If you try to eat gluten-free, you know that when it comes to buns for your burgers and sandwiches the options are limited and the taste quite variable. Baking gluten-free buns can be challenging, time consuming and unpredictable but it can be mastered with the right combination of knowledge, skill and pure determination.
To learn more about gluten-free baking and starting a healthy food business, we connected with Gus Klemos. In 2018, Gus wanted to be able to enjoy his favourite burgers and sandwiches, but without the gluten and empty carbs associated with buns made from processed white flour. Other gluten-free options were often basically the equivalent of sugar, preservatives and chemical binders/gums. Gus quit his 9-5 job as a sales director at a tech company to develop Unbun – a Toronto based food company that is certified keto, paleo, grain-free & gluten-free.
We chatted with Gus about his journey to find the perfect bun recipe, which ingredient creates the texture that gives their product its unique texture and what new products they are planning on releasing soon!
WEHL: Tell us a little about yourself and why you became interested in wellness and starting UnBun.
GK: I wanted to be able to eat the foods I enjoy – especially sandwiches and burgers – without the gluten and empty carbs associated with buns made from processed white flour. And when I searched for gluten-free options, I found that they were essentially the equivalent of sugar, preservatives, and chemical binders/gums. This problem in the market motivated me to develop Unbun.
WEHL: What is your philosophy on wellness?
GK: I believe that a balanced lifestyle that supports your health but allows for indulgence is the most sustainable approach. I also believe strongly in eating foods that are minimally processed and use as few refined ingredients as possible. At Unbun, we want to help people enjoy a balanced lifestyle with our products.
WEHL: Have you always been interested in cooking and baking? How did you learn the intricacies of baking gluten-free buns, especially without traditional ingredients?
GK: Just before my 40th birthday, I decided to reduce the amount of grains and carbs in my diet. I was at my favorite restaurant and wanted a better option than a lettuce bun or buns made with processed ingredients, sugars and starches and was inspired to create a product that didn’t compromise on nutrition or taste. I learned to bake to develop a product that met all my dietary restrictions and to help people enjoy a balanced lifestyle.
WEHL: Your parents had a restaurant where you started to bake buns. What were some of the challenges of managing the baking yourself? How has the process changed over time?
GK: I spent a lot of time learning the science behind baking – what makes bread rise and have a light texture without gluten. I developed and tested almost 1,000 versions of the recipe until I landed on the recipe for the first Unbun. We have grown a lot over the past two years, from my one-bedroom condo to more than 2000 restaurant and grocery locations across North America.
WEHL: What makes Unbun gluten-free buns different from other low-carb bread products on the market?
GK: Unbun represents gluten-free 2.0. Unbun products are free from sugar, preservatives, and the binders/gums present in many other gluten-free products on the market. This was what motivated me to produce Unbun. I wanted to create products that met the lifestyle and dietary needs of people looking for grain-free options, without the less nutrient-dense ingredients found in many other products.
WEHL: It almost feels to us like UnBun came out of nowhere. Why do you think you’ve had such quick success in a competitive market?
GK: We have been thrilled with the positive response from consumers. I knew there was a market for keto products, but the demand has outstripped my wildest expectations. I think people were looking for a product like Unbun that addresses multiple dietary preferences and requirements – grain-free, low-carb, plant-based, keto and paleo – without compromising on taste.
WEHL: Since your products are keto, paleo, grain-free and gluten-free, what are the main ingredients that make up your delicious buns? Are there any particular health benefits of the ingredients you’d like to highlight?
GK: Unbun products are proudly grain-free. The main ingredients in our products are: Water, Almond Flour, Eggs, Flax, Coconut Flour and Psyllium. Our Unbun contains 5g of net carbs and 10g of protein per serving.
WEHL: What is cream of tartar and what role does it play in your recipe?
GK: Cream of Tartar is an acidic byproduct of fermenting grapes into wine. It is commonly used in baking to give products stability and a light airy texture. We use it as part of our paleo baking powder recipe to create the texture that sets our products apart.
WEHL: Which ingredients do you choose NOT to include in your recipes and why?
GK: Unbun products are proudly grain-free and free from gums and starches because we wanted our products to be made with nutrient dense, better for you ingredients and no empty fillers.
WEHL: What are some health problems people can experience with gluten/bread products?
GK: From celiac disease to food allergies and intolerances, there is a wide range of reasons that people choose to avoid or limit their intake of grains. Thanks to Unbun, the growing percentage of keto, paleo and gluten-free diners now have a way to enjoy their favourite foods without compromising their lifestyle resolutions or exposing themselves to ingredients they’re intolerant to.
WEHL: There is a lot of talk about grain-free, low-carb and keto diets. What are some of the health benefits of these diets? Do you have any personal experience with them?
GK: These trends are being driven by the proven health improvements that people are experiencing by reducing or restricting their grain and refined carbohydrate intake. I aim to mostly eat grain-free, whole foods that have been minimally processed. That being said, I don’t believe anything is off-limits, and that the most important thing is to practice balance and awareness of what you’re putting in your body, and how you feel.
WEHL: You just introduced a pizza crust with Pizza Pizza! How did that come about? Was it hard to develop a vegan, keto uncrust?
GK: Pizza Pizza is at the forefront of food trends and understands how Canadians want to eat and lead balanced lifestyles. Unbun values absolutely align in this area. With their national footprint and distribution, partnering with Pizza Pizza on this product launch allows Unbun to bring our deliciously uncompromising products to Canadians from coast to coast, providing more options for Canadians looking to maintain their lifestyle and dietary choices, without giving up their favourite foods.
We developed a custom crust for Pizza Pizza that is vegan, keto and nut-free. It took a lot of testing to perfect, but the response from consumers has been overwhelmingly positive. Nothing makes the development and testing process more worthwhile than when a customer shares how much being able to enjoy their favorite food again means to them.
WEHL: Do you have any other new products in development?
GK: In the coming weeks, we will be launching two new products: tortillas and sliced bread. As well, we are pursuing additional restaurant partnerships with major quick service partners, providing more convenience to consumers. Expect to hear more from Unbun over the course of 2020.
WEHL: Do you have any advice for an entrepreneur who’s looking to start a healthy food-related business?
GK: I would recommend connecting with others in the healthy food community, either through LinkedIn, trade organizations, or events, to get a sense for the people in the industry and find people who have been there and done it before. The natural food community is supportive, and welcoming. We all have one common goal – making better for you food so that people can live their best lives, and it’s always exciting when new companies start that are growing the industry.
Connect with Gus Klemos and UnBun:
- Web: www.unbunfoods.com
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This was a great read! I am intrigued by that pizza pizza crust. I might just visit a location to check it out.