“You can’t trust someone if she doesn’t like food. — Anonymous.
But seriously: Like most things on the Internet, it’s probably true. We, like you, (dear reader) like food which explains why we trust each other so much. To that end, cake, one popular guilty pleasure that makes its way into birthdays and office holidays regularly, tops the list of oh-so-good foods that just aren’t that good for you.
That’s about to change. Or at least that’s the claim behind Candice Cake, led by woman-CEO Marina Martyanova, who met with sales success in St. Petersburg, Russia, and is attempting a repeat stateside. Now a resident of New York, we got in on an early taste test of Candice Cake’s vegan, layered chocolate ganache and cream goodness in a glass jar. Video producer Hoss Ghertassi joined, albeit too late. He didn’t get a crumb.
In the accompanying interview Grit Daily takes a deeper dive into what goes into Candice Cakes vegan goodness.
Grit Daily: Candice is a “new” to the US but successful elsewhere. Share that backstory.
Marina Martyanova: I launched Candice in Saint Petersburg, Russia and at that time I was only 21. It’s already been three years that we’re on the market. In Saint Petersburg we’re in around 60% of the retailers and paired up with clients like Starbucks.
Then I came to the US and saw that there’s no product like ours here. This March we launched in NYC. I do truly believe that the future desserts will be healthy, and I’m so excited that we’re one of the first companies so give it to people worldwide.
GD: what’s behind the Candice name?
MM: Candice means plant-based desserts for people who don’t eat sugar for any reason. The desserts come in glass jars and are a great solution for people who have diabetes, obesity or follow a healthy diet. We use only natural and high-quality ingredients like hemp protein, 100% Belgian cocoa mass and gluten-free flour. The desserts have all the layers like an actual cake: ganache, sponges, jam, cream. Instead of sugar, we use monk fruit and erythritol, which are natural sugar substitutes and have glycemic index equal to 0. It’s much better than any syrup or unrefined sugar.
GD: Why focus on cake?
MM: I actually have the story behind the idea — my father has pre-diabetes and I saw him struggling a lot. We never had desserts at home. When guests were visiting us they usually brought a cake or a pie for the table. He never wanted to explain why he doesn’t want that piece of cake, so he always hesitated. The worst part is that he regretted anyways: either the dessert wasn’t “that good and worth it”, or he ended up refusing himself and wanting it more than anything in the world.
Once I was told by doctors that I have pre-diabetes, too, and if I keep on eating sugar I’ll become diabetic and eventually die because of it. Very motivating, you know.
They were mistaken – my body just wasn’t used to sugar. But I know how it feels, to be frightened to eat chewing gum as it has some sugar inside.
I saw that there were no healthy alternatives for cakes and decided to change the world for the better. We might go much, much broader in the future, keeping the idea of giving people freedom of choice. So that they can enjoy their life and don’t think about unnecessary things.
GD: Who do you see as your biggest competitors now?
MM: Technically, our competitors are all the manufacturers of healthy snacks or classic desserts. I wouldn’t say that we have big, direct competitors for now.
GD: What facts about your brand are getting conversions?
MM: We create more than just a dessert — we give people freedom. The freedom to listen and truly love themselves. Over 70% of the US population can’t eat a dessert without regretting it afterward. If you think about it, it’s a lot.
We are building a community of people, who enjoy life. They are different ages and have so different interests. If you look at our community, you can find there artists, business owners, designers, analysts, professors, writers, ballet dancers and so many more. They live an active life, have their hobbies, meet with friends, workout, but still find it important to treat their body and soul well. The key here is life in a balance.
Once we did an offline event with our customers. We invited speakers – beauty and wellness experts, productivity coaches – and just had an amazing evening discussing everything that’s important. People started sharing their own experiences, suggested their ideas. I haven’t heard so many ‘thank you’ in my entire life. That’s what motivating. Everything we do and what we are is for people. We want them to be happier and live the full potential, and they feel it.
GD: How are you rolling out your product?
MM: We have three years of experience in retail and food service sales abroad. For the US, we have chosen the food service and direct-to-consumer path. We understood from the beginning, that we need to change the product for the US market, and we so we did. When it comes to food, every nation is unique. The US preferences differ from the Russian so dramatically: the level of sweetness, textures, flavors.
Taking it all into consideration, we will start selling to local coffee shops. That will make easier to communicate with our customers and receive as much feedback as possible.
GD: Can consumers order it online now? Where?
MM: Yes, for now, they can order online on Amazon. In the nearest future, we’ll start selling directly from our website.
Also, the desserts can be found in some places in NYC: Clover Grocery in Greenwich Village, Now or Never coffee shop in SoHo. You can always find the full list on our website.
Looking for more coverage of New York-area startups and want to get in on the action yourselves? Check out Elle Draper’s Lemonelle and join the crew at New York’s Ribalta in Manhattan, May 28.