Startup To Scale

105. Building a Vegan Cookie Brand

April 05, 2023 Foodbevy Season 1 Episode 105
105. Building a Vegan Cookie Brand
Startup To Scale
More Info
Startup To Scale
105. Building a Vegan Cookie Brand
Apr 05, 2023 Season 1 Episode 105

Daniel launched Dan the Baking Man, a plant-based baked goods company with his broth. Their goal is to create great tasting gluten-free and vegan sweets, starting with their cookies. Learn about how they got started and how the journey is going.

Learn more:

Startup to Scale is a podcast by Foodbevy, an online community to connect emerging food, beverage, and CPG founders to great resources and partners to grow their business. Visit us at to learn about becoming a member or an industry partner today.

Show Notes Transcript

Daniel launched Dan the Baking Man, a plant-based baked goods company with his broth. Their goal is to create great tasting gluten-free and vegan sweets, starting with their cookies. Learn about how they got started and how the journey is going.

Learn more:

Startup to Scale is a podcast by Foodbevy, an online community to connect emerging food, beverage, and CPG founders to great resources and partners to grow their business. Visit us at to learn about becoming a member or an industry partner today.

Dan The Baking Man

Jordan Buckner: [00:00:00] Everyone. Today I have on Daniel Csete, who is the founder of Dan the Baking Man, which is a line of plant-based and gluten-free cookies. Daniel, welcome. 

Daniel Csete: Thank you for having me. 

Jordan Buckner: So give me the 32nd pitch of what the product is. 

Daniel Csete: So our products are plant-based, vegan, gluten-free, under 180 calories. They come in two cookies in each bag..

And , you can have them. A lot of people that buy them, have them for after a workout or parents that want something light for their kids for after school snacks. They're not having something super heavy like you see in your normal cookie. That's 500 calories. Right? So our products, you can have one for now and maybe one later in the afternoon.

Jordan Buckner: Very cool. So tell me about how you started this business, how you got into the cookie business. 

Daniel Csete: So my brother runs the marketing and the D two C, and he's based in Chicago. But when we were living together here in Miami, we were CrossFit athletes and part of the CrossFit tradition is they run a nutrition program every couple months and [00:01:00] they launched a paleo diet that we wanted to try out to cut some body fat, and part of that diet is that you can't have anything that has synthetic sugars or artificial sweeteners. And I have a terrible sweet tooth, like horrible.

Even to this day, it's terrible. So we were going down the grocery aisles trying to find something we could have on this diet that didn't have any synthetic sugars or order for the sweeteners, and we couldn't find anything, whether it was Target, whole Foods, trader Joe's, it didn't matter. So I got in the kitchen and started just making armed products and they started out as little protein balls.

It's not what you see now as the finish, as one of the finished product. It started little protein balls and we started by selling to local gyms in the area. And then we thought, why don't we just put this across the country and see what happens? And now we're in over a hundred locations across the country.

Jordan Buckner: That's amazing. And definitely a fun story to start and making this with. With your brother, which is really cool. So how are things going? How's been the initial reaction from customers? 

Daniel Csete: Customers love them. [00:02:00] So we sell to a lot of these high end coffee shops where coffee shops sell their coffee at a four to $5 a cup, right?

So their customers can afford a higher price good. And they're selling pretty good. We use a platform called Ferry, which people watching this don't know a lot about Ferry. Ferry is a third party wholesaler where retailers can find different products that they wouldn't , be able to find normally, 

Jordan Buckner: as let's say.

Yeah, Faires a great platform as well. We did a state of the CPG annual survey and Faire was the top performing like B2B wholesale. Yeah. Wholesale platform for brands, which was great. And it's awesome that they've been able to help companies grow by reaching a larger audience. So you manage a lot of the operations for the business.

Are you making everything yourself or are you working with a Co manufacturer? 

Daniel Csete: No, so we have a facility. We're in the process of getting to a larger facility that's gonna make the product because we're at a point where we can handle the volume, right? So we're in conversation with a [00:03:00] couple different co-packers and we should have one, but in the next couple weeks, or so.

Jordan Buckner: That's really exciting. How do you hope to maintain the quality of the product when moving to a co-manufacturer? I've kind of experienced that problem myself, where that's like they couldn't make it the same. 

Daniel Csete: That's gonna be the key, right? Is being able to keep the product quality the same or a dip below, but not too much.


