Noosh is one way to transliterate the Armenian word for ‘almond.’
“Noosh sounded like a fun word that also had a deep meaning for me,” Sahatjian, founder and CEO of Noosh, told NutraIngredients-USA.
She was born and raised in Lebanon—her family descendants of Armenians who moved to the Levant following the Ottoman Empire’s Armenian Genocide in 1915. The Lebanese Civil War then prompted Sahatjian’s family to immigrate to the US in the 1970s.
Nuts, almonds in particular, play an integral role in the cuisines of both Armenia and Lebanon.
“We use nuts like almonds and pistachios a lot in entertaining and cooking,” she said. “So they’ve always been a part of growing up. We always had them around, especially on holidays—we would always have dried fruits and nuts.”
It was natural that Sahatjian, a mother of two, first thought of almonds as the flagship ingredient for a new snack brand she wanted to start.
“As a mom of two young boys, I’m always on the hunt for healthy snacks that tasted good and were good for you. So I decided to create a line of almond butters that were healthier than what I saw on the market place,” she said.
Sahatjian started Nut Butter Concepts, a manufacturing company specializing in tree-nuts that also offers product development and concept consulting. It is the parent company and manufacturer of Noosh, which she launched in the summer of 2016 with a line of single-serve almond butters.
From butter to oil to protein powder
Noosh started with almond butters, but its founder always knew that it would be more than just an almond butter brand. “That’s why we didn’t call it Noosh Almond Butter, we called it Noosh Brands,” she said.
The butters could be used in recipes to make cookies or a protein bar, so she wanted the next product launch to be something equally versatile. The company launched almond oil, one plain and one flavored with roasted garlic.
“What we found was that when you press the almond to get the oil, you also get powder. When that powder is micronized and de-fatted, it becomes a protein powder,” she said.
It was the perfect business opportunity—plant protein powders have been on the rise in the past few years, in terms of both consumer demand as well as product development, and it shows no signs of ceasing growth anytime soon.
The company’s in-house food scientists found that the resulting powder had a protein concentrate of 59% of total dry weight. “We thought this was amazing—it’s plant based, it’s vegan,” she said.
A point of differentiation from other popular plant-protein sources, she added, was taste. “If you tasted pea protein, you might find that the taste might not be as pleasant as you might want it to be. For ours, it has a little bit of nuttiness, but it is really smooth and you can’t really taste it.”
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The powders launched in May 2018, and then inked its first bricks-and-mortar distribution deal last month nationwide with Vitamin Shoppe.
Just like the two product lines that launched before the powder, Sahatjian wanted to bring something to market that was versatile.
In a press release announcing its deal with the Vitamin Shoppe, the company said that the powders were “developed to appeal to the nutrition and culinary needs of consumers' everyday routines unlike most protein powders that are marketed specifically as a supplement for workout recovery.”
Using only California whole almonds
Sahatjian’s background is in law, but her father-in-law’s family has been in the agricultural sector since the 1920s. “My husband’s connections in the farming community helped with the purchasing of the nuts that go into making our almond products,” she said. “The relationships helped launch us into this arena.”
Purchasing is another area in which Noosh strives to stand out from the plant-based crowd. The nut’s breed is proprietary, but Sahatjian only uses almonds grown in California, and she makes sure that they’re whole before processing.
“Most of our competitors use cheaper broken pieces and halves. We find that if you used those types of almonds that have already been cut, the almond starts oxidizing, so you don’t have fresh product,” she explained.
“So when you use a whole California almond, you get the best quality almond that’s also the freshest almond.”