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Interview with Better Bean founder

Hannah and Keith Kullberg

Better Bean is a product we love.  We asked them some questions to learn more about their products and how they got started.

How did your company get started?

Better Bean was born and raised in Oregon, starting with founder Keith Kullberg’s original recipe as a young college student at Oregon State University. Seeking a way to enjoy refried beans made with only plant-based ingredients, Keith developed a recipe that quickly became a favorite within his family years later. The only issue – it took nearly an entire day to prepare his beans from scratch!

Noticing that freshly prepared beans were not made available in stores, Keith and his daughters launched Better Bean in local stores and Portland farmers markets in 2010. Now sold nationwide, Better Bean strives to bring easy, tasty, healthy beans to all.

Tell us about the different products you have?

Better Bean offers a variety of freshly prepared, tasty bean products sold in the refrigerated section. Products range from various 15 oz beans, such as the Skillet Refried Red Beans, to 2.5 oz single-serve bean dips for snacking.

What makes your beans different?

We take care in every step of sourcing and making our beans. Starting with sourcing from NW regional farms that practice sustainable farming. These nutrient-rich beans are soaked to ensure their nutrients are available. We slow cook & infuse the beans with flavor from organic & regional vegetables. Finally, we add apple cider vinegar that further makes the beans easier to digest.

Can you tell us about the ingredients you use?

We source our ingredients from organic or sustainable farms as they grow better flavor. Our recipes are naturally delicious and nutrient-rich, not relying on sodium, fat, sugar (or worse, chemical additives) for flavor.

How about certifications?

All of Better Bean products are certified Non-GMO and Gluten-Free certified. In addition to these certifications, the product and facility are Soy-Free, Nut-Free, and Vegan. We know consumers value high-quality, organic products – that’s why Better Bean has recently added  2.5 oz single-serve bean dips that are both Certified Organic.

How can people use Better Bean products in their everyday life?

Beans are a delicious source of plant-based protein and can be a part of any meal! Whether you enjoy them as an appetizer with tortilla chips, as the star of your main course in a burrito bowl or tacos, or as a side dish that pulls the meal together – beans have a way of being extremely versatile.

Does Better Bean have any new news?

We are excited to announce Better Bean Uncanny Refried Black Beans are now carried by Imperfect FoodsBetter Bean from Wilsonville, Oregon, makes fresh, kettle-cooked, ready-to-eat beans sold in deli tubs. They are a long-time supporter of the Seattle VegFest.


Better Bean’s Uncanny Refried Black Beans & Dip

Better Bean’s Uncanny Refried Black Beans & Dip

Better Bean is happy to join a fantastic plant-based foods lineup from Imperfect Foods! Add a mixture of plant-based goodies to complement your produce order! Use code ‘BETTERBEAN’ for 30% off your first box from Imperfect Foods!

Vegan chocolate market growing

Pascha chocolate bars

The vegan chocolate market is experiencing very strong growth. In the last two years, leading chocolate brands including Hershey’s and Cadbury’s have launched vegan chocolate bars, as consumers continue to seek out dairy-free options for health, environmental, and reasons of compassion. According to a new report, it’s a sign of things to come as the vegan chocolate market should reach $1 billion in sales globally by 2027.

The vegan chocolate and vegan “milk” chocolate market was built by small companies such as Zazubean, Pascha and Theo just to mention a few. It’s notable that a selection of sugar-free vegan chocolates are now available, with herbal sweeteners such as stevia. After seeing their success, larger companies are entering the market. Cadbury’s has made the announcement that it was launching a vegan chocolate and Hershey’s announced the launch of its oat milk chocolate bars last year.

“Millennials and the working population are highly adopting the vegan culture, which is estimated to surge the demand for [vegan chocolate]” reads the report. Data continue to show that consumers are not only seeking out sustainable and healthier options, but they’re willing to pay a premium for products that are responsibly sourced and sustainable. Consumers are also shifting away from dairy for health reasons. An estimated 65 percent of people suffer from lactose intolerance. In some Asian demographics it can be as high as 100 percent, according to a 2017 study. The report predicts America will drive the bulk of the sales, even as countries like the U.K. have been leading the shift to plant-based food overall. According to the report, “The growing vegan population is anticipated to surge the market growth,” reads the report.

Celebrate National Veggie Burger Day!

Impossible Burger

When it comes to combining flavor and plant power, National Veggie Burger Day every year on June 5th proclaims it can be done!

Packed with flavor, protein, and nutrients, veggie burgers show up at backyard barbecues, tailgate parties, and on the menus of even high-class restaurants. Grill them, fry them or bake them. Layer all your favorite toppings like onion, tomato, Romaine lettuce, ketchup, and mustard between a crusty roll or bun and take a big juicy bite. That’s one way to celebrate this flavorful day.

