October 23, 2013

Natural Foodie: Here's to locally made artisanal vegan cheese

Betsy Nelson makes her own dairy-free cheese with fermented nut milks.

By Avery Yale Kamila

(Continued from page 1)

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Betsy Nelson offers a taste test of her vegan fermented nut cheeses during a recent farmers market in Portland. She is working with students of Boston College’s Carroll School of Management to create a business plan to market her cheeses.

Avery Yale Kamila photo


Visit the website of Boston College lecturer Gregory Stoller at bclob.weebly.com/blog.html. Here he posts updates on the fledgling companies his students are working with, including Betsy Nelson’s nut cheese business.

Stoller said a former student referred Nelson to him.

“What I liked about her idea is that it’s just so unique compared to the sorts of food ideas I see coming to the program,” Stoller said.

The students obviously agreed.

“Betsy not only did great in her presentation, but she also brought samples of her cheese for the students to taste,” Stoller said. “And it actually tasted really good.”

At the end of the semester, the student teams present their plans to a panel of business and legal experts and winners are chosen.

But Nelson’s isn’t worried if her team doesn’t produce the winning plan. For her, the ability to get a well-researched plan crafted with input from Boston College business professors and law students is a windfall.

“It’s really exciting because I don’t know how to write a business plan,” said Nelson, whose professional experience is in the worlds of food and wellness. “The reward is the great base of knowledge these students and their professors are bringing to the table.”

She’s been meeting with the students and providing them with her vision, but they’re doing all the heavy lifting – including taking some of her products to conduct their own taste tests.

Nelson is currently enrolled at Southern Maine Community College with plans to eventually transfer to the University of Southern Maine to study holistic wellness. To pay the bills, Nelson holds two part-time jobs: prepping food for the Bite into Maine food truck and manning the front desk at the Body Architect health club in Portland.

By next summer, Nelson wants to begin distributing her cheeses in the Portland area, with hopes of eventually distributing her product throughout the northeast.

“I want to start with two strong products and then have a full line of artisanal cheese,” Nelson said.

Her initial products would be the brie- and goat-style cheeses she has been testing with friends and family and at the farmers market. But to get her products to market by next summer, Nelson needs to check off a number of items on her to-do list.

This includes having her cheeses analyzed for safety, shelf life and nutritional content at the University of Maine’s food testing lab.

“The product is small batch and it’s a fermented so it needs to be monitored in the same way as if you’re brewing beer or wine,” Nelson said.

She’s also searching for a licensed commercial kitchen and needs to think about packaging. Of course the biggest item on her list is coming up with the necessary start-up cash. She’s thinking of applying for small business loans and launching a Kickstarter campaign to tap into the robust crowdsource funding market.

Nelson sees this venture as a way to bring together her interests in food and wellness.

“I think food is a great way to deal with all kinds of health issues,” Nelson said. “And there’s nothing I enjoy more than being in the kitchen and cooking.” 

Avery Yale Kamila is a freelance writer who lives in Portland, where she hopes to one day purchase a locally made fermented nut cheese. She can be reached at:


Twitter: AveryYaleKamila

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