An interview with Vanessa Hentz, CEO of Peace A’ Cake.
1) Tell me about the origins of the company.
Peace A’ Cake was founded by Veronica Menin, a holistic health-coach who is very passionate about plant-based lifestyle but also loves sweets. Veronica started baking healthy vegan cakes in her own kitchen and selling them to small restaurants and coffee shops around Miami with the intention of offering people a better quality dessert that could be healthy but also indulgent. Her ultimate dream was to one day become a Whole Foods Market local vendor. After taking samples to one of their stores, the dream became a reality and Peace A’ Cake was born as a company. It was also per their request that her cakes were turned into mini muffins in order to be more marketable, and gluten-free became a common point for all products due to customer’s requests.
As the company started growing and needed support in different ways, Vanessa Hentz, Sports Nutritionist and also lover of baking, joined the team. Combining the passion for the kitchen with the expertise in Nutrition, she reformulated recipes and included new ingredients perfecting what was already great! She expanded Peace A’ Cake’s line of products engaging in other markets, such as paleo and high protein. The high protein concept then evolved with the development of a complete new line named PRO+, which was recently launched with single units of plant-based high protein cookies made with functional ingredients and supplemented with BCAAs (verified vegan). Those not only taste delicious, but are a more well-rounded nutritional option for the fitness-oriented community.
2) How did you discover that cassava flour was the best flour to use, when so many products use “classic” flours like rice flour?
When I had the idea of reformulating the existing four muffins recipes to be less “niche” and also to get a better retail pricing, I started researching about all new gluten-free flours coming to the market. I found cassava based on some blogs and people that had tested it with good results, but I needed to make sure about the good nutritional value, the non-GMO aspect, and also test it combined with our other ingredients. My main concept was to create recipes that had the least amount of ingredients, a clean label, and with taste and texture similar to a regular baked goods. I did not want aftertaste of any gluten-free mix, nor the complicated (for some) digestive issues that bean based flours could also cause, so I knew cassava would have to be the one.
3) Why is it important to you to provide products that are gluten-free, vegan, nut-free, etc.?
As a company whose team is formed by a nutritionist who is passionate about baking and loves desserts (myself) and a holistic health coach who also enjoys sweets and baking, (Veronica Menin) we had to find better versions of everything we like eating! When Veronica founded the company her goal was to use wholesome, all-natural ingredients, and as the market created new demand such as gluten-free, paleo, vegan, nut-free, we thought that it could be an opportunity to create something delicious for those with allergies or specific food choices. We definitely try to create products to please the most diverse needs and want consumers to know that they do not need to sacrifice the joy whenever they are eating something sweet.
4) What do you think is the relationship between a healthy body and a healthy mind?
I do believe that this is relative and very individual since people have different aspirations regarding where they want to be with their nutrition, performance, bodies, mental health, and balance. I do believe in listening to your body and in pursuing something that is achievable for you and not based on what others establish as “being in shape” or “fit”; a nutritional program that works for you and respects your feelings, your routine, your mood, your social experiences… And in taking time to process experiences, feelings, goals, success, and failure in a way that mind, body, and soul are aligned.
5) What kinds of requirements do you have when searching for acceptable ingredients?
We are very conscious about our ingredients. We source the best quality. Always non-GMO, and most of the time we really want to go 100% organic but we understand that our products need to be affordable and also available throughout the year. In regards to nutrition, we use cassava flour because it is paleo and allergen-free, but also has more fiber, and a better vitamin and mineral content when compared to tapioca starch or white rice flour, for example. We add gluten-free oat flour in certain products to increase the soluble fiber content and boost a little more the micronutrients. Our high protein products have the best whey protein (organic, grass-fed whey) and our plant-based high protein items are made of organic sprouted brown rice protein to increase the amino acid availability, and also facilitate the digestion/absorption process. We do not use coconut products that come from farms using inadequate employment relationships and we try to keep most of our ingredients from the US.
6) Your products are desserts, but what makes them healthy?
