I first discovered Date’d Nutrition when I paid a visit to the Elmwood-Bidwell Farmers’ Market. It was there that I met founders Sarah Hegedus and Jason Wright, who are also married, with four children. What initially struck me about the couple was their passion for their product, each other, and life in general. Although they currently reside in Olean, NY (about an hour and a half away from Buffalo), they make the trip to Buffalo to attend events, festivals, and markets 2-3 times a week… year round. Their customers are mainly from the Buffalo area, which means that they are committed to this regional market.
What’s interesting about their products, which contain wholesome and nutritious dates, is that the business – Date’d – is not named after the fruit. Date’d Nutrition is called so because of Sarah and Jason’s passion for a simpler, dated time – when people foraged for ingredients instead of living the fast-food lifestyle of today.
“Originally we weren’t going to use dates in everything,” said Sarah. “But it turns out that dates are the perfect binding ingredient. It’s also a nutritious natural sweetener.”
It is without surprise that Sarah and Jason originally met in a gym. It was their passion for shared ideas that revolve around health and wellness that brought them together, and kept them together. During the pandemic, when they lost their jobs, they jumped at an opportunity to create a business based on their mutual passions.
“Jason brought the idea to me in March of 2020, and we launched the business 5 months later,” said Sarah. “It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to be able to dedicate so much time to a business launch. We met with small business development directors, sampled ingredients, research laws and agricultural regulations, worked on branding and packaging… we also launched a website, knowing that we would have to depend on online sales for a while. Then, as soon as we could, we started to attend markets and other events. The market is your best friend when you’re in a business like this. It allows you to learn what products work best – it’s so important to get that direct-to-consumer feedback. Once the market season is over, we rely heavily upon the online sales, and the loyal customers that continue to buy our products. People also buy from our retail vendors, but they don’t tend to carry our entire line, which is available online.”
As for their product line, Sarah and Jason told me that it’s their raw cinnamon rolls (desserts) that are the “gateway” to the bars. The rolls are the “wow factor” – once people try one at the market, they tend to buy the nutritional bars. The rolls are the treat, and the bars are for everyday. I can see how that would work, considering that the rolls look absolutely scrumptious, and taste divine.
As I spoke to Sarah and Jason by phone, they were busy rolling out the cinnamon rolls. The two don’t have an off-switch. They work around the clock.
“We’re both so passionate,” Sarah explained. “Jason is very motivated and knowledgeable. It was his idea to launch the company. I’m a perfectionist. I needed it to be the best. We knew that we needed to reinvent ourselves, and that if we worked our hardest that we could make anything happen. We didn’t begin to scale the company until 2021, by creating vendor partnerships, being part of competitions (and winning them), and looking at the best ways to grow nationally.”
But at this stage in the game, Sarah and Jason are still listening to their customers, and concentrating on growing in Buffalo. One of their goals is to invest in a packaging machine that will allow them to automate the process. It currently takes them one and a half days to package 2000 bars, which they sell in a week’s time.
“It’s a waste of time and money,” Sarah told me. “At the same time, we’re a conservative company when it comes to strategic planning. Our goal is to have as little debt as possible. We both come from nothing – I mean that in a humble way. We are motivated by our kids, and their future. At this point, we have complete control over the company.”
Where Sarah wants to mentally prepare and grow more organically, she understands (and backs) Jason’s desire to grow into a larger facility, with automated machines. I found it fascinating listening to the two, as they discussed their different takes on growth – I could empathize with Sarah, because growing a company is like raising a child. You don’t want them to leave the nest too soon. At the same time, you want that child to have all of the tools that he or she needs to compete in the real world. There’s really no right or wrong answer, as long as both parents are (in the end) in agreement with one another. And Sarah and Jason are both supportive of each other’s business tack, which will most like be a hybrid of their individual goals and visions.
“It’s fun and stressful,” said Sarah. “We reside in Olean – we have so many connections in this small town. We love the benefits of being here – it’s inexpensive – we can scale quicker if the rent is cheaper. Everyone in Buffalo wants us to move to Buffalo, however. We love the city, which is why we’re there so often. The market season will be coming to an end, which is why we’re looking for a couple of key places to sell our products. Our customers keep asking why we’re not at The Lexington Co-op, as it seems like such a natural fit. The products market themselves, and we already have a solid customer base – that would be natural fit for us, and would get us established on Elmwood and on Hertel.”
Yes, indeed, the Co-op does seem to be the missing link, locally that is. As Sarah and Jason look to grow outwards, it’s important that Buffalo remains the epicenter of their current growth. After all, it’s Buffalo that has rallied around Date’d Nutrition to date. That’s because Sarah and Jason are both so passionate about their products – a passion that can be tasted in every bite of their rolls or bars.
Be sure to visit Sarah and Jason at the Elmwood-Bidwell Market this Saturday, and The Stagecoach Market at Trattoria Aroma at Ashland and Bryant on Sunday (9am-1pm).