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Sweets can be tasty while also remaining free of gluten, dairy, peanuts and other allergens — and one woman is sharing her story of how she made them herself.

Loren Castle is founder and CEO of Sweet Loren’s, a cookie dough company that offers plant-based, gluten-free, nut-free and non-GMO products. 

The No. 1 natural cookie dough brand on the market is sold in over 20,000 supermarkets, Castle told FOX Business — and has a compelling origin story.  

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“I started the company because of a really personal story,” Castle said. “I survived cancer when I was 22 years old, and it forever changed my life.”

The native New Yorker moved to Los Angeles, California, to attend college at the University of Southern California. She graduated at age 22. 

Afterward, Castle said she went back to New York to help her younger sister tour universities for her education when she woke up with a knot in her throat. 

“I just woke up with these swollen lymph nodes kind of all over, and clearly they had slowly been growing in me for months, but I only realized it when [they] really started to protrude,” she explained. 

“You either have nothing at all, or Hodgkin’s lymphoma.”

Her mother, a cancer survivor herself, knew Castle had to see a doctor as soon as possible. 

That doctor, Castle recalled, looked at her and said, “You either have nothing at all, or Hodgkin’s lymphoma.” Castle would find out after a month of testing that it was actually that type of cancer.

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“It was devastating. I’ve always been a very optimistic, happy person, and I really now know what it feels like to hit rock bottom,” she recalled. 

Over the next few months, Castle said she was completing chemotherapy treatments and feeling low. 

Castle at the start of Sweet Loren's

After feeling lost about how to feel better, Castle said she started meditating, exercising and trying to keep her body as strong as possible. 

“I [also] had this deep instinct to study food. I wanted to give myself as much energy as possible to fight this thing and to get healthy,” she said.

Though studying nutrition and taking cooking classes, Castle realized she could make healthy foods taste delicious if she used the right ingredients.

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“But I have a sweet tooth, and I don’t want to feel like I’m on a diet for the rest of my life,” she said. 

“It was devastating. I’ve always been a very optimistic, happy person.”

Castle decided to try making her own cookies after taking over her mother’s kitchen and ordering “every type of sugar and flour possible.”

“My mind was just blown that I was like, ‘Oh my God, there’s so many better [ingredients] for you [that are] actually tastier, more interesting ingredients that are just not mainstream,’” she recalled. 

Sweet Loren's cookies

Castle made “hundreds and hundreds of batches of cookie dough” to find the perfect concoction and would give them away after approving them. 

After noticing more and more friends, neighbors and others asking to purchase the cookies, Castle said she had an instinct to try and sell them. 

“Thankfully, I was cured of the cancer [and] after that year, my doctor was like, ‘Go into the real world and get a normal job!’” Castle recalled, to which she responded, “I’m not normal anymore. Life is precious.”

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She added, “I only want to do something that makes me happy and makes me feel like I’m living life to the fullest.”

Castle won a few baking contests and finally got the guts to start a company at 26 years old. She called it Sweet Loren’s. 

Sweet Loren's cookie packaging

Castle said she hustled for many years in New York City — even taking her toaster oven, spatula and cookie dough on the subway to demo her product at the neighborhood Whole Foods. 

“I was that girl demoing in the aisle of Whole Foods giving out as many cookies as I could to really see what people wanted,” she said. 

Through feedback and suggestions, Castle was able to improve her recipe, packaging and much more. 

In 2018, Sweet Loren’s became an allergen-free brand. It is gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free and non-GMO. 

“It’s not niche anymore.”

“I think on the outside, people look at allergen-free like it’s a niche — it’s not a niche anymore,” she said.

For more Lifestyle articles, visit www.foxbusiness.com/lifestyle

“Celiac is maybe 1% of the population, but a quarter of the population is actually staying away from gluten [by choice].”

Castle and Sweet Loren's cookies

Sweet Loren’s also offers breakfast biscuits with the same allergen-free nutritional facts and will begin offering pizza dough and puff pastries in the coming months. 

Castle said if she could give three pieces of advice to young entrepreneurs, she’d recommend getting “smart, trustworthy mentors around you,” having a great team to support your business — and keeping up with personal self-care. 

“I’ve been doing this [for] 10 years, and the reason I’m not burned out is because I’m so passionate about this,” she said. It’s “my life’s mission.”

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