Don't turn your nose up at vegan cookies. They're cookies, after all, and they're made with plenty of sugar. There's just no butter or eggs.
Dallas woman Allison Catalani has made a business out of making animal-free treats. Her latest sweet success is landing three flavors of cookie dough in Central Market grocery stores all over Texas. Now, she hopes to expand her vegan business to a mainstream audience and perhaps to other big-box stores in the Dallas area.
After all, vegan cookies aren't only for vegans, she points out.
Catalani didn't exactly set out to own a vegan dessert business. She started as an untrained home baker who adopted veganism while she was training to be a yoga instructor. "Healthy living, healthy diet," she thought. How hard could it be to eliminate animal products from her daily meals?
Catalani says she didn't struggle much, with one glaring exception: She wanted to eat sweets. And it's tough to find vegan desserts in stores. So Catalani made her own, fashioned after family recipes with vegan stand-ins. She let her yoga students try one batch of banana muffins, and soon enough, they were asking if she'd sell larger orders to their friends.
Catalani now operates Dallas' first vegan dessert food truck called Vegan Noms. But where she'd like to steer her business is toward wholesale vegan cookie dough. Central Market stores were the first to bite, and as of June, all nine grocery stores (including five in Dallas-Fort Worth) sell her chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin and brownie batters in the refrigerated section. A single pack of cookie dough costs $5.99.
Central Market picked Catalani's cookie dough because of the food truck's success in Dallas, says Heather Senter, spokeswoman for Central Market. "Our partners very much liked the product," Senter says.
Catalani now operates in a combination bakery and yoga studio in the Design District. Yoga classes will become sporadically available in her commercial kitchen, she says, at events she cleverly calls Noms and Namaste.
Someday, she'd also like to sell dry dessert mixes -- "kind of like Duncan Hines" -- and vegan frosting.
"I'm seeing more vegan options in Dallas just in the past few years. ... It's a more healthy, pure, plant-based way of living," Catalani says. "I'm hoping to see a wave of vegan and vegetarian people who choose that kind of diet."