Why wasabi is so expensive

Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: Wasabi is a small green plant in the brassica family, that means it’s related to many cheap and easy to find plants like horseradish, cabbage, or broccoli. But unlike these it’s incredibly expensive, a kilogram of fresh wasabi can cost you 25 times as much as fresh horseradish.

Because of its price the “wasabi” you’re used to is probably just a mixture of horseradish, coloring, and sweetener. These products often only have 1-5% of the real thing in.

Wasabi is known for being the hardest plant to grow commercially in the world. It can be found naturally growing alongside Japanese mountain streams has a strict set of conditions it needs to thrive.

Wasabi needs a constant supply of running spring water, it likes a shady area and rocky soil or gravel, and can only tolerate a temperature of around 8-20 degrees centigrade all year round. Too much humidity, or the wrong minerals can also cause problems for the plant and on top of all that it’s susceptible to pests and disease.

There’s one other reason you probably don’t see real wasabi products in your local supermarket or restaurant. Wasabi’s spice comes from a chemical reaction that occurs when you break down the cells, but this reaction is short lived. After 5 minutes the spicy flavour peaks but leave it for 30 minutes and almost all the flavour is gone.

All of these factors mean fake wasabi isn’t going away any time soon.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in January 2019.

Read the original article on Business Insider

How Ben & Jerry’s makes nearly 1 million pints of ice cream a day

  • Ben & Jerry’s is the best-selling single ice cream brand in the world.
  • It’s gained a cult following thanks to classic flavors like Half Baked and Cherry Garcia and a mission to use ice cream to fight for equality.
  • We visited the plant in St. Albans, Vermont, to see how Ben & Jerry’s pumps out nearly 1 million pints a day.
  • It takes hundreds of workers, special machinery, and a 24/7 operation to package up these pints.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Following is a transcription of the video.

Narrator: Scooped up across 38 countries and up to 75 flavors, Ben & Jerry’s is no pint-sized operation. Its two Vermont factories run 24/7, operated by hundreds of flavor makers. Together, they pump out nearly a million pints a day, from classic flavors like Cherry Garcia and Half Baked to flavors on a mission for criminal-justice reform and refugee rights. And all those flavors have to be delicious.

Sarah Fidler: Our minimum run size, once we get a flavor to the factory, is 80,000 pints. So not only do we have to love it, but 80,000 fans have to love it too.

Narrator: We visited the St. Albans plant in northern Vermont to see how these famous pints flip their way to our freezers. Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield started Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream in 1978. From a renovated gas station in Burlington, Vermont, they launched a brand based on sustainable ice cream making and advocating for causes they believed in, and it worked. Today, Ben & Jerry’s is the best-selling single brand ice cream label in the US. To pump out its iconic flavors, first it starts with ingredients.

Ben & Jerry’s partners with 250 farms globally to source everything from vanilla bean to milk. Milk comes from the St. Albans Cooperative Creamery, just a mile and a half from the factory. Once the milk’s at the plant, it heads to one of these massive, 6,000-gallon silos.

But before it can be made into ice cream, everyone involved has to suit up, including us. Gowns, hairnets, caps, and boots.

To make the ice cream base, the milk heads to the blend tank. Cream, milk, and lots of sugar are churned together. The factory goes through 6,700 gallons of cream every single day. Every ice cream flavor starts with either a sweet cream base or a chocolate base.

Next, the Mix Master will pour in eggs, stabilizers, and cocoa powder if it’s a chocolate base. Then it’s piped into the pasteurizer. You can’t see it happening, but hot steel plates are heating up the mix to kill any harmful bacteria. The newly pasteurized milk is stored in a tank for four to eight hours, so the ingredients can really get to know each other.

After making the two bases, they’ll head to one of the 20 flavor vats to get a flavor boost.

Fidler: We’re always coming up with new flavors, hundreds of flavors a year, and we usually narrow it down to about three or four. We really love to bring our social mission values into our naming process. For example, Empower Mint to talk about voting rights.

Narrator: Before Ben & Jerry’s famous chunks can be added, the mix has to get to below-freezing temperatures. It’s pumped through this giant freezing barrel, and when it gets to the front, it’s finally ice cream. Along the way, it’s quality tested, meaning lucky factory floor workers get to taste the ice creams.

Then it goes into the first of two freezer visits. When it comes out, it’s 22 degrees and somewhere between the consistency of a milkshake and soft serve.

