Does Pleasure Come at the Expense of Happiness?

Happy New Year!

I tend to only write blog posts that reflect my thoughts and feelings when the mood strikes or I’m inspired. Hence the long pause but I’m addressing that by bringing in new, fresh ideas, like recipes, third-party posts and simple reflections on other materials.

In the meantime, I was recently inspired to write following a conversation I had with a Cardiologist I met at a Pop-Up at North York General Hospital. He was very interested in our “keto-friendly” cookies and when I went in for the sell, he put up the blockers and said, “sorry, I’m fasting.” It’s not Yom Kippur… he was on hour 36 of a prolonged intermittent fast. It’s a style of eating whereby one only eats within a certain window of time, and absolutely fasts the rest of the time. Apparently, every single doctor in the hospital has prescribed to that lifestyle choice and they are all following ketogenic diets. When they are in an eating time frame, they’re following very low carb, very high-fat regulations. He was in a state of ‘‘ketosis’ and instead of doing this to lose weight , he said he was doing it for the numerous health benefits, and most significantly, so that he could feel happy.

The last part struck me. The obesity epidemic, the rise in diabetes and all other manner of health issues suggests that most people sacrifice their long-term health and consequent happiness because they indulge in too many short-term pleasures. This doctor was seeking the opposite: happiness through specific dieting. He was sacrificing immediate pleasures (cookies and other delicious, nourishing foods) in favor of long term happiness. From his mannerisms, I have to tell you, he seemed happy. I then got to thinking about the dichotomy between feeling happiness and feeling pleasure. A Life Blog Post by Margaret Paul shed a bit of light on it. She writes:

“Pleasurable experiences can give us momentary feelings of happiness, but this happiness does not last long because it is dependent upon external events and experiences. We have to keep on having the good experiences -- more food, more drugs or alcohol, more money, more sex, more things -- in order to feel pleasure. As a result, many people become addicted to these external experiences, needing more and more to feel a short-lived feeling of happiness.”

Pleasure is short-term while happiness is long term. Can long term happiness be achieved by jumping from one, quick, short-term burst of pleasure to the next? We were both rather aghast at how many cookies were being sold for $2 at Subway in the hospital’s cafeteria, but then it made sense to me: these nutritionally void, intensely sweetened carb bombs create short-lived feelings of pleasure. (For a doctor dealing with pretty stressful, intense challenges every minute, an occasional pleasure is probably warranted.) In fact, eating sugar has been linked to the brain’s increased release of dopamine, the “give-me-more” happiness chemical. On the other hand, it’s no longer a debate whether or not increased and prolonged digestion of sugar has a direct correlation with insulin-resistance, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, heart and liver-diseases, obesity…even cancer. It does. But it sure does taste good, and eating a cinnabon or piece of chocolate cake is one of the most pleasurable, if not fleeting experiences one can imagine. Literally, just writing those words, caused me to salivate.

Knowing that things are so bad for you, I keep wondering - is it worth it?

This may sound a bit contradictory, if not outright hypocritical, but I think that yes, it is worth it. Very much so in fact. We work hard, we take care of others, we are pressured from all corners of our lives to excel and if there is something in this world that even for just 15 seconds can put a smile on your face, perhaps a warmth in your belly, a brief release of dopamine, then I say go for it. The challenge is really finding that right, reasonable catalyst for pleasure.

It doesn’t have to be an oreo, or a cookie from Starbucks, or a piece of cheesecake for dessert; or more drugs, alcohol, money or sex. At least not every time. There are other sources of pleasure in this world that I have found, and which I encourage you to try out. For example:

  • building a train set with my 3-year-old; or even just watching him play with his train for 30 seconds is probably the most pleasurable experience I can imagine.

  • Kissing my beautiful wife or seeing her smile when I tell her how beautiful she is

  • drinking an Americano made from my favorite roaster (deMello)

  • A brief tug of war match with my dog (who usually wins)

  • Listening to a 5 minute stand-up routine from Spotify

  • Shameless Self-Promotion: eating a decadent Bald Baker Brownie

There are thousands of low calorie, low sugar ways to feel pleasure and I encourage you to try something new each day. When you get a craving, indulge and satisfy it, but nutritionally void treats aren’t the only way to do that. You may even find that the hunt for those pleasurable moments is what leads you to long-term happiness.

Daniel SennetComment
The Value of Hope

I get a weekly newsletter from Food Tech Connect that provides a very good summary of the food industry: news, updates, reports, etc. This week’s newsletter had a link to a story from Bloomberg.com about how the wildly popular vegan burger company Beyond Meat Inc is about to file for their Initial Public Offering (IPO) at a current valuation of $100 million!

