Serving the growing demand for keto diet-friendly foods is the mission of Guelph-based Alter Eat-o. The shop produces and sells bread, pizza crusts, desserts, and other specialty items. The keto diet focuses on eating high-fat, low-carbohydrate foods and is said to force the body to burn fat instead of carbohydrates. The diet is prescribed for children with severe epilepsy.
Located on Garibaldi Street in Guelph, Alter Eat-o is operated by sisters Leslie Lang and Molly Hutchinson. Lang is the founder and Head Culinarian, while Hutchinson is Alter Eat-o’s Head of Public Relations & Business Development.
The duo were raised in Kitchener and were inspired by the local food shops that were part of their childhood in downtown Kitchener. Hutchinson said that the food-forward community in Kitchener was part of why they developed an early love for experimenting with ingredients and techniques.
“We grew up in an urban community in Kitchener. We were drawn to the idea of being the type of business that’s integrated into the landscape of a community. We looked at some places in strip malls and other locations. But we kept coming back to our current location because it had such a nice community feel to it,” Hutchinson said.
Lang said that their mother was curious about different cuisines and encouraged them to try new things.
“We were never the standard kitchen or standard menu family that would have basic meals. We were always experimenting and mom would always be looking for new flavors and taste fusions. That’s where Molly and I got, not only love of food, but our confidence to experiment in the kitchen and just say, hey, let’s try these flavor combinations and see what happens,” Lang said.
In addition to the local food scene, the duo found guidance for their business at the Kitchener Public Library (KPL). While in their 20s, the sisters decided to start a company based on their love of food and experimentation. They took courses at the KPL that helped them begin the process of founding their own business.
Hutchinson moved to Alaska, while Lang married and moved to Edmonton, but their love of food would bring them back together on their business idea.
“About three or four years ago, we simultaneously, without each other knowing, started a keto-friendly lifestyle. We happened to be chatting about that one day and I started to think that this could be it,” Lang said.
Lang began the keto diet for its health benefits, while Hutchinson adopted the diet based on the recommendation of her naturopathic oncologist after being diagnosed with breast cancer. Both found that many of their favourite foods didn’t have keto-friendly options so they began experimenting in their own kitchens.
“Ultimately, for me, the diet was about how I felt and that I got to eat amazing food. I didn’t feel deprived, but then I also knew I wanted to look at how I could take some of those higher carb foods like lasagna and bread and chocolates and make them keto friendly,” Lang said.
In 2019, Lang opened Alter Eat-o in Milton, and the business grew quickly. Hutchinson joined Lang shortly after and the two soon moved to Guelph.
The move to Guelph provided the business with dedicated space rather than a shared facility. The location is also centrally located to serve customers in the Greater Toronto Area, Waterloo Region, and Wellington County.
Today, Alter Eat-o offers in-store shopping at their Guelph location and deliveries across Waterloo Region. While they have business goals of signing distribution deals with small food retailers and restaurants, their focus is still on making keto-friendly food that tastes amazing.
“The best compliment we get is when someone tastes something that we’ve made and looks at us like, ‘this can’t be keto’,” Lang said.
Alex Kinsella is a freelance content marketer and writer based in Waterloo Region, Ontario. He's behind the TL;WR newsletter–Waterloo Region's weekly events newsletter. He's worked with some of Canada's most well known tech companies in roles including customer success, development, product management, PR, social media and marketing. Alex has contributed to publications including BetaKit, Grand Magazine and more.