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The Next Big Thing: Gluten-Free 2.0 – KETO BUNS

June 5, 2018

By Charmian Christie, The Messy Baker

In October 2017, Gus Klemos sold his first commercially produced KETO BUN. On January 24, 2018 he quit his day job and devoted himself to his business full-time. While the trajectory was surprisingly quick, it was also necessary. Between his day job, baking, delivering and sourcing a co-packer, Gus was working from 4 AM to 8 PM every day. Something had to give, and it wasn’t the buns.

From May to September, Gus had been cooking out of his own home, testing recipe after recipe to get not just a good keto-friendly bun, but a good bun full stop. “I tried 100 different recipes and options,” he says. Gus was determined to create his own keto-friendly bread since the available options were expensive, loaded with junk carbohydrates and chemicals, and could spike blood sugar. Baking at home, he perfected his formula, teaching himself the necessary food science through trial, error, and meticulous record keeping. Since he used no yeast or traditional leavening, achieving a soft, fluffy bread was a challenge on many levels. “It’s part art, part science, but all natural,” he says.

In his first 4 months, he sold 500 homemade buns online. Today he is selling 30,000 a month through online sales and 150 retail locations, including Farm Boy, Burger’s Priest, Noah’s Natural Foods and B.Good.

Growing Pains

Once Gus conquered the perfect keto bun, he was faced with business problems. “I didn’t know what the issues were, how big the market was, what was already out there…” Market Feasibility research revealed a gaping hole in the market KETO BUNS could fill.

Gus took his buns to healthy fast food outlets. B.Good loved his product and ordered 1000 buns on consignment. Gus accepted, unsure how he’d produce them. At home, it took him 90 minutes to make a dozen. He went online to find a solution to his 125-hour problem and found Food Starter.

Food Starter Solutions

Gus credits the “inner circle” at Food Starter with accelerating the speed of his success. He needed the commercial ovens and production space, but also found help for everything from printing invoices to bouncing ideas. “Trial and error takes time,” he says. “They have the industry experience and expertise, so I can move fast.” 

Gus isn’t shy about Food Starter’s role in his launch. “I owe all the people at Food Starter a debt of gratitude,” he says. He got help navigating the paperwork such as licences, and commercial insurance. He was taught how to use the large convection oven and bun cutter, which quadrupled his first attempt at large-scale production, while the in-house expertise and infrastructure allowed him to do the real commercial R&D he simply couldn’t do in a home kitchen.

Outside the facility, Food Starter provided access to trade shows including The Toronto Bakery Showcase, RC Show, and Canadian Health Food Association. A monthly appearance at Food Starter’s St. Lawrence Farmer’s Market booth provided exposure to consumers.  “You want as many people as possible to try your product,” Gus says. “Once they try it, they are hooked.” 

Gus Klemos, the founder of KETO BUNS

One Bun to Rule Them All

Currently, KETO BUNS offer one product – a gluten-free, grain-free bun. “I had no choice but to keep it simple,” Gus says, referring to a lack of investment capital. But that simplicity puts the bun to creative use. “It’s perfect for sandwiches, burgers, lox and cream cheese, French toast…whatever you want.”

Moving Forward

Now with the capital to move to full distribution and a co-packer trained in his production needs, Gus is no longer delivering buns himself. Instead, he concentrates on sales and marketing, packaging, and developing new lines for KETO BUNS, including a vegan formula, and a hogey-shaped bun to cover subs, hotdogs and sausages.

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