Sweets for your sweet on Valentines day? The tradition of celebrating love with sweets has been around only since the 1800’s, and began when Richard Cadbury invented what he called “eating chocolate”—bitesized chocolate pieces that he sold in heart-shaped boxes for the occasion, which people would use to keep mementos like love letters and photos. The practice of gifting sweets on an occasion that traditionally (since the Victorian era) celebrated romantic love, has evolved to include all types of love. Sweets are no longer gifted exclusively to significant others, with the shopping list expanding to include friends, family, teachers, classmates, officemates, and even pets. But especially with the bad rap that sugar has been getting over the past years, many end up with more sweets than they can handle. Luckily, chef Tina Lagdameo and PR Specialist Celine Gabriel Lim have come up with a clean and sweet solution.
Launching just last October, Honest Junk is Lim and Lagdameo’s answer to a hole they wanted filled in the local market: affordable and (relatively) healthy sweets. “Junk in that . . . it’s something that people can afford easily, and honest because what you see is what you get. We try. It’s not easy to be healthy all the time, and we binge too,” Lagdameo says. Honest Junk offers a healthy middle: sweets that don’t make you feel like you’re depriving yourself, but are on the healthier side than their grocery store alternatives.
The idea for these treats came about when Lim went on a gluten-free diet. The high prices for the snacks that were available to her given her restrictions seemed unreasonable, with the founders of Honest Junk agreeing that healthy should be the norm instead of regarded as an occasional treat. As a mom of two, Lagdameo also took issue with the fact that cheap grocery sweets made junk food the staple snack in their household instead of healthy food. Wanting to create nutritional goodies that her children could enjoy, Lagdameo teamed up with Lim to create a fun lifestyle brand aimed to make healthy eating tasty.
With a degree from the Culinary Institute of America, Lagdameo created her proudly local gummy bears that boast being nut-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, fat-free, preservative-free and low in sugar (with 1/3 the sugar of store-bought gummy bears). The gummy bears get their color from the natural tint of the juice from local fruits, which Lagdameo uses to flavor the gummy bears. Deep burgundy bears are flavored with mangosteen, red bears from pink guava and strawberry, orange bears from mandarin, and yellow bears from calamansi; all the flavors contain local superfood malunggay for a boost of vitamins. “The flavors abroad are more expensive and you won’t be able to get it as fresh as [the ones] here,” she explains. “We have a lot of great fruits and superfoods that we don’t really give [attention] to.” Her recipe has managed to find a just-right level of chewy for her super gummies that do not overwork your jaw.
Lagdameo also developed zooper cookies, vegan cookies that are nut-free, gluten-free, and low in sugar and sodium. A sharply flavored green tea cookie offers the benefits of the celebrated Japanese superfood, and its rich matcha taste makes the strong snack a delight for grownups with a more mature palate. The same goes for the malunggay cookies, whose bitter bite may be for the more acquired tongues but after some getting used to, grows on you. The cinnamon bears a resemblance to Teddy Grahams, only crunchy instead of chewy, and are instantly addictive. While the coco chia flavor stands out with a strong chocolatey flavor and added crunchy chia texture.
Lagdameo tells us that her kids were the test panel for their products, and for the taste-tests, they were not told that what they were eating was supposed to be healthy. “If they didn’t like . . . the flavor, the texture or anything, I’d go back to the drawing board and start formulating again.” That way, Lagdameo felt confident that the flavors of her products were good on their own, and not just good for healthy food.
Honest Junk comes packaged in a fashionable patchwork design with zany prints and popping colors, emblematic to the lifestyle brand’s fun and innovative approach. At only 5 months young, you can expect only more exciting developments from Lim and Lagdameo, with snacks like vegan cocoa chips, gluten-free cheese chips (made with Malagos cheese) and vegan jellies currently in the works. As for us, we’ll keep on popping their just-right chewy super gummies while we wait.
Honest Junk is an online sweets store that offers healthier version of your favorite sweet treats. They currently offer gummy bears called super gummies, and superfood-infused cookies called zooper cookies.