Jordan Buckner: What's been the hardest challenge? Launching the business. So far, 

Daniel Csete: our hardest challenge has been businesses shutting down. Honestly, a couple of the coffee shops that have bought to our products, a couple of 'em had to shut down because they couldn't sustain either the rent or they thought they could make a product similar to ours at a cheaper price.

Mm. And what they were buying it from us for 

Jordan Buckner: and didn't work for them. Yeah. Well that's definitely unfortunate. Yeah. I know. A lot of businesses are still feeling the effects of just like the new economy and world that we're in. Yeah. From like labor shortages to higher rent [00:04:00] prices, higher ingredient prices.

Even though it's unfortunate, I hear from a C P G brand every single week who is shutting down. Which is definitely, you know, unfortunate. And then just the same, there's lots of others who are growing and building. But it's definitely a challenge. Were you and your brother, either you in the food or c p g industry before this?

Daniel Csete: No, 

 So growing up, both my parents were always, we always cooked and baked pretty much every meal unless it was a family event, like a birthday or a bar mitzvah or some sort of family event. So we'd love to cook and love to bake, so we're both self taught. 

Jordan Buckner: That's exciting. What surprised you the most about being in this industry now?

Daniel Csete: Honestly, how much people are willing to give us either advice, feedback on the product. Because initially the packaging, when you look at it now, that's not what it looked like eight, nine months ago. They started out as as little plastic bags and there were tape over it, like it was crazy. But now we have a in-house designer, [00:05:00] lovely vacca, who's absolutely amazing.

She does all our design work. The new website that's going up in the next couple weeks, that's Mo n. 95% of that is all her, 

Jordan Buckner: That's exciting and definitely having someone who can, who can help with that. Yeah, I know the really positive thing about the industry is how open other people are to want you to succeed.

Yeah. Which is really nice. Right. It's like very friendly. It's not like some industries should very, like, cutthroat and people like undermine each other. Everyone like wants everyone else to win. 

Daniel Csete: Yeah. It's like LinkedIn has become such a powerful tool that people are willing to like, take meetings.

People I never would've even thought of. Yeah. Like the founder of.

That non-alcoholic wine has been absolutely amazing. Like all sorts of different people. 

Jordan Buckner: I know I find myself on LinkedIn probably too much, but you know, at least in my role, yes. My whole role is connecting with founders and people in the industry. And so I have a good reason to be on there, but it's definitely been fun and connecting.

You mentioned earlier that you originally started with a protein [00:06:00] ball product, right? Yeah. Yeah. Why you started I was with balls. 

Daniel Csete: We would roll them into little balls. They had like these chocolate chips at the time came out. They were like, really tint. We put a lot of them into 'em. 

Jordan Buckner: Why did you end up switching over to a cookie?

Daniel Csete: Honestly, it was cuz it was easier to distribute Cause protein balls, like we would've had to get a container or some sort of miniature case versus cookies where we could use a simple bag. 

Jordan Buckner: Yeah, and it's interesting because, I actually think that there's not a large demand for like a protein ball format.

Yeah. And a lot of consumers don't really like understand it and like maybe they'll just eat it for like, oh, I guess if I need protein. It's something that's like a little convenient. But I think you're totally on the right path of going after cookies because you fall in this category of being like a Indulgent snack that people can tell themselves and it is like better for them, right?

Like you say you have the sweet tea. Yeah. It allows people to say like, oh, [00:07:00] like I can have a cookie during the day and, you know, maybe I won't feel guilty about it or bad about it because it's, you know, healthier for me 

Daniel Csete: When my mom comes to visit, she lives in Chicago. She works in the healthcare industry and when she comes, she takes like batches of them back with her to Chicago and stores them in the freezer so she can have them. 

Jordan Buckner: Oh, that's great. It's funny with my brand TeaSquares, I remember you know, we sold in these like smaller multi-serve pouches where, one inch by one inch squares and each pack would have a larger ones had 16 or so.

But we manufacture everything ourselves and when we actually. making them, we sometimes like store them in gallon size Ziploc bags before we pack them. And my dad would actually buy like the gallon size Ziploc bags and like buy them for his friends to give out, 

Daniel Csete: oh God. 

Jordan Buckner: He's like, I don't, they don't want the packaging just like give it to 'em in bulk.

