Episode 215: Melissa Martinelli
Apr 27, 2022
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When you hear the word “whey”, you probably think of whey protein powder, right? There’s so much more to whey than that, which is why Melissa Martinelli created Superfrau, a sparkling, bubbly, functional whey beverage made from fresh, upcycled whey that comes from the greek yogurt fermentation process. Superfrau drinks are jam packed with vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, amino acids and so much more!
Melissa got her start as an immigration lawyer focusing on deportation defense and asylum law. Her husband introduced her to Austria’s second most popular drink, where he’s originally from, that’s made of liquid whey and fresh juice. Skeptical, Melissa tried the drink and was shocked at how refreshing and invigorating it was. Intrigued to learn more, she found out that 90% of milk from cheese and 66% of milk from yogurt ends up as liquid whey. It was about 40 years ago larger cheese makers started manufacturing dry powder and concentrate of whey protein, but smaller cheesemakers haven’t had an outlet for their liquid whey. On top of it, because the pH of yogurt is lower and more acidic, you can’t dry it and turn it into a powder. Melissa founded Superfrau in 2018, creating her first prototype by the summer of 2019, and with the help of a Pepsi grant in early 2020, she made the drink shelf-stable (decreasing waste and making it more sustainable) and you can now purchase it at select Whole Foods and Urban Outfitters in the New England region and online.
Melissa’s on a mission to redefine her whey as a “coproduct” rather than a “byproduct”, which is a term often associated with waste. Since one of the biggest causes of forced migration is climate change and contributors to climate change, it’s no surprise Melissa leaped into creating something that’s upcycled and focused on sustainability. Melissa is part of the Upcycled Food Association, an association that is focused on the impact we make on the environment and reducing the food waste in our supply chain. Upcycled Food Association also certifies entire products and singular ingredients, so if you see the UFA Certified seal on a product, you know the company is doing a great job at reducing food waste and using upcycled ingredients. Melissa’s Superfrau certainly makes the cut since 98% of her product is upcycled whey!
Even Hippocrates, the “Father of Medicine” was prescribing his patients to drink liquid whey 2,400 years ago, which goes to show how powerful and historically healthy liquid whey is.
The great thing about Superfrau is it doesn’t have the often vinegar-y taste health drinks like kombucha have, and is still a great, healthy alternative to soda or cravings for something bubbly. Melissa describes Superfrau as slightly sweet, slightly tart, and the only sugar included are naturally occurring sugars. Superfrau adds a lactase enzyme to the drink, so if you’re lactose intolerant you don’t have to worry! Each bottle has 3 grams of protein, is filled with vitamins like Zinc, Vitamin B12, B6 and B3, and electrolytes like sodium, magnesium and phosphorus. Superfrau is a great recovery drink and comes in three, delicious flavors: cucumber lime, pineapple ginger, and peach mango, with a fourth flavor launching this summer.
“The first thing you’ll say when you pop open a can of Superfrau is, ‘wow that smells good!” Melissa Martinelli (11:47-11:54)
Not only is Superfrau a great alternative to soda, sugary recovery drinks, alcoholic beverages, or not-so-palatable health drinks, it’s great for the environment too. Being certified by the Upcycled Food Association, a certification process that rigorously analyzes the entire supply chain process of a product or ingredient lets you, the consumer, play a major role in reducing food waste in our supply chain and having a positive impact on the environment. You can enjoy your next bottle of Superfrau from select Whole Foods in the New England region, or shopping online at www.drinksuperfrau.com.
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