Sarah Qian, Compassion Creamery.
Former School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering student Sarah Qian is a self-confessed foodie and vegan whose graduation story is far from ordinary.
After discovering her graduate options of working in the oil and gas, mining, and industrial sectors weren’t for her, she decided to become a management consultant, despite receiving several offers to work in engineering.
However, management consulting didn’t feel right either. Then came the pandemic, and while the rest of the world was frozen in time by the first lockdown, Sarah had a stroke of genius.
She had witnessed a huge growth in the oat milk sector, which blew up on social media, dethroned almond milk, and became café lovers’ go-to – which inspired her to take action and pivot into entrepreneurship.
Armed with a “knock-off” Thermomix, blender and sacks of oats, the chemical engineering graduate turned her kitchen into a lab and began concocting her plan to make the world’s first oat-based cream cheese.
Eighteen months and 250 versions of R&D later, Compassion Creamery was born – a Sydney food start up that makes oat-based vegan cream cheese from culturing and fermenting methods traditionally used to make dairy cheese. Unlike other plant-based alternatives on the market, the cheese contains no coconut oil, starches, nuts or soy.
“I wanted to replicate the chemical properties of dairy cheese using oats – which are more neutrally flavoured compared with other plant-based products on the market that use soy and cashews,” said Sarah, who came from New Zealand to study at the University.
While in recent years, there has been an influx of vegan cheeses on the market, for many they are an inadequate tasting replacement, often relying on cashews or soy.
“For so many people switching to plant-based diets, cheese is often the hardest thing to give up, with many alternatives just not hitting the spot. Most plant-based cheeses use a processed and deodorised combination of coconut oil, starch, added flavours and colours,” said Sarah.