This start-up makes a healthy, eco-friendly chocolate hazelnut spread

A breakfast with Mounib Real Food Only's chocolate hazelnut spread.
A company growing out of U of T Scarborough is reimagining a popular, usually sugary breakfast topping (Submitted photo).
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Alexa Battler

Alum Iman Mounib’s chocolate hazelnut spread is a new take on the iconic breakfast topping — it’s made of three ingredients, has nearly plastic-free packaging and everything is sourced from Canadian companies.

“The end goal is to create an alternative that’s beneficial for your health and tastes really good,” Mounib says (UTSC BA 2017). “All our spreads are good for your health and good for the planet.”  

Mounib’s start-up, Mounib Real Food Only, sells a spread made solely of hazelnuts, honey (courtesy of local Mennonite communities) and organic, fair-trade cocoa powder, with a vegan option that swaps honey with organic cane sugar. The company also sells a chocolate-peanut-butter spread with its own vegan edition and offers an almond-chocolate version at its farmers’ market booths.  

Mounib's three spreads are seen: chocolate-peanut-butter, vegan chocolate hazelnut and chocolate hazelnut.

Mounib’s spreads exclude ingredients often included in similar products, such as palm oils, refined sugars, dairy and gluten (Submitted photo).

The products are sold in almost 20 restaurants, cafes and stores around the GTA, and one in Ottawa. Most sell the jars themselves, but two locations use the spreads on breakfast items such as bagels and lattes. The company also appears weekly in the Woodbridge, Leslieville and Roundhouse famers’ markets in Toronto, and sells the spreads on its website.  

The spreads’ glass jars, lids and labels are all purchased in Canada; Mounib even exclusively hires local graphic designers. Customers can also return the jars for reuse through the company’s in-house recycling program. The only plastic is in the legally required food seal, though Mounib is trying to find a workaround, and make the label biodegradable.

“I think the best way to optimize a society is to support it as much as you can,” Mounib says. “And as cheesy as it sounds, I really do believe that however you impact the environment impacts your soul.”

Farmers and flavours drive entrepreneur 

Mounib began developing the skills she'd need for her business early in life, partly because she grew up in a low-income household. 

“We didn’t have healthy, affordable options and that was big in inspiring me to start making my own foods at home,” says Mounib.  

Health issues later forced her to stop eating refined sugar, but she still craved her favourite sweets: Nutella and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, both of which inspired flavours for her spreads. She started making her own versions with what would eventually become her three-ingredient recipe.

A photo of alum Iman Mounib in a forest

Alongside running her company, Iman Mounib also works as a marketing manager at the yogurt company Yogen Früz (Submitted photo).

Mounib’s entrepreneurship has also been largely shaped by Ontario farmers. For six years, she spent every Saturday at a farmers’ market, helping sell baked goods from her friend’s local bakery. After the pandemic shut the market down in 2020, Mounib began selling her own products on Instagram, where her so-called “healthy Nutella” took off. In December 2021, she officially launched her company.

“Farmers are entrepreneurs too,” she says. “That farmers’ market taught me that even if you’re spending a little bit more to source local, the impact is so much better for the environment and the community.”

Mounib initially used her own kitchen and blender to make spreads — now, she has a facility in East York and her own employees, along with an industrial blender. She’s working with The Hub, U of T Scarborough’s entrepreneurial incubator, to scale the business up and get into as many GTA cafes, grocery stores and restaurants as possible.

The Hub, U of T Scarborough's entrepreneurial incubator.

There are 46 start-up companies currently in The Hub, where aspiring entrepreneurs grow their businesses (Submitted photo).

“Mounib has overly impressed me, she’s spinning really fast,” says Donovan Dill, interim director at The Hub.

Mounib then wants to expand to the rest of Canada before tackling health-enthused American city centers such as New York and Miami. Then, the rest of the world.