By Dan Sanchez | Aug 25, 2017
San Diego, California
Industry: Food & Beverage
Products: Healthy desserts
Eating raw and organic foods is one way many people stay healthy, but for Hawks and Selman they also wanted a choice of healthy desserts to go along with it. "Paleo desserts were hard to make," says Hawks. "With the way recipes looked like on the web, the desserts didn't often match up in taste, and they weren't available commercially."
This prompted these two adventurous entrepreneurs to begin making their own desserts with organic ingredients that looked and tasted better than what was available.
Hawks describes himself as a cross between tech geek and "Luddite," while Selman ran an expedition company in West Africa. Both are environmentally conscious health nuts who have dedicated their time to create a unique line of desserts that are tasty, gluten-free, and largely made with organic ingredients. The company now ships product globally from its location in San Diego.
"Paleo is a diet of ingredients that include meat, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds," says Hawks. "We believe that while labeling the food can be helpful, it's far more important to just get the basics right."
For Paleo Treats, that means making desserts without gluten, grain, dairy, and processed sugar. To do this, the company starts with sourcing good ingredients, but there's a balance between costs and environmental concerns. "Organic ingredients aren't so much hard to find as they are expensive and/or not worth the environmental-impact cost," says Hawks. "For example, you can get organic coconut products from the Philippines, or non-organic coconut products from Mexico. We weigh the costs not just in dollar value but in the impact on the planet, and try to make the best decisions possible."
Once the ingredients are in place, Paleo Treats look as good as they sound, from the Brownie Bomb made with only six ingredients to the Mac Attack! macaroon, or the new espresso brownie called the Rocket.
The company keeps up with production by outsourcing its manufacturing. "This makes complying with certain restrictions like gluten or dairy free a cost that we can spread among other like-minded businesses," says Hawks. "We keep customer service, fulfillment, and graphic design in-house. It's part of our mission to add beauty, quality, and joy to the world. Structuring the business in this way allows us to execute on that well."
Hawks says Paleo Treats’ employees are like-minded individuals who thrive in the company's "fast and loose" environment. "They have lots of freedom to accomplish the mission, a super supportive paid time off plan, double what's required by law, and lots of say in how we accomplish our goals," he explains. One mission is to introduce people to the health benefits of a Paleo diet. On the company's website, visitors can not only order sample packs of their desserts, but also peruse a variety of Paleo recipes that include everything from pizza dough to avocado mousse.
Although Paleo Treats have not been picked up by national distributors, they have been successful selling directly to the consumer. "We're recognized by FedEx for being pioneers in the perishable shipping space," says Hawks. "We're really proud of breaking ground in this area."
Above all, the company's mission is to get people off of unhealthy ingredients. "Our aim is to help people stay healthy, even when eating dessert," says Hawks. "We believe that living a healthy life isn't hard once you understand the foundational principles, one of which is enjoying yourself. We help meet that goal through providing a safe and delicious dessert."
Challenges: Market awareness. "The biggest challenge we face is connecting with a wider audience," says Hawks. "Many people hear Paleo and think, they couldn't do that when the reality is, if you enjoy dessert at all, you'll love Paleo Treats."
Opportunities: One of the company's main advantages is that they've made great tasting desserts without compromising standards. "If it's not Paleo and absolutely delicious, we won't make it," says Hawks. "It's pretty easy to make a dessert that's one or the other, but it's difficult to make both. We embrace that difficulty, put in the work to achieve our goal, and end up with the best on the market. We act as a beacon for many in the health food industry, showing that healthy dessert can taste amazing."
Needs: "We need to continue a laser focus on strict ingredients and exceptional taste," says Hawks. "We'd love to continue to discover new customers, it's always enjoyable when we get to see people realize that dessert can be healthy and amazingly tasty."