Hälsa is Swedish for health, and stands for healthier people and healthier planet. The company, which has been on the US market for little over a year now with its 100% clean probiotic oatmilk yogurts, announced last month it is working with dairy farmers to offer the opportunity to convert from dairy farming to growing organic oats.
We were very pleased to speak with co-founders of Hälsa, Helena Lumme (President) and Mika Manninen (CEO) about this fascinating and forward-looking brand and what makes their products completely different from the rest.
What makes Hälsa different from other oatmilk yogurts?
There are several things that set us apart.
First, our 100% clean innovation, a revolutionarily simple process that allows us to make plant-based products without a single artificial ingredient. Our 100% clean promise means three things: organic, sustainably grown ingredients, clean process and clean label.
Second, Hälsa is the only oatmilk yogurt made from whole grain oats. Nothing natural is removed, nothing artificial is added. Our yogurts are all-organic, have no added sugar, no artificial sugars, no dairy, and no GMOs. They are delicious and truly nourishing.
Third is our commitment to the environment. Every step from growing to harvesting the oats to manufacturing is designed to leave the smallest possible water and carbon footprint.
What inspired you to create Hälsa?
When we started to plan Hälsa five years ago it was clear to us that in few years the plant-based market would explode.
At the first stage of the plant-based boom manufacturers would rush to push anything to the market, regardless of how highly processed, or regardless the environmental harm.
As the plant-based market matures however, consumers will grow more critical and ask how healthy the products truly are, and how sustainably the ingredients are grown. When the dust settles, only the best are left standing.
We designed Hälsa to be the future of plant-based, and the one left standing.
Can you tell us about how oatmilks are made?
Most oat milks on the market are made using a first-generation technology called enzymatic hydrolysis (yes, it’s as complicated as it sounds). It’s a chemical-heavy process that alters the composition of oats by turning oat starch to sugar, in a process that resembles the making of high-fructose corn syrup.
Consumers believe they’re getting the healthy benefits of oats, but unfortunately that’s not the case. Artificial ingredients used in the process and added to the recipe kill the good bacteria in the gut, so the oatmilks are actually harmful to your gut-health.
“There’s got to be a better way,” we thought. So we spent four years creating a completely new process that keeps all beneficial nutrients of whole grain oats intact: nothing natural is removed, nothing artificial is added. No other oatmilk can make the same claim.
Tell us about one of your unique core values
First, every product Hälsa makes has to be as naturally nutritious: all organic, nothing artificial or processed, including synthetic vitamins that destroy the good bacteria in the gut. Second, we have to find a way to make our products in a way that it doesn’t burden our planet.
As we move toward plant-based in order to save planet’s resources we have to be careful not to create a new environmental problem elsewhere.
For example, the current coconut boom spreads harmful monocropping, and burns fossil fuels as the ingredients are being transported across oceans in temperature-controlled containers. Coconut waste is often burned, releasing carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere.
In another example, Californian almond orchards use 10% of state’s fresh water, which is insane.
These examples show why it is irresponsible to bring just any plant-based products to market without first understanding how it all will burden the environment.
How are you working to leave the smallest possible footprint?
Because every step matters, we created a comprehensive plan to minimize the environmental impact of growing, harvesting, to the use of fossil fuels in transporting, storing, manufacturing and distributing the products.
We chose oats because they are a resilient grain that also provide excellent soil erosion control and reduce the need for herbicides. Oats require much less water than other crops, and our oats are currently grown with zero water footrpint. Our manufacturing process doesn’t require building huge new plants like Oatly and Chobani have done in the United States, but can be made at an existing dairy facility. Our manufacturing process uses 90% less energy than our competitor’s process. And we use every part of the grain, so our waste is minimal.
How does Hälsa convert US dairy farmers to grow oats?
We are currently importing our organic oats from Scandinavia because we haven’t been able to find oats in the US that meet our high quality standards.
We hope to change that soon and source locally. That’s why we started our farm project, with the goal of converting US dairy farmers to grow premium oats. Our first farm in upstate New York will start growing Scandinavian style organic oats this Spring.