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Photo of Junita Flowers and her homemade cookies

Where Are They Now? – Junita’s Jars

Turning an idea for a food product into a viable business that stands the test of time is not for the faint of heart. The Agricultural Utilization Research Institute’s (AURI) food team helps tilt the odds. One Minnesota entrepreneur, who recently found success in the marketplace with help from AURI, is Junita Flowers, founder of Junita’s Jar. She produces cookies with a cause. Flowers grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota. Some of her favorite childhood memories come from spending time in the kitchen with her family.

“Being in a family where you spend a lot of time in the kitchen, it just becomes a part of who you are, part of your DNA,” Flowers says.

Years later, Flowers found herself in an abusive relationship. She turned to baking to manage the chaos in her life, because time in the kitchen connected her to those positive childhood memories. As the relationship soured, she wondered if the love of baking could offer an opportunity.

“I found myself a single mom and I felt like I had hit rock bottom,” Flowers recalls. “I thought, I can’t go any lower, so why not take a chance and try entrepreneurship and maybe see what you can do with this cookie thing?”

Flowers always believed she would run her own business. Her professional career was spent serving youth and families through nonprofits and community service organizations. She did not expect her business inspiration would come from her love of baking.

Flowers founded Junita’s Jar in 2018. She turned to AURI for help with nutrition labeling, analytical testing, business development and scale-up. She produced bite-sized cookies inspired by childhood recipes.

At the start, Flowers used the business to promote healthy relationships.

“We used our platform initially doing what we called cookies and conversations,” Flowers says. “We would speak to college students about the impact of relationship violence. We used cookies as a way to get them to come to the meeting and as a tool to connect people.”

The COVID-19 pandemic changed plans, but not Flowers’ determination. Junita’s Jar is now a nationally distributed cookie company based in Minneapolis.

Flowers started by making cookies herself in a commercial kitchen, but in 2023, she moved to a third-party manufacturer. The cookies, which come in chocolate chip, oatmeal brown sugar and oatmeal peanut butter chocolate chip flavors, are now distributed across the country, including Caribou Coffee airport locations, numerous hotels and 350 Target stores nationwide. She also is working with a major airline on an opportunity in 2024.

Flowers started another project with AURI to further advance her business.

“I love seeing previous clients on our list of upcoming projects because It means that they’re still being successful as well as expanding their business opportunities,” says AURI Food and Nutrition Scientist Ben Swanson.

Finding success in the food business is no small feat. AURI Senior Food Scientist Lolly Occhino says that in 2022, Minnesota had over 7,300 registered cottage food producers, and there is no shortage of competition.

“There are a lot of companies out there looking for assistance. AURI is continually looking for ways to expand its reach and be more efficient in supporting those businesses,” Occhino says.

Flowers says hers is a cookie company that is a message of hope. Packages are colored purple in support of ending domestic violence.

“Junita’s Jar is a platform for me to be able to inspire women to live their best life and take a chance on themselves,” Flowers explains.

Additional information about Junita’s Jar and product locations can be found at You can also check out a recent podcast with Junita here.