Let’s be honest: Aside from raiding our kids’ Halloween candy stash, adults are woefully under-catered for in the candy department — a fact Maayan Zilberman has cottoned on to with extraordinary success.
Her artisanal candy brand, Sweet Saba, is a world away from your everyday snack — each treat is handmade from carefully constructed molds and features bold, quirky flavors. At up to $70 a pop (and far more for custom orders), this isn’t candy to binge on. Nor is it intended to be — Zilberman believes that candy should be savored.
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When I was a kid my mom and I had a handful of mixtapes we’d play in the car on rotation. Mom (a blessed vocalist) would belt it out when we’d play Aretha, and I’d join in, drowned out by the 2 divas in the car. Later on as an adult I learned (at karaoke) my voice was less than perfect, and realized the Queen of Soul had given me the confidence to sing. If even quietly. Thank you Aretha, thank you mom for giving me her music, and thank you to our beautiful tape decks that never gave out after hundreds of “rewind I gotta hear that one more time”. 🖤 #rip #arethafranklin #sweetsaba
Despite catering to adults, Zilberman often injects a whiff of nostalgia (and a healthy dose of kitsch) into her candy. From cassette tapes to Sharpies, they offer a taste of memory lane — if memory lane tasted like champagne, maca and cinnamon, or rosemary laced with melatonin!
Her product has been embraced by some of the biggest names in media and fashion — everyone from Vogue to Harper’s Bazaar has written about Sweet Saba, and Zilberman has collaborated with Dior, ArtBasil, and the Met Gala/Costume Institute’s “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination” exhibition, to name a few.
“There’s always been a relationship between fashion and candy,” she told Tasting Table, “ever since the days of Marie Antoinette.” This connection is best seen in Zilberman herself, who always works in heels and is rarely seen without her signature cherry-red nail varnish and lipstick — which she even wears to bed.
If Sweet Saba conjures memories of Hebrew school, you’re not going crazy. Zilberman was born in Israel on a kibbutz, though spent the majority of her childhood in Vancouver. Sweet Saba is a tribute to her late grandfather (saba in Hebrew), who encouraged her creativity as a child.
I was desperate to find out more about Zilberman’s childhood, flavor inspirations, and upcoming projects, so I reached out for a chat. Her responses didn’t disappoint:
What food memories stand out from your childhood in Israel?
My fondest memory is the fresh fruit and vegetables you can have for breakfast because they are so sweet, and the dates. My favorite pastries are freshly baked rugelach and potato bourekas — and I think I survived on roasted pumpkin seeds my entire sixth grade.
I also loved making malawach after school and topping it with pickles.
How does spirituality influence your designs, particularly the evil eye candy you recently released?
I started working on candy when I was going through a transition with my career, and wanted to let go of a lot of objects in my life. I wanted to feel free to move forward. I like to think of this entire practice I do with sugar as a spiritual endeavor! The fact that the material is ephemeral is a big part of it, regardless of the motif I am making.
I’ve tried working with these flavors, it’s really fun! I love honey candy and I have a large collection of honey from all over the world … Israeli and Lebanese honey are especially delicious varieties.
Has becoming a mother influenced your candy flavors?
It hasn’t changed my flavors so much, but it definitely makes me think a lot more about the kind of work I’m doing, and whether candy is something I should suggest people eat! I’ve been experimenting with other kinds of treats that are healthier. Most of the sugar work I do these days is for display or collecting.
From bacon to whiskey, you aren’t afraid to get creative with your flavors. Are you as adventurous with your day-to-day meals?
I’m actually not really into cooking, and I would not consider myself a foodie! It’s something people are usually surprised by. I do love a good cheeseburger though! And I could live on sushi.
I don’t cook a lot for myself, but I spend a lot of time cooking for my daughter, who is 10 months old. I’ve been learning a lot more about food as I make her new things each week. It’s a pretty fun way of learning how to cook. And the rewards are tremendous!
Can you tell me about any upcoming projects?
I’m currently working on a big project with the NBA that will debut mid-February in NYC, and I’m also doing a collaboration with H&M that will launch during Frieze in Los Angeles. I’m developing a series of glass pieces that are inspired by candy — this is a long-term project I’ve been working on for the last year or so. I’m really excited to launch it next year!