As the name suggests, buttermilk was made from the cultured cream leftover from the butter-making process. Was, being the keyword. With little sacrifice in its taste, modern buttermilk is made through a fermentation process in which cultures are added to low-fat or whole-fat milk. The result is a versatile product that is not only a popular beverage but a key ingredient in salad dressings, baked goods, pancakes, and a laundry list of other food.
The brain trust at Mill It Farms with an accent on brains, blended art, and science to create plant-based, vegan-friendly buttermilk that uses the fermentation of ancient grains to create a standalone beverage and salad dressing line. Mill It Farms Bill Myers, a food scientist who combines practical knowledge with keen market awareness, has taken on the challenge of developing a buttermilk substitute with a universal appeal.
Bill Myers’s dad, a food scientist, was developing a plant-based yogurt for Califia Farms when the two men realized buttermilk represented a significant whitespace in the plant-based market. “It’s like a little bit crazy that no one’s done this yet,” Myers told The Spoon in a recent interview.” With all the plant-based growth, there hasn’t been buttermilk (especially given) how many things buttermilk goes into.”
Aside from the success Mill It has found with offering buttermilk as a standalone beverage, it has a role in the three salad dressings the company provides. A Classic Ranch, Creamy Italian, and Thousand Islands are emerging as competitors to long-standing brands such as Follow Your Heart and Daiya, which contain sugar, cultured dextrose, and natural flavors.
Myers points out that the aim of vegan products, such as salad dressings, that claim to offer clean, healthy alternatives often fall short. “A lot of the early plant-based dressings would take out buttermilk and replace it with hydrogenated oils high in calories and high in fat.”
Myers adds, “I think that’s one of the biggest problems in the plant-based space right now is, you know, people who want to eat plant-based typically are people who are trying to eat clean and trying to eat healthily. They also are trying to eat fewer calories because they’re really kind of monitoring their diet. But a lot of the early like alternatives in the space is high in calories, high in fat, and high in sugar”
To create a sustainable substitute for dairy, Myers went back to a college food science project involving baking and landed on ancient grains such as millet and sorghum. “With ancient grains, there’s a lot of benefits. One is that there are much more sustainable, and they can grow in arid climates. And so it makes sourcing a lot more efficient. “Our costs are lower because they don’t require as many resources, but it also allows it’s also a lot better for the planet.”
Grains also work well as a fermentation substrate, Myers said. With the proper fermentation process, the resulting buttermilk replicates the taste, consistency, and acidity of products made from a dairy source.
MIll It Farms’ vegan buttermilk and buttermilk dressings are now sold in hundreds of retail locations across the country, including Whole Foods, Krogers, and Sprouts.