That valuation is not surprising when you consider that their products are sold at Kroger, Whole Foods and A&W Canada to name just a few. (Brace yourself for some math here) However, it is surprising when you keep on reading and note: “the company had a net loss of $30.4 million on net revenue of $32.6 million in 2017. That compares with a net loss of $25.1 million on net revenue of $16.2 million a year earlier.” In other words, it cost the company approximately $60 million dollars to generate $30 million in revenue last year and $41 million to generate $16 million the year before. Put another way, to generate $16 million more of revenue, it cost an additional $20 million dollars!

The company is growing, but at what cost? For all of the current investors (big names like Bill Gates, and Kleiner Perkins), there is a significant and dramatic hope that at least financially, this company will eventually turn a profit. I ask myself this question all the time: what is the acceptable cost to grow the company? What value can I place on the hope that everything I do, everything the community does around me to support me, will eventually pay off?

If you read into the fact that big name investors are backing Beyond Meat’s growth, it’s easy to assume that their resources simply will not allow the company to fail. From a depressing point of view, it also means that you NEED their level of resources to get a company to scale properly. I choose to look at it from the opposite perspective: “look who’s interested in vegan companies now…”There is very high level interest in companies that are taking alternative approaches to the food industry. That is motivating.

The fact is, more and more food companies, foodpreneurs, and alternatives to the norm are taking center stage. There is a widespread and growing acceptance of foods like vegan patties, low sugar cookies, dairy-free cheeses etc., and so I take heart that I’m on the right path. To answer my earlier question, hope is invaluable; a priceless commodity. You can’t buy it - you either have it or you don’t and if you do, nurture its powerful capacity.

Daniel SennetComment
Thanksgiving Eating: Treat Yourself, NOT Cheat Yourself

I consider myself to be moderately healthy - I get to the gym 3 -4 times a week, don’t eat much fried foods or refined carbs, etc., but for some reason, I measured my BMI and according to a scale, I’m obese! That’s very frustrating because I really don’t feel like I’m obese and according to my mother who is entirely unbiased, I don’t look obese. I’m married to a beautiful fitness personal trainer and I have a gym in the basement of our building - there is just no way that I could be obese. And yet, on a very scientific looking chart in a book about healthy eating habits, according to my height and weight, I’m obese. With Thanksgiving being next week, a day in which the average person consumes 3,000 calories - during dinner alone - I’m afraid for my life.

This is the start of holiday season, a time marked by family feasts and overindulgence. For many, it’s also a time of great anxiety and frustration, but it doesn’t have to be. So here’s a few things that have helped me to cope with that epic battle between your brain and your stomach:

  1. Get up - between meals, portions, servings; as often as possible, make sure you stand up and move around. Make this your night to walk the dog or consistently offer to bring people their drinks, clear their plates, whatever it is, just make sure that you’re not sitting down for four hours and eating. This will also give your body the time it needs to tell your brain that you’re full and that you should stop eating.

  2. Slow down - you’re presented with a feast beyond words in multiple courses. You have nowhere else to be that night and you’re enjoying your quality time with your family - why are you in a rush to consume as much as possible? Take each bite, properly chew it, put your fork down and take a breath between bites. It’s not a race; it’s not even a marathon. It’s just a lovely meal with loved ones. Same as #1, this will also give your body time to catch up with your eyes.

  3. Desert Dessert - this one is a stretch but do you need to have a full slice of each pie, and cake, and ice cream, and the cookies and, and, and…You don’t. What you do need to do is take one magical bite of the desserts that look the absolute most tempting. Let others take the bites of the cakes that weren’t that good. There is an economics law called diminishing marginal returns (hyperlinked above) which loosely translated means, “the first bite will be the best, the second won’t be as good, the third will be even less good”, and so on. Each bite is slight less satisfying than the prior one, so just take the first one, the best one, and move on.

  4. Be confident - you are stronger than you think and those cakes and pies are not as good or as satisfying than they look. You’re better than them and you need to know it. More, you need to FEEL it. How do you feel confident before walking into caloriepalooza 2018? First, get your heartrate up during the day - go on a long walk, get 30 minutes on the elliptical or treadmill, lift something heavy and then put it down 25 times - complete something physical and get some satisfaction that you did something healthy. Second: give somebody you love a big hug and tell them how thankful you are for them. Third: make a donation to a charity either in your time, or with a financial contribution. In other words - do something to get your mind into a positive headspace.

  5. Eat First - this one is questionable. I subscribe to the philosophy that a good way to deal with temptation is to remove it. By this philosophy, eat a healthy meal a few hours before going out for thanksgiving - it’ll curb your appetite immensely.

  6. Eat Smart - this is more of a 5b and is an alternative. After all, you don’t want to insult the chef or the host, but prioritize what you want to eat. Go for the proteins and load up on them, followed by your healthy fats, followed by your carbs and even then, go for the complex carbs like the sweet potato mash or the baked potato, not the breads and stuffings. In this way, you’re giving your body the long term nutrients that it needs and the ability to digest and metabolize properly.