Now for the best part, the chunks. Founder Ben actually didn’t have a great sense of smell, which meant he couldn’t taste much either. So his big thing was texture. That’s why Ben & Jerry’s has some of the biggest chunks in the ice cream industry. These chunks end up in flavors like Half Baked, Chubby Hubby, or the one we’re making, Chocolate Therapy.

Workers dump in add-ins through the Chunk Feeder, from brownie bites and cookie dough globs to chocolate chunks, fruits, and nuts. They let us give it a try, but it’s not as easy as it looks. Then it’s finally time to pack those pints. Workers stack the empty containers into the automatic filler. The machine drops the pints into position and perfectly pumps in ice cream. It can fill up 270 pints a minute. The pints are pushed towards the lidder and sealed tight.

At this point, six pints every hour are pulled off the line for quality testing. Quality assurance personnel first cut pints open. They’re making sure the ingredients are symmetrical and there aren’t any big air bubbles.

Worker: There is a small gap, but that’s what we call a functional void. If we saw large voids, it would be concerning. It’s actually quite the workout, as you can tell.

Narrator: They also measure the weight and volume of pints to ensure that the right amount of ice cream makes it into each container.

Worker: So, we know the weight of the ice cream, and anything below 460 is not passable.

Narrator: Now back to the factory line. It’s now time for the pints to take a second spin in the freezer. The ice cream has to get even colder, down to minus 10 degrees. The pints travel along the Spiral Hardener, a corkscrew-shaped conveyor belt inside a freezer. With the wind chill, it can get up to minus 60 degrees in there.

After three hours, the pints are finally frozen and ready to be packaged. They’re flipped over and shrink wrapped into groups of eight. Together, they make a gallon. But you’ll never actually see a gallon tub of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, because the company never wants its ice cream going bad sitting in the back of your fridge. Once the pints are packaged, they’re ready to be shipped across the globe.

Abby Narishkin: Hey, guys, my name’s Abby, and I’m one of the producers on this video. My favorite flavor is definitely Ben & Jerry’s Milk & Cookies, but let me know your favorites in the comments below and if you have any ideas for the next episode of “Big Business.” Don’t forget to hit the subscribe button so you don’t miss out.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in August 2020.

Read the original article on Business Insider

How real Vermont maple syrup is made

  • The Maple Guild in Island Pond, Vermont produces 1 million bottles of maple syrup each year.
  • It takes about 44 gallons of sap to make just 1 gallon of syrup. 
  • The Maple Guild pioneered a method called steam-crafting, which speeds up the production process.

Following is a transcription of the video.

Narrator: You’d never guess it, but tucked in this Vermont forest under a couple feet of snow is a giant maple-syrup farm. In fact, it’s the largest maple-syrup forest owned by a single-source producer in the world. But at The Maple Guild in Island Pond, Vermont, you won’t see guys in flannels carrying buckets of sap. OK, maybe you’ll see some flannel, but here, the art of sugaring is more like a science.

I think a lot of people look at maple syrup and they think of table syrup. They think of corn syrup. They think of some of the more popular things that they see on their shelves, right? And that’s not who we are or what we do. You can’t create this in a lab. This has to come from Mother Nature in the trees.

Narrator: Three Jersey boys founded The Maple Guild in 2013, and by 2015, they’d tapped their first maple tree. So the company may be young, but it’s not small. Today, it has almost half a million taps. That’s roughly 133 times as many as the average sugar maker in Vermont, and all those taps are on 24,000 acres of land. In the world of sugaring, that size forest is unheard of. So how exactly does The Maple Guild produce syrup on a macro scale? Well, it all starts with the trees.

These are sugar maple trees, and The Maple Guild has 460,000 of them spanning across the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont and into Canada. Starting in December each year, crews spend two months putting plastic taps into each one of these trees by hand. The same tree can be tapped for decades.

Mike Argyelan: Next year, we reuse everything, and we tap 8 inches high or low and 8 inches over so that we never harm a tree. It always allows it to heal.

Narrator: The sugaring season usually runs from February to April, but that’s completely dependent on the weather forecast.

John Campbell: Obviously, when the weather cooperates, and when Mother Nature gives us sap to pull, and that’s when the temperature’s above freezing during the day and below freezing at night, that’s when the sap runs.

Narrator: When the sap is running, it’s extracted either through vacuum tubing or gravity. Six thousand miles of plastic tubing carry the sap from the trees to pump stations. These are called reverse-osmosis houses. This is where the sap is collected and the water in the sap is filtered out, leaving a high-sugar-content concentrate. Sap has 2% sugar, concentrate has 20% sugar, so what we’re doing in the reverse-osmosis process is we’re pulling water out of the sap and concentrating the maple syrup into another solution.

