Kirsten Sutaria is the founder of PBFA member Doozy Pots. We recently had the chance to speak with Kirsten about her journey with Doozy Pots and how their mission and values guide the creation of the delicious plant-based ice creams.
1. Tell us a bit about the history of Doozy Pots and the inspiration behind its founding.
Doozy Pots was founded in 2019 by me and my husband Karl. My background is in Food Science and Product Development, and I have worked with ice cream for 13 years. I spend a lot of my time doing ingredient and product research and back in 2018, I became really interested in the potential of hemp as a food. It is a sustainable crop and it’s loaded with healthy fats and proteins; to me, it was a no-brainer to use as an earth-friendly dairy alternative, but due to the prohibition of hemp in the U.S. until 2019, there was very little innovation with it. I spent a year working on ingredient sourcing and recipe development and we then moved from London to Cleveland to start Doozy Pots. We are still just a small, two-person team but we have gained national distribution with Sprouts, taking us to 25 states in total.
Many people ask where the name comes from: it was my childhood nickname from my grandma. I always had a penchant for making a creative mess in the kitchen and my Grandma Bea would remark, “Oh, you’re such a doozy pots!” meaning, “oh you’re a crazy little child!” “Doozy pots” comes from the Italian phrase “tu sei pazza” translated as “thou art crazy.” Italian immigrants to the USA brought this phrase with them, many settling into the melting pot of the east coast. Across the generations, the Italian pronunciation morphed into the modern American “doozy pots” – try saying it quickly with a combined Italian-Long Island accent, and you’ll see what I mean….
2. What do people need to know about Doozy Pots’ mission, value, and objectives?
Doozy Pots is founded on a deeply rooted belief that we can create delicious, better-for-you treats made with ingredients that are kinder to the earth and its growing communities. That belief drives every decision about what we put into our pints of plant-based, vegan gelato, and guides us when thinking about new products.
What started out as a mission to show consumers that hemp could be delicious and nutritious has grown into a broader mission to create plant-based treats that are better for us and better for the planet, researching and creating products using a diverse array of plants that have been grown in ways that are kind to the earth. Today, we know more than ever before about how our food choices impact our personal health and the health of the planet. We’re inspired to do our part to make it easier for our customers to make a better choice, without giving up foods they love and bring them joy. We’re committed to finding best-in-class ingredients that have been organically and/or regeneratively grown because these agricultural methods take a holistic, systems-based view of food production that values ecological balance and improvement.
3. What about your work at Doozy Pots motivates you, inspires you, or makes you optimistic about the future?
I am inspired by the shift in people’s consciousness towards eating for the planet, recognizing that we can’t keep moving forward with the status quo in large-scale animal agriculture or conventional crop production using fossil fuel-derived chemicals that destroy the soil and degrade whole ecosystems. Food is an incredibly deeply rooted personal and cultural aspect of our lives and asking people to make change is hard. Having people choose organic plant-based options like Doozy Pots over traditional products and love them is really exciting to me.
I am also really motivated by the work our suppliers do to grow and create ingredients in a better way. For example, we source our sugar from the Native Green Cane Project, the first ROC-certified sugar, which has pioneered sustainable and regenerative cane sugar production at scale, proving that feeding people and nourishing the earth can be done together.
4. Can you share more about your commitment to sustainability at Doozy Pots? Specifically, working to source organic, regenerative, and fair-trade ingredients.
We have standards for growing practices and standards for labor practices which we’re always trying to reach and improve upon either directly by working with suppliers or by switching suppliers if we find one that is doing things in a better way.
For growing, we seek organic and/or regeneratively grown ingredients. Put simply, organic and regenerative growing methods take ecosystem health into account and actively try to maintain or improve it. Conventional monocrop operations that use harsh synthetic, fossil fuel-based chemicals as fertilizer and pesticides have led to soil erosion, lack of resilience to climate change, poisoned waterways, and sick agricultural workers. We can’t continue that way, and there are many wonderful, responsible growers and land stewards out there doing tremendous work to take care of the earth whilst growing food, who we want to highlight and support. Over 95% of everything we source meets that standard.
I mentioned that we source cane sugar from the Green Cane Project and while it is more expensive than conventional sugar it is the right thing to do from an environmental standpoint. Aside from the normal set of issues caused by conventional crop production, most sugar cane fields are burnt at the end of every harvest, which is incredibly destructive to the environment and biodiversity, and we can’t turn a blind eye to that. Yes, sourcing in this way may cost a bit more, but we often don’t see the true cost of conventionally produced goods as they harm the soil, the environment, and the people that produce them. Read more here.
For labor practices, we want to prevent the exploitation of workers and make sure they’re being paid fairly for their work, so we only look for fair trade certified or direct trade ingredients. Fairtrade certification, although not perfect, is one of the success stories of the food industry, and does a good job. We also use direct trade ingredients, which cuts out middlemen, provides transparency, and often involves fairtrade-like practices albeit without the certification. Examples include our single-origin Vietnamese cinnamon from Burlap & Barrel, and our Agostoni organic cocoa powder, which has been independently recommended by the great folks at the Food Empowerment Project.
5. We see that part of Doozy Pots’ ethos is a commitment to using ethical business practices. Can you tell us a bit more about what ethical business means to you and an example of how you incorporate these values into your company?
Many people don’t realize how many touch points there are in bringing a product to market. With hundreds of people involved in taking ingredients and products from seed to shelf we work hard to make sure we’re partnering with companies and suppliers that align with our values and mission, and that we treat everyone with respect.
Being an ethical business also means taking the tougher, often more costly decisions regarding parts of the business beyond just the products. That means, for example, using packaging and marketing materials made from recycled materials, and working with freight carriers that are part of the EPA’s SmartWay program.
6. Based on your experience, what advice would you give to those aspiring to start their own plant-based company, expand into the plant-based arena, or generally make waves in the sector?
I have worked with plant-based food products for almost 10 years and the improvements in innovation, quality, and assortment have exploded in that short period. I truly believe we are just getting started and there is even more room for improvement, accessibility, and sustainability in the category. If you have true passion and belief in plant-based foods, dive into your idea. That said, the CPG and food industry is not for the faint of heart, so you really need to be passionate about what you are pursuing. Some categories like yogurt and cheese are improving, but there is still a nutritional gap between plant-based products and their counterparts, and for a broader shift to occur that needs to be addressed.
7. Can you give us a sneak peek into any notable news or exciting product launches in the pipeline for 2022?
We are in the process of working on new flavors for 2023 and have some really delicious creations coming together in our R&D kitchen (aka the Wonderlab)! We use local events to try out new flavors and some fan favorites have been Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip, Tahini & Date, Lemon Raspberry, and Pistachio.
8. Where can people learn more about Doozy Pots and find you online?
You can learn more about us on our website www.wonderlabdoozy.com or on our social media channels @doozypots. We are available in Sprouts, Heinen’s, Market District, Jimbo’s Naturally, and other fine retailers across the U.S., to find a store near you head to: https://www.wonderlabdoozy.com/pages/store-locator.