  7. Shameless Plug - Eat a Bald Baker Cookie - yes, that’s shameless of me, but you are allowed to eat tasty, low sugar desserts. It doesn’t have to be one of ours, but you can make and bring cakes made with almond flour or quinoa flour, made with flax instead of eggs, made with low-fat alternatives to oil and made with natural, low-glycemic sweeteners like coconut palm sugar, or better yet, stevia or erythritol. Check this out (it’s an apple pie cake that has no sugar added at all and is absolutely delicious)

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Eating a good sized meal during Thanksgiving should not be a contributing factor to the obesity epidemic - it’s not a holiday meant to cause digestive troubles, anxiety or the meat sweats. Eating a healthy meal on Monday is not a contradiction in terms. Thanksgiving, and the holidays following it, is a time meant to enjoy the company of your loved ones over a good meal and it’s a time to reflect on what you’re thankful for. So go into it feeling positive and feeling confident, no matter your weight or your daily challenges at work or home. This is a battle you absolutely can win.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone

-Dan

Daniel SennetComment
Getting into the Weeds

There's not one day that goes by without somebody asking me what my cannabis play is going to be. On October 17, it will become legal to purchase and use cannabis in Canada. It's an evolving picture with respect to how it will be regulated and when edibles will be legal, but what's interesting is that the question posed to me implies that I have a cannabis strategy and that I will be entering the market. Not if, but how and when. 

With the upcoming legalization throughout Canada of a substance that has been previously banned, everybody and their brother thinks that a gold rush is underway and I'd be a fool to ignore it. 

I find myself conflicted about how to approach this. I'm both a capitalist and a parent and in this case, the two contradict each other. While I believe that people should be free to make their own decisions and to not have burdensome government intervention, I also believe in public safety and if a substance has been illegal, there's probably a good reason for it.

For what it's worth, the stance of this company is that cannabis can, and probably does have a medical benefit for users seeking out 'alternative' ways to manage their ailments. Cannabis has also been used as a method to wean users of other illegal substances off their addictions. It has also been used pervasively in the music community to make experiencing bands like Phish, the Allman Brothers or the Grateful Dead a lot of fun. (***writer's note - these bands are verifiably awesome without any intoxicant in your body). However, this company does not believe that cannabis should be widely and publicly available the same way alcohol and tobacco are. One joint, even one toke, gets you high and keeps you high; one drag from a cigarette or one drink does not. Simple as that.  Any product causing impairment of your faculties carries with it the potential for big trouble. 

Despite the problems associated with cannabis, to ignore how widespread the (ab)use of it is, the coming legalization of it, the commercial opportunities present and potential benefits of it, if properly controlled, would be ignorant of me as a businessman...So it's time to take a stance on how to participate in this marketplace. I have found that in business, you often get confronted with the need to make a decision without the complete set of facts. It's very easy to sit on the sidelines as things play out so can you learn more, but you're dilly dallying as your opportunity passes you by. The top of the fence can be comfortable, but you get a front-row seat to see the action, not be a part of it.

Here's my stake in the ground: The use of marijuana products is in many regards, similar to how I feel about indulging in a Bald Baker cookie:  it should be a satisfying, safe and pleasurable experience that doesn't cause any undue harm to your body or to others. There are going to be rules, laws and regulations on how to ensure this. We will explore ideas and develop products under a different brand name to create desserts that subscribe to this philosophy. We will make every effort to prevent our products from finding their way into the hands of children/minors or grown-ups who act like children. Our goal will be to create responsible products for responsible indulgences. In the meantime, instead of cannabis, if you're looking to address the pleasure zone in your brain and in your belly, a tasty Sweet & Salty Cookie or Nutty Chipster is legal, cheap, widely available and very satisfying.

 

Daniel SennetComment
Can vs. Should - The Eternal Struggle Between What I Want to Say and What I Should Say

It's been about one month since my last post and I've spent the majority of that time on product development; our Classic Brownie is now optimized for shelf life and is baked without any nut products making it more accessible. While our chocolate bomb has been a labor of love, our next product in development, tentatively titled, "Oat to Joy" is an instant winner - but just because I built it doesn't mean they'll come. So I'm trying to figure out the best way to leverage this product's attributes as I portray in its best possible light. I have so many things that I should say, and only so many that I can - where's the balance?

