Hidden in the concrete jungle of Long Island City, Queens is a factory that has revolutionized our vegan tastebuds. Located inside is founder and creator of the vegan marshmallow, Sara Sohn and her dedicated helpers. Sweet & Sara was introduced to the market in 2005 when Sara spent 10 months discovering the key ingredient to her animal friendly snacks…seaweed (instead of gelatin). S&S has made great strides in the past 8 years and moved up the ladder into the mainstream. That in itself is a huge victory for the vegan community. Her treats can be found on the shelves of Duane Reade, Whole Foods and many other local natural stores and have been featured on Food Network’s Unwrapped and Cooking Channel’s Bobby and Paula Deen. Although what makes her company truly unique and victorious are her supportive parents. Day & night, they work together to create these delectable treats. It’s only logical to believe that this is what makes Sweet and Sara marshmallows so sweet…so dig in!
KALE University: What inspired you down the path of veganism?
- Sara Sohn: My love for animals. Once I became aware of the atrocities committed on animals in factory farms, animal labs, and fur farms I could not justify being a part of such heinous cruelty so I instantly became a vegetarian and a year later became a vegan. That was 22 years ago and I’ve never looked back.
KU: Sweet & Sara has become a household name in many veggie/vegan friendly homes. How do you feel about bringing veganism mainstream?
- SS: My lifelong goal, my mission in life, is to get people to eat more vegan and less animals and I am so lucky to be able to do this through a delicious, fun, and accessible product! We have been extremely fortunate to have attracted a lot of mainstream media and having our products carried by mainstream stores has done wonders as well. When we first started out we were found only in specialty or vegan stores and it was hard for customers to locate Sweet & Sara products but now you can find us in chain stores, your corner deli, college campuses and movie theatres.
KU: How do you feel about being an influential entrepreneurial figure?
- SS: Hmmm. It’s odd sometimes but really quite humbling. I struggled a lot in beginning and even now there are times when I want to throw in the towel but I remind myself of how we conquered the impossible, overcame adversity, and became to first to create a vegan marshmallow (read Emes story). We are a small family business and we work really hard. We eat, breathe, sleep this business and everything we produce is made with love, and I think this is why we have such a loyal customer base.
KU: What is your diet like at home or in the office? Do you incorporate raw foods?
- SS: I eat pretty clean and simple Monday – Thursday. A latte and a small piece of faux meat for breakfast, beans and greens and a veggie patty for lunch, and a protein shake for dinner and snacks here and there. My snacks are usually raw – a handful of almonds, a fruit bowl, or half an avocado hits the spot. But once Friday comes along, it’s gluttony time and I take out my spandex pants. I visit all my favorite vegan spots in the city and indulge like it’s my birthday.
KU: What is the day in the life of a vegan marshmallow chef? Do you consider yourself a modern day vegan Willy Wonka?
- SS: It’s hard to get a hold of me because I’m always working here at the vegan marshmallow factory. Half the time I’m in production or R&D and the other half I’m in the office dealing with paperwork, creating recipes, taking care of social media, having meetings and doing interviews. I get in pretty early and leave pretty late but I’m not complaining, my business is my life and I am so lucky to be doing what I do!
KU: What is your favorite snack at Sweet & Sara?
- SS: This answer always changes and I’m always nibbling on everything but I must say I never get tired of the rocky road bark and rice crispy treat and vanilla marshmallow. They are truly incredible if I may say so.
KU: Tell us more about expanding to the west coast?
- SS: Our products have been in the West Coast for a while but we finally got a distributor out there which is a big deal. We’re growing rapidly and we need to phase out of direct shipping so going into distribution has been really good for us and for our customer too. Sweet & Sara can be found all over the country, in Canada, Australia, and the UK.
KU: How do you think the role of community has played out in your growth as a vegan and as a vegan business owner?
- SS: The vegan community is such a supportive one and we wouldn’t be where we are today without the loyalty and motivation from fellow vegans. They are our biggest cheerleaders and have been instrumental in my growth, personally and professionally.
KU: What inspiring words would you give to someone who is embarking on the journey of vegan and live foods?
- SS: People tend to give up too soon because they think about how far they still have to go instead of how far they’ve come. I say this all the time for those starting out… strive for progress not perfection.
I like to think that we all have a little bit of Sara in all of us. Strive to be a better version of yourself every day. Aim for progress and we’ll all see a more vibrant and compassionate world around us 🙂