The other week, as I drank my morning coffee and scrolled through my Instagram feed, I discovered Sweet Revenge. No, not an incriminating photo that I could use against someone — my mission as BELLA’s Mind+Body Editor is to improve minds and bodies, not to corrupt them — but a new organic alternative to refined sugar that never requires recipe modifications, made from 100% organic coconut flower nectar. Sweet Revenge is already positioned to be a game changer in the baking (and coffee sweetening!) world and I was lucky enough to sit down with the founder, Carmel Hagen, over green teas at the Kobrick Coffee Company in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District. She taught me all about coconut nectar and shared her sweet plans for providing bakers (and sweets lovers!) with an equally delicious and healthier substitute to refined sugar.
How did you come up with the idea to create Sweet Revenge? What were you doing before you got into the coconut nectar business?
Carmel Hagen: Oh man, I was working in a totally different universe. I’d been involved with tech startups for 10 years – from search engines to photo apps – but had always wanted to start my own thing, eventually. I think I crossed a chasm when I turned 30, because I finally felt like I deserved to pour my energy into my own idea, versus somebody else’s. Baking makes me happy. Good design and great brands make me happy. Taking care of the earth makes me happy. I think the company was really just a manifestation of happiness, in the form of a business.
I love the name Sweet Revenge. How did you come up with it?
Carmel Hagen: Everyone’s finally talking about the health and environmental consequences of refined sugar, but without a simple solution, the conversation usually hits a dead end. No one wants to give up treats entirely, and no one wants to give up the creative fun of baking at home, alone or with kids, since so many of life’s richest experiences involve food. I knew the only real way to kick refined sugar out of the kitchen for good was to find something of equal performance, but superior eco and nutritional characteristics – and if I could, it would be the sweetest revenge. The name came naturally from that thinking process!
What are the nutritional and health benefits of granulated coconut nectar over sugar that most people commonly use? What are the benefits for the environment?
Carmel Hagen: First and foremost, a sugar is a sugar. So when we talk about the “health benefits” of various sweetening choices, the conversation we really need to have is where they sit on the sweetening spectrum overall, then make the best choice for us based on that spectrum.
On one end, you have sweeteners stripped of their nutrients, like refined sugar, and sweeteners that primarily contain fructose, which our bodies have the hardest time using, like agave or corn syrup. On the other end, you have unrefined sweeteners that contain their natural nutrients, and are comprised primarily of sucrose or glucose, which our bodies have an easier time using (like maple syrup, coconut nectar or brown rice syrup). There are also characteristics on this spectrum that are more subjective to personal beliefs or lifestyle choices, but really important to me and my company – things like sustainability, performance, glycemic index, and whether they contain chemicals or GMOs.
When you plot out all the natural sweetening options on this spectrum, coconut nectar simply checks the most boxes. From performance, to nutrient and glycemic profile, to comparatively low ecological demands, it’s got things covered in a way that no other sugar alternative does. For passionate bakers, the performance component alone is a total kitchen-changer, since it’s really the only cup-for-cup sugar alternative without additives.
Coconut nectar is still a sugar, and should be consumed mindfully. But to draw an analogy to my other favorite pastime – drinking – it’s the red wine of the sweetener world.
Can you share a favorite recipe (or your latest favorite) with Sweet Revenge for BELLA readers?
Carmel Hagen: I am completely obsessed with our homemade take on Nutella, which cuts out the refined sugar and unsustainable palm oil in favor of coconut oil and nectar. it’s just insane. New Yorkers can always find the best hazelnuts for this recipe at Buon Italia in Chelsea Market (and you can buy them roasted, which reduces overall prep time to 10 minutes – hallelujah). Here’s the recipe:
What’s next for Sweet Revenge?
Carmel Hagen: Coconut nectar is just the foundation of our sustainable baking company, and we’re up to our eyeballs in new product concepting and testing, as well as the development of a new master brand. I can’t announce anything just yet, but if you keep an eye on our Instagram (@enjoyrevenge) you’ll start to spot some clues soon!