Food Entrepreneur LOS ANGELES — Through her own health journey due to Crohn's disease and colon cancer, founder and chief executive officer Sydney Webb created Toto Foods.

As a child, her dessert staple was often Nestle’s Toll House Cookies, but soon after learning she had Crohn's and was later diagnosed with colon cancer, cookies were not an option.

“I had to basically get rid of all my favorite foods including at the time Toll House Cookies, and I was put on a really intense diet for my Crohn's,” Ms. Webb said.

After finding what foods worked for her, she was able to bring cookies back into her life — and from that Toto was born.

Ms. Webb formulated cookies that were nourishing for the gut and overall health.

“I wanted to find a way to make these cookies delicious and nourishing,” she said. “I wanted to find a way to make things that are healthy to taste amazing but to do it in a way that is really beneficial to the body.”

Initially Toto was in the form of cookie dough, but Ms. Webb quickly realized the logistics of the product were not as easy as she expected.

Toto founder Sydney WebbSydney Webb, founder of Toto. Photo: Toto

“It was a complicated product to produce, particularly the reason that it is a refrigerated product, so the logistics around that were very expensive,” she said.

Soon after experimenting with the cookie dough, Ms. Webb transformed Toto into cookies.

“They were selling really well and really fast,” she said. “The cookies seemed to be a clear path, so we decided to make the transition to just that. The cookies we have now are completely different than the cookies we started with. We reformulated everything to make them even more shelf stable, increase shelf-life texture, taste and give them a facelift.”

Ms. Webb’s focus for the cookie’s ingredients was boosting immunity and gut health — so formulating with ingredients perceived as clean that featured adaptogens was a must.

“The key ingredients that we highlight are adaptogens that are in the products: turkey tail and reishi,” she said.

Coconut sugar is used as a sweetener in the formulations.

“Consumers are looking for ways to have lower sugar or lower fat and lower carbs; those seem to be the trends these days,” she said. “What we’re seeing now is a lot of people are gravitating toward more whole food, plant-based products and they want things that they know what the ingredients are. They know what a coconut looks like or what an oat looks like, so to be able to put a name to the food in their body is important.”

The ingredients were a natural choice for Ms. Webb when it came to formulating the cookies. Because of her health complications, she was forced to be cautious of the things she put in her body.

“I can’t have artificial sweeteners; they’re one of the most inflammatory things you can have in your gut,” she said. “When I was formulating the products, I formulated them with the benefit or with the feeling I would have eating it in mind.”

Ms. Webb and Bennett Quintard, chief operating officer and co-founder of Toto, like to think of their product as permissively indulgent, taking the guilt out of indulging in sweets.

“It’s ok to indulge; we are human,” Mr. Quintard said. “It’s not about cutting out every sugar and fat in our lives. It’s about finding ways to do it in a way to feel good in our bodies and loving the food that we put into our bodies.”

The cookies have a large customer base, from health-conscious consumers to triathletes and even children.

“We’re finding our cookies are reaching a really wide audience; it’s really special for us that we can meet two very opposite ends of the spectrum for the consumer,” she said.

As the company grows, Mr. Quintard said Toto’s future is bright and is seeking national recognition.

“We’re hoping to get into all the natural channels,” he said. “We’re in Vitamin Shoppe currently and are also launching in Sprouts. We’re looking to get into grab-and-go spots like coffee shops and then next year to go to the bigger box retailers.” 

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