SWEETS FROM THE EARTH
“Sweet. Natural. Sinfully delicious.” Welcome to Sweets from the Earth, a North York family business manufacturing delicious vegan baked goods.
“Sweet. Natural. Sinfully delicious.”
President and founder Ilana Kadonoff emphasizes the company’s joint passion for social responsibility and decadent treats. Even the names of the products—lavender cupcakes, goji superstuff cookies, apple beet muffins, chocolate zucchini loaves, organic Medjool date squares, and wild blueberry cheesecake—spark the imagination and stimulate the taste buds. Ilana reveals that the secret is to use only ingredients that are easy to pronounce; for example, Sweets from the Earth’s flourless cashew cookies contain only natural cashew butter, organic evaporated cane juice, organic tofu, baking soda, and sea salt. Like all of the company’s products, the cookies are vegan, non-genetically modified, dairy-free, egg-free, cholesterol-free, refined sugar-free, free of artificial colours and flavours, trans fat-free, and certified kosher, and produced in either the nut-free or gluten-free facility.
Ilana and her brother, vice-president Marc Kadonoff, operate Sweets from the Earth from an office on Canarctic Drive. “Ilana’s like a mad scientist,” Marc jokes. “She travels the world hunting for the best and most nutritious ingredients.” The company’s use of certain sweeteners is a perfect example of its commitment to quality. “In terms of health, fructose is at the bottom,” Marc illustrates. “Then you have your normal, refined sugar. Molasses is slightly higher up. At the top, you have organic cane sugar, agave syrup, and coconut palm sugar, as well as natural fruits and vegetables like carrots, apples, beets, organic Medjool dates, and bananas. Those are the sweeteners we use.”
Sourcing ingredients is the firm’s biggest challenge, especially since the cost of its ingredients is many times that of normal bakeries. Furthermore, while Sweets from the Earth makes every effort to source locally and reduce its environmental footprint, coconut trees and rice paddies can be hard to find in Ontario.
Finding suppliers that meet Sweets from the Earth’s standards can be similarly difficult; if Ilana does not respect a company’s business model, she will turn it down. The suppliers that do meet Sweets from the Earth’s stringent criteria must then jump through numerous quality control hoops as well—but the Kadonoffs will settle for nothing but the best. If Ilana would not feed an ingredient to her young children, she refuses to feed it to her customers.
Customer loyalty is key to the company’s success. “People come to us for health, medical, vegan, allergy-related, religious, and ethical reasons,” Marc explains. “If you don’t care about any of those factors, you’ll go buy a $3 box of Oreos.” Customers who do care can find Sweets from the Earth in over 1,000 retailers across Canada, including Loblaws, Metro, Sobeys, Second Cup, and Whole Foods. The bakery has yet to enter the U.S. market (“All in good time,” Kadonoff says), focusing instead on sustainable growth that is responsible to its customers and employees.
“People come to us for health, medical, vegan, allergy-related, religious, and ethical reasons,” Marc explains.
Sweets from the Earth employs 45 workers, ranging from high school graduates to skilled chefs and wedding cake decorators with years of experience. As a family-run business, it is fiercely loyal to its employees.
The company is also dedicated to giving back to the community. Several times a week, Sweets from the Earth responds to inquiries about fundraising or sponsors community events. It also partners with local schools, non-profit organizations, and government agencies on nutrition programs. One such collaboration with Toronto Public Health aims to make healthy foods available to underprivileged neighbourhoods. “Now, when kids walk into their corner convenience store, instead of grabbing that $2 bag of chips, they can get a Sweets from the Earth cookie or muffin for even less,” Marc says proudly.
“Now, when kids walk into their corner convenience store, instead of grabbing that $2 bag of chips, they can get a Sweets from the Earth cookie or muffin for even less,” Marc says proudly.
The idea is that feeding children healthier foods will benefit the entire community and society as a whole. However, the Kadonoff siblings emphasize that they are not running Sweets from the Earth as a charity; they want to show other businesses that it is possible to help their communities and make a profit by doing so.
Since its inception, social consciousness has been at the forefront of Sweets from the Earth. Decades ago, seven-year-old Ilana became a vegetarian when she discovered that many foods came from animals. Years later, she decided to pursue her passion for baking at pastry school before starting her own vegan bakery, enlisting her family as the business grew. Sweets from the Earth was Ilana’s way of demonstrating to the world that it is possible to make vegan, healthy, sustainable, and environmentally friendly treats that also taste delicious.