That's why I'm writing this post - in part to think out loud, but also to ask for your help. So here goes: the first and foremost element that stands out about our Oatmeal Raisin Cookie is its taste and texture - both spot on. In other words, absent all other attributes, it's just a delicious cookie. But it does have other attributes, lots of them, and there's a point where there's information overload or in this case, a degree of 'unbelievability' that requires validation. I've already got five significant (and marketable) claims that span all of our products:

  • 4 grams of sugar (found naturally in my other ingredients) means that I can claim both "lower in sugar," and "no sugar added" - Read this for more info.
  • 8 grams of fiber means that I can make the claim, "very high source of fiber"
  • No dairy or eggs means that I can claim that my products are vegan
  • No gluten-containing ingredients and products baked in a dedicated gluten-free facility means that I can claim that my products are gluten free
  • Same goes with Kosher Parve 

Probably enough. Certainly when you're working with limited space on your packaging, you have to be very creative with your messaging and your representations. However, in developing this product, I wanted a more significant "1-2" punch than just high fiber, low sugar. Vegan, GF and Kosher are minimum requirements these days. What else could we do?

One day a few weeks ago, I absentmindedly put a MadeGood bar in my pocket before leaving to pick up my son from daycare. We buy them because he likes them and they're as healthy a snack as he's going to get without us cooking them ourselves. Our first introduction to the brand included a remark about it containing one full serving of fruits in each bar - a novelty for us because at the time, we couldn't get our son to eat anything healthy at all. Thankfully that's all changed now, but he still likes them and indeed, they're a good product. 

What if there was a better product though? What if instead of one serving, there were 5 or 6? What if we could create a truly delicious cookie that contained 50%, or even 100% of your daily recommended 6 essential vitamins and nutrients? You wouldn't have to force your kid to eat their broccoli, you could just give them a tasty cookie.

So that's what we did, using an amazing (read: natural) vitamin extract powder derived from fruits and vegetables. In fact, you can get those servings from just 225mg. That's less than 1/4 of 1 gram (less than a very small pinch). It's important because that volume makes it a very affordable ingredient to add as well as one that is undetectable from a taste or texture perspective. It's a ghost ingredient with incredible, and unfortunately, unbelievable attributes. 

Claiming that one cookie contains 5 servings of fruits and vegetables is just too incredible of a claim. It just doesn't sit right. Perhaps I'm simple minded, but reading that would make me think how impossible it would be to shrink 5 fruits/vegetables into one cookie. Than I'd dismiss that thought as a brain fart and immediately just assume that the cookie tasted like an artificially enhanced nutrient bar that usually just taste horrible. Remember that the whole point of Bald Baker is to provide a fantastic indulging experience.  

You're supposed to end blog posts with conclusions, not open questions. I haven't figured out the answer yet - it's a design question no doubt, an area that I have negative skills in. At a market this past weekend, I asked consumers that were interested in the Oat to Joy what they thought, and the unanimous response was that if I was going to make that claim, then I'd have to find a way to succinctly, and believably validate it. I already have five good health claims, there's almost no room for a sixth, much less one that I have to expound upon. It's too juicy of an attribute to ignore, both from the perspective of making an excellent product, and a profitable one.

I'll wrap this up with one or two final thoughts: It's important, in fact the most important value of Bald Baker to create delicious and satisfying products and this Oat to Joy is one of, if not the most shining reflection of that value. The vitamin claim is just an exercise in creativity; a challenge like any other to be overcome as the company continues to push the idea that healthy desserts can be amazing. For anyone out there that is working through their own development challenges - keep pushing. The answer is out there. 

Fine Line Between Evolution and Deviation

I started this blog post intent on writing about the value I place on creating and presenting a polished product. Good God, I don't think I could have written anything more boring. So as has happened so many times in this company's short life, I poured two fingers of my bottle of the moment and put on some music in order to get the creative juices flowing. Now, I can write about this theme that has been playing out in my mind recently: is growth a function of evolution, or deviation?

Metallica (one of my favorite bands) grappled with this exact question in the early 90's.  In making the famous Black Album, the band tried to evolve their sound to appeal more broadly while staying true to their head-banging roots. Ultimately, this became their best selling album, having gone platinum 16 times! They did really, really well despite losing what many consider to be their edge. (Stretch here, get ready) Like Metallica, I'm trying to evolve out of my roots at the farmers' market level by 'going retail' in order to grow the company. I'm trying to balance product evolution with legitimacy, but if ever there was a fine line, this is it: people want indulgence, but they also want authenticity. I'm really worried that I'll lose the authenticity that helped me launch Bald Baker by wrapping my products up in a polished and professional way in order to make them available on a mass scale.

This may be ambitious, but I think success is balancing the two properly which can be accomplished as long as you stay true to your raison d'etre. In fact, creating a widely-available/accepted, healthy treat isn't a contradiction in terms.  Weston Foods believes you can have both (I have to say it - have your cake and eat it too). They cite the clear trend towards healthy and conscientious eating as the reason to invest millions in the very market that Bald Baker is operating in. Rather than get scared off, I interpret this as validation that I'm on the right path. My reason for being is to reconnect you with life's simple joys; to create a happy, worry-free indulgent experience for you. As long as I don't vear too far away from that, than I can justify evolving our products. 

