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Richmond company makes guilt-free treats

Wise Bites makes healthier, allergy-free snacks
Wise Bites
Making healthier and allergy-free products is the No.1 goal of Cathline James, who founded Richmond-based Wise Bites. Daisy Xiong photo

Eating a healthier diet is often a popular New Year's resolution.

That was also Cathline James' No.1 goal when she founded Wise Bites in North Richmond six years ago, for people including those caught in all sorts of post-resolution temptations.

“The mandate of the company is to give a healthier option to people when they want to choose healthier snacks,” said James to the Richmond News in her two-level studio.

Her company produces muffins, cookies, loaves and fudge bars, which all look no different to their sugary simulacra, except that the secret to James’ products lie in the “increased protein, fiber and minerals, and decreased sugar, bad fat and sodium.” 

In addition, all of her products are free from the top 11 allergens defined by Health Canada, including eggs, dairy, soy, tree nuts, peanuts, fish, sesame seeds and gluten.

“We want everybody to be able to eat out of the same box,” said James.

"If any of the children or parents themselves have allergies to eggs or nuts, for example, they don’t have to go on a special program - they can just buy our cookies and know they are safe.”

James said the loss of mom to cancer when she was a teenager greatly impacted her view on food and her approach to diet.

“I felt what we eat impacts long-term health. I was like a mad teenager, and decided that her cancer was caused by what she ate,” she said.

James began to formulate her own eating habits, including eliminating certain foods from her diet, and became passionate about making healthy food for her family.

“In 2011, I was discussing with my daughter how the health of Canadian children is on the decline and is still declining in this developed country,” recalled James.

“And I was reading more and more news stories about food that contains chemicals and fillers that are harmful to our health. I became increasingly concerned and thought, we need to do something about it.”

To still make the snacks nutritious and tasty without a lot of commonly-used ingredients, James uses date paste to sweeten the products and uses “roasted, unsalted, non-GMO pumpkin seed" or flower seeds to replace nuts or sesame seeds. 

"Just because it has nutritional value shouldn’t make them less tasty," she said.

“We use quinoa flour, which has (one of) the highest nutritional values of a flour, and use flavours such as cinnamon, top-quality vanilla and chocolate powder and dairy free chocolate chips.

“Those ingredients are very very expensive to use, but we get a very clean label.”

James, whose products are sold in more than 400 stores across Canada, has been very vocal against retail stores who try to pressure manufactures to give discounts on their products.

“It forces manufactures to use poorer quality ingredient. That’s a concern,” she said.

“I’m very vocal with my vendors. If they are interested in sharing the value of Wise Bites and having a high-end ingredient deck on their shelves, because they know people will benefit, then we want to be there for them.”