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Photos: Coquitlam company's (very tasty) 'alt-yogurt' wins two B.C. awards

Founder Jade Herrmann, who was named the 2022 woman entrepreneur of the year by BC Food and Beverage, said her goal is to provide a choice for everyone — even picky eaters.

You can't taste the difference, but you can definitely taste the success in Jade Herrmann's alternative yogurt.

So much so that the Coquitlam businessperson has been recognized twice at the provincial level for her efforts to create an environment- and economic-friendly product that everyone can enjoy.

Especially those that may not go directly to the natural or plant-based section.

Herrmann and Yoggu! were double-winners at the 2022 BC Food and Beverage Awards on Nov. 3, claiming woman entrepreneur of the year and emerging business of the year.

In 2017, Herrmann was living a vegan lifestyle and, to offset what was branded on shelves at the time, and concocted what she believed was a "better way" for a non-dairy yogurt that was also tasty.

"I had spent a year living in France eating very decadent, that creamy yogurt. And so that really served as my inspiration because I wanted to essentially make the same thing but totally plant based," she explained in an interview with the Tri-City News.

"And so that's really what Yoggu! is. It's made with, you know, a handful of ingredients that has actually been fermented.... We use traditional techniques to create a really creamy thick yogurt."

Fast forward to March 2022, when, after searching for a place to do business and production, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, the now 29-year-old's alt-yogurt is stocked on shelves across the country.

The product is manufactured, fermented, packaged and shipped from its 12,500 sq. ft. facility in Coquitlam's industrial area.

"The response has been great," said Herrmann, adding she's learned that alt-yogurt consumers have compromised in recent years.

"The plant based options haven't been very tasty. And so when we came out, it's been really great to see how much our product has really impacted a lot of people's lives, because they never actually thought they would be able to taste a creamy, thick yogurt again. So, to be able to make a product like that has been really positive."

How does it taste?

I got the chance to sample Herrmann's yogurt during a tour of Yoggu!'s facility on Wednesday (Nov. 9).

In the opinion of this reporter, who admittedly doesn't purchase plant-based foods, its creamy texture, coupled with raspberries for sweetness, is a delicious, refreshing treat and if you like coconut, it's certainly worth the try.

Guests in attendance included B.C. agriculture minister Lana Popham, and James Donaldson (CEO) and Alisa Hutton (COO) with BC Food and Beverage, who all agreed the alt-yogurt met the standards of all tastebuds.

B.C. agriculture minister Lana Popham (right) tastes Yoggu!'s alt-yogurt at its production facility in Coquitlam alongside company founder Jade Herrmann. Kyle Balzer, Tri-City News

And, even better, Herrmann explained the coconut cream is from a Fairtrade supplier in Sri Lanka.

"We source only organic coconut cream, which is what makes up the bulk of our product. And because we ferment, which is how you get all of that beneficial, you know, probiotic bacteria, we can ensure that is a living probiotic at the end when the product hits shelves."

Yoggu! has four flavours on local shelves — original, vanilla, strawberry and mango — and Herrmann said you can top it off with just about anything to satisfy your cravings.

But above all, she said her business is striving to offer an enriching alternative to big brand yogurt options, despite the rising cost of living and consumers feeling the pinch at grocery stores.

"There are definitely challenges to the economy and the shift that's happening right now. And, you know, for us, we really just have to use that as an opportunity," Herrmann remarked.

"[We] need to continue to educate people about our product, because there's various reasons why someone should choose Yoggu! over another option. And I think the most important one is the probiotics that we have in our product, because it's something that everybody needs. And it's easier to justify the price point for that, especially because it has to do with your gut health."

Community leadership

Herrmann also admits there's a responsibility to carrying the title of "woman entrepreneur of the year" from BC food and Beverage.

She said she hopes to use the honour to encourage future female leaders in the industry.

"There weren't a lot of people like me in the space. So I think that really just being normal every day person, you know, that can really serve as some sort of inspiration for other people trying to start out, whether it's in business or in general....I do think that food is such an important vessel for change in this world. I'll keep doing what I can do to keep inspiring the next generation."

As well, Soul Bite Food was also recognized at the BC Food and Beverage Awards Night.

The Coquitlam start-up company received the society's 2022 sustainability award as a leader in "environmental passion and dedication."

Soul Bite funds projects across Metro Vancouver dedicated to fighting hunger and combating food waste around the world by donating 50 per cent of profits through the Immigrant Link Centre Society (ILCS) — the company's charitable organization.

The company is represented by 15 different nationalities and uses traditional cooking methods to bring its vegan, plant-based appetizers to local store shelves.