Annie Leal was surprised when she learned there was no such thing as a sugar-free version of any of the Mexican candies she grew up eating. Her father had been diagnosed with diabetes a decade ago, and he snacked on sugar-free chocolate and caramel treats. However, there were no sugar-free sweet and spicy tamarindo-based candy or mango-flavored lollipops covered in chili powder.
“I was like, ‘How do they not have sugar-free Mexican candy?’ and he was like, ‘Mija, I can’t find it,’” Leal, who was born and raised in Mexico, told Thrillist.
Leal, who has a social media and marketing background, decided she would have to make her own. Leal created I Love Chamoy, a sugar-free chamoy made from chili peppers, limes, and citric acid. Instead of sugar, Leal sweetens her chamoy with monk fruit.
“I never thought I’d be in consumer goods,” Leal said. “I truly cannot cook to save my life, which is the funny part.”
It took Leal 44 attempts to perfect her chamoy concoction the first time. After posting her creation to TikTok, the first 750 bottles of I Love Chamoy sold out in less than a week. For her next batch, she removed Red 40 from the ingredients, a request made by many of her social media followers. She replaced it with hibiscus.
Today, Leal has upped her initial order of 750 bottles to 15,000. Her father has become the face of the I Love Chamoy brand on social media, and her mother and sister oversee operations and finances.
“We’ve never had a hobby where we’re all together and so involved,” Leal said. “That’s really been the cherry on top of this whole thing.”