, 2022-09-19 05:02:23,
When Annie Leal’s dad was diagnosed with diabetes 10 years ago, his entire lifestyle had to change. But little did she know it would one day change her life, too.
“My dad immediately changed his diet around, but he’s always had a sweet tooth and I’ve known for years that he has a cabinet full of sugar-free treats,” Leal explains. About 18 months ago, she rummaged through the sugar-free treats her dad stashed in his pantry, hoping to find something sweet for herself. She also wanted to fulfill the craving for Mexican candy, something she particularly enjoyed, having been born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico. Yet there was nothing—only chocolates, lollipops, and caramels.
“I was like, ‘How do they not have sugar-free Mexican candy?’ and he was like, ‘Mija, I can’t find it,’” Leal reenacts. She was in disbelief, spending the entire evening combing the internet for some form of spicy and sweet sugar-free candy to provide for her dad, but there was none. The answer was immediately obvious to her: she would have to make it herself. That was the beginning of I Love Chamoy, a Mexican sugar-free sauce brand created by Leal.
“The next day, I had my dad drive me to Target to pick up notebooks and markers, like it was the first day of school,” Leal laughs. “I had no idea where to start, but I just began drafting up names and a logo.”
Leal has a background in social media and marketing, and had been developing branding for a business helmed by a food engineer. It was then that she decided to enlist her help for the recipe and development part of I Love Chamoy. “I never thought I’d be in consumer goods,” she says, adding, “I truly cannot cook to save my life, which is the funny part.”
Although Leal didn’t know exactly how research and development worked, she intimately knew what chamoy should taste like. Thus began her journey of testing iteration after iteration of sugar-free chamoy, concocted with chili pepper, limes, citric acid, and sweetened with monk fruit. By the 27th version, Leal was convinced she had nailed the flavor down and presented it to her dad and sister.
Although she loves her family and their unending support of her and the business, they are not ones to be dishonest. “My little sister is critical but in the best way possible,” Leal laughs. “I expected her to be like, ‘This is so good,’ but instead she was like, ‘You’re not there yet.’” It was back to the drawing board and version 44 turned…
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