Balancing an Organic Life {Food Love}

How do I balance an organic life while owning and operating a candy business? It may seem like a contradiction when I talk and share about food rules and organic food when I also make and sell candy. Well, actually, the whole reason I started my candy company was to provide a better quality sweet treat for my family and others.

I started with a few principles that have helped me find this balance: No artificial or synthetic flavors and colors, use organic and Fair Trade ingredients whenever possible, reduce plastic in food production by sourcing more sustainable packaging options, and provide a quality product that is delicious and memorable.

Artificial and synthetic colors and flavors are rampant in food production, not just candy. They are in so many produced foods and in Canada we have very loose labelling guidelines for declaring these items. Think of it this way, any time an item has vanilla extract in it, it is a highly processed flavor. Far from the natural vanilla bean. It is processed with alcohol which itself is highly processed. Now, most items would contain a very small amount of this. But think of all the food you eat that has added color, flavor and undeclared ingredients. It adds up.

Choosing whole and natural flavors for my marshmallows has been the most time and money consuming aspect of what I offer. Using extracts and flavors for marshmallows and candy is easy and cheap. And there are now an array of flavors so you could make anything from banana to cotton candy. Trust me, those are not made with natural flavors. I made this choice because as I started selling and labelling my products I wanted to be able to say that all flavors were sourced from whole, natural ingredients. Like vanilla bean seeds that I scrape out of the pod. Organic and Far Trade, these vanilla beans are expensive. But if you have had one of my Vanilla Bean marshmallows you know the difference that it makes. I also purchase these from a small, Canadian importer, with the hopes that I am helping another small food business rather than a huge company that has no values when it comes to natural food.

Organic and Fair Trade ingredients tend to be more expensive because this usually involves chocolate and coffee. If I am going to rely on ingredients grown elsewhere and imported, I wanted to ensure it was sustainably sourced, supporting smaller Canadian importers, and supporting ethical growers in other countries. Vanilla beans, chocolate and coffee are my most expensive ingredients. The difference is worth it in terms of flavor.

When searching for a good espresso for my very popular espresso marshmallows, I was delighted to find a local roaster that crafts organic, fair trade coffee and roasts an excellent dark roast. Chicken Creek Coffee if our coffee of choice at home and makes for a better marshmallow. Once again, supporting a local (in Smithers) business, reducing our carbon footprint by not purchasing from a large food company, and offering a whole, natural flavor that is simply better tasting.

Plastic is a curse of the food industry. On the one hand, it is cheap and makes it possible for food producers to reduce weight in packaging, cost, and make more "convenient" food. On the other hand, just think about how much plastic food packaging is going into our land fills, our oceans, our planet. I promised myself that if I could only use conventional plastic for packaging, then I wouldn't sell candy. I spent a great deal of time and money researching and testing alternatives. Luckily, there is more and more demand for sustainable choices and I was able to find a compostable "plastic" bag that is approved for food. This cost is 300 times the cost of conventional plastic bags. I also use recycled/recyclable kraft paper bags and boxes. There are so many beautiful plastic options for food packaging, that are cheaper and more available. But I will not package in plastic. And now, I am currently designing a custom box that is going to be very expensive, but beautiful, useful, and perfect for retailers. It will be worth it.

Crafting delicious and memorable confections truly comes from my heart. I dream up seasonal treats and test confections with simple and whole ingredients. My line of confections is often inspired by my Dad who passed on his sweet tooth and love of really good candy. My marshmallows are inspired by the ingredients I find. This summer, local strawberries and rubharb were abundant at my farmer's market. I bought some, created a preserved syrup, and will feature this flavor next summer. The possibilities are endless for me.

My hope is that you enjoy eating and sharing my handmade confections as much as I enjoy making them. I am always working on improving every aspect of my business and love your feedback and suggestions. I love hearing stories from my customers about how they enjoyed their treats and the small part Kimberley's Kitchen has played in their special occassions. Please keep sharing- it inspires me to continue.

Once again, thanks for your support!



Anonymous said...

Such wonderful treats, but better still that they are made with such care for people and the planet! I'd rather have - and pay for - ONE of your - yes - more costly goodies than 5 pseudo-goodies that aren't good for people or the planet and aren't close to "food." You are part of a movement to reconnect people with a love of real food! Thank you!!!!!

Kimberley said...

thanks so much for the supportive and encouraging comments! I really appreciate it!

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