Alter Eat-o: Foods for Keto started as a diet change for Leslie Lang that over the course of a few years has grown into a busy Guelph-based commercial kitchen making and delivering keto foods across Ontario.
“Both my husband and I started a keto lifestyle,” Lang says, describing the ketogenic diet as low-carbohydrate foods with higher amounts of healthy fats and no added sugars.
“I wanted to take familiar recipes that I loved and make them keto friendly, so I started doing that and sharing with family and friends.”
The company formally launched in 2018 and started taking online orders in February 2019.
Business partner Molly Hutchinson came on board in the summer of 2020, and the business now employs 12 people.
For some people, the idea of eating more fat is counterintuitive to how they have been taught (or not taught) to eat.
There is a misconception about a ketogenic diet: that it is a carte blanche to gnaw on bacon all day, choke down sticks of butter and consume half-sides of fatty red meat.
Lang says that’s incorrect.
“It’s about balance,” she says of keto.
“It’s higher daily grams of healthy fats like avocado, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, nuts and full-fat dairy. Then moderate protein and lower carbohydrates.”
The trick for Lang and Hutchinson is adapting recipes for their extensive line of foods — including keto poutine — for customers. That means using inventive culinary techniques such as using nuts, for instance, for recipes.
Currently, Alter Eat-o offers about 100 products to wholesale and retail operations — and the busy online sales — made in their 1,500 sq.-ft production and customer walk-in facility (open Wednesday to Saturday afternoons) in a residential area in central Guelph.
“We want to grow our foodservice business so customers can go to their favourite burger joint and have a keto bun,” Hutchinson says.
“We want keto to be as accessible as gluten-free and vegan are now.”
Alter Eat-o pizza crusts are currently available at a few smaller pizza restaurants.
In their kitchen’s retail area, entrees, breads and sweets fill freezers: truffles, chocolate squares, strudel, hand pies and Danish are sold along with the extremely popular pizza, lasagna and “meatball cheese bombs.”
Eggs, cheeses, seeds and seasonings combine to make the lasagna noodles, a labour- and time-intensive task.
“It takes us about two days from start to finish to get the lasagna noodles made,” says Lang. “Pasta and pizza are far and away best sellers.”
Hutchinson says that for people trying to cook and eat keto at home, getting sweets right is difficult. Observing a staff member Ayla Haddad packaging a table full of squares and brownies, the demand is obvious.
However, I visited for keto ice cream, a hugely popular item which uses natural flavours and real ingredients.
Made from small-batch bases that “cure” for 24 hours and churned in a commercial machine, the keto ice cream, using Xylitol to add sweet, is for sale only a few months.
“Making small batches is inspiring,” Lang says.
“Today, it’s root beer-float ice cream and butter pecan. There are as many flavours as weeks in the summer.”
Strawberry shortcake, salted caramel, classic vanilla and rocky road are just a few examples, with three to four varieties on the go each week.
“The flavours come through,” Hutchinson says.
“Our ice cream isn’t just sweetness.”
True; and they exhibit good texture and mouthfeel — and that helps them fly off the shelf, according to Lang.
“We only make ice cream May through September. People wait for it. They were chomping at the bit when May arrived.”
Andrew Coppolino is a Kitchener-based food writer and broadcaster. Visit him at andrewcoppolino.com.