I'm writing on the eve of my great conundrum and the company's next major step forward: we're about to invest significantly in printed, coated wrapping materials for our treats that will save us valuable time and money, dramatically extend shelf life and lend a degree of credibility to our retail growth strategy. However, a funny thing happens when you take the same brownie and put it inside a wrapper: the expectations of the consumer change radically: cost elasticity, shelf-life expectations, quality judgments, consistency, etc, are all things that start to weigh on the purchase decision in a store relative to a market.

Here's how I'm justifying this: our overall look will be much more polished: one (of four) of the core pillars that I believe characterizes Bald Baker (the other three being Relevance, Authenticity & Gourmet). They all point to the same thing: the satisfaction you get when you indulge in a Bald Baker treat. Our company exists as the antithesis to what's on the market right now: low quality desserts that make you feel like you're settling; like you're second class. That feeling is unacceptable to us and so before you even take one bite, you should see a product that evokes certain images, feelings and physical responses, like salivation or the need to instagram what you're about to do. A polished product is a catalyst to a consumer experiencing two key, pivotal feelings: anticipation and excitement both for how it's going to taste and how you're going to feel. 

At least that's my hypothesis and I could be way off, but as an entrepreneur, if you can't follow your gut, why bother? A little polish goes a long way, so I started refining our image at the beginning of the year with a new booth experience:

Next, we're further refining the company's image with updated individual packaging. We're also going to spruce up our instagram community in the next few months to be more engaging.  It's not an overhaul. It's evolution. It's us acting our age and preparing for the next stage. 

 

Daniel Sennet
Switching it Up...

When I was invited by the fabulous Neha of Switch Grocery to contribute the below blog post to her company's blog, I jumped at the opportunity. Switch Grocery is founded on the very same principles as Bald Baker, and Neha has built the company into the exact partner that I could only have dreamt of being with when I started BB. Switch has enable me to bring our scrumptious treats to you; to put a smile on your face and a sense of satisfaction in your bellies.

What's below is a slightly edited version of that post, but part I of IV in a series that ties the main drivers of our company to the four principles it is founded upon: Relevance, Authenticity, Gourmet & Polish. I want to take some to be fully transparent about why we have made certain decisions as they relate to our products' development; specifically why we have chosen to use some of the ingredients that we do.

I legally established Bald Baker a little more than a year ago, but it really started a few years before that on a trip I was on with my brother and father in New Orleans. Our old man is my mentor, my advisor, my friend... he’s my father… and that’s why I was so terrified one night when he experienced a glycemic event after dinner. Within 30 minutes of finishing the meal, and not one in which he imbibed or ‘cheated’ with his carbs, his body just shut down. From hero to zero; full blackout. I realized in that moment that his struggle is real. Deadly real. And I was somewhat ashamed of my ignorance or even dismissal of it. As a relatively healthy, gym-going, balanced lifestyle individual, I couldn’t help but think, “You have diabetes. Stop eating sugar. Simple.”

Not so simple. I don’t have to tell you, but sugar is everywhere. Places you’d expect (like soda and most carbonated beverages), and that you wouldn’t (yogurt, pasta sauce, bread). Whether we know it or like it or not, we are chemically addicted. It is one molecule away from pure cocaine.

If a person decides to buy something in a grocery store (as opposed to baking at home), the options are limited and from what is available, the quality of the experience is very low. The branding/packaging resonates with the words: “I’m settling for something that I don’t really want, but that’s all there is.” The ingredients almost always include high-glycemic carbs, and/or high-glycemic, alternative sugars (like ‘natural’ maple syrup, honey or agave) or very poor-reputation sweeteners, like aspartame, splenda or maltitol. In other words, everything about buying a low- or no-sugar treat was negatively reinforcing, even depressing,and I knew that to be successful, my company had to be the antithesis of the norm. I had to switch things up.

So I started Bald Baker... and that’s when the fun began. I originally conceived of it as a ‘diabetic friendly dessert company.’ However, I quickly realized that sugar management is a much bigger challenge faced by many more people than just Type II diabetics. Through the genius of the company’s Chief Cookie Officer, our products became vegan and grain-free, and now, they’re kosher too. These groups encompass three very large demographics of people who are all on a spectrum of consciously trying to reduce their sugar intake. Soon after starting to produce our treats at FoodStarter, the wonderful Neha got wind of our products and proclaimed, “Hey! These are keto-friendly!” Since that moment, Switch has become our greatest ally and best friend.

