Lauren (left) and Clare say friendship is the secret ingredient in their baking mixes, which are selling like hot cakes. Photo / Sally Tagg
Just two years ago, Kiwi moms Clare Gallagher and Lauren Taylor barely knew each other, but they had a lot in common – both passionate about home baking, the pair were also on the verge of financial disaster and felt overwhelmed. .
The Auckland couple had met through their daughters, Poppy and Lauren, who were school friends, and after the pandemic struck, the mothers found themselves turning to each other. ‘other to support themselves.
Clare’s family had recently moved to Devonport from Waiheke Island, where she was known as “the village baker”, baking delicious treats for the locals whenever she was not busy running her home. four children. When a Covid hiring freeze prevented her husband Adrian, 42, from finding a job, she knew she had to take action.
“He was about to take a job at another company, but his current employer offered him a new job to stay,” said Clare, 43. âI remember asking him if he had signed the contract yet and he said, ‘No, I’ll come back to that later. About a day later, Covid hit and they immediately froze all hiring. “
Adrian wasn’t worried, but over the weeks he realized he was in trouble. With five dependents at home, including Clare, reality began to set in.
Meanwhile, Lauren was a marketing entrepreneur, supporting people in the hospitality industry, restaurants, and hotels, and her job dried up around the same time as Adrian’s. Having learned that Lauren was both a cooking ace and a marketing genius, Clare approached her with the idea of ââa gravy business to save them from financial ruin.
“If she had asked me to raise camels, I would have said yes,” laughs Lauren. “I firmly believe in opening any door that comes your way as it will inevitably lead to other doors. It is very scary when you have lost your job, your orientation or your career – it is a situation. very uncomfortable to face.
âA lot of people have been through it over the past couple of years and we all have different ways of dealing with discomfort, but whenever there is destruction in your life it can lead to opportunity, so my philosophy is to just say yes! “
And that’s how a company was born. Secret Kiwi Kitchen began in secret in a Kiwi kitchen, hence its name. With Aotearoa fueled by that first lockdown, Clare and Lauren got to work creating dessert sauces, which led to brownies, then baking mixes – each recipe focused on flavor and ease.
They spent months testing blends, looking for the highest quality ingredients they could get their hands on. The test team included the four children of Clare, Poppy, 15, Finley, 14, Rhoan, 11, and Imogen, 7, as well as the daughters of Lauren, Olivia, 18, and Lila, 15.
However, as New Zealand’s lockdown was over, Covid was not done with families. Clare’s English mother and stepfather, who usually visit Auckland three times a year, contracted the virus early on and she struggled with the stress of her parents’ health.
âEvery time mum visited her she suffered from some kind of bronchial disorder,â Clare shares. âThere was pleurisy and pneumonia, so I was always worried about her health. And then she picked up Covid.
“She didn’t tell me at first because she didn’t want me to worry. But I couldn’t reach her for a few days, then she said, ‘I think I have this stuff they’re talking about. ‘ And of course she did! She recovered and was fine, but my stepdad had it too and they have had it since. “
Meanwhile, Lauren, who grew up in New York City, used to return to the United States to visit each year, but the border closures meant she missed weddings, funerals and births.
âIt seems so long that I haven’t seen everyone and it’s so hard to be away,â she says. “I’m homesick and it’s a tricky thing when you’re in between jobs. That’s probably part of the reason we dove so hard into Secret Kiwi Kitchen.”
Lauren’s family ran a stall at a farmers market in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts for 40 years. The woman who raised her was Vietnamese and the stall started selling what were then very exotic Vietnamese buns. When she was a child, Lauren suggested that they also sell brownies.
âPeople didn’t know Vietnamese food back then and the booth wasn’t busy,â Lauren recalls. “So I came up with this brownie recipe to attract kids, thinking kids will bring adults and it worked!”
âShe had the most popular stall in the market after that,â she says. âEver since she passed away, brownies always remind me of her – it’s like that gift from the other side. It’s so funny that my second chance and that new breath of life came through the brownies. “
While Lauren and Clare struggled to sell their sauces in local markets, as soon as they started handing out brownie samples alongside the condiments, they began to attract more customers, who were desperately looking for the secret recipe. .
When a second lockdown hit, there was a resurgence of interest in baking, and the couple’s handy baking mixes – containing all the dry ingredients needed for delicious brownies – became an online winner.
âWhat’s really good about our mixes is that they give people a moment of connection and that’s an activity too,â says Lauren. âIt’s great to cook the kids and it gives you flexibility. But even after that last lockdown we’ve been busy – it’s a way to have fresh pastry that’s easy and you know it’s going to be delicious. “
So what sets Secret Kiwi Kitchen apart from other baking mixes? While they
are incredibly convenient – the pancake mix only requires water – their customers all agree it’s taste.
âWhen we went there, we both said, ‘If we’re going to make baking mixes, they have to taste amazing,â says Clare.
âMy house is known to local kids as The Brownie House, so I’ve always been a little bit attached to my reputation, as has Lauren. We agreed from the start that it must taste like a Next level pastry. We have certainly put on a few pounds in our attempts to make sure everything goes well! “
And they’re clearly doing something right. Recently, they partnered with HelloFresh to bring their buttermilk pancake and waffle mix to customers of the meal kit company, with their product now being sent to thousands of homes every week.
Secret Kiwi Kitchen is also now the first baking mix to hit the shelves at Briscoes – and plenty of other commercial offerings have catapulted the brand into the foodie spotlight.
âWe are now branching out into different products,â Lauren says. “Edible plants are our novelty. We have just signed a collaboration with Bombay Sapphire, creating cocktail kits that will be perfect for the summer.”
Now a finalist for the product of the year trophy at the NZ Food Awards and in talks with two major distributors in Australia and Singapore, the ladies will surely have their
work for them in the coming year, but none of them would have liked it any other way.
“What matters most is that our customers are satisfied and that they love everything we do”
Claire said. “And that we love to do it!”