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Los Osos entrepreneurs are passionate about pickles and philanthropy

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In a social media review of the top resolutions for the new year, many posters hoped to improve their diets, focus on a passion, and partake in charitable endeavors. Quick Pickle Kit of Los Osos hits all those goals.

Launched in 1996 by Andrea Wasko and Meaghan Gilbert, Quick Pickle Kit provides a selection of spices and instructions to pickle your own fresh produce from home, along with a reusable, half-gallon Italian glass jar.

Pickles—and pickled vegetables—are fat-, sugar-, and gluten-free; low-sodium; keto- and paleo-diet friendly; and vegan.

They also boast a lengthy list of purported health benefits.

According to online publication Medical News Today, pickles and pickle juice may "increase exercise performance; relieve menstrual and muscle cramps, hangovers, and sunburn; improve digestion; boost immunity; help control blood sugar; and reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease."

Studies have shown that pickles also aid mental health, with medical journal Psychiatry Research suggesting that probiotics, or healthy bacteria, found in fermented foods may ease social anxiety and neuroticism by favorably changing the environment in the gut.

NO BIG DILL As members of the Estero Bay Community Emergency Response Team, Quick Pickle Kit co-owners Meaghan Gilbert, left, and Andrea Wasko deliver free produce—and a little levity—to neighbors in Cayucos, Morro Bay, and Los Osos. Their original mask design is available for purchase online. - PHOTO COURTESY OF QUICK PICKLE KIT
  • Photo Courtesy Of Quick Pickle Kit
  • NO BIG DILL As members of the Estero Bay Community Emergency Response Team, Quick Pickle Kit co-owners Meaghan Gilbert, left, and Andrea Wasko deliver free produce—and a little levity—to neighbors in Cayucos, Morro Bay, and Los Osos. Their original mask design is available for purchase online.

"The mind, body, and soul connection plays an integral role in our overall health and well-being," said Wasko, whose company embraces a soul-enriching social agenda that transcends hawking nutritious food products.

Quick Pickle Kit's parent company, Connoisseur Creations, also owned by Wasko and Gilbert, donates 10 percent of overall sales to charitable causes and allows schools and nonprofit organizations to use its products as fundraising tools.

Additionally, Wasko and Gilbert mentor graduate students in business entrepreneurship with a focus on giving back, and employ adults with disabilities "so that they may successfully achieve their personal and professional goals," Wasko said.

Other philanthropic efforts include community emergency response, veterinary and animal-rights issues, land conservancy, and fire prevention.

"As individuals," Wasko continued, "we donate food, clothing, furniture, and household items to locals in need, and ... drive seniors to their doctors' appointments. We also volunteer our time to give local caregivers a respite by sitting with their family members so that they can have some time to themselves."

Despite their mind-boggling volunteer activities and workload, the duo even finds time to hike 10 to 20 miles per week, Wasko said, "to stay healthy and relieve stress."

BRINE TIME Quick Pickle Kits include a 44-page cookbook, quick start guide, container and rubber gasket, and choice of three spice packets—dill, sweet, and bread and butter. - PHOTO COURTESY OF QUICK PICKLE KIT
  • Photo Courtesy Of Quick Pickle Kit
  • BRINE TIME Quick Pickle Kits include a 44-page cookbook, quick start guide, container and rubber gasket, and choice of three spice packets—dill, sweet, and bread and butter.

January is a particularly busy time for Connoisseur Creations as marketing firms tout National Weight Loss Awareness Month. Consumers begin to ditch high-caloric holiday food for more wholesome alternatives, and clearance sales abound.

Quick Pickle Kit is joining the month-long health kick—and continuing its 25th anniversary celebration—by offering discounts off its entire product line.

Wasko and Gilbert initially launched Connoisseur Creations and their flagship Quick Pickle Kit in San Jose, then relocated to Los Osos in 2004.

According to Wasko, the team has spun off a dozen companies and thousands of products with a strong focus on plant-based condiments. Notable brands range from Soy Spreads—including Soyamole, Soyasian, Soymus, and Soyiterranean—to Marinated Medleys and Premier Pickles, she said.

Wasko serves as company president, while Gilbert is vice president.

Recipes for the Quick Pickle Kit have been passed down in Wasko's family for more than a century.

Originally from Sharon, Pennsylvania, Wasko "grew up loving home-canned pickles," she said. When she moved to California, she looked forward to the pickled gifts her mother sent on holidays.

Yearning for year-round pickles but too busy to devote time to traditional canning methods, Wasko conceived the idea for Quick Pickle Kit.

It's "the perfect blend of nostalgic, flavorful recipes, with a pickling process that helps you make delicious pickles in a fraction of the time, with minimal effort," she said.

Wasko's professional background—including 30 years of leadership, consulting, and innovation experience in the medical field—was another catalyst for developing nutritional food products. She learned that "many diseases could be prevented if people ate better and exercised," she said.

Gilbert, meanwhile, also boasts 30 years' worth of leadership and innovation experience. Originally from Hong Kong, she worked in new product development at Silicon Valley giants Cisco Systems and Apple, and "was one of the original 100 Macintosh team members," according to Quick Pickle Kit's website.

Additionally, as a former competitive swimmer, staying in shape and eating healthily have always been part of Gilbert's lifestyle, Wasko said.

CUT THE FAT Jan. 16 is International Hot and Spicy Food Day, while Jan. 20 is National Cheese Lovers' Day. Combine spicy dill pickles with your favorite cheese for the perfect charcuterie board, as pickles help break down the fat in cheese, says the Quick Pickle Kit team. - PHOTO COURTESY OF QUICK PICKLE KIT
  • Photo Courtesy Of Quick Pickle Kit
  • CUT THE FAT Jan. 16 is International Hot and Spicy Food Day, while Jan. 20 is National Cheese Lovers' Day. Combine spicy dill pickles with your favorite cheese for the perfect charcuterie board, as pickles help break down the fat in cheese, says the Quick Pickle Kit team.

Their company is women-owned, minority-owned, LGBTQ-owned, and award-winning. In 2019 the duo received the U.S. Small Business Administration's Small Business Persons of the Year award for the 15-county San Joaquin Valley and Central Coast region.

"We are the only company in SLO County to have ever received this honor," Wasko added.

Deloitte consultant and Los Angeles resident Sophia Lo interned with Wasko and Gilbert in 2020 and credits them with helping to launch her career following graduation from UC Davis.

"Andrea and Meaghan have been great mentors who always have my back," she said. "They are so supportive of my career growth and have been my role models."

She also stands strongly behind their product.

"As a first-time pickler, the Quick Pickle Kit is really easy to use," she said. "I followed the quick start guide and the recipe book, which had step-by-step directions and tips on what type of vinegar or vegetables work best. The jar is really high-quality and can fit so much inside. I made my first batch with my mom, and we had a great time together."

Wasko and Gilbert say their customers, mentees, and donor recipients are what it's all about.

"We are a company with a heart," Wasko said. "Instead of sending people to outer space, our goal is to make a difference here on Earth." Δ

Flavor Writer Cherish Whyte thinks pickles are dill-icious. Reach her at cwhyte@newtimesslo.com.

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