Lovin’ Oven, founded in 2012, is the delicious product of a pastry chef’s skill applied to a strict set of rules: Gluten-free, dairy-free, and soy-free. Going beyond that already daunting task, all of their products are free of at least 6 of the top 8 allergens [source] most commonly associated with US consumers. That’s a tall order for many products, but in the world of baked goods, a monumental task while still maintaining a high quality standard for taste.
Head pastry chef and co-owner Ashley Coates has faced many challenges in her previous 10 years inventing and executing as a pastry chef in fine dining restaurants around the Houston, Texas area. Joining forces with her mother and sister in 2012, Lovin’ Oven began as a set of basic recipes purchased from another company. While the recipes provided a starting point, Ashley insists that the quality and taste in the product today has only shadows of those original recipes.
At first, the products were sold to coffee shops loose, for placement into their displays. This trend continued with their first grocery store buyer, Alfalfa’s Market in Boulder. It wasn’t until 2013 with their introduction into Lucky’s Market in Boulder that packaging was introduced. “We had been talking about packaging before that, but Lucky’s propelled us into the packaging world,” said Ashley. This type of measured growth has been a cornerstone of Lovin’ Oven. Through 2015 and 2016, they expanded a seasonal flavor idea into a core strategy, changing to a new flavor every month of the year.
Working in fine dining restaurants, I would come up with new desserts on a regular basis. I had a love for creating new flavors.Ashley Coates, pastry chef & co-owner
One example of the challenges Lovin’ Oven faces while developing new flavors is the December seasonal cupcake: red velvet. “[It took] at least a year,” said Ashley. “As a pastry chef, red velvet is the simplest cupcake, because it’s just red food coloring added to chocolate cake and then cream cheese frosting. Without dairy, cream cheese was a challenge, and also we can’t use food coloring… it took a lot of experimenting.” The process is a labor of love, elevating the quality of gluten-free products in the marketplace.
According to Ashley, retail was never an option. “We always wanted to do wholesale, because we wanted to make a really good, gluten-free product that was available to anyone… so they can go to a store and buy cupcakes that were gluten-free, but didn’t taste like gluten-free cupcakes.”
What’s great about our products is people who can eat gluten, dairy, and soy try them. We’ve had people say that they are the best cupcake they have ever had!
The early years of gluten-free products set the idea in customer’s minds that gluten-free didn’t equal high quality in terms of taste. It’s been a hard challenge to overcome, but each new customer for Lovin’ Oven has become an evangelist for the product to others in their community. While the current marketplace has matured in regards to the taste of gluten-free products, no other cupcake brands are offering the variety Lovin Oven has created.
What’s Next for Lovin’ Oven in 2017?
Lovin’ Oven is expanding into more grocery stores in the Boulder/Denver area, while internal efficiency is the name of the game. They are focused on producing the same quality product while reducing time consuming elements (e.g. labeling). The future looks bright and the taste continues to be delicious.
To see a list of locations carrying Lovin’ Oven products, head over to Lovin’ Oven Boulder.