David Downing, Co-Founder, and CEO of ChipMonk Baking tells us of this tasty little venture that offers delicious low-carb keto cookies, bites, and dry mixes, throughout the US.
In 2019, I was living in Houston with my roommate (and now Co-Founder), Jose Hernandez. We both worked in the start-up space. One weekend we were trying to come up with a business idea, but nothing really floated our boat. We were feeling pretty low.
Jose decided to bake us some cookies to make us feel better and being a type 2 diabetic, he made us a batch of sugar-free chocolate chip cookies.
I thought they were pretty close to the real deal. I was blown away, as that kind of quality cookie wasn’t available in supermarkets. We ran with it from there and went to local farmers’ markets, eventually found a commercial kitchen space, launched our website, launched on Amazon, etc…
Last year we started getting into wholesale too. Our main products are low-carb, gluten-free, keto-friendly cookies and cookie bites.
Almost every day presents itself with a challenge, seeing as neither Jose nor myself had any prior experience in baking or consumer packaged goods. We’re learning as we go along. How does one go from baking a dozen cookies to making a thousand? Luckily we met a food scientist who was able to help us work it out.
On the e-commerce side, we had to learn how to get traffic to our website, how to sell the products, and once sold, how to deal with the shipping and delivery of our products in perfect condition.
Customer feedback along with trial and error has helped us to get where we are today. There’s still so much for us to learn, and as we’re still a small company, I guess we’ll learn as we grow.
Our first cookies started off as a diabetes-friendly dessert for Jose, which comes down to avoiding sugar and processed carbohydrates. When we made the cookies, we cut out the sugar and used almond flour, which is high fat, low carb.
We soon realized that a lot of our customers were interested in our cookies because they were keto-friendly. Keto just happens to be a big trend right now, and we tapped into that niche. Instead of calling our cookies diabetes-friendly, we opted for keto-friendly, which resonates much better for us.
Our products are a “better for you” alternative to a regular cookie. Anyone looking to cut down on, or cut out sugar completely can benefit from eating our cookies, and quite frankly this probably includes most people.
Because of the almond flour, our cookies are more satisfying and keep you fuller for longer, so hopefully, you’re only tempted by one, and not the whole packet. Sugar consumption in the US is such a huge issue, so cutting out 20g of sugar a day by eating one of our cookies versus a regular one, is a step in the right direction towards a healthier lifestyle.
However, most of our customers are those who’ve already made the decision and have adopted that lifestyle.
There are quite a few competitors in the space, jumping onto the keto trend.
We’re about broader, more mindful health and living so we chose not to incorporate the word ‘keto’ into our brand name. The two main competitors that come to mind are backed by million-dollar investors, so they’re much bigger than us and spend a lot on marketing.
We don’t have the guns to play in that fight. We just focus on producing a great-tasting product. We’re also able to focus on small-batch flavors on a monthly basis because we’re more flexible than the bigger companies.
The easiest way of finding us is online through our website, or through amazon.com or walmart.com. We’re also in quite a few retail stores across the country. The only major chain that stocks our product is a specialty grocery store called Central Market, here in Houston. We’re hoping to extend beyond that in the near future.
We use a unique blend of allulose and monk fruit sweeteners. Allulose is a rare natural sugar very similar to fructose, except that the body can’t metabolize it. This means that you get all the taste, without the calories or the blood sugar impact.
Monk fruit is a melon that grows in the mountainous regions of China. Its flesh is a very powerful antioxidant that’s naturally 300 times as sweet as table sugar. The flesh is removed, dried, and made into a powder. This powder can be used in food applications. We use a blend of both of these to hit the sweet spot on the head, so to speak.
We chose to avoid artificial sweeteners altogether.
Our goal is cautious but quick growth. We’d like to double our sales every year for the foreseeable future. There’s still a lot of space for us to grow online, and to continue our expansion in wholesale (grocery stores, health food stores, etc…) but without putting the company at risk.
We’re very mindful not to expand too quickly, and of super importance, to not place our products where they don't belong. We’re very strategic about how we grow and are very positive and excited about the future.
I’m always interested in chatting with people who want to start up their own companies, particularly in the specialty food space, and if I can help prevent them from making the same mistakes I did, it makes it even more worthwhile.
If anyone would like to chat with me for advice, I would be happy to do so. This is a personal hobby of mine! I can be reached either on LinkedIn or at firstname.lastname@example.org