For Roxana Saidi, a first generation Iranian-American, pistachios have always been meaningful. With rich cultural significance in the Middle East, where pistachios have been grown for thousands of years, the crunchy green nut is also grown in California, where Roxana was born. What started as a passion project led Roxana to pioneer an entire new category in the popular alt/nondairy milk space: Táche, the first true pistachio milk in the US in 2020.
In 2015, Roxana began making her own pistachio milk at home as an alternative to almond milk, which was depleting California of precious water resources. Upon discovering that pistachio milk requires 75% less water, Roxana set out to source the most flavorful pistachios in the world with a desire to create a more sustainable, delicious nondairy milk alternative.
In developing Táche, Roxana put deliciousness front and center – a little nutty, a little sweet, and wonderfully healthy. Unlike some other milk alternatives, Táche’s velvety texture also doesn’t contain any added oils and foams well when steamed (by comparison, a latte made with oat milk has the toxic and inflammatory equivalent of a medium serving of French fries, and nearly the same blood sugar impact as Coke!). Plus, pistachios are the only nut that are a complete protein.
As part of my research on purpose-driven business, I recently talked to Roxana about the development of Táche and how it is the culmination of her Persian heritage and a love for her drought-stricken home state.
Christopher Marquis: How did you come up with the idea? What do pistachios mean to Iranian Americans?
Roxana Saidi: In the mid 2010s, I was living in my home state of California and we were experiencing the worst drought on record. Coincidentally, this was also during the rise of almond milk, a plant-based milk we realized necessitates an incredible amount of water to produce. Ironically it was during a family trip to Paris when the entrepreneurial lightbulb moment struck and at that moment, I knew I was about to embark on a wildly new journey.
As an Iranian-American, my family has always enjoyed and cherished pistachios. Pistachios are much more prevalent in other parts of the world and the US is just starting to catch up. Growing up, pistachios were as common in my home as potato chips were in my friends’ homes. In need of an espresso after one of our long Parisian lunches, it dawned on me that a milk could and should be made from my family’s favorite nut and would avoid abundant water needs, like almond milk. Upon returning home, I immediately started testing recipes for pistachio milk in my kitchen.
A few years later, oat milk began its takeover of the alt milk space, similarly offering a lower water use option compared to the leading nut milks on the market. However, oat milk contains added rapeseed or canola oil, which can wreak havoc on your body.
It was clear there was an empty space in the category just waiting for pistachio milk. I knew I wanted a dairy-free milk option that didn’t require sacrificing taste, the planet, or my health and that’s exactly what we’re doing at Táche.
Marquis: Can you tell me about the landscape of plant based milks? How does pistachio milk compare to other plant based milks like almond milk, oat milk, etc on environmental impact and health characteristics?
Saidi: The plant based milk category has exploded in the past decade with the two largest sources being almond and oat. But, each of these options come with their pitfalls either environmentally or in terms of health. It’s now well known that almonds require a tremendous amount of water to produce, which is especially precarious given they are grown in already arid locales like California. Pistachios grow with a fraction of the water needed for almonds. According to the UNESCO report shared in the LA Times, it takes 97 gallons of water to grow 1 ounce of almonds versus 25 gallons of water to grow 1 ounce of pistachios. That’s about 75% less water needed.
Likewise, unlike most oat milk options, we add absolutely no vegetable or canola oil in Táche. This is critical because just one serving size of oat milk with rapeseed (ie canola oil) is the equivalent of ingesting about the same amount of oil used in frying a medium order of fries. Rapeseed/canola oil is highly processed, contains toxic trans-fats, and has been linked to many health issues ranging from inflammation to cardiovascular disease. Additionally, many of the oat milk options also have roughly the same blood sugar impact as drinking a can of Coke.
On the flip side, Táche doesn’t add any seed oils and has significantly less calories, carbs, and sugar, so it’s much healthier. Due to the inherent oil content that occurs in pistachios naturally, Táche doesn’t sacrifice any of the creamy texture our customers crave.
Marquis: Do you think there’s a lack of transparency to the consumer in these environmental and health factors behind plant based milks?
Saidi: Absolutely – just like the plant based movement as a whole, it’s taking a lot of education to make sure consumers know that just because something is plant-derived does not mean it’s automatically healthy. That’s a big part of what we’re trying to do at Táche; educate consumers on a healthier option that actually tastes delicious too.
Marquis: Can you tell me about the history of the pistachio nut and later milk? Why was it never in the US prior to Tache?
Saidi: Pistachios have been consumed for thousands of years and have built a global reputation as a premium nut. And yet, they have been highly underutilized in the US compared to other nuts. This is simply because of a very challenging supply chain, and most brands have struggled to build a supply chain of high quality pistachios at attainable pricing. As the only pistachio milk in North America that doesn’t use other filler nuts or rice, we’ve created the supply chain and are in the process of growing it. The goal at Táche is to make pistachios much more accessible nut across categories.
Marquis: How has your background gotten you to where you are today?
Saidi: My background is in founding companies that are doing something different. Years before brands were taking social media seriously as a top of funnel tool, I founded a first-of-its-kind social media agency focused on investing in social media as a marketing tool. We led the strategy and execution of campaigns that most brands weren’t even considering yet.
Not only has this deepened my expertise in social media marketing and PR of course, but it’s given me a distinct opportunity to know when I’ve got a groundbreaking company in my hands. Now, we know social media is not only ubiquitous as a marketing tool but integral for a brand’s foundation. Similarly, I know pistachio milk is the wave of the future in plant based milks as it uniquely solves issues other plant based milks do not.
Marquis: I saw you just launched two new flavors – how do you see Táche growing in the next five years?
Saidi: If you walk around your local grocery stores, you’ll notice you won’t find too many pistachio products outside of pistachios themselves. You may find ice cream and now pistachio milk, but not much else.
Táche is not a pistachio milk company; we’re a pistachio company and we’re looking forward to making that clear as we grow the line. In June, as you mentioned, we released our most requested flavors, Vanilla and Unsweetened Vanilla, totaling four products for Táche. Our mission is for Táche to become synonymous with healthy, innovative pistachio products across the supermarket, from the refrigerated perimeter to the pantry aisle.