In the year since we started producing our treats, I’ve been fortunate to meet thousands of people, all very impressed with our products.  A few questions or themes continuously arise that I’d like to share with you. I believe in full transparency in everything I do, so here it goes:

The first question that always pops up is “what do you use to sweeten your products?”, to which my standard reply is: “our primary sweetener is erythritol, it comes from non-GMO cornstarch, does not cause any gastrointestinal side effects [right about now, the one asking inevitably rolls their eyes], has no calories, is no glycemic impact, and doesn’t cause tooth decay. The only quirky thing about it is that it’s only about 70% as sweet as sugar, so we top it off with a bit of stevia.” Then I hear, “oh stevia - I’m familiar with that product. Ok cool.” There’s so much more to the erythritol story. The very fact that it’s a ‘sugar alcohol’ - but neither a sugar nor an alcohol - raises a few eyebrows. Its cousin, maltitol (used to sweeten 99% of sugar-free chocolate), has well publicized side effects of a flatulent nature. So there is a natural degree of fear by association, however unfounded. When we were deep in product development, I experimented with almost every approved sugar substitute; erythritol was my second choice, behind monkfruit. Both substances bake well, have negligible glycemic impact and are readily available. Unfortunately, monkfruit is not approved for commercial usage in Canada by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). This really irks me because there are more than one well-recognized, highly-regarded products that sweeten with monkfruit - which is outright illegal. For now. It’s a case of, “I would if I could, but I can’t, so I won’t.”

The next question I inevitably get is, “ugh - I’d eat your treats but you use canola oil. I hate canola oil.” When asked why, most people don’t have an answer, other than its processed in a way they disagree with. I addressed this issue in a blog post from my website called Hard Choices (Vol 1) and here’s the excerpt:

"Canola vs. Coconut Oil. I've been going and back and forth on this one for a while now. Coconut oil has recently been the recipient of some bad press. As Huffington Post notes, it's complicated. The American Health Association (which in my opinion sways which ever way the wind blows) released a pretty scathing report that blasted coconut oil, primarily due its relatively high saturated fat content. Once the direct correlation with cardiovascular disease was established, coconut oil suddenly became vilified. Canola oil's rich supply of Vitamin E and Vitamin K cast it in a much more favorable light than coconut oil. On the business side of things, coconut oil is roughly 4x - 6x more expensive than vegetable or canola oil, both much lower in saturated fat. SFGATE did a comparison of the two and noted that, "The unsaturated fats in canola oil lower cholesterol and its omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation throughout the body." So far, it looks like canola oil for the win. BUT, unrefined coconut oil is high in antioxidants and imparts a great aroma and flavor. Our understanding of the pros and cons of saturated, unsaturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated, etc., are elementary, if not evolving constantly. Every dietitian, nutritionist, healthy and/or culinary-savvy individual I've come across has applauded my use of coconut oil. Who am I to listen to? The people who have supported my business directly; the same people I set out to understand at the beginning of the summer? Or the scientists publishing reports? Or the economics of the day-to-day ingredient purchasing?"

I wound up moving forward with canola oil based on it’s known positive attributes. Bald Baker has a commitment to quality, but every ingredient is a conscious decision that accounts for how to market the product and how to scale the company. I honestly do not believe that using canola oil is settling or lowering our standards. It’s a great ingredient, cost effective, easily accessible, less temperamental and much easier to bake with under any condition (for reasons including that it is a stable liquid at room temperature).

When you think about retailers demanding a 40% margin when they sell a product, and distributors demanding a 35% margin when they buy from the producer and sell to a retailer, there’s not much left. That’s why the vast majority of niche products stay that way - scalability is prohibitively expensive. This is one the biggest reasons why I also use artificial vanilla flavoring instead of natural vanilla extract. A few retailers have commented on my use of that specific ingredient as an inhibitor to listing. It’s unfortunate for a few reasons. The cheapest that I’ve found natural vanilla is $82.43/litre from a wholesaler. Let’s assume that I’ve missed the mark big time and that I can find it somewhere for 50% cheaper, or $41.22/litre. That’s highly unlikely, but stay with me. Compared to the surreal price of $41.22/litre, artificial vanilla is $5/litre on the expensive side, ROUGHLY ⅛ THE PRICE! Compared to the current actual cheapest price, artificial vanilla is 1/16 of the price. From what I can tell, no large company uses natural vanilla; everyone uses artificial and labels it as “vanilla flavoring” or “vanilla extract”, which is entirely misleading and the CFIA is somewhat ambiguous. If an ingredient is artificial, you must say so. However, If the total volume used is under 2% you can label with “xyz flavoring.” Just Google how many different ingredients are masked with that term. It's concerning. Nevermind that numerous taste tests conclude that there is either no difference between the two, or a slight preference towards artificial, the term natural has taken on a life of its own and people are starting to demand it. So I'm now considering removing it from our products all together.

