The Freesweet story
Some brands are born out of deliberate intent; others come into existence purely by chance. In the case of Freesweet, intent as well as a string of serendipitous events led to the creation of a one-of-a-kind brand that fulfils a global need.
Freesweet founder and creator Deborah Good isn’t a formally trained product developer. Yet this Durban-based mother of five has managed to create a sugar replacement unlike any other. It’s carb-free, contains no artificial ingredients, tastes absolutely delicious and bakes beautifully.
How? By putting a lot of energy and passion into developing a product that convinced her own children that a life without sugar can be as sweet.
From syrups to standalone sugar replacement
Deborah’s Freesweet journey started five years ago with Iwantmycoffee – a much-loved coffee shop in Umhlanga, KwaZulu-Natal, which Deborah and Ard Matthews of Just Jinger fame created together. “At the time, we developed sugar-free flavoured syrups for the
coffees along the lines of something you’d find in a New York-style coffee shop,” Deborah recalls.
The syrups were an instant hit, and so Deborah began to play with the idea of creating a delicious alternative to sugar that would improve on the existing offering in the natural sweetener space. “I realised that the sugar-free movement was gaining momentum. At the same time, I also learnt more about the endless list of negative effects sugar has on one’s health.”
No satisfying alternatives for sugar
In a move to get her children to eat healthier, Deborah experimented with the natural sugar alternatives that were on the market – sugar and artificial sweeteners were no longer an option. “I couldn’t just tell my children to stop eating sugar altogether. I had to offer them a delightful, delicious replacement that they would choose over sugar to ensure long-term change.”
During her search for an alternative to sugar that would tick all the right boxes, Deborah developed a range of sugar-free vodka coolers called Skinnylove. By the time this brand and products were ready for the market, Deborah had come to realise that none of the available sweeteners really hit the mark in terms of a standalone replacement for sugar.
“I found that all the alternatives had their downsides and limitations. They were just not delightful,” she recalls. “Everything that I came across (and I imported ingredients from across the globe) didn’t perform well or taste quite right. There really was nothing I was
completely satisfied with.”
Deborah’s purpose became clear: she would create a total replacement for sugar.
She also realised that, with a little bit of luck, she could address a major gap in the global market.
“I sold the coffee shop, put all my resources into the development of a 1:1 natural sugar replacement and decided to take it to market,” she says. “A few people then recommended that I meet up with Grant Rushmere, the creator of BOS Ice Tea. His experience and flair for creating iconic brands and taking them to market would prove invaluable in the journey of these brands.”
They met, and Grant immediately showed interest in Skinnylove as well as the complete sugar replacement that Deborah had started to create. A dynamic partnership was born.
Focus shifts to sugar replacement
Over time, the duo decided to focus all their attention on getting the sugar replacement market-ready. “We identified what a huge worldwide demand there was for a viable alternative that would convert people long-term to removing sugar from their diets.”
Once this goal was clearly defined, the hard work started. Deborah began to refine her recipe to make it as delicious and effective as possible. “My philosophy is, ‘until it is, it isn’t’ , and so the meticulous process of tweaking the recipe went on and on in my own kitchen, often still in my PJs, with the children waiting to taste the next batch.”
Her children were, of course, her hardest tastemasters: “Nothing was going to get past them if it wasn’t truly awesome!”
The Freesweet brand is born
By the time the formula itself was perfected, the brand had started to take shape. “It landed for me as a clear inspiration in the form of the name Freesweet, with its magnificent, iconic butterfly logo. The butterfly consists of seven elements, reflecting the product, which has seven ingredients – the combination of which creates a magnificent alchemy that can transform lives and health profiles.”
A serendipitous partnership with Pioneer Foods, one of South Africa’s largest producers and distributors of branded food and beverages, followed. And the process of getting Freesweet on the shelves of the country’s leading supermarket chains was set in motion.
Freesweet replaces sugar in a 1:1 ratio in all applications – from beverages to baking.
From June 2019, South Africans will have the option to replace the sugar in their diets with this carb-free, all-natural, good-for-you sugar replacement that has the full endorsement of Diabetes South Africa. It truly has the potential to thwart unhealthy weight gain and obesity, as well as its associated diseases: cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
For Deborah, the birth of Freesweet has been a life-changing journey. “I have a great sense of purpose waking up every morning, knowing that I’m creating something that could be a great contribution to many, many lives. It was just about committing to answering a need that was right in front of me, and the drive and desire to create more in the world.”