In 2010 Debora Hammond had to re-invent herself. With the crush of the
economy in the USA, she – as many other Americans, lost her corporate job
close to Christmas of 2009 and didn’t know what to do to make ends meet and
support her 9 year old daughter. That’s when she had an idea… start selling to
friends and neighbors a long-time family recipe… Brazilian cheese breads aka
“pao de queijo”. Debora had no experience in entrepreneurship, but that didn’t
stop her from opening a small business and following her intuition. The more she
made, more she sold and by word of mouth, by spring of the same year Cheese
Bread Mania conquered a booth at the Downtown Farmers Market in Salt Lake
City, Utah, USA. Debora had no idea of the impact that the product would make
in the community. People were just hooked. They loved the taste, the
consistency and everything else about it.
And things just got better and better…
As per Debora’s own words: “when I thought things couldn’t get any better… my
brother called from Australia as soon as he heard the news from our mother. He
was studying in Melbourne. All he said was… “you hit the jackpot; this recipe is
gluten free”. He had seen little bakeries selling the product and using the word
gluten-free in the packaging. I was so confused… had no idea what gluten free
meant. I went searching for answers and it all made sense. Yet, that was just
the beginning of the gluten-free culture and I used precaution when advertising
as such, since most of the gluten-free food out there was dry, lacked flavors and
made people would think twice before trying the delicious Brazilian cheese
breads if I said too much about “gluten free”. But one thing I knew for sure… that
I was a lot happier knowing that more people were going to be able to eat pao de
queijo. Cheese Bread Mania sold out every week of the farmers market and by
the end of the 2010 season, the more product we made more was sold.”
Transitioning to wholesale just came naturally. Only 2 weeks before the end of the season the largest local, sustainable chain of supermarkets of Utah invited Cheese Bread Mania to join their frozen bread aisle.
Debora said: “I was so nervous… by then I not even knew what a “pallet of product, or packaging, or UPS codes meant”.
Cheese Bread Mania started in October of 2010 on the freezer of 2 of their 16 stores. One year later, Cheese Bread Mania was sold in 4 different flavors in all 16 stores of the chain, 30+ other local shops in the State of Utah, and 5 different farmers markets.
The product was so good, that in spite of being gluten free, more than 80% of the patriots had no issues with gluten, they only bought simply because they loved it.
Cheese Bread Mania expanded and continued to serve Utah until Debora moved to Toronto, in 2015. The company remained open until the end of the market season of 2016. Debora tells: “There were a lot of pressure to sell the business. I’ve got several calls and I almost closed a deal with a big bread company. I knew I would have to give up on working in Canada for at least a couple of years. Going from a non-stop working mom and business owner, to a house wife was a very difficult transitioning, but yet I wasn’t ready to give up and didn’t want to sell it to anyone in any circumstance. How would I live with the guilty of selling my great-great-grandma’s recipe to anyone out there?”
For the next 2 years, Debora baked “pao de queijo” for anyone and everyone that wanted to try it… every party, every event, every opportunity. And again, everyone got hooked. That was the sign! By the end of the summer of 2019, Debora was ready to start again... in Toronto, Ontario!
Debora felt in love with the beauty and diversity of her new “home”. She says, “I spent a couple of years travelling around, getting to know the country, the people, the culture, the food… and felt that I should make a tribute to Canada once I reopened the business. I remember that in the first year I ate so many cheeses and yet couldn’t try it all due to so many options. Canada is the land of dairy and of course amazing mind-blowing cheeses. I started experimenting with all kind of cheeses and the hard work paid off when I was able to find the perfect adaptation of the recipe to feature 100% local natural ingredients, except yucca root starch that is imported from Brazil. After experimenting with more than 50 kinds of cheese, the winner was chosen… 100% Canadian Feta Cheese!
After passing through a rebranding that brought a more modern and clean design to the package and website, and a “Canadian twist to the recipe”, Cheese Bread Mania is coming to stay and is starting with Toronto and Great Toronto Area (GTA) first.
“These are exciting times! I can’t wait to start generating jobs, giving back to the community and of course start selling our products in supermarkets and local shops. I can’t wait to start seeing “pao de queijo” being featured in sport parties, summer BBQs and picnics, winter gatherings, holidays get togethers… possibilities are endless! I’m grateful and in love with Canada and want to give back to this amazing country that I call home now”. Debora Hammond, Cheese Bread Mania.