Side Dishes: Vermont sends bean curd to Beantown
While the Hardwick-based Vermont Milk Company continues to struggle, its nearby faux-milk counterpart, the Vermont Soy Company, is reporting record growth. According to co-owner Andrew Meyer, the bean-team just inked a deal with Whole Foods to distribute its original, vanilla and chocolate soymilks in 11 of the chain’s Boston-area stores. “We’ve been demo-ing down there and getting people to try the soymilk,” Meyer relates. “It’s fun to see Vermont products on the shelves and get people to try it and see the connection between Vermont and high quality.”
Meyer hopes that in the next couple of weeks, Whole Foods will also start stocking VSC’s newest product, introduced at the end of July: retail-sized packages of extra-firm tofu made entirely from Vermont-grown organic soy beans. “The packaging has unbelievable marketing power,” Meyer enthuses. “There’s a cutout of Vermont, and you can see the tofu through that and feel it.” In the Green Mountain State, you can procure the stir-fry-ready protein packs at co-ops and natural food stores, or taste the product at restaurants such as Magnolia Bistro, Skinny Pancake, Penny Cluse and New Moon.
Until recently, the company only offered tofu in bulk buckets, but the VSC folks had concerns about the cost and environmental impact of shipping huge pails filled with water. Though the smaller portions might seem to “use a lot of packaging,” Meyer remarks, “each bulk container has a plastic bucket, a plastic liner and all that water.”
What does Meyer have to say about the ailing Vermont Milk Company? Though he chooses not to speculate on the venture’s viability, he does hope its Hardwick factory will continue to be a resource for local producers: “We keep talking about diversifying and adding value to products. The plant that exists in Hardwick is a critical component of that. If we really want to promote and develop economies based around ag in Vermont, we can’t send everything out of Vermont to be processed.”