“Keto” was the most Googled food-related term in 2020. Within the bars, cereals, baking mixes, cookies and snacks category, dollar sales have grown over 21% in the past year. People on ketogenic diets avoid carbohydrates and sugar, and consume large amounts of protein, attempting to drive their bodies into a ketogenic state, which some believe to promote health and weight loss.
Yet at the same time that interest in keto expands, consumers also are increasingly choosing plant-based or vegan diets. According to a report from Credit Suisse, the plant-based food industry is expected to grow to 100x its current size by 2050. This can prevent keto dieters with a conundrum: How to eat a high-protein diet without tons of meat.
Here are three companies making a play at capturing sales from the keto-friendly diet space without a reliance on animal protein: Base Culture, which makes gluten-free baked goods and nut butters; Eat Me Guilt Free, which produces low sugar, high protein baked goods; and Miss Jones Baking Co, which delivers plant-based sugar alternatives and baking products that are good for keto diets.
Note that many consumers are eager for dietary solutions to common health problems, such as obesity. And yet “while this popular diet may be useful for specific groups, it often does not provide benefits across the board,” says Dr. Jinan Banna, a registered dietitian and professor of nutrition located in Honolulu, Hawaii. “People would be wise to consult with a registered dietitian to understand the science behind the trends, see if the hype is deserved, and learn how best to manage their own health.”
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1. Base Culture
Base Culture makes high-quality breads, sweet baked goods, and almond butters from simple, clean ingredients, including sliced breads, almond butter brownies, banana sweet bread, and cinnamon almond butter to name a few offerings. All products are made in-house and gluten-free, grain-free, and non-GMO. They can be found online and nationally at stores including Whole Foods, Kroger, Albertsons, and Safeway.
What started as a 30-day paleo challenge became a fast-growing company once founder Jordann Amatea saw the need for delicious snacks within the keto diet category. “After trying paleo, I found that by eating meat, vegetables, seeds, nuts and fruit, I felt a whole lot better! However, I really missed baked goods and snacks,” she says.
So, she spent the next six months creating low-carb, high-protein brownies and banana breads for herself. She shared the products with friends at the gym, who told her they were delicious. With this, Base Culture was born. Word of mouth quickly spread and demand grew rapidly. When a national news story aired, it drove a massive surge in demand. “This proved that there was a hole in the marketplace that my products were filling,” says Amatea.
The biggest challenge Amatea faces is remaining level-headed, cool and calm under what can seem like insurmountable pressure. “Running a company can see overwhelming at times. You need to trust yourself and the team around you to make the best decisions possible in order to keep your business moving forward,” she says.
To aspiring entrepreneurs, Amatea offers this advice. “Remain gracious, humble and hungry. Trust your intuition, ask the ‘stupid’ questions and never give up. You’re on the road less traveled and it’s not going to be easy… but it’s worth it.”
2. Eat Me Guilt Free
Eat Me Guilt Free makes high-protein, low-carb, low-sugar brownies, tortillas and breads that are also non-GMO and free from preservatives. CEO and Founder Cristie Besu is a registered nurse and sports nutritionist who started the company as a passion project. “Clients turned to me for nutrition and fitness guidance to help curb their sugar cravings. Nurses are problem-solvers by nature, so I started baking products to replace the unhealthy foods we crave.”
Besu started sharing her journey as an entrepreneur on Instagram and rapidly grew a direct-to-consumer business. Within the last two years, the company has secured national and international distribution. As a Latina business owner, Besu also is committed to paying it forward to help other women entrepreneurs. The “You Glow Girl” grant, awarded to one female entrepreneur each year, offers a $10,000 cash prize, plus a one-year supply of Eat Me Guilt Free products, a Peloton bike and a mentorship program with Besu herself.
To aspiring entrepreneurs, Besu says, “Remain open minded. People who are successful and overcome adversity are those who learn and thrive from their mistakes. They realize that challenges are part of growth.”
3. Miss Jones Baking Co
Sarah Jones Garibaldi is the founder and CEO of Miss Jones Baking Co., which makes low-sugar, organic, ready-to-use frostings and sugar substitutes for baking made from real, simple ingredients. The company has seen sales double year-over-year for the past two years.
In 2010, Garibaldi was working at Apple when she met a coworker who had successfully launched a better-for-you condiment brand. After learning more about his experience, she decided to create her own consumer product. She realized that while she saw plenty of healthier, organic foods in the perimeter of the grocery store, hardly any brands were creating better-for-you products in center store.
“I felt it was only a matter of time before consumers demanded cleaner ingredients and more from-scratch tasting products in the baking aisle,” Garibaldi says. “I set out to build a baking brand more in tune with the modern consumer’s needs.”
To aspiring entrepreneurs, Garibaldi advises, “Build a great Board with industry veterans who are willing to dig in and help you solve big problems, and who actually want to help you build your business.”