Whether it be glazed, jelly-filled or cakey, donuts are an iconic breakfast item. Naturally, donut shops are of no shortage here in Texas, with a local shop almost always around the corner. It’s a treat that is impossible to eat without a smile on your face. But what happens when making a switch from sweet cravings to a more balanced diet? It seems like donuts would be one of the first indulgences that would have to go. One local company, however, had a better idea: Make donuts healthy.
Although the company is now taking off in terms of investments and expansion, Amin Bahari, founder and CEO, says that the story of Elite Sweets’ individually packaged protein donuts really starts all the way back when he and his twin brother Amir were in high school.
“Our family struggles with diabetes, and growing up we weren’t the healthiest kids either,” Bahari says. “At 16, I was 380 pounds. My brother and I realized we needed to make a change.”
With the lifestyle changes came a new approach to food, and the twins took on the keto diet as a way to rework their relationship with nutrition. At the time, keto wasn’t the fad that is now, so finding the right things to eat was more of a challenge for the brothers. But within a year, they both had lost over 100 pounds.
“Fast forward to college days at UT Austin, and we were living with some football players in the dorms on campus,” Bahari says. “We weren’t strictly keto anymore, just health-conscious. But of course, with a donut shop down the street from the dorm, we were late-night regulars.”
It was one of these late-night runs that sparked the real idea for Elite Sweets.
“We were like, ‘Why has nobody done that with donuts?’” Bahari says. “And then, well, we decided to do it ourselves.”
The first batch was made by Amir, right there in their apartment kitchen. Although Bahari admits that though the first batch was not at all edible, it sparked their two-year journey to creating the recipe that is used today.
Bahari says that they wanted to make sure that the donut was something that their friends and roommates on the football team, Caleb Bluiett and Timothy Cole Jr., could eat to help them meet their nutrition goals, and they wanted it to be something even their family could enjoy. This meant that they needed to have protein, sugar-free and keto-minded recipes.
“We talked to the nutritionists and coaches that worked with the football team at UT to get a better idea of what needed to be in the donut and how to make it happen,” Bahari says. “It was a long process getting the recipe right and working with commercial kitchens, but we knew what we wanted, and it’s been so rewarding seeing it all come together.”
Once the recipe was solidified, they were able to develop three different flavors, all of which are keto and free of sugar, soy and gluten. From there, the process of finding ways to produce, package and distribute the donuts took focus. While outsourcing for much of their business and production needs, the twin brothers also needed to raise funds and find investors.
But it’s no surprise that, with the rising interest in health-conscious foods and low-calorie diets, the healthy donut caught eyes. Food Business News reported earlier this year on how Elite Sweets raised $2 million in seed funding — a big number for such a small snack.
In fact, some top leaders in the industry have joined in to help them grow through advising and investing — Super Coffee’s Jim, Jake and Jordan DeCicco, Patrick Schwarzenegger and Nik Ingersoll of Barnana to name a few.
“It’s been great to work with these guys, like the Super Coffee guys. They’ve raised over $180 million themselves and they are young like us,” Bahari says. “They’ve helped us talk to and bring on investors and just build out a blueprint for the business. We just want to put together a team of rock stars.”
In terms of growth, Bahari says that some distribution plans were put on hold due to COVID-19, but that didn’t stop the brothers from still finding a way to get their product out there. Switching gears to e-commerce, the donut is now a top seller on Amazon, and they have built out their own online platform.
With the investors, the brothers are looking to continue to expand the business, grow the team and get the product ready for the shelves. Bahari even teases out the idea of expanding beyond just the three flavors and beyond donuts, too.
“At the end of the day, we were just college kids with an idea,” Bahari says. “Now we’ve raised a couple million dollars and are looking to grow the business. This is just the start for us.”