Source: Fora Foods Kickstarter campaign.
With every can of chickpeas comes the all-too-familiar viscous liquid that most folks dump down the drain without a second thought. But this forgotten fluid has a name: aquafaba. It also has a growing cult following as a versatile, protein-packed ingredient within the plant-based sustainable food movement.
Aquafaba has been used for years by vegan home cooks (and ReGrained's Chef Phil) as an emulsifier and egg substitute in everything from cookie recipes to latte foam. And now Fora Foods, a plant-based food startup committed to substituting factory-farmed dairy, has found a way to upcycle this edible by-product at an industrial level. Their first product, FabaButter, is a vegan butter substitute that’s already been lauded as the perfect 1:1 butter substitute by Michelin-star chefs. Its key ingredient? You guessed it: aquafaba, collected through partnerships with hummus companies who might otherwise waste thousands of gallons of it every day.
We had the opportunity to ask Aidan Altman, co-founder of Fora Foods and one the masterminds behind FabaButter, some questions about aquafaba waste, the future of Fora Foods, and their ongoing Kickstarter campaign.
How did Fora Foods initially start?
My business partner, Andrew, and I met at the University of Michigan and moved to Chicago together after graduating in 2015. Being highly involved in the food world, we both began to care more and more about sustainable food systems. We began to feel that we had an incredible opportunity (maybe even a burden) to bring a new product to market that could help in the collective mission to fundamentally shift the paradigm in how we view food through a more sustainable lens. And so, our first product, FabaButter, was born.
We believe that, by providing the first ever true 1:1 replacer to dairy-butter, and leveraging our respective networks in the food industry to launch at mass scale, we have an opportunity to truly make a difference.
Source: Fora Foods Kickstarter campaign.
How did you discover and eventually decide to use aquafaba? Was there any kind of "Aha!" moment?
The aquafaba movement is very interesting. The entire scope of the community, roughly 300,000 strong, exists across 5 or 6 Facebook groups. The main Aquafaba Facebook page got started as an offshoot from the vegan community – my interest in the vegan food world led me to stumble upon it. While we were formulating FabaButter, I remembered that Aquafaba could be used as an emulsifier and figured we'd try it out. And of course, it worked perfectly!
Now, we upcycle our Aquafaba from hummus manufacturers (who produce hundreds of thousands of tons of it – everyday) and save them from pouring it down the drain.
What are the nutritional and functional benefits of aquafaba?
When chickpeas sit in a can or are boiled in a pot, the starches and proteins migrate from the chickpeas to the water, resulting in a by-product that acts as a totally clean label emulsifier. Aquafaba is the star of our FabaButter because it allows our product to act like butter (i.e. hold its form and not separate), all while adding a nice depth in flavor that makes our product unmistakably similar to dairy-butter.
Donuts made with, as Fora Foods calls it, "FabaButter magic." Source: Fora Foods Kickstarter campaign.
Does Fora have any big dreams to expand to other products in addition to FabaButter? Will these products also have a sustainability or food waste focus?
Our ultimate goal with Fora is to replace unsustainable dairy factory farms. The average dairy factory farm uses 3.4 million gallons of water, and pumps roughly 325,500 pounds of methane into the atmosphere every day. And of course, this is to say nothing of the animal rights abuses. It's about time this archaic model be disrupted with a more sustainable system – and that's what we're doing at Fora with our dairy-alternatives. From FabaButter, we'll make a host of other analogues to traditional dairy products. So, keep an eye out!
FabaButter melts and cooks like real butter, all while upcycling hummus companies’ typically-wasted tons of aquafaba. You can be one of the first to try Aidan and Andrew’s delicious and sustainable product by supporting their Kickstarter campaign, which ends soon. We can’t wait to taste it, and to see everything else Fora Foods comes up with!