Ulu Hye founders and childhood besties Vasia and Heidi are on a mission to save 10 million cartons from going to landfill. Their very clever solution? A Nut Mylk Base which, when added to water in the blender, takes only a minute to make a delicious plant based milk alternative. Ulu Hye's vegan nut mylk bases come in four different flavours and are sure to become a household staple.
We sat down with Heidi and Vasia to talk about how they came up with the idea for the mylk bases, why their mission is so important to them and what lies on the road ahead.
Can you tell us a bit about yourselves and how Ulu Hye came about? What does the name Ulu Hye mean?
We are two best friends from country Victoria, passionate about sustainability and saving our planet. While we were trying to reduce our household waste, we struggled with how many milk cartons we were using each week. So we dug deeper into the recycling process around UHT cartons and what we found was very disappointing – only a small amount of these cartons were able to be recycled properly, with the majority ending up as landfill. This was the catalyst for us in trying to find a waste-free solution to plant-based milks. We engaged a food scientist to help us on our journey and proudly launched our first Nut Mylk Base to market in 2017.
Ulu comes from the Hawaiian meaning of ‘to grow and to inspire’ and Hye is a play on Heidi’s name.
We’re super impressed that your milk bases don’t only take pressure off the environment because they’re plant based, but that you’ve doubled down on the sustainability of your product by getting rid of the need for cartons and containers that would have ended up in landfill.
Can you tell us a little bit more about why bringing a sustainable product to the market is important to you and how the idea for the milk bases in glass jars came about?
Well, we simply looked at the ingredients list of any plant-based milk carton and it was easy to see that these products are roughly 95% water!
So many questions came to our minds: Why are we paying for mostly water? Why not have a concentrated version? Why are there so many additives and oils in these “healthy” milks? Can these cartons even be recycled properly? This was a huge game changer for us, and we knew there had to be alternative to using milk cartons or making your milk from scratch (which takes time and effort). And so, our “Mylk Bases” were born!
You’ve also created vegan condiments - mayonnaise, aioli, a ranch dressing and Hollandaise. Can you tell us a little more about them; and out of curiosity - what came first, the milk or the condiments?
Our Mylk Bases are our OG products! While we were on the journey of reducing the amount of household packaging, we also wanted to create a clean, concentrated version of our favourite vegan sauces. One small glass jar makes 6 cups of sauce and you only need water + oil. Plus, you get to pick your oil so you know exactly what ingredients are going into your favourite vegan sauces – nothing nasty in there!
Can you tell us a little bit more about running your own business: what is it like to be partners in business, what aspect of managing a business have you found most challenging and what do you think has been Ulu Hye’s biggest achievement so far?
Since we grew up together as wee young things, it’s been amazing being able to work together and bring our business to life. It hasn’t always been smooth sailing though and a challenge for us would centre around education. Consumers think living sustainably is expensive and that it requires effort. We aim to change the perception around this, showing consumers how easy and effortless it can be to make your milk at home while massively reducing your carbon footprint. Our Mylk Bases don’t compromise on time either, it only takes a minute out of your day. We recently won the Food & Drink Category at The Circle Awards Aus & NZ, which celebrates businesses shaping the circular economy. This was a real highlight in terms of recognition that small changes really can make a big impact.
Last but not least: what does the future hold for Ulu Hye?
Our mission is to save 10 million cartons from ending up in landfill, it’s what gets us out of bed in the morning. We aim to continue on this journey and hopefully become a household staple. We are continuing to innovate our product offerings from different size options to a few limited-edition flavours, so keep your eye out!