With the desire to bring “joy” to lockdown, Sina Klug and her team came up with the idea to tap into Aussie childhood memories by offering a treats box filled with nostalgic classics like fairy bread, but with a twist.
The box, which sells for $75, features 10 treats, including a fairy bread lamington, an iced vovo cheesecake and a Golden Gaytime pudding tub and has become a bestseller – flying out the door of Sydney bakery Nutie Donuts with 200 boxes sold in just two weeks.
“When the Olympic Games were on people were very focused on Australia, which is of course a great factor, but there is also the novelty and trying new things and it brings joy into lockdown,” she told news.com.au.
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The 32-year-old loved to anxiety bake back when she was studying, particularly for friends who were diagnosed coeliacs, experimenting with gluten-free goodies that still tasted great.
She then moved to Sydney for an internship and would stop off on her way to work to grab a coffee from a “really cute” barista, who would always inquire about her latest creations.
“I was like Little Red Riding hood and I had extra treats for that cute barista in my basket,” she said with a giggle.
Eventually, she won over the cute barista named Jacques Dumont, although she jokes it took “thousands of cinnamon scrolls”.
But it wasn’t just a romantic partnership that came out of their love for sweet treats, with the two also launching their vegan baking business.
“After my internship, I started working at the cafe and we got so much demand we did our first Bondi Farmer’s Market about five years ago and I would be baking at night and working at the cafe during the day and we did that for a full year. We then saved enough to open a shop in Balmain (in Sydney’s inner west),” she said.
“There wasn’t a lot of options for coeliacs back then. Cakes tasted a bit like a dusty brick and being a coeliac isn’t a choice. They don’t want to be healthy all the time and they don’t always want a protein balls, they just want a naughty piece of cake like everyone else.
“There was high demand for something naughty and delicious, but also safe, and with a fully dedicated gluten-free kitchen where we could address safety concern and ensure it’s a really great environment to cater for a lot of dietary requirements.
“With the vegan movement growing over the last few years the demand is getting a lot bigger for that as well.”
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Although her German father tried his best to bring her home, arriving in Australia with an empty suitcase, it was when he saw a line of 20 people waiting to snap up a treat that he was overcome with pride for his daughter.
Since then the couple have also opened a cafe in Surry Hills in Sydney, with Sina admitting it’s a labour of love to make treats that still taste delicious without the usual baking ingredients like egg and butter.
“I think baking, especially if you have to substitute so many ingredients, is a bit hit and miss. We have a very international line up of well trained pastry chefs, but they are all trained in classic pastry,” she said.
“So no one gets bored, we are always experimenting and we try and even if something ends up in the bin 37 times but we then make a gluten-free and vegan cannoli that tastes the same as the real thing then all of sudden it was all worth it.”
In last year’s Sydney lockdown they had a goal to break even to keep their roster of international staff employed as they weren’t eligible for government assistance. It meant their barista turned into a sous chef to chop vegetables and Jacques worked 4am to create their online presence.
But this lockdown business is booming. Sina recently had to seek out physio treatment because she couldn’t move her finger after being inundated by thousands of emails and social media messages from customers and trying to reply to them all.
Revenue has gone up 51 per cent, most of which has been generated online, while website traffic has soared by 84 per cent in the past month, making Nutie Donut’s one of the uplifting success stories during lockdown.
Sina, who’s favourite treat is the lemon loaf with a coffee, said she’s grateful for the community support.
“It’s a very scary time and obviously we feel responsible that in lockdown there are 20 people relying on you to pay rent this week or for food for their children, it’s a very scary motivator to keep you going and we have just been blown away by everyone’s support,” she said.
The bakery has even hired three new delivery drivers to meet demand.
“With the second lockdown this year we were just in a more prepared mindset. We acted really fast and as cases went up we were prepared for the worst case scenario and didn’t think it would just be going for two weeks. We acted on the thought that it was going to take longer,” she explained.
“We already had menus for cook at home boxes and isolation meals and what really helped us is we have got really highly engaged social media. I spend five to 10 hours a day working on Instagram, so I’m always getting instant feedback and asking on Instagram stories what people want and need so we can change things.”
Interesting features of the website include the ability to order 10 things at the same time but to send them to 10 different address, like if a boss wanted to treat their staff.
This week they are introducing an Italian box with treats like homemade tiramisu, Nutella cheesecake and cannoli.
They are also introducing bake at home kits for people to make “ugly hedgehog cakes”, with prizes available for people who upload a shot of their creation to the website.
Nutie Donuts also donates meals to charities including homeless teenagers.
“I feel its important to give back to the community and our customers. It can be everything from adding extra things if they have lost their jobs or we have got a new thing that if you are ordering the Nutie lockdown special at the cafe one of staff members will come outside and talk to you,” she said.
“We need to care about people and everyone is at home at the moment having bad thoughts and we can make someone’s day better with colourful and fun cakes.”
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