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Made-in-Buffalo nut milks

Kimberly Behzadi, a product manager for Elmhurst Milked, stands behind a counter at dig Buffalo, a co-working space designed for those in the early stages of a business or idea development. Entrepreneurs stream in for Buffalo Startup Weekend. As they prepare for three days of innovation, she’s here to introduce them to the brand’s line of non-dairy, plant-based milks — upstart products poised to shake up her own industry.

Based in Elma, Elmhurst Milked is owned by Steuben Foods and debuted in early 2017. The new brand quickly gained national attention for its vegan, all-natural varieties, all of which contain only a few ingredients: nuts, filtered water, cane sugar, salt and natural flavors.

“Our products offer you about four times as many nuts as the leading brands,” Behzadi said. “A lot of competitors fill it up with industrial pastes and dilute it with water. We’re bringing you the nutrition of the nut through Dr. Cheryl Mitchell’s patented cold milling technique.”

Mitchell, a food scientist and inventor, was brought onto the team by 83-year-old company president Henry Schwartz and developed a process to extract the protein, fat and micronutrients from nuts and other raw ingredients, creating a naturally fortified, creamy beverage — without any of the gums or emulsifiers found in many nut-based milks.

“Henry is a second-generation dairyman who grew up in the business,” Behzadi said. Schwartz’s Elmhurst Dairy plant, formerly based in Queens, closed in summer 2016 after 92 years in business. “He saw a change in the market and not only wanted to go into plant-based beverages, but also bring the most nutritious, beneficial product to the market.”

The brand launched with four varieties — almond, hazelnut, walnut and cashew — each with their own distinct flavor. Cashew, for example, is subtle and refreshing, great for a bowl of cereal; meanwhile, hazelnut is thicker with a more robust flavor, making it a good base for a delicious hot cocoa. Nutritionally, the almond variety has five grams of protein per serving compared with one gram in conventional brands like Silk or Almond Breeze.

Behzadi said public response has been largely positive and has generated feedback that is inspiring its next wave of products. After hearing requests for no added sugar or natural flavors, the company will soon begin selling unsweetened varieties of almond and hazelnut milk with just two ingredients: nuts and water. Also this year, Elmhurst will introduce milked peanuts and milked peanuts with chocolate, and two grain-based products, milked oats and milked brown rice, each of which contain 20 grams of whole grains per glass.

“We’re the first to bring [milked] peanuts to the market. The National Peanut Board is backing us, and we’re very excited about that,” Behzadi said. “I personally just love it in a protein shake — you’re getting protein, you’re getting chocolate.”

From there, the company is prepping Elmhurst Aquafaba, an egg replacement made from chickpeas, for release later in 2018, as well as additional products. Behzadi said Mitchell’s technique can be used to “milk” any grain, nut or seed.

“Elmhurst has a startup mentality, and we’re scrappy in a really great way,” she said. “We want to be the best out there, and we believe in continuous improvement and a product that gives you the full nutrition.”

Elmhurst Milked is available in Dash’s, Budwey’s, Feel Rite Fresh Markets, other local retailers and direct from Elmhurst1925.com.

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