Satisfying a sweet tooth shouldn’t be an act of remorseful indulgence. At Bald Baker, we make eating any and all of our treats a satisfying, rewarding and ultimately, fun experience. Our products let you have your cookie, and eat it too! We’ve made it fun to indulge again and we want you to enjoy every aspect of treating yourself.

I want to end on a note about our fear or rather, abhorrence of laziness. We were lucky enough to be awarded a grant from the Ontario Centers of Excellence to work with the Canadian Food and Wine Institute at Niagara College. The project involves optimizing the formulas for scalability with a primary focus on natural shelf life extension. In other words, I want our products to continually improve, to taste better, to last longer (using no artificial, hard-to-pronounce chemicals!) and to be even more satisfying. After all - that’s what you deserve.

If you have any questions or comments, you can always reach me at treatme@baldbaker.ca. I hope to hear from you.


Dan

Daniel Sennet
The Effect of Entrepreneurship on Relationships

As an entrepreneur, I believe that my relationship-building skills have been the most utilized and the most significant catalyst to the company's growth. Yet, as I form strong bonds with the company's consumers, our retail partners, our suppliers and our vendors, I can see how easy it is to weaken the ones I have with those who are truly closest to me.

What I mean by that is every time I see a repeat customer, there's a warm, familial greeting; same goes with a retail contact that has agreed to carry our product. It's like meeting a new best friend and you can't express your joy or gratitude enough. But the people who are directly responsible for this company's growth, the ones who poured forth their blood sweat and tears in the form of late nigh packaging parties, listening ears, sympathetic advice or just standing with me for countless hours at the markets, events, expos and tradeshows, are the ones most easily taken for granted and under-appreciated. 

It's a shame and loathe as I am to take responsibility, I am to blame.

I'm not alone.  In fact, I've come into contact with too many people in similar positions - growing companies requiring every last waking breath of the entrepreneur(s) behind them, but at great personal expense. It's ironic in that like me, many entrepreneurs are building their companies inspired by- and in the name of, their loved ones. It's a difficult balancing act - professional success requires focus and great effort, but so too does maintaining healthy relationships. The people who love you and who have been there for you every step of the way deserve your mutual love, admiration and respect. Undoubtedly, they have it, but it's important to express it from time to time. That admittedly, is a daily struggle for me, but I'm trying.

So what's one to do? I think that no matter what, the support of your family and friends is committed out of love for you (and perhaps, if you're lucky, a shared vision for your company) and so it's your obligation to do everything possible to make the company successful. Your success is their success. Otherwise, a little token of appreciation can go a long way. I once presented my wife with four different brownies to sample to which she replied, "I've waited a long time to finally get my rewards from this company." I mention that moment because of my belief that when it makes sense, include who you can in the process - let them know that their opinions and advice are appreciated. And when and wherever possible, do something profound and yet so simple: say "thank you."

As we enter the anniversary of our first packaging party before the Niagara Food and Drink Festival, the very first time we went to market with a product, I want to say thank you. Thank you to those of you who have been there for me and for this company. Thank you to the people that have stayed up past any reasonable hour to help stuff cookies into wrappers and then into boxes. And thank you to whose who have donated their time and money and advice and guidance and support to help us keep pushing forward. Great companies are created good people surround themselves with great people. I am forever indebted to the great people in my life. 

There's No Magic... Only Math
I had a profound realization this morning, more so because of it's simplicity.

I'm trying to weigh the pros and cons of each alternative strategy I could pursue as I scale the company. The only thing I know is that I don't know a lot. So, I've tried to surround myself with people that can help. One such person  sat with me for an hour this morning and listened to my options and my evaluation of each. I'm hesitant because each has its own risks and exorbitant costs. Having been there before, he commiserated with me; both of us have wasted many hours pacing up and down our homes trying to get an "aha" moment to strike us; trying to figure what silver bullet exists that could propel us forward. We both consider ourselves reasonably smart...what idea or plan or solution had we not thought of?

As he clearly sympathized with my current position, he proceeded to utter words I hope I never forget: "there's no magic. There's only math." 

What he meant was, what's my quantifiable definition of success? $100,000 in revenue? $1,000,000? $100,000,000? There's no clicking your heels three times and presto - you're successful. There's only plotting out how many cookies I need to sell, in how many boxes, to how many stores, with how many repeat orders and at what price that will net me my revenue goal at the end of the year. 

The question then becomes how do I sell each cookie? With the end in clear high definition, it has become quite clear what steps I need to take to grow the company. 

