SINGAPORE (THE NEW PAPER) - Ever thought a dessert could be made without milk, refined sugar and flour - and still taste good?
A crop of homegrown businesses which operate online are shaping up to the challenge and meeting the growing demands of clean eating.
Occupying a growing niche on the local baking scene, these e-bakeries offer a variety of products which cater to stricter dietary requirements, eliminating commonly used ingredients such as cow's milk and white sugar, and even going vegan.
The healthier alternatives range from cakes, cupcakes, cookies and muffins to staples such as bread, at price points similar to those of traditionally-baked products.
Ms Ramya Ragupathi, the 38-year-old founder and chief executive officer of Oh My Goodness!, describes its style of baking as "precision engineering" as it takes a long period of research and development to strike the delicate balance of flavour and texture.
The food manufacturing company, started in 2016, aims to make gluten-free and dairy-free products "locally available, accessible and affordable across Asia Pacific - and not only for those with a high income", said Ms Ramya.
Ms Denise Ho, the 22-year-old founder of Delia V. Patisserie, said her fully vegan e-bakery was set up in 2017 to "prove to people that a healthy vegan cake can taste as delicious as its non-vegan counterparts".
GRAIN-FREE NUT FLOURS
To cater to other dietary requirements such as gluten-free, she replaces unbleached flour with grain-free nut flours.
Ms Ho has to explore the chemical properties of each ingredient, such as the way they bind to other ingredients in the baking process to replicate textures.
She said: "The demand for vegan bakes is certainly growing as people become more conscious about their diet choices."
Said Ms Chang Yi Ning, owner of Bakening, an entirely flourless and grain-free e-bakery: "We use fruits to sweeten our breads and muffins because in addition to its natural sugar, they have fibre and nutrients.
"For cookies and frosted cakes, we use organic coconut sugar as it contains a prebiotic fibre called inulin, which helps to keep your blood sugar levels stable."
Ms Chang, 29, revealed that nuts and seeds alone cost "between 10 to 20 times more" than refined wheat flour.
But she considers her strong belief in a paleo diet (which typically includes lean meats, fish, fruits and vegetables) a great motivator in keeping the company running, as her hormonal imbalances were resolved within one month of consuming more simple, wholesome foods.
She said: "If I came into this simply as a business with numbers and projections, I'd probably not have done it at all."
Delia V. Patisserie is a home-run business, while Oh My Goodness! and Bakening operate in production facilities in Mandai and have no immediate plans to own a retail space, as doing so would incur high costs in addition to the already costly specialised ingredients.
Miss Raeann Ellery Teo is only 18 but has already branched out with a baking enterprise run purely on Instagram (@raebakesvegan) since 2016.
The polytechnic student majoring in food science offers 'bliss balls', made with nuts, seeds, oats and dates, with a low glycemic index.
She said: "Finding vegan baked goods is a challenge in Singapore and they are usually pretty expensive too. I wanted to make vegan goodies as affordable and convenient as possible so that more people are able to get their hands on it."