Cookies That Do You Good

I recently discovered Sweet Loren’s, a brand of cookie dough available in most grocery stores. What caught my attention was that these were whole grain, dairy-fee, with no artificial flavors, trans fats and high fructose corn syrup. Finally, a cookie that won’t weigh you down and feels good to the tastebuds! What’s more unique is the story of Loren Brill, Founder & CEO of Sweet Loren’s, an enterprising young woman who herself survived cancer and wanted to make a change in how people eat. Read my interview with Brill below…

loren-with-package2What inspired you to start Sweet Loren’s?

I was inspired to start Sweet Loren’s after overcoming cancer at a young age, searching for ways to satisfy my sweet tooth with ingredients I felt good about. When I couldn’t find any delicious cookies in stores that had tasted great and had the ingredients I wanted, I realized I was going to have to make my own. So, I started to make my own recipes like a crazy scientist. Soon, my younger sister, who was my taste tester, agreed that these were the best cookies she’d ever had. Neighbors and friends started to order them, and that’s when I realized that the world was starving for better-for-you sweets and snacks. I knew we were in a different world than when I was a kid, a world where we are much more educated about how important food is to our health & well-being. I became inspired to find a way to share these recipes with as many people as possible, and making it easy for anyone to bake fresh cookies in their own homes. I started Sweet Loren’s with a mission to Change the Way America Bakes.

Did you have any background in baking/ food business?

I worked at Levain Bakery in NYC for several years and that is where I fell in love with baking and the way delicious baked goods make people feel. I was also a waitress for a long time to make money in the summers and that’s where I learned a lot about customer service. I attended classes at The Natural Gourmet Institute and completed The New School’s Master Class in Cooking before starting Sweet Loren’s. Mainly though, I just tweaked recipes until they tasted homemade and decadent, but were only made from real, whole food ingredients.

How did you start?

In 2010 I was managing a small restaurant in NYC, and was miserable. I knew I was an entrepreneur who wanted to change the world and make it better in some way. I entered a baking contest because my friends kept pushing me to and I had binders of recipes that I wanted people to try. I won the contest and the judge came up to me and said “You have to do something with this.” That’s when a light bulb went off in my head and I knew that I was meant to start Sweet Loren’s. So, I quit my job the next month. I lived at home at the age of 26 and emailed anyone and everyone I knew. I took a business writing course to figure out how I wanted to start Sweet Loren’s — a bakery? baking mix company? cookie dough? the possibilities were endless. A guy named Cory in my class worked at Whole Foods. He set me up with a meeting with the buyer before I had an actual packaged product. I took the meeting to understand the needs of Whole Foods, and they put in an order the next day for cookie dough. I remember crying on the call because that’s when I knew I had a real business. I immediately started calling factories nearby that could help me make the cookie dough so I could be the only one to sell it and run the rest of the business. I found the factory, and a month after launching in Whole Foods, I won a contest and the people’s choice award for The Next Big Small Brand for Culinary Genius. I got national press because of winning that contest and that’s when I started to get emails from people around the country, in every state, saying they were pressed for time but wanted homemade tasting, all natural, delicious cookies at home and would buy Sweet Loren’s if it was sold near them. That’s when I realized that I had a lot of work to do in order to make as many people happy with our products to make sure there was a natural option for them.

What are some of the challenges you faced?

How to get our story and product out there! We now are sold in over 4,000 supermarkets. This is very exciting but we are still small compared to the big brand names on the shelf. We need as many people as possible to be part of our community and help us figure out what other products they would like to see. Our goal is to unify as many people as possible that have a sweet tooth but want to have clean ingredients in their food. We want to keep you happy and healthy with our products!

Do you have a proud moment you want to share with our readers?

A proud moment was when Hoda Kotb of the Today Show picked Sweet Loren’s as one of her favorite things. She brought me on the show and interviewed me. Plus, she and Kathy couldn’t stop eating the cookies. It was so adorable and amazing that I almost had to catch myself from smiling too much. I feel very lucky that we’ve had support from amazing people – it has shown me that your wildest dreams can come true if you work hard and stay passionate.

How is Sweet Loren’s different from other cookies/ sweets found in health food stores?

Sweet Loren’s is very different than any other dough! It is the only better-for-you cookie dough on the shelf that is 100% whole grain, non-dairy, and made with no artificial flavors/colors, corn syrup or trans fat. We are award winning and have tons of delicious recipes on our website that you can make using our cookie dough too. Nothing is better than a warm cookie – and now you can make just one or two with our convenient place & bake packaging!

Where can consumers purchase Sweet Loren’s? 

Customers can find our products in supermarkets across the country in the refrigerated dairy aisle. We can be found in bright pink packaging in all Kroger’s, Publix, Harris Teeter, The Fresh Market, Wegman’s, Hannaford, Whole Foods (northeast and south pacific), and many more. Just put your zip code in our easy store locator on our website and you can find the closest store to you!

What advice would you give to someone who is an aspiring food entrepreneur?

The advice I would give is to find a need in the marketplace and then focus on creating a really great product to fill that need – make your product the best out there. Surround yourself with the best A players and advisors so that you have a team to help fight this fight with you. It is not easy! So, you need a smart business plan, pricing plan, and great factory to help you make the product. Sweet Loren’s is proof that the next generation is looking for higher quality products they feel great about eating themselves and feeding their kids. Passion, hard work, and focus have been keys to success. If you’re passionate about food, it’s hard to find something else that makes you as happy. Lots of opportunity to build a great business, make progress in the food industry, and make a lot of people happy with a brand they can trust.

Do you have an idea for a food product or just started a food related business? If yes, share your story below…

Gluten-free travels

The best thing to do when you or a travel companion are gluten-free is to plan ahead.  While you have a free internet connection at home, research gluten-free restaurants, write down their addresses, and keep them in your purse. That way, you can look forward to dining out, instead of sticking to basic foods, like grilled chicken and grilled vegetables. My favorite restaurants serve gluten-free pizzas, gluten-free dinner rolls, and rice pasta dishes, so you don’t feel deprived of the other diners entrée choices.  I also recommend printing out free dining cards ($5 donation recommended) at Celiac Travel’s website.  You hand these cards to the chef when you visit a restaurant, and the chef will know how to prepare your food.  The cards are available in many foreign languages for international travel.

For airplane snacks and exotic travel locations, I pack gluten-free bars, like Lara bars or Nicole’s nutty goodness bars.  Both bars are made from fruit and nuts, and are actually tasty! Lara bars makes an apple pie flavor that tastes yummy! Nicole’s nutty goodness bars are available in expresso, which tastes just like a chocolate chip granola bar and keeps quite well. They are both available at Whole Foods, and having a few bars on hand helps when you’re hungry on the airplane, or are in a place with limited snack options.  Sometimes, while eating meals with clients or business associates, I try to downplay my food allergies by asking for grilled chicken or fish cooked over aluminum foil.  This is a good way for gluten-free business travelers to avoid the cross-contamination issues that happen when gluten items have also been cooked on the grill.

Gluten-free travelers will be thrilled to know some Italian restaurants have gluten-free menus, since a small percentage of their population developed gluten allergies.  These days, as long as you plan ahead, gluten-free travel can be a fun and enjoyable!

~ Guest blogger, Ivy Haverkampf

Gluten-free travel websites:

CeliacChicks
German Coeliac Society
Italian Celiac Society
CeliacTravel

Ivy is the founder of theIdeaGenerators.com and FutureGlobetrotter.com. She loves helping fellow working women reach their career potential and can be found on Twitter at @FutGlobetrotter.