Jul 11, 2023 - Business

This Charlotte “unbakery” makes plant-based versions of your favorite desserts

Raw Bites by Risa is a Charlotte baking company that makes treats like cakes and ice cream sandwiches, but the treats are all vegan, gluten and dairy-free.

Owner and founder Marisa Bromell uses plant-based ingredients to create alternatives to popular sweets. Her Twix-inspired protein bars, for example, regularly sell out.

  • “We follow raw nutrition, which means nothing is heated above 118 degrees,” Bromell tells me, explaining that this technique makes it easier for our bodies to digest and use the nutrients in the food.
  • She also uses sugar alternatives, like Medjool dates, in order to to make her treats as healthy as possible.

Why it matters: Whether it’s a lifestyle choice or dietary restrictions, many are making it a priority to eat more plant-based foods, as Axios’ Jennifer A. Kingson recently reported

  • Bromell says her business is “definitely niche,” but has found her raw desserts to be well-received, especially by Charlotte’s vegan and gluten-free communities and those with diabetes. “There are so many people that I meet who are so grateful.”

Details: In addition to protein bars, Raw Bites by Risa creates about every form of dessert, including cookies, bars, cups and cakes.

The protein Twix bar ($4), a take on a traditional Twix candy bar, uses plant-based ingredients, like almond flour, dates, unsweetened pea protein and cashew butter. Photo: Courtesy of Marisa Bromell
  • Her best-seller, the ice cream sandwiches, aren’t actual ice cream. “It’s a homemade, whipped blend,” Bromell said.

Flashback: Bromell’s inspiration for Raw Bites came from a trip to Bali, “which largely follows raw nutrition,” she said. “I came across this shop that had raw desserts, but they were super gourmet and tasted amazing.”

The caramel Nutella “ice cream” sammy ($6.25) mimics the flavors and texture of a real ice cream sandwich, says Bromell. Photo: Courtesy of Marisa Bromell.
  • She added she could never find raw desserts in the U.S. that didn’t taste “chalky” or “dry,” so she began making them herself as stress relief during COVID.
  • She turned the hobby into a full-time business, launching Raw Bites by Risa in 2020.

Of note: Raw Bites by Risa isn’t a physical bakery you can pop into. Instead, Bromell bakes out of Carolina Commercial Kitchen and operates via pop-ups, online ordering and retail in other stores.

How it works: Raw Bites’ menu changes every two weeks and is posted on Instagram, along with other upcoming events and sales.

  • You can place an order online or find products at local retailers, including Berrybrook Farm, Crane Coffee, Good Earth Essentials and Rhino Market (West Morehead), plus markets like Front Porch Fest.

What’s next: She says she’ll soon be retailing at Salted Melon in South End.

Go deeper: 16 vegan- and vegetarian-friendly spots in Charlotte

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