28 May 2018
Kfar HaRif, Israel
Sustainable Food and Agriculture

In the world of vegan cheese, there aren’t many delicious choices. It is difficult to replicate the taste and texture of cheese from cow’s milk, and many vegan options are flavorless and rubbery. Israel has the largest number of vegans per capita in the world, with 5% of the population eating a vegan diet. The result is a plant-based products boom as more companies try to reach the vegan population. One of those companies is Lilac’s Aromas Boutique Soya Products, which aims to make probiotic, healthy vegan cheese unlike any other.

Lilac Frenkel Ben Yakar has been a vegetarian most of her life. When she was younger, she consumed mostly vegetables, grains, and dairy. Dairy was a crucial part of her diet, the main way she ate protein. But with age, she became lactose -intolerant; dairy no longer got along with her digestive system.

“So, I started searching for dairy substitutes in the market,” says Yakar, who lives in Kfar HaRif Moshav, Israel. “The products look like dairy but they don’t have protein and they taste like plastic. So I decided to try to make dairy-like products out of soy milk and started to test ideas in my own kitchen.”

She began learning about the difference between cow’s milk and soy milk and the ways it changed when cooked and manipulated. She then figured out how to coagulate soy milk, a step she says was key in her decision to start a business.

“This was a breakthrough,” says Yakar. “When I did that, I could make any cheese out of soy. People who came to my home loved it and said, ‘wow, you need to make this a commercial product’, and that’s how the idea came about for my company.”

The growth of Lilac’s Aromas Boutique Soya Products:

The business started out small, and Yakar made the cheeses in her kitchen with the help of her 21-year-old daughter. She’d worked for Intel for years, and quit her job in 2016 to focus entirely on her soy-based cheese, which she branded SoCheese.

“Most of the funding for my business was money I set aside while working at Intel”, says Yakar. “For me, it was always in the back of my mind that I wouldn’t be employed by someone for the rest of my career. I wanted to have a business, so I set aside money the entire time I worked at Intel.”

She also applied the skills she learned at Intel working as a process development engineer to her own business.

“At Intel, I learned a lot about how to develop a process, how to make it robust,” she says. “It was part of my expertise to figure out why a process wasn’t working. That’s exactly what I’m doing now. Every time we make a cheese it gets better and better.”

She started by selling cheese from her home, then expanded to a booth at a local market, where her non-dairy products range from white cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, kefir and a variety of semi-hard and hard cheeses.

When she started selling out of her cheeses every Friday, Yakar knew something had to change.

Moving Lilac’s Aromas from a home-based company to a plant:

Lilac’s Aromas Boutique Soya Products was recently moved into a plant in April 2018, and Yakar is working hard to scale her business and create a robust process so she can sell her cheese on a larger scale.

“My vision is to bring this product to every household worldwide, not just in Israel” says Yakar. “After I figure out a robust large-scale production process, I will look for a strategic partner who will help me create similar plants all over the world. At that point, I’ll need help with funding. But I don’t just want money, I want a partner who shares my vision and will help distribute my product worldwide.”

Yakar is not alone. Businesses that create vegan food are growing in Israel. VeganFriendly founder Omri Paz told ISRAEL21c: “From 2014 to 2016, the trend grew to include more vegan products in supermarkets,” Paz says. “Now the next new trends are in big mainstream companies offering vegan products, and in food-tech and tourism.”

Yakar is dedicated to helping vegans find tasty alternatives to cow’s milk, but also has a passion for helping the environment. She is well-aware of the damage farm animals cause the environment in the form of CO2 emissions and groundwater pollution.

“I was born and raised in southern Israel, and feel I have a good connection to the land,” she says. “My parents always taught me to respect nature, not use what I don’t need. I think part of the reason I started this business is that my parents taught me love and respect for everything around us, that we should hear and feel nature. We should be respectful to both nature, and people and their needs.”



To learn more about Lilac’s Aromas Boutique Soya Products check their Facebook page.

Photos: Courtesy of Lilac’s Aromas Boutique Soya Products.

Kristin Hanes is a journalist who has a passion for the environment, sustainability, and science. She loves telling stories about people who are making a real difference in the world.Kristin Hanes
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