MARTIN DE RUYTER/STUFF
Sam Wilson and Paula Kilkelly at Sweet Not Sugar in Nelson, where nothing on offer contains sugar – but you wouldn’t know it.
Cheesecake, rocky road and tan slice are just some of the treats showcased in the store’s cabinet – and none of them contain sugar.
Sweet Not Sugar in Nelson’s Montgomery Square is a little café with a big focus on healthy eating. It’s been around for nearly two years, but owners Paula Kilkelly and Sam Wilson say some people are only just discovering the not-so-hidden gem.
The retail shop with a couple of tables and chairs to cater for those who can’t wait to dig into the tasty morsels, sells slices made by the creative couple, while also stocking a range of keto friendly products, including oils, teas and sweeteners; and their own line of packaged products, that include ball mixes, biscuits, and a breakfast range.
But Kilkelly and Wilson said people shouldn’t be put off by the word “keto”.
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Wilson said the customer base was quite varied, “some do it for low carb, diabetes, vegan and gluten-free”.
“We’re trying to get past that it’s just for keto”, it’s not, he said.
The keto diet is based on low carbohydrates, moderate protein and high fat, seeing sugar cut from the menu.
Instead, the sweet comes from a blend of natural sweetening agents – monk fruit and erythritol.
What Wilson liked about the business, he said, was “you meet everyone doing their different journey, there’s no one-size-fits-all”.
Kilkelly and Wilson started their venture just over four years ago following the birth of their daughter.
Kilkelly trialled a 12-week keto challenge to lose weight and has “never looked back”, while Wilson joined her for the ride and has also been converted to the keto camp.
From making boxed treats for her keto group, the couple expanded to Isel Market, and eventually stretched out to the Saturday Market before landing the small space overlooking the popular market.
And the couple have gone from strength to strength, joining Sealord at the end of last year with a staff café they cater for which has food options outside keto.
Christchurch’s Riverside Market is also set to gain from Sweet Not Sugar with a space opening later this year.
Whelan has been living the keto life for the past two years, and wrote New Zealand’s first keto cookbook during lockdown in 2020.
Kilkelly started her food career achieving runner-up on Master Chef NZ in 2013, missing out on the win by just one point. She opened, and closed, Paula’s Plate cafe in Nelson where she said she “just did so much wrong”.
Those days seemed like a blur to her, now, she’s learned from her mistakes with the couple building their business almost single-handedly without accruing debt: “Which is amazing”, they said.
Kilkelly said they had consistent sales at Sweet Not Sugar, for their online products and food they prepared at their kitchens.
And the sweet looking slices have been popular, especially the Pinky Bar inspired slice, Wilson said.
“It went insane when we first started; we couldn’t keep it on the shelf.”