Sarah Sturtevant was on a business trip in Japan in 2013 when her colleague returned from a convenience store with a ubiquitous regional snack: onigiri, a rice ball wrapped in crunchy nori (dried seaweed) with a savory filling for eating on the go.
Upon leaving investment management, Sturtevant experimented in her Newton kitchen, analyzed consumer trends, and ultimately decided to create her own version of the Japanese-inspired snack. She formed SaCaR Enterprises LLC of Amesbury in 2014, and entered the market two years later with yuso. The “yum on the run” is available in four varieties: spicy smoked steelhead, smoked salmon, sesame chickpea, and seasonal options of coconut mango or Thai peanut smoked mackerel.
Q. What makes yuso special?
A. We’ve taken the 11th-century idea of a rice ball and brought it into the 21st century of global fusion using Japanese nori, short grain sushi rice from California, smoked steelhead from Norway, and a Middle Eastern sesame chickpea filling. We also make our own Sriracha and Thai peanut sauce. We’ve taken the best from around the world to go totally beyond traditional onigiri.
Q. Where does the name come from?
A. Yuso means “to transport” in Japanese. When you unwrap it, you can eat it with one hand — no chopsticks. It doesn’t fall apart, so your hands don’t get dirty.
Q. Is it good for you?
A. Yuso is high-protein and low-fat, with no additives or preservatives. Each one is gluten-free, dairy-free, antibiotic-free, and non-GMO. And it’s surprisingly filling for only having 200 calories or less.
Q. Do American consumers need to be educated about yuso?
A. Yes, in that when people think of snacks, they generally think of food that has a 90-day shelf life because it’s loaded with preservatives, sugar, and salt. They don’t yet automatically say, “I’m hungry,” and go to the refrigerator instead of the cupboard.
Q. What is your vision for the company?
A. Over time, I hope to license or franchise yuso in cities around the country to make it a national brand. College kids love it and eat a lot of it, and I can’t wait until students say to their friends at another campus, “You’ve got to get this brain food, which is great whether you’re working out or up late studying.”
Yuso is sold for $5.29-$5.50 at Kickstand Café in Arlington, Crosby’s Marketplace in Concord, and Brothers Marketplace in Medfield and Weston. For more information, visit yusogood.com.