And so those are our first kind of like, bulk over for them. What [00:08:00] do you see as next for the business? 

Daniel Csete: The next step is retail. Like, we wanna get into these Higher end grocery markets, like one market in LA I have a lot of college friends that live out there and they buy the products from us and they're like, why aren't you an Irwin yet?

Like, what's going on? And unless you're a founder of a food business, I don't think people really understand the difficulty it is going to retail. Like it's not just putting your product on the shelves.. It's how fast can you get that product moved off the shelf once you get onto the shelf? 

Jordan Buckner: And, you know, knowing that is a huge first step.

And honestly, like when I first started my business, I didn't quite know that as well. And it got us into a lot of trouble as we learned. What's your plan for making sure it moves off the shelf once you get it there?

Daniel Csete: That's my brother. That's Mark. That's all , he handles all that marketing stuff.

Like he's good at that. Like 

Jordan Buckner: he's good. He'll take care of it. Yeah. Yeah. That was the biggest issue I think with us. I tell this, I just told the story again recently, but my want TeaSquare in Mariano's stores in Chicago. They're like a hundred locations we were in and.[00:09:00] Got the product on shelf first.

There was some headaches getting it there. And then when I went into the store, I walked around for literally 20, 25 minutes trying to find it up and down every single aisle. And I could not find our product on the shelf. And it was finally in like the, and they were like, we kind of compete with energy bars slash granola, and it was in the like supplement

aisle of the like pharmacy area where they have a couple like high protein, like west bars and things like that. And I was like, geez, I would've never looked here. I just was like walking down that aisle to leave and I realized how important it was to actually make sure your products get on shelf and then in the right place and make sure they sell.

Because our products, yeah, our customers couldn't find it and so they couldn't actually buy it and the product couldn't sell and we were like discontinued from there.. 

Daniel Csete: Yeah, , that's the worst. That's a living nightmare. 

Jordan Buckner: It was. And I was like, oh, maybe it'll just like sell itself. Nope, it didn't.

Well, that's cool. What's it like working [00:10:00] with your brother on the business? I know there's a couple, like family businesses we have in our community 

Daniel Csete: too. Oh my God. Like, he is, so, my business partner and my brother is a perfectionist. Every little detail. So we, sometimes we crash heads, but at the end of the day, , we both have the same common goal.

That's cool. Which is to keep growing this, like we have a couple new product lines hopefully coming out once we get into this new facility. 

Jordan Buckner: That's awesome. Well, hopefully I think it creates some good tension and conflict. To have. And I think that's what kind of pushes you to grow the business and push each other to always do things better.

Yeah. So there's probably no like, yes person, we're like, okay, yeah, we'll just go along with it. It's like, okay, why? Yeah. How are we gonna do this? How are we gonna make it better? Yeah. And you can be a little bit more honest.

We have a a mother, I know there's at least one like mother, son team, or actually a couple of those in the community. My business, we operate out a facility that was owned by my mom, so she had the commercial kitchen. And so like that was, you know, always an interesting dynamic where it was a huge benefit, [00:11:00] but also, you know, some learnings there.

Daniel Csete: It's funny because my mom works for Loyola Chicago at the med school campus, and she's always going to little coffee shop handing out cookies and then calling me. And it's like, oh, I gave this coffee shop your product. Maybe they'll sell it. 

Jordan Buckner: Just get her a, it's, it's great. Get her a business card.

Daniel Csete: She can be like a Yeah. Might as well just get her. I might as well just get her a t-shirt. 

Jordan Buckner: Exactly. Well, that's great. What help could you use from the community? Any help that you need in terms of that would be good for you In growing right. 

Daniel Csete: Just more context in terms of the retail space, how it operates distribution at a larger scale, things like that.

Jordan Buckner: Yeah, I think that's great. And , I know you've seen these as well, but just for our listeners, we have recently launched two retailer Guides. We did a Retailer Guide to Chicago and a retailer guide to New York City which are live on the site. Under [00:12:00] industry news and we are gonna be rolling out five additional cities over the next couple of months.

And so keep an eye out and those will have the retailers that are favorable towards emerging brands, plus the national companies who are there. So you can understand the market along with for premium Foodbevy members, the buyer contact information for not all, but a lot of those stores. So a really great place to to grow.

Daniel, thanks so much for being on the show today, and thanks so much for telling your story. 

Daniel Csete: No problem. Thank you for having me.