Interviews

Yumasoy: “I Embarked on a Mission to Put the Plant Back in Plant-Based Food”

Yumasoy is a Vancouver-based startup specializing in plant-based chicken alternatives called Om Noms. Led by founder Gina Arsens, previously CFO at Digital Supercluster, Yumasoy was established to improve the plant-based meal experience with products that are nutritious, convenient, and taste good. The company’s flagship product, Om Noms, is a line of chicken-style strips made with whole soybeans.

In this interview with vegconomist, Arsens details the founding principles of Yumasoy, the development of Om Noms, and the company’s commitment to sustainability. She also discusses partnerships in the foodservice industry, and plans for expansion and product development.

Can you give us an intro to Yumasoy and what inspired the company’s creation?
When my family decided to increase the number of plant-based meals, I found the experience of shopping and preparing plant-based meals both a joyless and tasteless experience. Dissatisfied with tofu and uneasy about the ingredients in existing meat alternatives, I embarked on a mission to put the plant back in plant-based food. I became the change I wanted to see in grocery aisles! I left my position as CFO at Digital Supercluster, and Yumasoy was born, now crafting Om Noms—a convenient, high-protein, plant-based food.

“The fundamentals of plant-based demand are healthy and growing”

The very essence of Yumasoy is inspired by the Greek term ‘Yamas!’, a cheers ‘to your health’. The playful name, Om Noms, reflects the satisfied expression “Om nom nom nom nom,”. Om Noms is a Vancouver-based, woman-led venture committed to celebrating health, flavor, and sustainability.

What differentiates Yumasoy and Om Noms from other meat-replacement products that are available to consumers?
Om Noms sets itself apart by celebrating the natural goodness of whole soybeans using all-natural, real, recognizable ingredients to create a product that tastes great, is quick to make, and is healthy. Unlike other plant-based protein alternatives that rely on isolated proteins and additives, Om Noms uses whole soybeans for a complete protein source with all essential amino acids and a great deal of nutrients. Innovative and convenient, Om Noms come pre-marinated in four different flavors and are ready to eat in under 5 minutes, offering a wholesome and delicious option for all eaters.

Yumasoy
© Yumasoy

Can you speak to the development process that went into creating Om Noms?
Our goal in making Om Noms was to create a delicious, clean, and convenient plant-based protein. We first settled on soy because it is the only bean that has all the essential amino acids and a lot of great vitamins and nutrients.

“Food service chefs have praised Om Noms as one of the best plant-based proteins they’ve ever tasted”

We looked at a lot of different soy products and we either rejected them because they were made with chemicals or there were too many additives required to make it tasty. Our main protein ingredient was clean and made with a whole non-GMO soybean, and we were able to prepare it in an innovative and proprietary way to create a taste and texture that satisfies all types of eaters.

Om Noms are available for food service. Can you highlight any notable food service partnerships in Canada?
Om Noms has established outstanding food service partnerships across Canada, including large-scale resorts, educational institutions, and restaurants. A notable partnership is with Whistler Blackcomb Resort, a top ski destination in Vancouver, British Columbia, where Om Noms can be enjoyed during a fabulous day of skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer.

The plant-based market has faced its share of challenges in the past year. How has Yumasoy navigated these challenges, and what strategies have you employed to maintain growth and consumer interest?
The CPG industry, in general, is challenging, but the recent challenges of plant-based companies were a function of investment sentiment that corrected. But the fundamentals of plant-based demand are healthy and growing. Most consumers want to do their part for the environment and for their health. Yumasoy helps them to do that by prioritizing what people need in Om Noms – clean, tasty, and easy plant-based alternatives.

Om Noms Yumasoy
Courtesy of Yumasoy

Can you discuss the sustainability practices in place at Yumasoy, from sourcing ingredients to packaging?
At Yumasoy, sustainability is a top priority throughout our operations. We source our ingredients responsibly, prioritizing local suppliers who adhere to ethical and sustainable farming practices. Our packaging is eco-friendly, utilizing recyclable materials whenever possible to minimize environmental impact. Additionally, we continuously seek ways to reduce waste and energy consumption in our production processes, striving to leave a positive impact on the planet.

What has the feedback been like from consumers in both retail and food service?
Feedback from consumers in both retail and food service has been overwhelmingly positive. Foodservice chefs have praised Om Noms as one of the best plant-based proteins they’ve ever tasted, appreciating the clean ingredient list and time-saving convenience. Consumers have echoed this sentiment, expressing satisfaction with the taste, texture, flavors, and ease of cooking, emphasizing its appeal to all types of eaters.

Om Noms Yumasoy
Courtesy of Yumasoy

Are there plans to expand the Om Noms line with new flavors or products?
Absolutely! We’re actively exploring new marinated flavors. We’d love to know what your readers would like us to make.

With plans to expand nationally in 2024, can you outline the strategies Yumasoy will employ to scale its operations across Canada?
Om Noms is currently available across Canada. As consumers and food service establishments discover Om Noms, we will look to scale and consider all available options, including partnerships.

What are Yumasoy’s main goals for the next five years?
Over the next five years, Yumasoy aims to expand its presence across Canada, forging new partnerships with food service providers and retailers. Additionally, the company plans to export Om Noms, broadening its reach and customer base. Finally, there is no shortage of new product offerings on the horizon. Yamas!

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