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Ellie Wells and Tosh Nakagawa had been working together in the dairy industry for more than a decade. After switching to plant-based diets for health and animal welfare reasons, the duo has decided to launch a vegan cultured drink company called Yoi.
Switch for the planet
Ellie Wells and Tosh Nakagawa decided to limit their dairy and meat products to improve their health, support the welfare of animals, and to promote a sustainable way of living.
“We saw the opportunity and thought, ‘How can we apply our knowledge and experience in cultured dairy foods to create healthy and tasty plant-based cultured foods?’” said co-founder Nakagawa in a statement.
Yoi, which means good in Japanese, has just launched its Probiotic Nut and Seedmilks in local independent retailers in the San Francisco Bay Area. The flavoured beverages are created in small batches and use organic ingredients like almonds, coconut and pumpkin seeds.
“We’re thrilled with the beverage that we created,” shared Wells, co-founder of Yoi. “It was a non-negotiable for us that Yoi is organic and with a great nutritional profile — a high count of probiotics plus prebiotic fiber and plant protein, without added sugar — while also tasting good. So we went through quite a few different ideas and iterations before we landed on the products we wanted to bring to market.”
Declining dairy industry
The US$700 billion dollar dairy industry has been facing a crisis as an increasing amount of consumers are demanding sustainable plant-based alternatives. This is due to the health awareness spurred by the pandemic and for a greater need to protect the interests of the environment. In the U.S. alone, two of the largest dairy manufactures have gone bankrupt.
According to GRAIN, the top 10 dairy companies of the world are contributing carbon emissions that are equivalent to France’s total carbon emissions. The industry is linked to damaged soil, ocean pollution, and misuse of land resources.
We saw the opportunity and thought, ‘How can we apply our knowledge and experience in cultured dairy foods to create healthy and tasty plant-based cultured foods
Tosh Nakagawa, co-founder, Yoi
Yoi relies on the ancient art and techniques of Japanese fermentation and the concept of ikigai. Nakagawa added: “Ikigai means ‘your reason for being,’ or what gets you out of bed in the morning. We want to make products that help people feel good so that they can do good. That is our ikigai.”
In a virtual symposium conducted by the Good Food Institute (GFI), experts from the alternative protein sector highlighted the critical role of fermentation in feeding 10 billion people through a sustainable food system by 2050.
It was a non-negotiable for us that Yoi is organic and with a great nutritional profile — a high count of probiotics plus prebiotic fiber and plant protein, without added sugar
Ellie Wells, co-founder, Yoi
The beverage is offered in flavours like strawberry, vanilla bean, pineapple and cacao nib.
Lead image courtesy of Yoi.