The sweet tooth: Society’s colloquial term to describe our sudden craving for sweets. Yet, the term almost comes with a hint of shame, as the sweet tooth tends to hit us hardest when we’re feeling a little stressed, a little down or maybe even just a little bored. Especially as students, we all relate to the sudden cravings that come with long study periods and academic/work stress.
So what better solutions do we have to this epidemic desire for the processed and carb-loaded? Here enters GoNanas, the brainchild of School of Information senior Annie Slabotsky and LSA senior Morgan Lerner. GoNanas produces a variety of banana breads, all gluten-free (many vegan friendly as well) that replace all the negative ingredients associated with baked desserts with the kind of stuff that packs a much more nutritious punch, all detailed by Slabotsky in an interview with The Daily.
“All of our breads are made from the exact same base. Instead of using refined wheat flour we use whole grain gluten-free oat flour, which is packed with fiber and a bunch of nutrients that are wonderful for you; and then instead of butter or canola oil we use coconut oil; instead of sour cream we use coconut milk,” Slabotsky explained. “So every quote-unquote bad ingredient that you find within an average banana bread we substitute for something that is the better version for you.”
But GoNanas hasn’t always been supplying places like Fred’s, Replenish and Literati with their delicious breads. Like all small businesses, Slabotsky and Lerner started out as freshman with a simple goal in mind: “We’re really driven by our mission in this idea that we can bring healthy, accessible food to busy college kids that are on the go and want to have a dessert but don’t want to grab a donut or a refined sugar-filled muffin. So we want to give this treat — especially to those people who are vegan or gluten-free or nut-free or dairy-free, we are all allergen-free — and being able to provide this healthy, nutritious dessert is what inspires us,” Slabotsky said.
Slabotsky and Lerner met as freshman year neighbors in their dorm, and, sharing a common interest in food, Slabotsky asked her neighbor if she wanted to go back to her parents’ house to do some baking. And upon mentioning that her family has urged her to sell her banana bread, Lerner responded enthusiastically, and the rest is history: “We went home, and we took a mixture of the recipe I knew from my mom and some healthy recipes that we found online and just started experimenting. We pretty much just threw something together in a mixing bowl, stuck it in the oven and burnt the whole thing. I mean it was charred. And we were like why don’t we just cut off the top? It’ll be super dry, but we can try it. And it was so good, and we thought, ‘If we can burn the crap out of this thing and it still tastes amazing, we really have something.’ So we spent the summer perfecting the recipe, talking to people, making sure they liked it, getting feedback and then we had some help developing the website and were open for business the next school year.”
What is most appealing about GoNanas is not only the nutritional value of their work, but also the variety they bring to an otherwise standard treat, with current flavors including pumpkin and chocolate chip — and with this variety brings a sustainable edge to their company. GoNanas works with the seasons provide fresh new flavors to their customers while keeping in mind how they can make a positive environmental impact with their food.
“When we’re exploring to find new flavors, we get inspired by the season. So right now we have pumpkin because it’s fall, but we’re transitioning into an apple-cinnamon because apples are really well-harvested in the winter, and a lot of our mission goes into fighting food waste,” Slabotsky explained. “We get a lot of bananas from stores like Replenish or small grocers who have over ripe bananas that they can’t sell. We’re hopeful to do that with this potential new flavor because a lot of apples get bruised and then are not able to be sold. Trying to reduce that food waste as well is something we try to incorporate into our breads.”
With an eye on health and sustainability, GoNanas is the perfect one-two punch of a delicious, sustainable snack without all the negative effects of typical, dessert-like foods. Starting with a family recipe, Slabotsky and Lerner are pioneering what it means to satisfy a sweet tooth in a fast-paced, health-conscious society — especially one in a huge college town. With an eye at expanding their clientele in the future, Slabotsky also reflected on the unique quality of their bread.
“I think it’s just a really unique product. I’ve never seen an on-the-go treat like that, and I think that we get a call maybe once every two weeks, once a month, from someone thanking us for bringing a gluten-free treat, or a vegan-treat, that’s not so expensive, that’s healthy and tastes good. So I think that it’s super rewarding to do something that you believe in. And I think that’s why we’ve done it for so long, and why we want to continue doing it.”
Next time you’re in a mild state of panic reviewing your organic chemistry notes or slamming out a paper on the role of carriages in Jane Austen, think about grabbing a slice of GoNanas bread before running to Walgreens for a candy bar — your body and mind will definitely thank you for it.