University of Guelph graduates create a vegan, plant-based, and sustainable alternative to cream liqueurs by using soybean by-products

Mitchell Rice, Sean Mitchell, and Timothy Shuh began as partners in the University of Guelph’s “Project Soy” competition. Project Soy is an innovation competition that seeks to develop new products that use soy and soybeans as the main ingredient. As all three have backgrounds in agriculture, they were very interested in creating a new domestic use for soybeans since the majority of soybeans produced in Canada are exported. The three were inspired by the Asian process of making soy wine and wanted to see if they could make an alcoholic soy product other than wine. They decided to go a step further and distill it to purify the alcoholic content and produce a neutral spirit. They saw a real need for a cream liqueur that was vegan, lactose free, and plant based. In response, Mitchell, Sean, and Tim created Fifth Bean, a sustainable soy-based cream liqueur made from a soybean by-product.

As the Fifth Bean team is taking a traditional waste product and turning it into a liqueur, they felt their goals were aligned with those of Seeding Our Food Future (SOFF) and the development of a local circular food economy. Their project for SOFF is looking at business strategies and their social, economic, and environmental benefits within the circular food supply chain. Fifth Bean relies significantly on partnerships and collaborations for both the soy by-product and the distillery needed to produce the finished product. Through their partnerships with an Ontario-based tofu manufacturer and a local distillery, they are reducing their water consumption, carbon footprint, and reliance on raw ingredients. Through SOFF, Fifth Bean has been able to further develop their business and are now in the early stages of production.

               For Fifth Bean, circularity is about ensuring that the products are sustainably made and only using the amount of ingredients necessary by taking only what is needed and putting back what is left. Fifth Bean encourages consumers to think differently about the products they are purchasing and the materials that are used. To put their product into perspective, Fifth Bean liqueur uses 72% less water and emits 90% less greenhouse gases compared to traditional bovine cream liqueurs. Not only is Fifth Bean using more sustainable methods of alcohol production, but they are also creating a product from a material that otherwise had no use and was thrown away. They are using approximately 5.9 kilograms of wasted soybean product per 750 millilitre bottle (not including the soy milk needed). Fifth Bean is planning to launch their soy liqueur in the fall and have their product on store shelves by the end of 2021.


Photo by Olha Ruskykh from Pexels