Eugene Company Makes Vegan Cheese

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EUGENE, Ore. — It’s not your average dairy product. In fact, it’s not dairy at all.

But somehow, the Eugene-based Avellana Creamery is still managing to take off in the cheese industry with an ingredient you wouldn’t expect.

The owners, former workers on local farms, actually make the cheese from Oregon-grown hazelnuts.

And while the company has already found a niche in the local vegan community, the passion behind their artisan cheeses is something anyone can appreciate.

Avellena Creamery’s story begins with Dingo. His adoption by co-founders Marika Banyacski and Susana Romatz prompted them to give up animal products altogether about a year and a half ago.

But it wasn’t until recently that the two considered turning a family staple into a business.

“I got laid off on a Friday,” Banyacski said. “And we decided we need to launch this now.”

So, to brie or not brie, that was cheese question, and it was an easy one to answer.

The two now rent out kitchen space, making milk by soaking, blending and straining hazelnuts, which then undergoes pretty much the same cheese making process as regular milk, to create four different kinds of creamy boursalt and a parmesan.

And as vegan foodies focused on the use of local products to support the local economy, the pair says the business is about more than just making a delicious edible.

“The really important thing I want to say about the whole process is you can redefine what you think is possible,” Romatz said.

And if others question whether their efforts make a difference at all, they’re confident in the path they’ve chosen.

“It makes a difference in my life. It makes a difference in the quality of that farmer’s life. It makes a big difference in the quality of that animal’s life. There’s a ripple effect that happens when you change very small habits in what you do,” Banyacski said.

The group is just a few months out from achieving its goal in its kickstart campaign. But as of now, you can find their product on the shelves at The Kiva and OG Corner Market on River Road in Eugene. And, you can always order directly through their website.

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