As Christmas begins to rear its festive head, Mindful Bites hopes to bring sustainability and values to a season of indulgence.
The brand – previously known for its plant-based nut butter products – has launched a vegan panettone.
Produced in classic, chocolate and mixed berry flavours, the veganettone is available via Whole Foods, Selfridges, Fenwick and Ocado.
“We took on an iconic product and made it vegan-friendly and with lower sugar,” Stephanie Peritore, Mindful Bites founder, tells Food Spark. “There’s no wheat, no dairy, nothing is genetically modified, and it’s cruelty-free.”
The new product is made using sourdough and following Italian artisanal traditions.
“We air our secular sourdough starter three times a day, every day of the year, and we let the dough rise four times over 72 hours,” explains Peritore. “A huge amount of effort has gone into recreating exactly the same feeling you get with a traditional panettone. It’s a Christmas cake that just happens to be vegan. We’ve very, very proud of the result.”
Having grown up in Italy, Peritore is no stranger to panettone as a Christmas treat, but a serious dairy allergy meant she had to take matters into her own hands.
“I have experimented with a number of vegan panettone and could never find exactly the one that brought back all those Christmas memories,” she says.
Starting from scratch
Unfortunately for Peritore, it was a serious allergic reaction to a vegan panettone that inspired her to create her own.
“On the back of [the reaction] I investigated, and there were no vegan panettones in Italy that are made in a vegan factory and I just felt that this was really a big problem and it was not right. But I also wanted to make a product that is made in a good way,” she comments. “Traditional panettone has maybe three year’s shelf life. It’s a seasonal product, so I believe it should be made fresh, without preservatives. It shouldn’t last, really! Three months is all it needs.”
Peritore and her chefs looked at traditional recipes and started from scratch. “We went as close as you can go,” she reveals. “Butter became cacao butter. We played around with faux milk. Almond, we found, would have impacted the flavour a little too much.”
In the end, Mindful settled on soy. Eggs, meanwhile, were not replaced. “Not as such,” says Peritore. “Our ingredients, and the way it’s made, meant that we didn’t need to replace them.”
A “mindless” time of year
Mindful Bites hopes that the panettone can meet the increasing demand for plant-based alternatives in a particularly indulgent time of year.
“Christmas is a very funny moment of the year, because [changing dietary attitudes] are not just fashionable,” she says. “We’re really seeing a change in values, and when you change them, you can’t really go back. Once you’ve learnt more about something, and the impact it’s having, it becomes really difficult to ignore what you know.”
In that sense, Peritore believes the festive period is the most “mindless” part of our calendar.
“There’s so much food,” she exclaims. “People want the indulgence – because that’s what we believe Christmas to be – while still doing the right thing. I believe the vegan panettone is something that does this.”
Demand was unprecedented with Mindless Bites inundated with orders before the panettone was even made available.
“We didn’t plan to go live when we did,” Peritore reveals. “We began to test the website at the end of September, and the [new page] had been up around 20 minutes while we worked on it. We got emails immediately complaining that they couldn’t complete their orders. And we thought, ‘Yeah, we’re still the page!’”
The online form was ultimately amended to allow pre-orders due the amount of interest received, and the brand is working around the clock to meet demand.
Maximum taste, no sugar
Prior to the invention of the veganettone, Mindful Bites was best-known for its premium nut butters, which are available in four flavours; Brazil nuts & cacao nibs, almond & maca, cashew nuts & baobab, and hazelnut & berries.
“Unlike the veganettone, our other products don’t have sugar, sweeteners or other alternatives such as palm oil,” says Peritore. “[The veganettone] was more limited because once you remove eggs, butter and milk, it’s not really [possible].
“Our premium nut butters are all blended with superfoods and include only sustainably-sourced ingredients. But yet they have that texture that would remind you of Nutella and this means they are perceived to be very rich and very indulgent but yet, they don't have any sugar added.”
While Mindful Bites has no plans to stop here, its future product develop will rely on customer feedback.
“I’m really interested in everything that can create a non-intrusive replacement,” she says. “So yes, it's vegan, but it needs to be fantastic and the vegan side becomes almost a [by-product]. We're going to carry on in that vein, but I would love to have more of a conversation with the consumer. I’d like to generate some noise on social media and ask them.”