Veganism has come a long way since the days of alfalfa sprouts, hemp-based clothing and dubious-looking meat alternatives. Thanks to a growing demand for all things healthy, dairy-free food – or plant-based as it’s increasingly known – is becoming much more mainstream. One brand that has championed this approach is The Hardihood. Founded by best friends Leah and Daisy, their take on delicious raw sugar-free treats has won them a host of fans from Emma Watson to Michael Fassbender. We spent a morning with them trying on our new collection and chatting about desserts, being geeks and why 42 is the magic number.
It’s a cold, dreary Tuesday morning and the traffic outside The Hardihood’s east London studio is as noisy as ever. It’s a different story inside though. While Daisy and Leah rifle through a rail of Finery clothes, their chef is quietly cooking up a storm in their galley kitchen, surrounded by slabs of delectable-looking cakes and cashew nuts in industrial-sized storage tubs.
In just over three years, the two women have gone from giving up sugar for a month to starting a business based on that concept. ‘Leah’s mum always preached the negative effect that refined sugar could have on energy levels, mood and general health,’ explains Daisy on their decision to go sugar-free. ‘When we began to see this echoed in the media and supported by an increasing number of studies as well as our own experiences, we were curious to see what life without it would look like. We committed first to a month and then to two months and in the end we felt so great that we stuck at it.’
To say they simply ‘stuck at it’ is a bit of an understatement. Having identified a gap in the market for treats that don’t contain dairy, gluten or sugar, Daisy and Leah discovered the power of raw food and why it’s better for your body. ‘It’s basically a concept in which nothing is heated over 42°C. This is said to preserve nutrients and digestive enzymes, eating the food in its most unaltered state.’
If you were not bowled over by the sound of this then you’d do well to try one of Daisy and Leah’s confections. Made using ingredients like cashew nuts, coconut oil, dates and natural flavourings, each of their cakes is the ultimate treat: incredibly delicious and surprisingly rich and sweet (not to mention immaculately decorated), despite the lack of sugar.
What really stands out about the two women though is their friendship. Friends first and colleagues second, they have been careful to preserve the former and have plenty of advice for others wanting to follow in their footsteps. ‘Be patient with each other and take time to spend time together outside of work. Don’t let yourself get so comfortable with each other that you forget to put on your well-mannered, happy face for each other. It’s easy to slip into sibling mode and speak to each other in a way that you wouldn’t dream of speaking to your other friends. Basically, be nice to each other, all the time!’
Clearly practicing what they preach, Daisy and Leah’s foundation of a good friendship has benefitted the business hugely, resulting in quite a few ‘pinch me’ moments over the last three years. ‘We’re geeks, it can be over the smallest thing!’ they laugh. The completion of their website, packaging, new boxes and merchandise have all proved such things, along with more monumental occasions like their recent recipe book launch and going to Los Angeles for the first time. If their ambitions are anything to go by, it sounds like they’ll be having a lot more in the next year or so: ‘We’d love to make cake for Gwyneth Paltrow. [She] does great things with Goop and is a brilliant advocate for living the mindful life.’