Don’t hesitate to add your favorite side dishes, too. For example, grilled cauliflower or broccoli, a zucchini noodle salad, or roasted vegetable salad with quinoa. Other options include grilled corn on the cob and sweet potatoes. Round out the meal with a crisp, cool beverage to complement your veggie burger.

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Vegetarian Thanksgiving Recipes

Here’s a special selection of Vegetarian Thanksgiving Recipes for the holidays:

Bryanna’s Squash with Wild Rice and Chanterelle Stuffing

almost-no-fat-holiday-cookbookfrom “The Almost No-Fat Holiday Cookbook” by Bryanna Clark Grogan, reprinted with permission.  Serves 6

If you’d like to make a colorful stuffed winter squash the centerpiece and main dish of your vegetarian Thanksgiving, choose a large, meaty pumpkin; Boston marrow squash; turban squash; hubbard squash; banana squash; or the pale blue-grey New Zealand squash, which is my favorite. Read more

New vegan menu options

Many restaurants are recognizing that they need to have tasty vegan options to appeal to those who are already vegan or vegetarian. They are also hoping to entice meat-eaters to give these options a try. The latest restaurant chains to add vegan meat substitutes include Donatos Pizza and Chipotle Mexican Grill.

Donatos Pizza is introducing Vegan Pepperoni at nearly 170 locations nationwide, including right here in the northwest. The family owned pizza brand announced the new plant-based pepperoni launch this month in partnership with the plant-based meat brand, Field Roast. It all came about from a desire for the Donatos team to find a way to help their customers achieve their New Year’s resolutions. A lot of people aspire to eat more veggies, so Donatos Pizza decided to roll out plant-based pepperoni as an easy substitute for animal-based pepperoni.

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Starbucks launches Greener Stores

We may be seeing a lot more plant-based options from Starbucks in the near future thanks to its new “Greener Stores” concept – Starbucks’ sustainability campaign that aims to open 10,000 environmentally conscious stores by 2025. Starbucks is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and experimenting with sustainable, especially plant-based food and beverage options. Launched in 2017 alongside the World Wildlife Fund, the program intends to focus on promoting ethically sourced menus and prioritizing sustainable practice. That means more plant-based options.

For instance, at the Starbucks Shanghai Greener Store, over half the menu is plant-based. Oatmilk is used as the default option for most beverages. Starbucks has also introduced two new plant-based beverages, available for a limited time only – Salted Caramel Breve and Salted Caramel Flat White. The store offers a scrumptious variety of plant-based food offerings, including the debut of 15 new food items. A range of plant-based bakery, wraps, sandwiches, salads, cakes and pastries are available to satisfy customers’ craving at any time of the day.

The Greener Stores concept falls under Starbucks’ mission to cut its carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and they want to enhance its new planet-positive practices in order to achieve that goal. CEO Kevin Johnson recognizes the rising demand for sustainable and plant-based options in consumers worldwide, and says that the company would strive to meet this changing demand. “If I were to say what is probably the most dominant shift in consumer behavior, [it] is this whole shift to plant-based [products],” Johnson said. “And that is a shift both in beverage and in food.”

This all sounds pretty good. But it would sound even better if its Shanghai store were followed by one in Seattle. Come on Starbucks!

Vegan Bolognese in Costco

Vegan Bolognese is now available across fifty Costco stores in California and Hawaii and let’s hope in Washington as well soon. The meal is made with rigatoni, a Bolognese sauce made with vegan “beef”, herbs, and tomatoes, and topped with Violife parmesan “cheese.” The talent behind this culinary creations is a chef with a local connection, Ayinde Howell.

Ayinde’s family has a long history of creating vegan food. His parents started the vegan sandwich shop, Quickie Too, in his home town of Tacoma, which is now run by his mother and eldest sister, Afi. Ayinde himself ran former restaurant, Hillside Quickies Vegan Sandwich Shop, located in Seattle’s University District, before he moved to New York and became a celebrity chef. His sister Makini Howell runs the Plum brand restaurants in Seattle, including Plum Bistro and Plum Cafe on Capitol Hill, Plum Pantry in the Seattle Center, and Plum Burger, a vegan food truck.

Howell has become a transformational vegan chef from coast to coast. He envisions vegan cooking as a cuisine in its own right – not merely a cooking style which uses vegetables and grains to imitate fake meats and dairy. He specializes in vegan soul food, raw cuisine, and new American cooking.

Ayinde says, “Cooking satisfied one part of my need for creativity and it has always been my anchor.” However, recently he has added the performing arts as an outlet to his creativity. Ayinde has advice for the vegan chef in all of us:  “The food has to taste good, have texture, and be healthy.” 

