Sweets From The Earth lets you have your cake, and eat it too
By Bakers Journal
When Chef Ilana Kadonoff heard that her cookie won the Chocolate Chip Cookie-Off, she “couldn’t believe it.” Her hazelnut-dark chocolate cookie was the only vegan cookie in the competition.
It’s no surprise to Sweets From The Earth’s many fans. The real surprise lies in how enthusiastically her decadent vegan desserts are received by carnivores, vegans and vegetarians alike.
Her company, co-run with her broth Marc, started roughly twenty years ago in the basement of her house. A trained pastry chef, Kadonoff wanted to embrace a more vegan lifestyle, which presented a challenge, as traditional pastry often involves the use of dairy and eggs. It was at that point that Chef Kadonoff had her “aha!” moment, in realizing that there was a gap in the Market for decadent vegan desserts.
The few places that did offer cruelty-free desserts were few and far between, and those vegan offerings would not be considered high-end, admits Chef Kadonoff.
“I decided to see if I could experiment in the kitchen to see if I could come up with something a little bit better, something that would taste as good as traditional baked goods. It didn’t have to taste dry, or be bad. I think people were making these vegan baked goods to be healthy, so they tasted ‘healthy.’”
Kadonoff took it upon herself to experiment after work and create a desserts that looked and tasted traditional, but didn’t include animal by-products, such as sugars refined with animal bone char, eggs, or dairy. She’d go to work in the traditional bakery during the day, and become a mad scientist of vegan bakery by night, even delivering them herself during the day.
“I just started with one cookie tray at a time. The demand started growing and after a year or six months I quit my job and decided to do this full time. It just kept growing and growing and growing.” Eventually, she was able to quit her day job, and devote herself to her new company, Sweets From The Earth.
Roughly around 2006, Kadonoff’s brother Marc Kadonoff joined the company, to work on the business elements. From accounting to maintaining the ERP, his sister credits him with taking Sweets From The Earth from the basement and into two separate but equally successful facilities. One product line is dairy-free, sesame and nut free, and the other one is wheat and gluten-free. Both lines are still vegan. By separating these facilities, they were able to corner the allergen-free market.
If that’s not complicated enough, Sweets From The Earth is both Kosher Certified and HACCP certified.
“Now we’ve got vegan-certified and gluten certified,” adds Marc Kadonoff. “Our new place will be GFSI certified. We’re looking at layering on a few other certifications in the coming 18 months.”
The company grew exponentially in the last few years, making their products available commercially in grocery stores throughout Canada. By 2013, the cruelty-free, allergen-free treats were available from coast to coast. They are now expanding into U.S. territory, namely in the eastern states. With this growth, a new facility was needed, and they found a new, larger facility – across the street from their current one.
Sweets From The Earth needed more space to handle the capacity. With 41, 000 more square feet, the new space also includes a test kitchen for Chef Kadonoff’s newest creations. The company does not bake with refined sugar, and uses sweeteners like brown rice syrup, maple syrup, date sugar and even using some sprouted grains. “They take on a sweeter taste once they’ve sprouted and caramelized, so there’s definitely a lot of new sugar substitutes out there that have a little bit less of an impact on your blood sugar levels,” adds Chef Kadonoff.
Staying on top on cake and pastry trends can be a challenge, especially when it comes to sectors that are considered “niche.” Chef Kadonoff said that they started out catering almost exclusively to vegans, and as they became more immersed in the allergen community, people with food allergies joined the fan base. Sixteen years later, the brand is synonymous with people who want to eat a bit cleaner, but still want a rich, better-for-you dessert.
Future plans for the bakery include a line of ketogenic products that are also vegan, planned to launch in the spring of 2019. “We’re always looking for opportunities that may not be on our radar, but if something comes to our attention as being something that people want, like the keto products, it wasn’t something we were thinking of doing before,” says Chef Kadonoff. “As that became a bigger request, that’s why shifted our focus to add that to our product line.”
“The food business isn’t easy,” cautions Marc. “The bakery business especially isn’t easy. You’re constantly facing challenges. We really stuck to what we do best, which is vegan.”
Chef Kadonoff is still “amazed” by her company’s success. “I’ll just walk into a store, and see one of our products in someone’s grocery cart and I’ll think, ‘oh my God, someone’s buying our stuff!’ I still remember those early days when it was so niche and so unique. We’re pretty proud of how far we’ve come and how we’ve turned a niche product into something super mainstream.”