Photos courtesy of Noelle Roberts
Let freedom ring for local celiacs and vegans as Philadelphia now has a successful bakery that caters to a myriad of food allergies, intolerances and dietary restrictions. This past January, friends Allison Lubert and Heather Esposito opened Sweet Freedom (1424 South Street, 215-545-1899), one of the country’s only vegan and gluten-, soy-, egg-, dairy- and refined sugar-free bakery, the first of its kind in Philadelphia.
Sweet Freedom was conceived as a destination for those struggling with dietary restrictions that typically prevent them from enjoying baked goods, but the bakery’s commitment to top-quality, all-natural ingredients makes it a hit among even those without allergies and intolerances. “Both Heather and I have struggled with our eating habits and with troubling food allergies,” said Lubert, “and we both found ourselves striving to prepare our favorite treats in ways that were both delicious and appropriate for our diets. It’s a challenge to omit animal products, soy, gluten and corn and still create flavorful, crave-able baked goods, but we love to rise to that challenge every day.”
Lubert is the owner of a private nutritional counseling practice, where she combines her deep understanding of nutrition with her several masters’ degrees in counseling and psychology. She is an avid cook and baker who was always looking to find new ways to satisfy her cravings while being mindful of her allergies to dairy and wheat. Esposito, a masters level counselor and chef, worked as a private chef, cooking instructor and nutritional counselor. In culinary school, she decided she wanted to open a gluten-free bakery.
In May 2009, the two connected via family friends and decided to move forward with the concept of opening Sweet Freedom. Nine months later, they launched the bakery. “Within ten days of opening this winter, we received an email from (actress) Alicia Silverstone’s assistant who was interested in trying our product line. She is a vegan and was working on a play on Broadway. That was really exciting for us-so I jumped in the car and drove up to New York to drop off samples. The business has been great and really taken off,” said Esposito.
According to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness and their website, celiaccentral.org, Celiac disease is an autoimmune digestive disease that damages the villi of the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. What does this mean? Essentially the body is attacking itself every time a person with celiac consumes gluten. Celiac disease is triggered by consumption of the protein called gluten, which is found in wheat, barley and rye.
Birthday cakes and wedding cakes are part of a growing area of the dual’s booming bakery business-customer favorites include a chocolate chip cookie sandwich and a banana chocolate chip loaf. A local bride recently enthused on Sweet Freedom’s Facebook fan page—that boasts over 2,000 followers-about her gluten-free wedding cake: “Thanks for the awesome wedding cake!! It was a huge success! Not only were our vegan friends and our super allergic nephew extremely happy, but all the “normal” people loved it too.”
Sweet Freedom offers a host of tasty sweet treats, personally tested, prepared and baked by both Lubert and Esposito. The menu includes an assortment of cupcakes, muffins, cookies, brownies, loafs, cakes and pies. And, besides serving the Philadelphia region, they can ship their baked goods nationwide.
Sweet Freedom relies heavily on coconut milk, in lieu of dairy, and coconut sugar, in addition to agave nectar and pure maple syrup, for sweetening. Flours vary from brown and white rice flour to those manufactured from sorghum, garbanzo beans and even fava beans. All products are peanut-free, as well, and no corn products are used. “We really want Sweet Freedom Bakery to be a safe haven for people who suffer from celiac disease, people who suffer from food allergies or intolerances, or people who follow a vegan lifestyle. We are excited to be catering to a bunch of different populations and we believe in the nutritional quality of what we are offering,” enthused Lubert.
CELIAC DISEASE FACTS AND FIGURES COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL FOUNDATION FOR CELIAC AWARENESS (NFCA)
- One in 133 Americans has celiac disease.
- Three million Americans across all races, ages and genders suffer from celiac
- 95% of celiacs are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed with other conditions.
- 10 years is the average time a person waits to be correctly diagnosed.
- A 100% gluten-free diet is the only existing treatment for celiac today.
- 500,000 new celiac diagnoses are expected to occur in the next 5 years thanks to efforts to raise public awareness of celiac disease.
- The gluten-free marketplace is expected to reach $1.7 billion in 2010 thanks to new vendors manufacturing better tasting and more affordable products.
Sweet Freedom is open from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and on Sundays from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. For more information about Sweet Freedom, or to place an order, please visit www.sweetfreedombakery.com, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call (215) 545-1899.
Join Sweet Freedom on Facebook and on Twitter: sfbakery