“Free-From” Business Spotlight: Cassandra Bradshaw, Founder of Jars of Joy, Gluten-Free, Nut-Free Cookie & Pancake Mixtures!
One of my favorite things about starting The Allergy Free Wife is all the amazing business owners I’ve been able to meet who are creating innovative products that are allergen-free. I’ve discovered many of these products on Instagram, which has been an incredible resource for me. A month or so ago, I came across images of beautiful mason jars filled with ingredients to make cookies and pancakes. Over the holidays I had looked into a similar product as a gift for a friend, but was disappointed with the fact that there weren’t any gluten-free or allergen-free options, and they were packed with sugar.
Toronto-based company Jars of Joy is a totally different story! All recipe mixes are 100% organic, vegan, gluten-free, refined-sugar free, and there are even nut-free flavors. Curious about the ingredients? Check out the full list here. Each jar comes with an instructional card that outlines baking directions, and all that’s needed is water or milk (non-dairy if you’re dairy-free). They’re also beautifully packaged and make great gifts (or you can be like me and buy them all for yourself)! Currently Cassandra who is the founder is focusing on selling Jars of Joy at local craft/flea markets in Toronto (all upcoming market dates can be found here ). I wanted to learn more about Jars of Joy, and was lucky enough to speak with founder Cassandra Bradshaw directly about her new business.
AFW: Tell me what inspired you to start Jars of Joy.
Cassandra: My inspiration came from my friends and family. A few years ago I started gifting jars of dry ingredients and attaching personalized recipe cards, then jazzing them up with fabrics, bows, etc. I have always loved baking and gifting. With so many people affected by food allergies, I wanted to create a product that’s safe for everyone to enjoy. What started out as a fun little hobby turned into a small business as I realized the demand for this niche industry is increasing.
AFW: Do you have any dietary restrictions yourself?
Cassandra: Yes, I’m quite the picky eater, for ethical and health reasons. I’m a proud vegan, and avoid gluten/GMOs/refined sugars as much as possible. I preach a lifestyle of plant based whole foods because I truly believe it is the most healthful and ethical way to preserve our life on earth.
AFW: Vegan, Gluten-Free, Nut-Free, Refined Sugar-Free, GMO-free, Low-Glycemic, and Ethical! I’m impressed with your ingredient list. What’s your process for sourcing the ingredients for the jars.
Cassandra: I source local ingredients as much as possible, to reduce our carbon footprint. This includes walking to a nearby health food store to stock up on ingredients, as well as researching where the store sources their product from. I use oats from Saskatchewan fields that are certified gluten free. I use coconut palm sugar not only because it has a low glycemic index (reducing blood sugar spikes) but also because they yield more sugar per acre than cane sugar, and require a substantially lower amount of natural resources, while improving soil quality in the process. I do thorough research on the quality of our ingredients to ensure everything I produce is as healthy for us as it is for our planet.
AFW: I love that your jars are not just mixtures for sweet treats, but also include the ingredients for protein pancakes (my favorite)! Were these pancakes a recipe you made on your own before Jars of Joy?
Cassandra: Yes, all of my recipes are made from scratch by trial and error. Sometimes I got lucky and only had a few test batches – but mostly these recipes have been developed over time and consistently improved upon. The pancakes flourished during the time I began a regular yoga practice and wanted to incorporate protein powders into something other than my morning smoothies.
AFW: What’s been the most surprising discovery you’ve made about starting your own business?
Cassandra: It’s still in infancy stages, so I’m sure I’ll have more surprising discoveries revealed to me in time. As of now I’d say I was pretty surprised to see how many consumers reached out to me from outside of Toronto; social media is a wonderful tool to help increase your consumer base, and although small, my presence has gained interest internationally and I feel so grateful!
AFW: What’s your process for assembling the jars? Do you have any help?
Cassandra: I do everything myself. First I sanitize my work station. I wash and sanitize the jars. I place the jars in a row, and fill one flavour at a time. For instance, I’ll fill 10 Breakfast Cookie jars, seal them, set them aside and place 10 new jars on my workspace. I work in stages – filling the jars, then packaging comes next. I find I get a good rhythm this way. I print all my labels at home on recycled paper. I then input my inventory into a spreadsheet after they have been fully assembled and are ready for sale.
AFW: You currently have six flavors: Vanilla Protein Pancakes, Chocolate Chip Protein Pancakes, Chocolate Coconut Cookies, Cranberry Coconut Cookies, Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies, Breakfast Cookies. Do you have plans to expand on your flavor offerings?
Cassandra: Yes, I think every business grows and improves over time. I look forward to developing new flavours when the inspiration comes to me.
AFW: Do you have any plans to ship your jars for admirers outside of Toronto?
Cassandra: I currently can ship to the GTA, and am exploring shipping outside of Canadian borders.
AFW: What are your favorite allergy-free spots in Toronto?
Cassandra: For restaurants, I love Hibiscus Cafe in Kensington Market, and Live Organic Market/Food Bar (2 locations). For groceries, I love local farmers markets or The Sweet Potato in The Junction. For cafes, I love Reunion Island in Roncesvalles and Early Bird Espresso on Queen West.
AFW: Describe your jars in three words.
Cassandra: Simple, Healthy, Unique.
Want to purchase Jars of Joy? You can find them at local Toronto markets (dates here), or at several Toronto retailers. Shipping is also available to residents of the GTA.