Being the only producer of wine flour on the east coast may be lonely, but one Finger Lakes entrepreneur has created a growing business.
If you’ve ever wondered what could be done with all the mashed grapes left over from wine making, Hillary Niver-Johnson did. When SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry graduate realized that making grapeseed oil from the leftover seeds was cost prohibitive, she stumbled on the process of making flour.
“Wine flour is a supplemental flour, not a substitutional flour,” said Niver-Johnson.
And she says the fact that it’s meant as a supplement, and not a substitute is what makes it attractive.
“That just means it’s really high in fiber, protein, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Because of the high fiber and protein, in each pound you have 150 grams of fiber and 150 grams of protein, and it’s really water absorbent, so you just have to use a little bit to get the color, flavor and nutrition.”
Niver-Johnson set up shop in a tiny pre-fabricated building in her hometown of Hector, on a densely wooded side road. If you stay on the main highway, you whiz by dozens of wineries; huge ones, small ones, organic and artesian winemakers. And that’s where she gets the pulp to make her flour.
“I supply the bins, I tell them what varieties I target,” she said. “They say what week they are harvesting. I go there and haul it away for them. They would have to pay someone to haul it away if I wasn’t going to do it.”
Niver-Johnson started the business three years ago, creating flour out of cab francs, gewürztraminers, and chardonnays, and selling it at winery gift and specialty shops. Wine flour is high in fiber, protein, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals and appeals to a niche market.
“People who are rally into plant based food, so vegans who want to get protein instead of protein from animals,” she said. And also I have a big market in people who are retiring and want to be healthy with a high protein diet.”
That’s enough to have taken her product, called Finger Lakes Wine Flour out of upstate New York, and into other markets along the east coast. And this year, she started selling it in California, where there are a handful of wine flour producers already.
“All the California people pretend I don’t exist and I’m not trying to learn what they’re doing,” she said. “I just would love to have someone to talk to.”
She’s hoping her next big move is into Wegmans. In the meantime her staff has grown from one, herself, to three, and she’s optimistic the only place her business is going, is up.
“We’re actually were positive $380 this year. So, yeah!”