Takeaways

1

After 20 years in the food industry, Julia Stamberger co-founded The Planting Hope Company with the intention of creating “better-for-you” food alternatives that were also sustainable and scalable long-term.

2

Their flagship product, Hope and Sesame, is the first commercialized sesame milk on the market, and their Barista Blend was designed with the needs of coffee drinkers in mind.

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3

Sesame milk offers a plant-based alternative that’s sustainable, scalable, nutrient dense.

Julia Stamberger

CEO & Co-founder, The Planting Hope Company

Expertise: sustainability, plant-based foods, entrepreneurship, food & beverage industry

Coffee insight: Worldwide, the city with the most cafés is Shanghai.

Coffee fun fact: The Planting Hope Company won top honors in the Food category at the 2023 Chicago Innovation Awards for their plant-based milk alternative, Hope and Sesame.

U3 Top 3 What’s your favorite brewing method? espresso What’s your coffee drink of choice? espresso How many cups of coffee do you drink a day? 4

Julia’s Coffee Origin Story

Julia’s diverse career path included time as a DJ, a band manager, a consultant at Price Waterhouse Coopers, and a serial entrepreneur who has founded numerous successful companies. When she was working for United Airlines—where she helped develop the first airline snack-box program—she got her first taste of the food industry, which eventually led her to found her own company that produced ready-to-eat meals.

Julia says she realized that while “consumers love better-for-you foods” and plant-based options, many products exploding in the market weren’t sustainable long-term or scalable to meet increased demand. She and a group of other experts in the food industry set out to create a milk alternative that was both scalable and provided a protein-packed, nutrition-dense alternative to dairy, which led them to create the first commercialized sesame milk, Hope and Sesame. They realized that the best way to gain traction in the market was to build up demand with a group of industry professionals who were interested in an improved plant-based option—baristas! They designed a formula specifically for coffee beverages, which they called their Barista Blend. They set to work designing coffee recipes that would catch coffee professionals’ attention and build demand for their product and started attending coffee events like Coffee Fest.

Julia’s Current Role

As the CEO of The Planting Hope Company, an award-winning company focused on plant-based, sustainable foods, Julia says she’s excited by the opportunity to leverage both her entrepreneurial experience and her creativity while making a meaningful impact. “Combining creativity in business, such as what we’re doing with The Planting Hope Company, is very fun and very exciting,” she explains, “because there’s the ability to take and expand and scale and change the world on a whole different level that doesn’t interfere with that creativity. It actually supports bringing that to fruition.”

Hope and Sesame, their flagship product, is proof of how powerful that synergy can be—creating a product that fulfills the demand for plant-based milks while keeping an eye toward long-term impact. Sesame is a sustainable crop that requires very little water and no pollinators or pesticides and is actually a staple of regenerative agriculture and permaculture.  Not only that, Hope and Sesame is made using two “upcycled products”—sesame pulp produced by the sesame oil industry and aquafaba, a byproduct of hummus production.

What Fuels Julia’s Work

Julia says that she’s focused on making a meaningful positive impact by being informed, intentional, and realistic about the future of food. She says that between climate change and population growth, the food industry needs to come to terms with the reality that we will need to feed 10 billion people on the planet by 2050 in an increasingly precarious agricultural system. While there are incredibly nutritious crops being promoted—like almonds, quinoa, and avocados—none of them are scalable or sustainable in the long run.

She’s passionate about building a company that’s focused on products that are delicious and healthy using systems that can account for the changing needs of the global population and planet. “Our mission at The Planting Hope Company,” she says, “is to take really scalable crops that we can grow, and currently grow around the world, with few resources…and make them the core of great tasting food that are easy swaps for everyday food people eat all the time around the world. With that type of food, we can feed 10 billion people in 2050.”

What Julia Wants Coffee Drinkers to Know

Julia says they designed their Barista Blend sesame milk with coffee lovers and coffee drinks in mind—a process that took a full two years of additional research and product testing.

While many of us love lattes and Americanos, 75% of the global population is lactose intolerant. Sesame milk offers a plant-based alternative that’s nutrient dense and, per serving, delivers the same amount of protein as cow’s milk. It can be frothed, foamed, and steamed as well as dairy, which makes it an easy swap for baristas or at-home brewers, but it’s also smooth and creamy enough to pair beautifully with cold brew and iced coffee drinks.

How Julia Cultivates Community through Coffee

Julia says The Planting Hope Company embraces every opportunity to make sure their organization reflects the communities that have helped shape its success. Julia says that they’re a woman-led, woman-managed company by design. Eighty percent of their advisory board is women, and Julia says she hopes to add even more women to their board of directors. “Let’s face it,” she explains, “90% of the people that make decisions about what new food products to bring into the home are women. And what we’ve found consistently is that there are hundreds of well-qualified women who are under-boarded right now. They’ve got the capacity and the kudos and the bona fides to be able to perform on boards, and they’re interested in joining boards that align with their interests.”

They’re also proud to be a Chicago company, not just because they are embedded in the city’s thriving startup ecosystem, but also because of the centrality of Chicago, and the Midwest, to the American food industry. Julia points out that while so much infrastructure and support has focused on companies located on the coasts, “this is where we grow the food. A lot of the staple food is in the middle of the country. This is where we have a lot of the centralized food processing. This is a great place to do distribution because you can hit the coasts. Food entrepreneurship needs to be in Chicago.”

Where You Can Find Julia

The Planting Hope Company: https://plantinghopebrands.com/

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