In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, the PBFA Team had the exciting opportunity to speak with Sarah Zubiate, CEO and Founder of ZUBI’s, a plant-based salsa and dips company. Growing up on the border of El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico, Sarah speaks to how she incorporates her family’s values into her food while transforming traditional Latinx cuisine into healthier, yet just as delicious, options.
1. One of the goals of this series is to help shine a light on the stories and individuals behind the companies. Can you tell us a bit more about your background and how you came to work in the plant-based food space?
I began my career in finance but always wanted to directly transform the health crisis in America.
My unique journey began with adoption. My birth mother couldn’t afford to keep me and made the difficult decision to give me up at birth, hoping to be able to afford the expenses for my biological siblings, a fact I didn’t learn until age 17. At birth, I was adopted by Gloria and George Zubiate, whom I honor with my company name – ZUBI’S. My father was called ZUBI in high school and I always thought it was a loveable and memorable nickname.
I grew up at the border of El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico. My time on the border was a beautiful experience, thinking back on a childhood surrounded by loved ones and good food, including my mom’s large family with 11 siblings and my dozens of cousins. I remember long walks by cotton fields with the desert and the mountains all around, connecting smells and colors – from land and sky and earth. I remember in Juarez the little fruit stands and crowded streets, and beautiful murals. Those Latin-inspired memories and experiences are the small gifts I wanted to try to recreate at the table for as many people as possible- through Latin food.
My company’s mission is to transform traditional Latin foods into healthier options that maintain the beloved flavors of my LatinX culture. My line of plant-based and top-8 allergen-free products not only taste delicious but help with anti-inflammation and heart healthiness. I designed my Athens, Texas-based manufacturing plant and farm to use regenerative farming methods so we can maintain safe, environmentally friendly, zero-waste operations.
2. What is your big “why” for working in the plant-based food industry? Is there any particular cause or fact that you learned that motivated your work and passion?
Those Latin-inspired memories and experiences I mentioned above were oftentimes accompanied by delicious and unhealthy foods. My family has suffered from heart disease, obesity, and degenerative illnesses, and these were areas I wanted to improve upon for the next generations.
3. What do people need to know about ZUBI’S mission, values, and objective?
My company’s mission is to transform traditional Latin foods into healthier options that maintain the beloved flavors of my LatinX culture. My products can be eaten by ALL who enjoy good Latin food! If they’re plant-based, cannot eat nuts, still eat meat, have a gluten intolerance, have a dairy allergy…. EVERYONE can enjoy my creations. The ZUBI’S regenerative farming methods and zero-waste manufacturing operations honor my ancestral tie to the land and food as it once used to be created before modern additives, pesticides, and preservatives were used.
4. Food is such an incredible connector and we can learn so much about different cultures and traditions by sharing meals. Your journey with ZUBI’S is one that really highlights your family roots. Can you tell us more about how your family influence comes through your recipes and business?
My red salsa is based on my mother’s original salsa recipe. As like I mentioned above, the farming we use is something that not only honors my ancestral roots but also our bodies as a whole. Many of the recipes on our website are foods that I either grew up eating or make now for my family and friends.
5. We see that you’re also the founder/CEO of ZUBI Farms. Can you share more about the organization, what inspired its founding, and the work you do there?
I created my signature salsa based on her mother’s 60-year-old recipe, and after its resounding success among my family and friends, I launched ZUBI’S into retailers in 2017. With my bold personality traits and passion for healthy, Latin-inspired food, I lead the day-to-day operations at ZUBI’S, where my role has expanded to overseeing business development, financial strategy, marketing strategy, as well as manufacturing and production. In just four years, I expanded ZUBI’S offerings to include plant-based, certified organic crema de jalapeño and queso, alongside my authentic, small-batch red salsa. In 2020, I brought all ZUBI’S manufacturing and production in-house with the construction of ZUBI Farms, a zero-waste, Organic Certified, sustainable facility based in Athens, Texas. Concurrently, I spearheaded the expanded distribution of ZUBI’S products.
6. What has been the most rewarding moment or pivotal milestone you have witnessed during your time at ZUBI’S- as both a plant-based business and a LatinX-owned business?
The most rewarding moment is a collection of small moments that come from feedback and positive notes about how my creations have impacted lives. Many people with nut allergies, dairy intolerance, or plant-based diets talk about how the products have brought smiles to their everyday routines.
7. Based on your experience, what advice would you share to other aspiring plant-based Latine/x founders aspiring to start their own plant-based company, expand into the plant-based arena, or generally make waves in the sector?
The industry is an extremely difficult one and is littered with hurdles that are easier to maneuver around with hands-on exposure. I encourage them to intern and work alongside other brand owners as much as possible.
8. Can you give us a sneak peek into any notable news or exciting product launches in the pipeline for 2022?
Yes! We are refreshing our labels to better reflect the colorful and rich upbringing I experienced while in El Paso, TX, and Juarez, Mexico. That should launch by the end of this year. In the upcoming year, we are going to begin servicing hotels and other items with some plant-based snack boxes that fit right in with my existing line of products.
9. Where can we learn more about ZUBI’S?
You can visit eatzubi.com and find us on @eatzubi on Instagram or Facebook.