Chip dodges Utah ‘cookie wars,’ teams up with one of the ‘Real Housewives’

Founder Sarah Wilson and her friend Heather Gay collaborate on a peppermint-chip cookie available through Christmas Eve.

(Chip Cookies) Sarah Wilson, co-founder of Chip Cookies, and Heather Gay, cast member of "The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City," have collaborated on a holiday cookie.

The Utah cookie company Chip is staying out of the Utah “cookie wars,” opting instead to collaborate with one of “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” on a holiday treat that’s available for a limited time.

Sarah Wilson, co-founder of Chip, and “Real Housewives” cast member Heather Gay are launching a cookie called the Candy Cane Sugar Chip — a sugar cookie with cream cheese icing sprinkled with crushed peppermint. It will be on sale at all Chip locations, and for shipping nationwide, through Christmas Eve.

Wilson and Gay said in an interview that even though they both started their businesses — Wilson’s cookie company, and Gay’s Beauty Lab + Laser — in 2016, they didn’t meet until a few years later, at Gay’s business, and have been friends ever since.

The women said their collaboration was organic — in other words, unpaid endorsements of each other’s businesses — and a way for each to boost and support another woman entrepreneur.

Another collaboration — a layered cocoa-chip and cream cheese creation called The Naughty Elf — was on sale for a week in early December, and went out of commission quickly. When Wilson created the Naughty Elf, she immediately called Gay.

“I said, ‘Heather, this cookie is made for you,’” Wilson said. “We asked her if she wanted to do the candy cane cookie again. She tasted [the new] cookie, and she was like, ‘This needs to be my cookie.’”

(Chip Cookies) The Naughty Elf, a collaboration between Sarah Wilson of Chip Cookies and Heather Gay of "The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City."

The Naughty Elf was a variation, Wilson said, on Chip’s Better Than Sex cookie. “It’s this rich, cocoa-based cookie and we infuse it with condensed milk and caramel, and then we have whipped cream and toffee on it,” she said. “So this one, we did a Christmas version of it. …. It’s just like Christmas in your mouth.”

The Naughty Elf is “a craveable cookie,” Gay said. “I usually go for a sugar base, and I love my Candy Cane Sugar Chip that we did before, but Naughty Elf is a lot like being a bad Mormon. … So when I saw and tasted the Better Than Sex Naughty Elf cookie, I begged her to let me collab on it. It’s completely addictive and delicious.” (“Bad Mormon” is the title of Gay’s upcoming memoir, hitting shelves on Feb. 7, and Gay is just starting her press tour.)

Both women emphasized that their businesses champion the idea that women can give themselves permission to engage in joyful self-care, whether it’s spa treatments or gourmet cookies. The businesses’ mottos — Chip’s is “delivering happiness,” Beauty Lab’s is “the lab loves you” — speak to that.

“It’s OK to give in to what you really want,” Gay said. “I think that we both have that same philosophy, like, let’s make it easier for women to treat themselves better.”

Wilson said Chip “was born out of pregnancy cravings. I was a woman, pregnant, craving cookies. … There’s nothing wrong with indulging. I have dessert after almost every meal. But it needs to be worth it, right?”

Wilson added, " There’s something so emotional about cookies. Our mom made them, or our grandma. … I think no one should deprive themselves of happiness, whether it’s going and getting a hydrafacial or eating a cookie.”

The pair said they wanted to work together to disprove the cliche about women being competitive with each other. Chip has nine Utah locations, including one in Salt Lake City’s Maven District on 900 South, which supports mostly women business owners, mostly because it’s much harder for female business owners to get access to loans and startup funds.

As far as Utah’s infamous “cookie wars,” Wilson said her approach at Chip has been to rise above, and keep doing what they’re doing.

“Competition is great. It keeps you on your toes and makes you better in business,” Wilson said.

She noted that Crumbl, the Logan-based company that has some 500 stores nationwide, started a year after Chip. “They had the same logo, the same box, and they had to change those things,” Wilson said. “We never sued them. That’s not our style. But we did go after them for those things, and they changed.”

The “cookie wars” started in May, when Crumbl filed federal lawsuits against two smaller Utah-based companies, Dirty Dough and Crave Cookies, claiming the companies infringed on copyrights involving Crumbl’s logo, packaging and recipes. Dirty Dough countered with a series of comic viral videos; Crave has stayed quiet during the legal action.

Gay said that trademarking was the only thing that protected Wilson. “I felt the same way with Beauty Lab,” she said. “We’re both in very saturated markets. Cookies are saturated now in Salt Lake, and so are med spas. But we trademarked our services, and then we had all the plastic surgeons coming in trying to sell us mini lip-plumps or cheekbone pops, but we’d trademarked those services, and they were forced to change.”

The majority of the copycat companies, both women said, are male-owned businesses — and are now tied up in lawsuits.

“When you see them fight among each other,” Gay said, “you think, you know, it’s always better to focus on what you can do to improve your business, to rise above the competition, just like Chip has done and not gotten stuck in the swamp with the other companies.”

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