If you've hit up the yogurt aisle lately, you know there are options galore: Greek and Icelandic, Australian and French, fruity and chocolatey, protein-packed and savory. There's yogurt in tubes and drinkable yogurt and DIY yogurt parfaits with tiny packets of granola.
But if you're looking for a plant-based yogurt, there aren't many choices—that is, if you want to eat something that actually tastes good.
“I used to love dairy, and I was not able to find a vegan yogurt substitute I liked,” says Ariane Mass, longtime vegan and co-founder of Minneapolis-based Green Creamery. “They were all watery and not satiating. They didn’t taste good, [which manufacturers] tried to cover up with sugar. They were gross, and I just kind of gave up.”
However, her desire for a tasty plant-based yogurt didn’t disappear. Eventually she and co-founder Brett Schumacher—who has a background in agriculture and nutrition—got to talking, and then to tinkering. After two years of experimentation, they developed Sünabloom: a whole foods, plant-based yogurt made from sunflower seeds.
Sünabloom will be available in local dairy aisles soon—and to celebrate their retail launch, Mass and Schumacher will be throwing what they describe as “a sunflower-themed drag brunch parfait bar party” on Sunday. Expect mimosas, breakfast bites from local vegan companies, and of course, Sünabloom.
“I’m excited for people to try it,” says Mass. “I’ve been blown away by how many people who do eat dairy have really taken to it. It’s delicious in its own right. From a foodie perspective, it tastes good and is so different from everything else.”
In addition to their great taste, sunflower seeds offer important environmental and nutritional benefits. According to Schumacher, “Sunflowers are one of the most sustainable crops you can grow, especially when mass-produced. They also have the highest nutrition content compared to other seeds and nuts.”
“Sünabloom is also allergen free,” Mass says. “Many products we are competing with are nut-based. Many people have allergies, and kids can’t bring nut-based products to school.”
But how, exactly, do you go about turning a bunch of sunflower seeds into a spoonable dairy substitute? It’s a proprietary process, and Schumacher declined to disclose the details. However, he explains that it involves making the seeds into a milk-like liquid, heating the liquid up to pasteurize it, and then adding bacteria. “The product is truly alive and traditionally fermented,” he says.
“Competing products weren’t doing that,” says Mass. “It’s definitely more labor on our part to do traditional fermentation, [since the yogurt] has to sit overnight. But that’s important to us—for health reasons, to be probiotic, and for flavor. It’s reminiscent of dairy yogurt because of that fermentation.”
Sünabloom’s brief ingredient list—another thing that sets it apart from its competitors—also includes cassava flour, pectin, and maple syrup. But don’t expect a sweet taste, since most of the sugar is gobbled up by bacteria during the fermentation process.
“We decided to launch with a plain flavor,” Mass explains. “Our mission was to create a simple, plain, neutral flavor to use for savory or sweet things and doctor it up as you want. It allows consumers to do whatever they want with it.”
Sünabloom will be hitting the shelves at Wedge Co-op shortly, with plans to expand to other local co-ops and e-commerce. The yogurt already appears on menus at Northern Coffeeworks, French Meadow, and Piggy Bank, and will be debuting soon at Parallel, Segue Coffee, and Tao Foods.
“Restaurants need to have vegan alternatives, and we’re an easy fix for that,” says Mass. “Just throw it together with [plant-based] granola and you have a vegan option on your menu. We really want Minneapolis to be a place where any restaurant you go to, you have an option if you don’t eat animal products.”
Mass and Schumacher are also excited to see that Sünabloom is being used as a replacement for animal-based products in menu items aimed at everyone—not just those looking for vegan-friendly fare.
“At Northern Coffeeworks, they’re using it in place of eggs as binder,” Mass says. “They had baked goods that weren’t vegan and now they are. We're happy to be facilitating a shift.”
“That’s a profound shift,” emphasizes Schumacher. “They’re not just adding it in [as a vegan option]. Northern Coffeeworks removed non-vegan baked goods because they were able to use this as a substitute.”
Given the toll that the dairy industry takes on the environment, minimizing the use of animal-based products is something that helps everyone, not just vegans. “Any way we can try to reduce, to take people who would otherwise be consuming dairy and have them eat our product instead—that’s a victory for us,” Mass explains.
Parfait Away Sünabloom Launch Party
A-Mill Artist Lofts
315 SE Main St., Minneapolis
September 29, 2019, 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.