'I knew this would take off': Saskatoon doughnut maker works with grandma to offer healthier options
‘Grandma Gloria’ the main baker behind Sweet Tooth Inc., which makes low-calorie, low-sugar baked treats
Austin Calladine dons a hairnet as he stands in his grandmother's kitchen, ready to ice another batch of low-calorie, low-sugar doughnuts.
Gloria Murray, or "Grandma Gloria" as she calls herself, can mix a batch and bake (not fry) the protein doughnuts in 10 minutes — but she needs Calladine to come over and add the decorative touches that have made his new company, Sweet Tooth Inc., a social media success in Saskatoon.
This week they are churning out 750 doughnuts from Murray's kitchen, about 50 kilometres outside Saskatoon. Then Calladine hops in his vehicle, drives to the city and delivers them to storefronts that sell his products and customers who have ordered them online.
From 75 to 750 doughnuts
In early July, when the business launched, Murray was making only 75 doughnuts per week.
At that time, 22-year-old Calladine had just quit his job selling health supplements to dive into the new business after seeing a thriving market for more health-conscious treats during visits to California.
As a former Western Hockey League and Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League player, he said his interest in fitness and what he puts into his body was a big motivation for starting things off.
"I wouldn't say that our products are just specifically for people that do work out, it's just instead of having say, like, a doughnut from Tim Hortons or whatnot every day, it's nice to be able to have a healthy alternative that you can eat on a day-to-day basis," Calladine said.
These days, Calladine juggles Sweet Tooth's social media, trips to grab ingredients and stints in the kitchen with Murray.
That's likely to continue until they get new bakers trained to ease the pressure on Murray as the sole doughnut-maker.
Creating a healthier doughnut
Murray, a former restaurant baker, was confident in her grandson right from the start, and when he asked her to whip up some recipes she got going. She said the growth they've seen is unbelievable.
"I knew this would take off. I knew the guys were on to something immediately because I know it's in B.C. and in Alberta and it does very well there, so when they told me about it I thought, 'Good for you,'" she said.
Murray admits that baking trends like gluten-free cooking never sat well with her because she found the end results tasteless.
This time around she experimented with different protein powders, sweeteners and simple ingredients like almond milk, natural peanut butter and specialty flours to find a balance of flavours.
The way coconut flour soaks up liquid made for the biggest challenge.
"Some recipes I threw out, others I have to say were really, really good, and those were the ones that we started off with," she said.
"People don't know, but we do a lot of testing before a product goes out to the market."
Now she says she's fully comfortable whipping up healthier baking.
That's not to say she's personally sworn off traditional treats — in her kitchen she displays some full-fat baking on her counter.
Healthier options welcome, but 'real foods' best: nutritionist
When it comes to finding a healthy balance with baking, holistic nutritionist Jackie Reimche is in full support of bringing more options to Saskatoon.
The company's chocolate peanut butter cup doughnut is 170 calories with four grams of sugar. Tim Hortons' chocolate peanut crunch doughnut, by way of comparison, is 300 calories and has 20 grams of sugar.
Reimche gives a thumbs up to the simple ingredients used in Sweet Tooth's menu offerings, but does advise people to be smart consumers and be aware of marketing tactics with trendy items like these.
"Of course, have the healthy doughnut. I think it's a fantastic treat option. But just keep in mind that it's the real foods, like the whole foods that have no label, one ingredient — these are the things that are the healthiest option but they don't get marketed," she said.
Pumpkin spice doughnuts?
For now, Calladine said he and his partner are paring down menu options and adding a monthly special doughnut. He envisions pumpkin spice, candy cane and peppermint flavours.
The fears he had after quitting his job are subsiding.
"I guess you could say it was a risky decision but so far it's paid off," he said.