Amanda Reninger, president of Sea Salt and Cinnamon, said the best and easiest way to invite people into the vegan community is to hand them a cupcake.
“We understand that a vegan/vegetarian lifestyle is not ‘the norm,’ and we are happy to help educate people on what it means and why it isn’t as scary as it sounds,” Reninger said. “We offer plenty of delicious foods that aren’t just ‘rabbit food’ but that are filling and tasty.”
Sea Salt and Cinnamon is an online vegan bakery which uses plant-based milks, dairy-free butter, organic shortening, marshmallows without gelatin and natural cake sugar in its foods.
When Reninger began Sea Salt and Cinnamon in 2014, she said, her husband’s health inspired her. At the time, there weren’t many vegan options available in Muncie, she said, so she began developing her own recipes and teaching herself vegan cooking and baking.
“When we started this journey, it was about our own health and nothing else,” Reninger said. “Now, we understand the impact our food choices have on the environment and the animals in our country’s current food system. We try to live our lives in a way that brings as little harm as possible to the earth we live on and the animals we share it with. Plain and simple.”
Reninger said she doesn’t currently have a brick and mortar storefront for Sea Salt and Cinnamon because of the expenses of opening a shop. Instead, she takes orders through farmers markets and social media. She also works with IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital’s cafeteria to sell her products, such as Breakfast Anytime Burritos, and Ball State University Dining Services to sell her vegan baked goods.
Aly Hopkins, a Ball State alumna, previously worked with Reninger at Sea Salt and Cinnamon. Hopkins was completing her honors thesis project about the marketing behind the gluten-free market. Because Sea Salt and Cinnamon also offers gluten-free products, Hopkins' advisor suggested Reninger would be a good resource for her project.
Hopkins stopped working at Sea Salt and Cinnamon because she moved away to Texas, but she would recommend working at Sea Salt and Cinnamon because the Reningers are "two of the most hardworking, kindest and genuine people I have ever met in [her] life."
"The reason I loved [my job] is because I'm just so happy for [the Reningers,]" Hopkins said. "When I first met with Amanda, she talked about all of the things she wanted the business to become. Being able to watch it, even from away, is the best."
DJ Cleveland, marketing and communications specialist at Ball State University Dining Services, said Reninger reached out to their team in 2015, and Sea Salt and Cinnamon’s items seemed like a “good fit.”
“At the time, the demand for gluten-free and vegan food was beginning to increase ever more,” Cleveland said. “We offered quite a bit for those diets then, but finding a local business that could help us deliver high-quality desserts was a perfect opportunity.”
Now, University Dining Services offers Sea Salt and Cinnamon at its events.
“Our 2019 inaugural ‘Very Veggie’ event featured vegetarian and vegan dishes from across campus and a vegan cook-off by our chefs where we added the recipe with the most votes to our menus,” Cleveland said. “Sea Salt and Cinnamon showcased an exquisite cupcake display, and one chef’s vegan peanut butter pie recipe is now a daily North Dining Bakery staple.”
Dining Services is currently working with Sea Salt and Cinnamon to offer its pre-packaged goods at North Dining’s allergen-free station. Cleveland said it’s important for Dining Services to create relationships with local restaurants to give back to the local economy.
“Inclusivity is important to us, and we want Ball State students to have a variety of delicious options no matter their diet,” Cleveland said. “Expanding our offerings to fit a variety of culinary niches is one way we can impact that. Another is to be great neighbors within our community, so we are always seeking new partnerships and opportunities to bring local companies’ products to customers on campus.”
When it comes to her baked goods, Reninger said she doesn’t want to only focus on the healthiest choices. Instead, her focus is on offering products that “taste amazing” and don’t bring harm to animals.
“When we started, we knew that we would have to cast a wide net with the variety we offered in order to get a lot of different types of people to try anything with a ‘vegan’ label,” Reninger said. “Some people don’t like cupcakes, but they will try any cookie available to them. Not into donuts? Maybe you’d like to try a cinnamon roll. We knew our products didn’t only have to be ‘just as good’ as their traditional counterparts — they had to be better.”
Contact Mary Stempky with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.