Well, they are healthIER! Most of us like eating desserts, so our intention is to use natural, wholesome, and unprocessed ingredients to make allergen-free desserts that can be enjoyed with peace of mind knowing that we are junk-free, non-GMO, produced in small batches, and that whenever enjoyed in balance, it is a better-for-you option.
7) What are the next steps that should be taken in nutrition education to help people make healthier choices for themselves?
I really believe that nutritional education and information found throughout media should be regulated by research centers and the government in an attempt to avoid so much false information and people trying to come up with magic ways of making everybody perfect when there is no such a thing! Nutrition is based on evidence and should be treated seriously. Once correct information is accessible to the population, it should be easier to develop educational strategies to teach self-awareness, and then people would be able to make their own better nutritional choices. With all the mixed messages out there, people get confused and at the end most have no idea what to do!
8) Why did you decide to begin manufacturing products in your own gluten-free facility? What was this process like?
We are still a small company and have been facing all the difficulties that any business owner would relate to. Finding a place to manufacture for us was always a challenge and we had for a while a facility that helped us and understood our growth process. The problem was that they were not gluten-free, and also we wanted to adopt better manufacturing practices, which led us to investing in purchasing our own. It has been a challenging process—like mostly everything! We had all the licensing and inspections executed, hired a small team, and were able to start working with a non-profit organization called Miami Is Kind, from where we employ autistic bakers to work in our production facility. Our products now follow better quality control procedures, are manufactured in a gluten-free facility, and we are very happy so far!
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We are happy to announce that Peace A` Cake can support Small Businesses and drop-ship our products with wholesale prices anywhere in the US! If you own a Juice Bar, Yoga Studio, Gym, Crossfit Box, Coffee Shop or anything in between, just send us an email for more information at email@example.com
Peace A`Cake is proud to showcase its Gluten-Free, Vegan, Paleo and High Protein Products at Soho Expo 2016 and you are invited to stop by booth 213-A for some delicious samples!
ps: Do NOT MIss our SOHO DEAL: 50% off FIRST ORDER
It is very important to us that our customers understand what our products are all about so they can set up their EXPECTATIONS the best way possible.
Do you know that Gluten provides structure and Binding to baked goods and altogether with EGGS create that FLUFFY spongy texture of a cake when you press it down and it comes right back up?
And that usually a source of fat such as BUTTER also gives muffins, brownies and cookies an extra kick on the flavor and recipes using all WHITE sugar are more likely to be less dense and more airy?
If we were looking for REGULAR baked goods, those should be our expectations. Then, Why are we setting up the same ones for Gluten-Free, Vegan (eggless and Dairy-free) products that are made with organic Coconut Sugar and organic Coconut Oil?
Peace A` Cake muffins & Brownies were created with taste and Texture in Mind but yet QUALITY of Ingredients and its combination were always our priority.
We could have chosen cheaper flours among the Gluten-Free world giving us a better texture, but none or very little Nutritional value. We could add GUM (xhantam gum, guar gum, gelatin) to all of our products improving binding and avoiding crumbling, but the reaction they can cause to most people`s digestive system is not part of what we aim for, unless a product becomes impossible to be developed without it.
We kept Dairy away to give those with sensitivities or allergies an option of a product to enjoy and this helps our shelf life as well. Eggs are not part of our recipes because we understand and care about Vegan Customers and also because our cost of production would go up even more using cage-free organic eggs.
So keep in mind that for every ingredient we decided to include in our products there is a reason and whenever we let a less nutritious option get in there it is to please a little more your taste buds with better texture and it is still a conscious choice!
When Trying Peace A` Cake`s Muffins and Brownies expect a more natural flavor of the ingredients without excessive artificial flavoring; a texture that can vary from a little firmer if products are COLD to super moist and fluffy if they are heated up for a few seconds. Muffins are not gummy or sticky and are NEVER overly sweet – but perfectly right for a treat or snack.
