LOS ANGELES — Bougie Bakes, a direct-to-consumer bakery based in Los Angeles, produces and markets an assortment of sugar-free, dairy-free, gluten-free cookies, brownies and muffins. Married co-founders Ryan and Meghan Quinn named the business as a nod to the premium ingredients used — “if our recipe calls for a dash of salt, we make sure it’s pink Himalayan; if we need to use eggs, they’re pasture-raised.”
The pair, who met during earlier careers in media advertising sales, launched the venture shortly after their wedding three years ago. In the months prior, the couple committed to following a nutrition plan that excluded gluten and limited sugar and dairy, but they struggled to resist late-night cravings for ice cream and cookies.
“I just felt like we were working so hard through the day, eating right, working out, and then at night we would sabotage all of that hard work,” Ms. Quinn recalled. “So, we started making baked goods at home following simple recipes with ingredients we knew we could have and that complied with our diet.”
As the newlyweds began sharing batches of the baked treats with friends and family and scouring the marketplace for similar products, a business opportunity emerged.
“We looked at categories that were growing, and we looked at ingredient profiles we were currently using but could tweak a little bit,” Mr. Quinn said. “We switched from using ghee to coconut oil because we realized if we had a gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free product, we would come to the market with a completely unique product from an ingredient profile perspective.”
Additional ingredients in the formulations include almond flour, erythritol, plant-based collagen and unsweetened vanilla macadamia milk. The products are baked to order and contain no preservatives. Offerings range from pumpkin pecan blondie bites and peppermint brownie bites to rainbow sprinkle cookies to vegan orange cranberry muffins.
“We release a limited-edition seasonal product every two to three months,” Mr. Quinn said. “Two of those flavors have come from consumer surveys. Raspberry lemon was a cookie we did last year, which was one of our most popular seasonal launches ever and a flavor we would not have thought of or combined, but it was randomly the top write-in customer request.”
Another point of differentiation is presentation. Initial orders are shipped in branded reusable tins. Reorders are minimally wrapped and placed in recyclable trays.
“We really wanted to create something that was giftable and a premium unboxing experience for people purchasing these as treats for themselves,” Ms. Quinn said. “A lot of the feedback we got in the beginning when we were doing initial surveys of people with dietary restrictions was they always felt like their various restrictions kept them from indulging or made them feel weird at social gatherings, so we wanted to flip that on its head and make people with dietary restrictions feel really special and unique.”
Recently, the company added Bougie Barks, a line of dog treats formulated with almond flour, peanut butter, carob powder, collagen powder and ground flaxseed.
“Those came about because we got a puppy, and we didn’t like the treats we were feeding her, so we decided to make our own,” Mr. Quinn said. “That opens up a whole other market opportunity for us within the pet space.”
On the heels of an “explosive year of growth,” the founders are focused on expanding the team and scaling operations with plans to offer a limited selection of items in retail stores next year.
“We started out in the home kitchen, Meg doing the baking, me doing the packing as I’m on sales calls,” Mr. Quinn said. “Once we grew out of that, we moved into a commercial space, got a team, had some help baking and packing.
“Once that scaled up, we moved to a bigger space, and we got bigger equipment and some packaging machines. Everything we bake is handmade. We actually just celebrated our 2 million bakes sold, and we were looking back on that, saying, ‘Wow, I can’t believe all 2 million plus of these bakes were hand scooped or hand cut.’”