Narrator: Because so much water is removed during this process, it takes about 44 gallons of sap to make just 1 gallon of maple syrup. That sugar concentrate is loaded up into trucks and brought to the sugar house where it’s finally turned into maple syrup. In traditional sugaring techniques, turning sap into syrup means boiling it over direct heat so the water evaporates. But The Maple Guild pioneered a new method that speeds up the process. It’s called Steam-Crafting.

Instead of boiling the sap, it’s steam-heated at a lower temperature using coils. With this system, The Maple Guild can make 55 gallons of maple syrup in just 90 seconds, while in traditional boiling techniques, it can take anywhere between nine and 56 hours to produce just 1 gallon of syrup. Not only is the Steam-Crafting method quicker, but the company says it also produces a more nuanced maple flavor. Because sap can go bad quickly, it has to be transported to the sugar house within three hours of being tapped. And usually within six hours, it will become that golden maple syrup.

John: When the sap is running, it can run for a day, it can run for a week, and then it can stop for two days or three weeks, and it’s really whatever the weather gives us. But whenever that sap is running, we will have people at this plant 18, 24 hours a day nonstop while that sap is running because we can’t afford to lose any of it.

Narrator: Once the sap’s turned into syrup, it’s tested to make sure the sugar levels are right. Next, it’s sent through filters to remove impurities, and it’s tested for grading. The lighter the color of syrup, the higher the grade. Because The Maple Guild syrup has a short cooking time, it’s lighter in color, giving it a consistent grade A, golden rating.

The golden syrup is then pumped into stainless-steel barrels where it’s stored until it’s time to be bottled up. Each bottle is filled, capped, cleaned, and labeled by hand here. The company expects to fill over a million bottles this year. The Maple Guild is vertically integrated, meaning it owns every step of this process from tree to table.

Mike: The maple industry has been stagnant for decades upon decades upon decades. It’s all small farmers doing their own thing on their own property, selling to the big conglomerate operators, and those guys making syrup, mostly private labels, some branded, and selling it out to the industry until we came along. And we’re vertically integrated, we own the trees, right through the manufacturing. Very capital-intensive, which is probably the barriers to entry for anybody else to do this.

Narrator: In the last five years, the maple-syrup industry has undergone somewhat of a revolution, and at the forefront are companies like The Maple Guild. Canada has historically dominated this market, producing 70% of the world’s maple syrup, and while it still owns the top spot, the US is gaining ground. United States production has doubled in the last decade, rising from 1.9 million gallons produced in 2008 to 4.16 million in 2018, and leading the charge is Vermont. Dubbed the maple-syrup capital of the US, the tiny state produces 40% of the maple syrup in the entire United States. In fact, Vermont’s production has grown 254% since 2000.

So the market was set for a large-scale production, but no one in the Vermont maple industry had taken on the unconventional sugaring model until The Maple Guild. It entered the scene as demand was taking off. Breweries across the state had started using maple syrup in their products. Oversea interest in pure maple syrup had spiked, and Americans on a health-food kick were turning to maple syrup as a natural alternative to refined sugar. And The Maple Guild is still riding that wave, selling branded products across 50 states and infusing its syrups with flavors like coffee, pumpkin spice, and bourbon.

Abby Narishkin: You got original, vanilla, bourbon, coffee, and salted caramel. It smells like the woods, which is where it came from. It tastes like sugar. I’m in.

Narrator: And while it all depends on what Mother Nature gives them, The Maple Guild does have an annual production goal.

John: Our goals are 150 to 200,000 gallons of maple syrup, we’d be OK with.

Narrator: The company’s not only bottling it up as syrup but using it in about 17 other maple-based products. First, there’s the maple butter. Maple syrup is cooked down and then poured into this mixer until it becomes a luscious cream. That stuff is cooked and jarred by hand and then hits the assembly line to be capped and labeled.

Abby: This is what I’ve been waiting for this whole time. Mmm. It’s like icing. That’s so good!

Narrator: There’s also naturally fermented maple vinegar, eight different maple-sweetened teas, and seven unique maple-sweetened waters. The Maple Guild hopes that by introducing maple into as many categories as possible, it can show the versatility of the product and bring attention to where the golden syrup comes from: here, in a Vermont forest.

Next up for The Maple Guild: kombucha, a kefir drinking water, and nitro coffee, all made from and sweetened by pure Vermont maple syrup.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in June 2019.

Read the original article on Business Insider