Andrew Buerger is the founder of B’more Organic, an organic food and beverage company headquartered in Baltimore. The smoothies that make up B’more Organic’s flagship product line are based on an Icelandic style yogurt called skyr, which—in contrast with conventional dairy products—has more protein, less sugar, and no fat. The substance’s unique bacteria culture makes it suitable for people sensitive to lactose. Andrew came up with the idea for the company after trying skyr during a fundraising climbing expedition in Iceland. As a certified B Corporation, B’more Organic has pledged to meet strict social and environmental standards of sustainability, accountability, and transparency. B’more Organic also supports MS and breast cancer research by donating 1% of its sales to Jodi’s Climb for Hope.
Tell us about starting B’more Organic.
ANDREW BUERGER: I’ve been a health nut for a long time. Unfortunately, my father died when he was only 58 years old—I was 31—of heart disease. He had a bypass at 46 and later developed heart disease again and died during heart surgery. I was 31 years old. At that time, I was about 20 pounds overweight—already taking statin drugs at age 25. I just kind of thought that was my fate as well.
And then somebody came into my life and taught me how to eat right, which is so commonplace now: complex carbohydrates, only nuts, white flour, white sugar, lean protein, and only good fats—no bad fats. He changed my life. I was able to lose 20 pounds, throw away the statin drugs. I felt like I had the energy of an 18-year-old again. I was able to put back my Gilman football jacket again. I just became so energized literally and figuratively by this lifestyle.
I had been looking for a convenient source of protein ever since I met this man in 1998, and it wasn’t until we were climbing in Iceland that I find this protein source. You see, my sister unfortunately developed metastatic breast cancer, stage 4, and so we had started this nonprofit called Jodi’s Climb for Hope to raise money for promising breast cancer research at Johns Hopkins. So, we were over there as a group climbing in Iceland, and they served this yogurt-like thing for breakfast. I put a little bit on my granola, but I’m lactose intolerant, so I thought, “This is not going to be very pretty,” and I ate it and I was fine. I put some more the next day and I was still okay.
I said to [our guide] Ivar, “Ivar, what is this stuff?” He said, “It’s actually not yogurt. It’s skyr,” which is Icelandic style strained yogurt, very high in protein. He showed me the cup—22 grams of protein, no bad fats, and almost no sugar. I said, “That’s it.” I looked at my wife and I said, “This is what I want to do with the rest of my life. I want to get into the skyr business in the United States.”
That day, my wife was actually on the trip; she wasn’t climbing with us, but she was there. I looked at her and said, “This is it—this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.” On that trip together, we were over there… and people who know me know I’m not the smartest guy in the room, but I’m very resourceful. I went to the University of Vermont undergrad and they’ve got a real good dairy program there. So, we called up the school and said, “Can you introduce us to a dairy scientist?” They did and I called every single farm I could on the East Coast and wound up with SpringWood Organic Farm, which makes the product for Pitango Gelato, a local gelato company. It was an Israeli Jew named Noah Dan working on a Mennonite farm. My Chinese dairy scientist and I, we went up there and had a great meeting and that’s where we got started.