Startup Spotlight

Lattini leverages sunflower seeds to offer healthier, climate-friendly plant-based milk

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

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Consumers increasingly want more from their beverages when it comes to health, but they also want less in terms of calories, ingredients, processing and environmental impact – a delicate balance that startup Lattini strikes without compromising taste and texture by using whole sunflower kernels as the base for its plant-based milks.

“When I started trying almond milk and oat milk as a regular item, I was surprised at a few thing. One, I thought the tastes and textures were off compared to traditional dairy … but then what is worse, I found” many plant-based milks were not hitting my environmental-sustainability or nutritional attributes standards, company co-founder Nicholas Romano said.

He explained that when he began looking for environmentally-friendly alternatives that also met his functional desires for lower calories, lower carbs and lower sugar, “I just wasn’t finding an alternative that really met that intersection … of delicious, nutritious and sustainable.”

Romano said that was when he and his co-founder Jared Lynch set out to create a product that met those needs.

Sunflowers are a triple threat: recognizable, healthy and have a reliable supply chain

Romano and Lynch eventually landed on organic sunflower seeds as the base for their milk because consumers can easily recognize the ingredient, it is equally healthy for people and the planet and has an abundant, reliable supply chain.

“Sunflower are great for a lot of reasons,” including “people are already familiar with them. They are not some obscure thing that has a limited supply or are grown in some obscure location that you can’t really bring something to market in a meaningful way,” he explained.

“But more than that, they can be used as part of a regenerative farming system,” as a rotational crop that can help with pest and disease abatement, break up soil levels with their deep tap roots and which are drought tolerant, Romano said.

Sunflowers also are able to extract from the soil essential vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, copper and vitamin E, Romano said, adding Lattini is also an excellent source of calcium and B12.

“What we observed is there is a lot of plant-based milks that use the plant protein or use certain components that are deconstructed where we are not, and you are  losing a lot of the functional benefits of that plant protein itself because you're only using either the protein or the starch and mixing it with water or whatever else,” Romano said.

Lattini, on the other hand, keeps all the nutrients of the sunflower kernel by milling it without straining, which “allows us to keep a little bit more fiber and make sure that all those vitamins and minerals that are naturally inherent to sunflower seed remain in,” he added.

This strategy also allowed the company to skip some of the ingredients consumers don’t want, such as added oils, gums or emulsifiers, because the sunflower lecithin helps to blend the product and create a creamy texture, Romano explained.

Sunflowers seeds also offered a neutral taste profile that allows the beverage to be a versatile, allergen-friendly option for everything from cereal to smoothies to coffee and savory recipes, he added.

Are CPGs that support regenerative agriculture the future?

Since launching in the US in the summer of 2022, the young brand has gained distribution in natural and high-end retailers including Erewhon, Sprouts, Wegmans, Mom’s Organic and more. As it continues to expand, it is moving beyond the US boarder to gain distribution in Canada, Mexico and potentially beyond in the future.

As the brand’s reach grows, Romano said he hopes to encourage more businesses and governments to support regenerative agriculture.

“I would hope to see in the future, not just from our company, but for others is taking serious consideration around regenerative agriculture and how that can be more incorporated into products and services moving forward,” he said, explaining, It's pretty incredible to see the excitement in the local farms that we're talking to about incorporating sunflowers in regenerative practices because they will earn more economically, their soil health improves, they [can] lower their inputs because they don't have to use as much fertilizer. They also find a way to get the disease and pest management that they couldn't otherwise. So, I think, the whole regenerative agriculture movement is really exciting for farmers, and we’re excited to be a part of that.”

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