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Making dairy-free her bread and butter

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Entrepreneur Alyson Thompson was highly motivated when she began to explore how to create Cedarberry Foods’ popular plant-based butter.

Ms Thompson, who has a dairy allergy, gave up eating butter reluctantly.

She said: “Using butter was my very favourite thing. Bread and butter is my favourite food.”

Vegan butters on the market were oil-based, so Ms Thompson began to research European butter-making techniques, testing and experimenting and taking her creations to dinners with friends.

She said: “I wanted options for myself, but also for other people.

“With the pandemic, I had a perspective shift – I wanted to invest in this idea I had for butter.

“I had been trading it for bread and vegetables – it was famous at pot lucks.”

The filmmaker-turned-food producer eventually came up with the formula and process for making Cedarberry’s signature product.

The dairy-free, gluten-free butter’s ingredients are cultured cashew milk that Ms Thompson creates, coconut oil, grapeseed oil, soy lecithin, carrots from Hideaway Farms in St David’s, and salt.

Ms Thompson said: “It works like butter in every capacity. You can spread it on toast, you can melt it, it browns, you can freeze it and you can cut it into pastry crust.

“I haven’t found what you can’t do with it, but I’m willing to experiment with any chef out there.”

Island Pantry, the mini-supermarket on Serpentine Road in Pembroke, became the first retailer to stock the product last May.

Ms Thompson said: “I got in touch because they sold bread.

“They have everything that bread loves in one store.

“They have been incredibly supportive. They took it first and it was a gateway to everywhere else. It has sold consistently well everywhere since then.”

The product is also available at Miles Market, Wadson’s Farm, Harrington Hundreds, Windybank Farm, Adventist Book Centre, Plant-based Vegan Grocery Store, both Lindo’s locations, and via Pronto and Drop It Delivery.

James Wambui, executive chef at The Cloud at The Waterfront, used the butter in the restaurant’s winter pumpkin and sage brown butter risotto, and also in a rose jalapeño truffle chive-flavoured butter for a special event, Ms Thompson said.

She added: “He has been a great support, and a mentor.

“I am very thankful for the Cloud relationship as well. They see it as something more than just a vegan option.”

Ms Thompson, a graduate of Ignite Bermuda and now acting in a mentorship role as a resident adviser with the entrepreneurial accelerator, said buyers of the butter are not necessarily consumers of plant-based foods – and include a woman who said she used it to baste lamb.

She said: “I’m finding about 70 per cent are not plant-based, and 30 per cent are.”

Ms Thompson added: “You don’t have to be vegan to enjoy this. I didn’t set out to make the vegans more vegan.

“Some people just like it. Food should taste good, primarily.”

By last December, Ms Thompson had created Cedarberry’s plant-based nog drink for the holiday season consisting of cashew milk, sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.

The positive reaction to the product, which was available from December 1 to December 24, was instant.

Ms Thompson said: “It was very intense – I wasn’t expecting it.

“It was supposed to be a test and people were coming back and getting 10 bottles at a time.

“Towards the end of the period, I couldn’t sell enough – I couldn’t keep up with demand.

“People who bought it on the first day, bought it every day until the 24th and told their friends, who told their friends, who told their friends. It grew exponentially.

“It’s seasonal, but people still reach out and ask for it.”

Ms Thompson said she is lining up more vendors to stock the nog this year.

She added: “It will also come out a little earlier.”

Ms Thompson, who earned an MA in media studies at The New School in New York City, worked in the film industry before her return to the island in 2014.

“I am interested in cinema – I haven’t given up that dream,” she says.

At home, Ms Thompson ran the gardening programme at Kaleidoscope Arts Foundation for three years.

Now full-time as an entrepreneur, Ms Thompson said she spent last year introducing Cedarberry’s products to the market.

Going forward, she plans to develop additional flavours for both the plant-based butter and nog, adding: “This year, it’s all about growth.”

Alyson Thompson of Cedarberry Foods (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
On the shelf: Cedarberry Foods’ plant-based butter at Island Pantry (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published June 06, 2022 at 8:00 am (Updated June 05, 2022 at 7:43 pm)

Making dairy-free her bread and butter

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