story by Allie Allsup
photos by Lindsay Pace
Monk Fruit. Golden Flaxseed. Psyllium Husk. If you’ve never heard of these ingredients, you aren’t alone.
However, if it is up to Kirk Hutchinson and Adam Shavez Pittmon, you’ll know them soon enough. These are just a few of the many ingredients used in Power of the Almond, a Starkville and Tupelo-based Mississippi bakery that focuses on catering to those with dietary restrictions.
When COVID-19 first manifested in spring of 2020, many people jumped onto the “quarantine baking” trend. Hutchinson, a diabetic who found inspiration in the ketogenic, or keto, diet was one such baker.
“I’d always had this dream to open a keto bakery,” Hutchinson said.
While Hutchinson’s knowledge of the keto diet first sparked the idea, it was going to the grocery store that really sealed the deal. There was a lack of diet-friendly options.
“After that, I just started baking,” Hutchinson recalled. “Mississippi changed the Cottage Food Laws so that I was able to actually sell out of my home. Once it got too big for me to do alone, though, I went to visit my friend, Shavez, who was living in New Orleans at the time,” he said.
Pittmon, who has worked several years in the food industry, has been a friend of Hutchin’s since college. Hutchinson knew he would be the person for the job. From then on out, it was about changing the narrative of what people put into their bodies.
“It’s kind of a funny story,” Hutchinson recalled. “We went for a run in a park and I just remember asking him, ‘You know, what are we doing with our lives?’ So, we came up with our first business plan that very night,” he said.
And they did it. The business, which took off less than a year ago, has grown exponentially in the time since then, with Power of the Almond in seven stores across Mississippi.
Being an allergen-free bakery, Hutchinson and Pittmon are taking the alternative route with high dietary fiber foods — foods that will fill you up and not make you feel guilty about eating them. Foods with much less sugar.
“The goal is creating recipes where you can’t even tell the difference,” Pittmon said. “You don’t know you’re eating a diet cookie unless I tell you so.”
The pair initially catered only keto and diabetic-friendly foods. They realized most of their ingredients were already gluten-free, so they marketed to those with celiac disease. They consider their bakeries a “safe space” for those marginalized by diet.
It can be difficult to find alternatives that taste good, but after several years in the food industry, it’s what Hutchinson and Pittmon have prided themselves on doing well.
“Nothing like this existed before we made it so,” Hutchinson begins. “We want to give back to those who need certain restrictions on their food. Whether it be gluten-free or sugar substitutes,” he says.
Even their food distributor has a hard time with their complicated orders.
“It’s because we use the weirdest things,” Pittmon said. “But that’s because people are so used to mixing together just flour and sugar. We’ve never been shown anything else, and that’s what we are here to do.”
As for their name and logo, both gentlemen wanted something to encompass the power behind the movement they are making.
“Almond flour is the main ingredient in all our baked goods,” Hutchinson said, “Beyond that, we wanted to empower people with dietary goals, to brand the idea behind, ‘you are strong enough to continue on with whatever diet or goal you are facing when it comes to your health.’”
This has been a big commitment to both men.
“You have to have the passion behind whatever you’re doing because it won’t feel like work if you do,” he began. “Yes, you’ll be working dreadful hours, and others won’t see the sweat and tears behind it, but it’ll be worth it in the end if it’s something you love. “Of course, with any major change in your life, it’s going to be stressful,” he added. “But it turned out to be a big leap of faith, and ultimately, it has worked out.”
Being self-employed, however, does come with its own challenges.
“What’s so crazy is that you are no longer an employee. You are the boss,” Hutchinson said. “If you mess up, there’s no more going and finding the manager and saying, ‘Oh I have a problem,’ because you are the problem solver now. But to be a good businessman, and to be successful, you must also be a problem finder. That way, you can scope out any problems before they arise.”
When it comes to their future, both Pittmon and Hutchinson are on the same page.
“We want to build a future with this company and make it nationwide one day,” Pittmon said.
“Our ultimate, long-term goal is to be Starbucks’ biggest competitor,” Hutchinson added.
No matter how far they go, though, Hutchinson and Pittmon will never forget their roots.
“Starkville has been good to us. It’s the first place we started and somewhere that will always have our hearts,” Hutchinson said.