As a result of the Kadonoffs’ hard work and dedication, Sweets from the Earth was recently recognized in Canada’s Profit 500 as one of the country’s fastest-growing companies. Ilana herself was named one of Canada’s top female entrepreneurs in 2014.
In terms of future growth, the company hints at exploring ways to extract nutrition from untraditional sources—things Canada has never seen before. “The question,” Marc declares, “is whether the world is ready for us.”
Published on November 10, 2015
Update as of July, 2019
In the past three and a half years, Marc and Ilana have been busy expanding all areas of the business, including its product line, international presence, and production capabilities.
When we last profiled Sweets from the Earth in 2015, the firm was thinking about entering the U.S. market. In 2017 the firm established a U.S. sister brand, Treats from the Earth, and is currently in advanced partnership discussions with several U.S. grocers. The business aims for a 2020 launch in U.S. supermarkets. Already, the firm is able to reach the U.S. market through select online retailers such as Amazon and Jet.com.
Towards the end of 2017, Sweets from the Earth introduced a new product line of natural baby food. While this division is still small, it is well-positioned to take advantage of the growing market for organic infant and toddler snacks. The business is continuing to search for niche market opportunities driven by health-conscious consumers. These opportunities are often discovered through customer feedback and suggestions. The firm is currently in the process of launching a diabetic-friendly product line, as the demand for sugar-free foods rises.
Sweets from the Earth has also upgraded its production capabilities, adding more space and introducing a significant amount of automation. Between a new production facility with and upsizing its old facilities, Sweets from the Earth has added 41,000 square feet of new production space. Large investments in productivity have meant that despite growing sales, the business has not had to expand its workforce. However, now that the business is exploring new market opportunities, it is beginning to hire more workers for the future.
For the past five years, Sweets from the Earth has been named one of Growth 500’s (formerly Profit 500) fastest-growing companies in Canada. With the firm’s strong execution of its past plans and many more plans for future expansion, Sweets from the Earth expects to continue with strong growth well into the future.
For more information visit their website.
Sweets from the Earth is a family-owned, vegan specialty baked goods manufacturer with over 150 types of desserts produced. Started in the early 2000s in a basement, they now have two dedicated manufacturing facilities in Toronto and ship across Canada.
Headquarters: 234 Canarctic Drive, North York, ON M3J 2N7
Other facilities: 2 separate facilities, gluten-free and nut-free, both on Canarctic Dr.
- Ilana Kadanoff, Founder & President
- Marc Kadanoff, Vice President
Year established: 2002
Number of employees: 45
Revenues: 3.5-5M, 2015 projection
Line of business
Specialty foods manufacturing – vegan baked goods
NAICS: 311814 Commercial Bakeries and Frozen Bakery Product Manufacturing
Nut-free and gluten-free cookies, loaves, muffins, cupcakes, frozen cookie dough, bars, squares, and treats, cakes and cheesecakes; specialty cakes; special order wedding cakes, breads, bagels, loot bags.
Customers: 55 percent retail stores (including Loblaws, Metro, 2nd Cup, Whole Foods), 40 percent food-service operations, 5 percent custom across Canada
R&D, Skills and Educational needs
Employees: many temporary workers hired through agency, little training; some professional chefs and cake decorators
R&D: continuous innovation in operations/process, food chemistry, nutrition science of ingredients
The founder, Ilana, was a lifelong vegan with a passion for baking. She attended pastry school and worked in restaurants before starting her own vegan bakery in her basement, 2002. Sales rocketed and the company moved to new facilities.
Competition from local vegan bakeries, national frozen dessert manufacturers.
- Partner with University of Guelph on project
- Agency used for part of workforce
- Partner with Toronto Public Health to develop new line for low-income neighbourhoods
- Partner with schools – nutrition programs
- Government helpful, responsive at all three levels, especially Export Development Canada
- Niche: vegan, natural, and allergen-free: original recipe, egg-free, dairy-free, vegan baked goods. All natural, kosher, 100% plant based, GMO-free with a nut free line and a gluten free line
- Products also have mainstream appeal
- High-quality, appealing, friendly service
- Quick turnover, short run
- Product difficult to ship and store – e-commerce will be difficult
- Difficult to source to company specs
- High ingredient cost due to standards
- Seasonality of product
- Increasingly health-conscious population willing to spend more on specialty healthy alternatives
- Rise of US dollar, since sales are in CAD but costs are largely USD
- Comparatively low profit margin
- Exploring new product lines, test kitchen
- Exploring e-commerce, new website
- Recognized in Canada’s 2014 Profit 500
- President named one of Canada’s Top Female Entrepreneurs, 2014