Our Products are NON-GMO Verified, made with all natural wholesome ingredients, mostly Organic, without added preservatives and with Ingredients that EVERYBODY understands! We stand for a Healthier and “better-for-you” line of baked goods and we care about those with Allergy concerns making our Products DAIRY-FREE (except for Protein Line), EGG-FREE and some GRAIN FREE (PALEO) and NUT-FREE.
We are GLUTEN-FREE but we avoid using “less nutritious” STARCHY Flours as a MAIN ingredient, and source our ingredients carefully to provide a better Nutritional VALUE to our final PRODUCT.
We use REAL ingredients such as ORGANIC coconut Oil, ORGANIC COCONUT sugar, prune juice, Gluten-Free Oat Flour, Organic GF Rolled Oats, Organic shredded Coconut, Grass-Fed Whey Protein, Organic Sprouted Brown Rice Protein, dairy-free chocolate chips, dried fruits and Nuts.
Peace A` Cake`s muffins DO NOT USE a HIGH AMOUNT of FAT and since they are kept frozen before distribution (to extend shelf life) they might have a little dry feel if you eat them cold but they become moist and Absolutely delicious if heated up.
We measure no effort to offer you great quality products with the best taste and texture that can be achieved in a “healthier” option which is also free from most ALLERGENS.
We hope you FULLY ENJOY your LIFE and OUR Peace A` Cake Products!
As you know, we are passionate about baking desserts that are not only delicious but also good for you. All of our work could be resumed in one word: research … Research in order to make the best quality products. Research in trying different versions of each one of our recipes. Research in finding the best nutritional content, taste and texture just for your health. That’s why now, more than ever, we need to take action in support of a safe, healthy food supply. That’s why we care about being a part of the Non Genetically Modified Organisms Project.
The Non-GMO Project is a non-profit organization committed to preserving and building the food supply, educating consumers, and providing verified non-GMO choices. The project believes that everyone has a right to know what’s in the food they’re eating in order to better feeding their loved ones and Peace A’Cake totally supports this, using their logotype and, of course, their purpose in every product.
As a relatively new subject, we know that you may have some doubts, but we made a list of answers to the most frequent questions about Genetically Modified Organisms bellow. Check it out:
Do you know what are the GMOs?
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are living organisms whose genetic material has been artificially manipulated in a laboratory through genetic engineering. Almost all commercial GMOs are engineered to withstand direct application of herbicide and/or to produce an insecticide.
Which foods might contain GMOs?
In the Non-GMO Project’s Product Verification Program, there are three categories of GMO risk: (1) High, (2) Monitored, and (3) Low.
These crops are currently in commercial production in genetically engineered form. Contamination risk is high, and ingredients derived from these crops must be tested every time before being used in Non-GMO Project Verified products.
Ex.: Animal products (milk, meat, eggs, honey, etc.) are also considered high-risk because of contamination in feed.
The monitored category is for crops where there are suspected or known instances of contamination from GMO relatives or other sources. These crops as needed to assess risk and move them to the “high-risk” category if seen significant risk of GMO contamination.
How Can I Avoid GMOs?
Because GMOs can be found in as much as 80% of conventional processed food in the United States, it can seem an overwhelming task to avoid GMOs. Planting an organic garden is a great way to be sure of what you’re eating. At the store, choose food and products that are Non-GMO Project Verified. You can also download the Non-GMO Project Shopping Guide app for your phone so you can scan products to see whether or not they have been verified. When Non-GMO Project Verified options are not available, choose Certified Organic products. If you like, check the project’s website for a full list of Non-GMO verified Products: http://livingnongmo.org/find/products/categories/
Find a Non-GMO Month Retailer near you.
Locate one of the nearly 2,400 stores across North America that are participating in Non-GMO Month this year (October). In addition to providing you with clear labeling, educational materials and savings on Verified products, these stores will also be providing non-GMO educational opportunities and special events. Support the efforts of these retailers by shopping at their locations and thanking them for being part of Non-GMO Month!