals, plasticizers and pesticide residues.

Goodles has four varieties available: Cheddy Mac, a creamy, classic mac & cheese; Shella Good, with aged white cheddar and shells; Twist My Parm, a spiral noodle with Asiago and Parmesan; and Mover & Shaker, a cacio e pepe-inspired mac. All are priced at $3.50 per box.

And it tastes really good. The noodles have the right chew and texture. The cheese tastes of the real cheese it’s made out of, and the two bind together to create a pasta that’s probably more delicious than what you remember eating as a kid, without any unnecessary additives or dyes. There’s no need to add an imaginative layer to your experience, as adults often do to trick themselves that the health foods they’re eating are tasty. Goodles actually is.

Even with the help of a highly skilled research and development team, “This took us over 1,000 versions to get right,” says Zeszut. “Because it’s not just a flavor, it’s a taste. It’s the way that it cooks, the way that the cheese binds to the noodles.”

Goodles

“Getting this just right was extraordinarily difficult and apparently why no one has done it before, because it’s hard. But we’re really, really happy with how it’s turned out. And the response has just been amazing. We’re so excited to finally go live and let the world taste.”

Goodles’ headquarters is off of River Street, in the restaurant space that was previously Oasis. As soon as the company receives the green light from the city, it plans to open its doors and offer samples of its product in-house. Before that happens, Zeszut says that neighboring River Café will offer prepared Goodles for sale.

“The brand is very weird, and it’s fun, and it’s free. It is colorful and mischievous. And it’s all the things that Santa Cruz is, so this is the perfect place to have our headquarters for the Goodle brand,” says Zeszut.

“My wishes are coming true to get to do this work in Santa Cruz, with an extraordinary team around me in such a fun place,” says Zeszut. “It is going to be fun to share it with the world. I’m a big sharer, so to have to keep things secret is awful for me. I just can’t wait for people to taste and try and tell us what they think.”

Goodles are available at goodles.com.

Goodles team photo
The Goodles team, including, in the middle row, Chief Impact Officer Deb Luster (second from left), Board Director Paul Earle (third from left), CEO Jen Zeszut (fourth from left), and founder/award-winning actor Gal Gadot (center).
(via Goodles)