Sarah Zubiate has a foundation of cooking with rich flavors, but in her business, she’s taking those flavors and executing them with a healthy spin.
Her business, Zubi’s, produces plant-based queso, crema and salsa.
They’re also Latina-owned, gluten-free, vegan and top-eight allergen-free (eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, soy, wheat, fish, shellfish and milk).
These locally sourced products are manufactured in Texas, at a manufacturing facility and farm in Athens.
Zubi’s founder grew up along the Texas-Mexico border, in El Paso. She was adopted at birth and was the only daughter in a family of four. Her first job was at Bennigan’s, where she worked as a host and eventually a bartender. That’s where she found her passion for the food industry.
“I loved the ambiance that food brought,” Zubiate says. “There was something so beautiful and special about that restaurant.”
She graduated from St. Edward’s University in Austin and began working as a fixed income trader and in institutional asset management.
“I was good at that, but it didn’t speak to my soul,” Zubiate says.
After having twin girls, she decided to switch gears and chase something different: food.
In 2013, Highland Park resident Zubiate started selling salsa at farmers markets, upgraded versions of what her mother, Gloria Zubiate, used to make.
Two years later, though, she returned to the corporate world and was appointed to the board of directors of a publicly traded company that had a high-end hotel portfolio.
“That’s what solidified the fact that I love everything having to do with the food and beverage industry. The largest part of any hotel’s balance sheet is food and beverage, and I enjoyed getting to be a part of it,” she says.
In 2017, she returned to her business, Zubi’s, and sold into retail.
Zubiate presently has three specific products: crema de jalapeño, queso and salsa. On the company's website, you can purchase all three (in 16-ounce jars) for $27.47.
She knew she hit the mark because her parents, her harshest critics, love the products.
“My parents are 80,” Zubiate says. “They don’t care if something is healthy or organic. They just want to eat something they enjoy.
“It was important to me that what I created could be swapped out for Latin staples. I wanted it to be just as spicy and flavorful. ... What we do in Latin homes is congregate around food. I love to feed people. It’s the way of life.”
All of Zubi’s products are plant-based.
“I am not vegan, but I certainly eat a more plant-based diet,” she says. “It’s more than just a trend, as people learn more about their bodies and what to put into them.”
Unlike most vegan quesos, which are nut-based, Zubi’s queso uses sweet peppers as its base.
“Sweet peppers are extremely expensive because the farming of them is so expensive,” Zubiate says. “You have high labor costs — people have to pick them individually.”
She will soon begin farming these sweet peppers, among other produce, at her new manufacturing facility and farm, which opened in October 2019.
“My old manufacturer filed for bankruptcy,” she says. “They were losing money on my two main products — but didn’t realize that until it was too late.
“They put a lot of people out of business. Thankfully, we were perfectly positioned to build this facility and use it as a sustainable ecosystem.”
The facility in Athens is built on her fiancé’s family’s ranch.
“It’s a few thousand acres and is zero-waste,” Zubiate says. “Everything will be composted. It’s 100% powered by solar energy. It uses well water from 700 feet below the earth.”
She is excited to help bring healthy food to the area.
“A place like Athens, Texas, is deprived of so many healthy foods, even though it’s an hour and a half from Dallas. We have an ability to help these remote areas and to give back. ... I don’t come from a lot,” Zubiate says. “It’s been a crazy, wonderful life. It’s why I do what I do, and I love it.”
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You can find Zubi’s products at Central Market, Royal Blue Grocery, Plant Based Grocer, Lucky Mouth, Feed Me Pronto and at various farmers markets in Dallas-Fort Worth.
Zubiate plans to grow Zubi’s distribution to new retailers and also has two new products slated for this year.
Zubi’s recently updated their packaging to include “connecting people through food.” Her last name, Zubiate, means bridge over a ravine.
That’s what Zubi’s was founded on and what it continues to strive for as the business grows — bridging people together via food.