The vegan Bolognese is yet another product in the growing vegan food industry, giving us more and more delicious, healthy, compassionate and sustainable food choices. Thank you, Ayinde, for adding some cool soul to the vegan repertoire.  We can’t wait to see what you’ll cook up next!

Cooking with Amanda – Harvest Vegetables

We’re always being told to eat more vegetables, but how do you do that? In this series, we’ll explore different ways of preparing vegetables to create new and interesting dishes.

Cooking with Cauliflower

In Class 1, Amanda talks about the many health benefits of cauliflower, and its flexibility as an ingredient. She shows how to roast cauliflower florets and steaks, how to make a cauliflower and potato curry, and how to make cauliflower cheese.

Get the recipes:  Cooking with Cauliflower

Cooking with Eggplant

In Class 2, Amanda talks about the importance of soluble fiber, and shows how to prepare eggplant steaks and spicy sichuan eggplant with tofu.

Get the recipes:  Cooking with Eggplant

Cooking with Zucchini

In Class 3, Amanda talks about the many ways that zucchini can be prepared, and demonstrates how to make Ratatouille and Zucchini noodles with pesto.

Get the recipe Cooking with Zucchini

Cooking with Broccoli

In this class, Amanda talks about the health benefits of broccoli, and demonstrates how to make a creamy broccoli soup with broccoli, potatoes, onions and celery. She also demonstrates a broccoli salad with green lentils, broccoli, celery, scallions, fresh Italian parsley, and a lemon juice and rice vinegar dressing with maple syrup. Fresh baby greens pumpkin seeds and avocado are added just before serving.

Get the recipe – Cooking with Broccoli

Cooking with Kale

In this class, Amanda talks about the health benefits of kale, and demonstrates how to make crispy kale chips and a delicious pasta dish with kale, mushrooms, black beans, onions, garlic and ginger.

Get the recipe: Cooking with Kale

Cooking with Oats

The first meal most people think of when they hear the word “oats” is Oatmeal for breakfast, and with good reason.  A substantial, warming breakfast, loaded with fruit to add sweetness and extra nutrition, is a very healthy start to the day on a cold winter’s morning.

The nutritional benefit comes in particular from the soluble fiber which has been shown to help lower cholesterol, stabilize blood sugar, reduce the risk of some cancers and increase the resistance to infections, among other things.  Oats also have substantial mineral content, being particularly high in manganese and selenium.

Oats are roasted after being harvested and cleaned, which helps give them their distinctive flavor. They are then hulled, but this doesn’t remove all the bran and germ, so they keep much of their nutritional value. They are processed by steaming and rolling (rolled oats), slicing thinly (steel-cut oats), partially cooking (instant oats), or grinding (oat flour) to give them the consistency and cooking time required.  Watch out for the additional sugar and salt often added to instant oats which makes for a quicker, but less nutritious breakfast.

In addition to breakfast cereals, oats are often used in cookies and cobblers, and oat flour can be used to make cookies, pies and muffins.  Since the natural fats in oats can go rancid, it is best to buy oats in smaller quantities and store them in the refrigerator if you’re not using them regularly.

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Hershey’s launches vegan chocolate bars

Hershey’s is testing a vegan chocolate bar made with oat milk. While some dark chocolate bars are naturally vegan, many are not, and of course milk chocolate is very rarely vegan.  Some smaller companies, such as Pascha, have come out with high quality vegan milk chocolate bars, but this is the first time we’re aware of that a major brand has launched a vegan milk chocolate.

The new line of Hershey’s Oat Made bars will come in flavors such as Classic Dark and Extra Creamy Almond & Sea Salt with each oat milk-based bar clearly labeled vegan.  The Oat Made line is part of a real-time marketing test Hershey’s is conducting and the new vegan chocolate bars will be available at very limited retailers, including select Target locations, nationwide starting this month and through June 2022, a Hershey’s spokesperson confirmed.

Hershey’s is working on producing more “Better for you” brands, including plant-based options, through both research and acquisition of new products.  Its vegan chocolate bar is a part of this program. “We are the leader in US confection, and our consumers rely on us to understand their needs for everyday moments, seasons and special occasions, offering high-quality and great tasting candy that’s accessible for everyone,” Kristen Riggs, Chief Growth Officer at Hershey, said. “Expanding our expertise, building new capabilities, and delivering more choices in better-for-you confection is the next big category opportunity for us to lead.”

The new Hershey’s Oat Made chocolate bars are currently available online at Target, if you’d like to give them a try. Pascha chocolate is available at PCC Community Markets, Marlene’s Market, and some other natural food stores.

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