Vital Vittles is now selling an environmentally sustainable, vegan chocolate chip cookie produced by an alumna’s startup company, Renewal Mill.
Caroline Cotto (NHS ’14), who majored in health science at Georgetown University, is the chief operating officer of Renewal Mill. The entirely female-operated company, founded in 2016, strives to create food products that are both nutritionally valuable and sustainable.
The product began selling at Vital Vittles, a storefront for Students of Georgetown, Inc., commonly known as The Corp, in the Leavey Center, on Nov. 5; it is the first location selling the cookies on the East Coast.
The cookie is made using okara flour — a byproduct of soy milk and tofu production — and retails for $1.50. Vittles currently sells Renewal Mill’s extra dark chocolate chip cookies, which are located as soon as you walk in the doors, between aisles 3A and 4A.
One-third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. By using soy byproducts, the company aims to be environmentally friendly.
“We’re trying to reduce food waste by upcycling the byproduct of manufacturing,” Cotto said.
Introducing the cookie to Vittles’ shelves was one step towards being more inclusive in product offerings, said Léa Nicolas (COL ’19), manager of Vital Vittles. Vittles does not offer many desserts besides candy, so introducing this cookie also diversifies the store’s offerings, Nicolas said.
“We’re trying to expand our product offering and offer products that might appeal to people who have a variety of dietary concerns,” Nicolas said.
Vittles handed out free samples Nov. 5. The customers and employees at the store gave overwhelmingly positive responses about the cookie, Nicolas said.
“It’s perfect sized,” Nicolas said. “It’s small, but it’s still sweet and not terrible for you, so I was impressed.”
Though Renewal Mill’s okara cookie is more nutritious than the average chocolate chip cookie, it is not meant to be a protein or meal substitute.
“We’re definitely not trying to be a health cookie,” Cotto said.
If the product sells well at Vital Vittles, Cotto hopes to expand the product to other locations of The Corp and perhaps introduce double packs of the cookie, she said.
Renewal Mill was established on the premise of reducing greenhouse gas emissions after CEO Claire Schlemme realized how much waste was produced from the food truck she owned and operated before starting the company.
Renewal Mill works out of the same factory as Hodo Soy, the company that provides the tofu used at Chipotle and sold at Whole Foods. For every pound of usable product produced by Hodo Soy, about a pound of okara is produced as byproduct.
The Hodo Soy and Renewal Mill factory produces over 40 tons of okara that goes to landfills if not used otherwise, Cotto said. Renewal Mill’s technology helps to diminish this waste.
Cotto pointed out the possibility of introducing new cookie flavors, including peanut butter and oatmeal raisin, that could be made out of almond milk powder and pea starch rather than okara.
“Our technology is applicable to a lot of different byproducts,” Cotto said.