We interviewed Andrea Orazi, co-founder of The Chufa Co. We found out what makes tigernut milk a great alternative to dairy, her best advice for running a business with a spouse, and why she tries to demo every weekend.
Tigernut isn’t really a nut! Is it a challenge to get the nut-free community to try it?
That name has given us so much grief! We definitely get some horrified ‘no thanks’ during demos when we offer people some tigernut milk. But the vast majority of people are curious and interested and want to try something new (even if it sounds like a wild animal’s freshly pressed you-know-whats!).
What does tigernut taste like?
Like tigernuts! But if you’ve never tried a tigernut, you might say they taste a bit like coconut, cantaloupe, and almonds.
Why haven’t we all heard of tigernut before?
That’s a great question. And the short answer is, I don’t know. I think they are definitely a challenging ingredient – they are very fibrous and can feel like chewing cardboard when you eat them raw and unsoaked. But when they are processed into milk, they really shine, especially since they are the closest tasting non-dairy milk we’ve yet tried. I really do think you’ll start hearing a lot more about them.
Is tigernut a superfood?
Tigernuts are super-tubers! They really do have a lot of functional properties, the most important being the resistant starch (RS) content. RS is a prebiotic fibre that resists digestions and makes its way to your large intestine to feed the good bacteria in your gut. We like to think of resistant starch as the fertilizer for the garden in your gut. On top of its prebiotic properties, tigernuts are high in iron, potassium, and really do make you feel satiated. They are also suitable for diabetics because they are low on the glycemic index.
Why drink tigernut milk instead of another dairy-free milk?
For a couple of reasons – if you like dairy, it’s very similar to 1% milk and a lot of people are looking for nut-free/soy-free alternatives. You really don’t feel like you’re compromising. Second – no additives (boxed almond and other nut milks are usually full of fillers and stabilizers). And third, it really does provide a lot of health benefits and does a gut good!
What’s the weirdest way you use your tigernut milk?
In a peanut butter thai dipping sauce (if you bring it to a boil it turns into a jelly like gloop, but if you warm it, it gets nice and thick and is the perfect thickening agent).
What’s your biggest advice for running a business with your spouse?
Don’t. Hahaha. I don’t actually mean that!
I think it’s really about treating one another like you would another colleague or partner. This isn’t our first business together, we also run a small video production company that is very much client facing, so we learned really quickly to treat each other professionally when we are at work (but somehow our clients always guess we are a couple!). It’s also really helpful to schedule meetings with one another to discuss the business rather than try to do it when we are at home and in full parent mode. Because that is just impossible, and pretty unfair to our kids as well.
Do you like running a business – Or would you rather just be making your milks?
I love running a business! And I never make milk! Scott’s the milkman (even though I’m the cook at home!). Making the milk is technical and precise and Scott is great at all those things. But entrepreneurship runs in my family and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else!
What’s the biggest challenge as a new product trying to get shelf space?
We haven’t actually had that difficult a time getting shelf space! The challenge is staying on those shelves! Every week we worry that our orders will decrease, and knock on wood, it’s not been the case. There are ups and downs, but people still seem to like the product. But if I’m not doing a demo, I feel like I’m not doing my job. Getting customers to try the milk is our main priority.
Do you make cold calls?
All the time! Sometimes we hear back and people are really engaged and love it and it leads to a new retailer, and other times, we’ll drop off samples and not even get a thanks, but no thanks. You definitely have to have thick skin and be willing to put yourself (and your product) out there.
Do demos and sampling at retailers work?
I really hope so! I feel like that’s where we need to be, all the time. Honestly, if there’s a weekend we don’t have one booked, I panic. We have such a unique product with a higher price point – not everyone will want to spend the money to just try something they may not like. A demo lets you reach those shoppers who may never have tried it and but when they do, will love it! (Agreed – demos are so important! Here are our tips for thriving at trade shows.)
If you could sit down over a glass of tigernut milk with anyone, who would it be?
Ooh, that question is tough. To be honest, I love sitting down with the food scientist we work with at The University of Guelph. I could sit with him for hours! We obviously have a lot or work to do if we want to get our product on shelves across the country/continent because of its short shelf life, and there are so many innovative, clean and novel processing techniques out there. U of G is really at the forefront of this research. So although we do get to sit with Keith, it’s never long enough!