Knowing that there's more that I don't know than I do, it helps me to work through the myriad of thoughts with an experienced listener. It's even more helpful when that person can provide constructive advice. And when you realize its all about the numbers, you focus on what needs to be done to hit those numbers. Despite  the seemingly insurmountable list of things to do that arise from this exercise, what you have is a tangible action plan, not a pie in the sky prayer for achieving success. 

Sweating for Sweetness

I'm appalled that it's been nearly two months since my last post, but it's been a whirlwind. So I'll start by wishing everyone reading this a safe, healthy and happy new year. 

Most people begin their new year with one or two resolutions; things they'll be doing this coming year to improve themselves, their family, their community etc. Instead, I'm starting the new year by NOT doing something - specifically, eating added sugar. I'm practicing what I preach and I gotta tell you - it is tough. Actually, it just outright sucks. I'm not sure if it's because sugar has become such a ubiquitous part of my diet (aka my routine) or it is just found in so many foods that you wouldn't expect or because I'm chemically addicted and I'm going through withdrawal, but I'll tell you what - I'm sweating for sweetness. 

Show me what your normal day is like and I'll show you ten different sources of sugar. My day almost always starts with a bowl of cereal; a bigger bowl than the one my two year old is enjoying right next to me. I thought that I was 'eating right' my choosing Multigrain Cheerios vs. Honey Nut. It has 6g per 28g bowl. Without even flinching, I can easily polish a 60 or 70g bowl of 'healthy cereal.' So before I've even left the house, I'm at least half way through my daily allotment (according to the World Health Organization). 

Thank goodness I'm a coffee snob, so no sugar there, but how many people put 1 or more packets in their coffee, and how many coffees do you normally drink in a day? What about OJ with your breakfast, or yogurt? I'd check those for added sugars if I were you.

I've made it to lunch and I'm very excited for my healthy lunch - a chicken wrap. I'm foregoing the honey mustard or ketchup or other sauce that I'd normally add. Too obvious.  I'm choosing the whole wheat instead of the white flour wrap. Strangely enough - no added sugar! I think I'll grab a bag of veggie stix as a side. Can't be any sugar in a salty vegetable snack, right? WRONG! looks like no chips for me. In fact, most of the bags of chips I grabbed had some added sugar.  

3pm. Time for a coffee and a snack. Wait a second. I'm not actually hungry, but I do want a coffee. Why am I not hungry? This is high time for a bite... something's fishy here.

Dinner. Standard move is some protein (usually a lean meat) with a salad or veggies that my wife will prep and a carb like noodles or potatoes or something. On this lovely evening, I'm moving forward with spaghetti with a turkey bolognese sauce. Or more aptly, boiled noodles, tomato sauce mixed with veggies or ground and browned turkey. A bit of staple. Now that I'm looking for it, I check the nutritional panel on the sauce, and there it is. Sugar. IN TOMATO SAUCE!!! Looks like it's garlic and butter tonight on top of my noodles. Ok - not what I was looking for, but not a major disappointment. 

Dessert? Unless it's an apple or a straight fruit - forget about it. Even 85% dark chocolate. What's in the other 15%? How about innocent Ice Cream... nope.  Maybe a cracker? Like the Arrowroot I regularly feed my kid... nope. Something? Anything? So I start buying and freezing grapes and eating those. They're actually delicious. Like mini popsicles. 

A few more hours until I go to Snoozetown, population me, and I start digging into emails, catching up on Designated Survivor, doing whatever needs to be done to end the day. After walking my pooch, I hit the hey. 

But wait... no snack? I'd normally have to have something, but you know what? I'm not craving anything. That's weird. I'm not craving anything. And come to think of it - I wasn't craving anything at 3 either. Where are my cravings? I miss that little devil in my belly enticing me to satisfy it with empty calories every day. Where'd you go little guy?

Then... I notice that my pants are a bit looser. A long forgotten notch in my belt, one that has seen better days. One that hasn't seen the buckle in years but has miraculously and suddenly resurfaced. What's going on here? 

It's been 19 days and I've lost weight, lost my unhealthy cravings and lost my need for sugar. I've come to realize that while 80% of all consumer foods have added sugar, that other 20% can actually be very high quality. Classico tomato sauces for example have a broad range of no sugar added sauces that are fabulous. PC Blue makes a few varieties of healthy bread that don't contain sugar - but you have to dig deep in your grocery to find them. Seems like the word is out about sugar and more and more people are hearing it every day.

Experiment with yourself for just one week by eliminating added sugar and let me know how it goes. Try making your own jam (it's easy, literally just boil down strawberries and blueberries and add a bit of flax) or your own salad dressings (again - just balsamic vinegar, olive oil, S&P and a bit of natural mustard) to make delicious foods available for you to enjoy. Post your stories or your history with these types of 'cleanses.' Good luck. You'll need it for the first week, but after that... relatively smooth sailing.

Cheers,
Dan

Daniel Sennet