Most omnivores, or people who eat plant-based on occasion, don’t realize that most sugar isn’t vegan.
“Most of it is cane sugar, and it’s processed with animal bone char,” said Steph Richardson, the founder of Spun! By Steph, a new vegan cotton candy company. “It acts as a filter that dries out the impurities in the sugar. And the process makes it not vegan.”
Richardson uses beet sugar, processed using water extraction and a centrifuge, though she said that there are cane sugars out there that are vegan. She now operates out of a home studio equipped with three small commercial cotton candy machines, mixing all her sugars on-site, using natural flavoring oils. She then lays them out to dry, to make sure the sugar crystals spin into airy strands.
“It’s a magic process for me,” she said. “You put a tablespoon of sugar into the machine, and then start twisting the cone and it just turns into that fluffy cotton candy.”
Spun! By Steph now offers about 20 flavors, including marshmallow (popular with adults) and green apple (loved by kids). She takes online orders through her website, and does pop-ups at vegan bakery Sweet Hazel & Co., bringing a machine and spinning cotton candy on-site.
The business launched on January 30, and Richardson said she and her team are still experimenting, including adding other sweets, including suckers (which come in every flavor offered with the cotton candy).
They also make glitter bombs, which are molded cotton candy infused with edibile glitter. Drop one into sparkling drinks — like ginger ale, cider or champagne — and it instantly dissolves and creates a swirl of colored sparkles in the glass.
Richardson also makes “cowboy candy,” candied jalapeños cooked with sugar, vinegar and organic spices.
“We let it sit for a month to let it mellow out, and for the sugars to caramelize,” she said. “We eat it with crackers, but you can put it on burgers, eat it with vegan cream cheese, whatever you want. Some people just eat it out of the jar.”
The cotton candy, though, will stay the core of her focus. She’s on the hunt for a commercial kitchen, which will allow her to spin and package cotton candy for sale in stores, including Sweet Hazel & Co.
“A lot of our flavors, you don’t see in regular cotton candy — things like banana cream,” Richardson said. “And we’re trying new flavors out every day. It’s like a test kitchen, right? Or a science experiment, as my wife calls it.”
Order cotton candy, cowboy candy and glitter bombs at spunbysteph.com. Follow the Spun! By Steph Instagram page for pop-up dates.
Local vegan specialties online
Utah has more than 20 all-vegan restaurants and food trucks, but there are also a lot of specialty vegan items available through tiny businesses who sell through their websites or via Instagram. Here are a few:
Eats! Bakery • eatsbakery.com • This Black- and woman-owned vegan bakery makes donuts in flavors like matcha rose, tangerine and cardamom, as well as brownies, cookies, blondies and shortbreads. Orders placed on their website can be delivered, or picked up at the Downtown Farmer’s Market.
Milky Coco Bread • instagram.com/milkycocobread • New vegan baked goods business that sells at pop-ups. The next scheduled event is at Publik Coffee on Saturday, March 26; follow their Instagram to see where they’ll land next.
SLC Chow Kit • slcchow.com • A Salt Lake City-based meal kit company that specializes in meat-free, dairy-free dishes with locally sourced ingredients. Delivery is free to most Salt Lake City zip codes. Recent kits featured kimchi noodle soup, coconut dhal and broccoli “steak.”
Sweet V Chocolate • sweetvchocolates.com • Uses domestically harvested cacao. Offerings include bread, pastries, Easter candies, truffles and more. Place an order online or by phone and pick up Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Vegan Daddy Eats • vegandaddymeats.com • A wide variety of vegan proteins, including several flavors of seitan and “unreal bacon.” Place orders online and pick up orders at 69 E. Gallivan Ave. Deliveries are also available for a small fee, or free in Salt Lake City with a minimum $20 order.
Unicorn Chocolates • unicornchocolates.com • This family-run, free-floating confectionery was started after Greg Neil took a course through Ecole Chocolat. Their artisan candies are made using chocolate from Park City’s Ritual Chocolate.
Tell us your favorite vegan places in Utah
What’s your favorite vegan Mexican restaurant in Utah? The best vegan specialty food? Your favorite vegan coffee shop?
Name your favorites in our online poll — and while you’re at it, let us know you want to subscribe to The Salt Lake Tribune’s food newsletter, Utah Eats.
Editor’s note • This story is available to Salt Lake Tribune subscribers only. Thank you for supporting local journalism.