DEMING >> The family that discovered that sugar isn't necessary to sweeten life or cookies is ready to share their recipe with the world.
Deming entrepreneur and "Cookie Baron," Joseph Semprevivo has released a book titled, "Madness, Miracle and Millions," written by Joseph and his father, Larry Semprevivo.
The book is about how this amazing family went from bankruptcy to millions — literally rolling in dough — by finding ways to adapt and persevere in the face of a family crisis. Joseph and Larry founded Joseph's Lite Cookies, a multi-million dollar company, that started with humble beginnings in Deming and now has corporate offices in Sebastian, Florida, near Orlando.
At age 12, Joseph was diagnosed with juvenile Type 1 diabetes. Doctors told his parents, Larry and JoMarie, that he would be lucky to live past the age of 17.
"It was a harsh reality for my family, and one that I knew little about at a young age," Joseph said in a telephone interview from his corporate empire.
His dad owned a sandwich shop in Deming that served homemade ice cream. The family tinkered with a sugar-free ice cream that Joseph could enjoy, but the mixture just wasn't right.
"It came out as a block of ice," Joseph said. "My dad re-worked the recipe and we were able to market the sugar-free ice cream to local retailers like Southside Market and Farmer's IGA."
That's when Joseph's parents became interested in developing a line of sugar-free cookies.
"Who doesn't like a tasty cookie," Joseph asked. "... Especially when it comes to a diabetic kid."
The Joseph's Lite Cookies line began to take shape in eight varieties of six-ounce bags, seven varieties in 11-ounce bags, and now creamy and crunchy peanut butter, along with three flavors of sugar-free pancake syrup.
The Semprevivos have grown into their sole cookie production plant in Deming that has the capability to crank out 14 million cookies a day. They are shipped from coast to coast and are now available in 47 countries.
A key lesson Joseph learned from his dad Larry was to ask himself every night, 'Did you give it 100 percent today?'
"It is the driver to my motivation," says Joseph.
His family's creative cooking, Joseph's business savvy and the 'can do' attitude to overcome all challenges paid off. Their company is now composed of 19 businesses, 13 flavors of cookies, bite-size cakes, brownies, pancake syrup and peanut butter. Introducing new items each year, the Joseph Lite Cookie line is now in 140,000 U.S. stores. Their plant is manufacturing 12 million sugar-free cookies a day. Whether through Joseph's Lite or his fat-free food company, Santa Fe Farms, which he started in 1989, the goal, says Semprevivo, is "helping others live active, healthy lives."
The cookies are currently being sold at Whole Foods, CVS, Kings, Dollar Tree, Big Lots, HyVee, Fresh and Easy, and many other chain stores throughout the United States, Canada and overseas. Joseph's Lite Cookies are exclusive to the Dollar Tree and negotiations are in the works for a test opening with Walmart Supercenters.
"We are looking to expand our market into 1,200 stores nationwide," Joseph said.
"My mom and dad lived in Deming for 20 years and he was a successful businessman in the food service industry," he recalled. "I had a very good childhood and education growing up in Deming."
Joseph, 43, is a 1990 graduate of Deming High and also earned his two BS degrees in business marketing and business management in 1997 from New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. In 2014, Joseph picked up his masters degree from Florida International University in real estate finance, and he now serves as a broker on a national scale.
Joseph married his college sweetheart, Memory, nine years ago and they have five children — all under the age of eight. His 10-month old is diabetic.
Joseph commended Roberto Montoya of the Deming New Mexico Workforce Solutions and Department of Labor for his extraordinary work in finding a viable workforce for the Deming cookie plant. "He has tried so hard to send us people to fill our labor needs," Joseph said. "A lot of individuals would rather stay home, and we are offering a decent wage for good, hard work."
Joseph's Lite Cookies starts employees at $12 an hour, with benefits.
"Hallmark is considering taking the book into a movie," Joseph said.