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Love & Joy Foods (the creators of Nacheez) was started out of the desire to offer delicious vegan foods for all.  Nacheez is the first product to be created by Love & Joy Foods and is sure not to be the last.

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Sacramento vegan releases dairy-free nacho cheese

by Monica Stark, Photo by Cathryn Reynolds
Sacramento Press, published on March 25, 2011

About a year ago, Sacramentan Ilsa Hess, 40, was stuck in a quandary. Craving some “nacho cheese from a pump,” Hess, who was a vegan for about a year at the time, had enough. And she sure wasn’t going to go back to eating dairy, so she decided to make her own. And just this week, Never Felt Better Vegan Shop on K Street began selling jars of her dairy-free nacho cheese concoction, aptly named Nacheez.

A vegetarian for 12 years and former board member of the Sacramento Vegetarian Society, Hess remembered when then-president, Linda Middlesworth sat her down and said, “Ilsa, you know the animals are still hurt even with dairy and eggs, so why aren’t you vegan?”

From that moment on, Hess said, “You’re right … But if I go out for Mexican, what the heck am I going to get?”

It was hard enough eating out with friends as a vegetarian, so Hess welcomed suggestions for vegan substitutes of the creamy, cheesy Mexican ingredients she so craved.

The first vegan nacho cheese recipes Hess found online didn’t taste right, but after numerous attempts, she said she found some that were loaded with cashews as a main ingredient. She remembers standing over the stove and eating half a batch and immediately thinking she could sell this, she said.

Besides cashews, the dairy-free nacho sauce contains water, red bell peppers, organic corn starch, lemon juice, yeast, salt, lactic acid and xanthan gum. There are 20 calories per serving (2 tbsp.) and 8.5 ounces per jar. The varieties come in mild and spicy. For vegans who struggle to get enough B-vitamins in their diets, Hess said the yeast in Nacheez packs them in.

While on the pricey side ($6.50 per 8.5-ounce jar), Hess said it’s because the ingredients are expensive.  “Raw cashews are not cheap,” she said, but they are the secret to Nacheez’s creaminess.

Middlesworth, who is now the president of the Sacramento Vegan Society, has hosted potlucks where Hess has brought along her dairy-free nacho sauce and people “went nuts” for it, Hess said.

While Hess’s home kitchen was ground zero for Nacheez’s beginnings, a co-packing company in Auburn has been doing much of the work since then. The company orders the ingredients, bottles the sauce, has it inspected for pH balance, and more.

A web designer and photographer by trade, Hess’s life took a sharp 180-degree turn more than a year ago when Sacramento County laid her off from an IT analyst position. But all that training hasn’t gone to waste, as the skills have helped her market her product through her website (http://www.nacheez.com) and product photography.

Hess is gearing up for next month’s Earth Day celebration at Southside Park and a launch party set for 5 – 8 p.m. April 8 at Never Felt Better vegan shop.

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