Cleveland entrepreneur Adrian Bota has evaded capture by Communist guards, brokered pharmaceutical sales, and championed innovation at the Cleveland Clinic. His latest venture? Origin Milk.
The cofounder of Piccadilly Artisan Creamery is on a mission to bring his innovative variety of milk and dairy goods to consumers thirsty for products that offer potential health benefits along with creamy fresh taste.
But is this milk actually new? Not really, says Bota.
He describes Origin as a “throwback innovation”—an opportunity to reintroduce a product that has been lost to us over the years.
“Origin Milk is the original milk,” he says. “It’s original on a genetic level, nutritional level, in milk fat, protein, taste, color. Origin milk is how milk was when cows were first domesticated.”
This return to the beginning is mirrored in the Bota family history.
Bota’s origins can be traced to Communist Romania in the 1980s. Desiring a better life for their children, Bota’s parents, John and Adriana, made many unsuccessful attempts to legally leave Romania to join family already in the United States.
Following the birth of the family’s fifth child, Adriana was granted a 30-day visa to visit Cleveland. The Romanian government assumed that a new infant would tether her to her homeland. After her arrival in the States, John informed his wife that he and their five children were coming to join her.
Thus began a journey of many months with John carrying an infant and hiding his children in barns and ditches, traveling with the help of friends, local shepherds, and those who worked to help refugees evade capture. The entire family spent time in a Hungarian jail before finally being helped over the border into Austria just in time to see the fall of Communism in their home country. Ultimately, the family was reunited with Adriana in Cleveland, and their new lives began.
In Romania, John worked in farming, but upon arrival in America, he imagined that his children might seek professions out of the fields. While Bota’s career began in the business and health sectors, his milk venture places him back in the heartland.
“My father thought I might become a doctor or a lawyer, as did many immigrant parents,” says Bota. “And now I’m spending time on farms and making milk—it’s come full circle.”
Bota sees this transition to a food-based business as a natural fit. “I’m a foodie,” he says. “I had helped others launch products and create businesses and it’s right up my alley. I’ve always been into food and local products.”
Bota originally found himself back on farms while searching for an organic milk producer to create Piccadilly’s ice cream and yogurt bases. After exploring a number of options, Adrian landed at Edward Keim Farm, an organic, heritage Amish farm in Stark County that raises Guernsey cows.
Through research and discussions with the farmers, Bota learned that Guernsey cows produce milk containing something called A2 protein. Currently, in the United States, 95% of milk is produced by other breeds of cow, and contains A1 protein. Years ago, all milk produced was A2 milk, but genetic mutations in cows, along with human intervention over time, led to the change.
A2 milk is believed to be closest to mother’s milk and easier for human digestion. A2 Guernsey milk also contains higher percentages of protein, calcium, omega-3, and vitamins A and D when compared with conventional and organic A1 milk.
While studies are ongoing, there is some evidence that for some individuals A2 milk may be easier to digest than A1 milk. When the A1 component is digested, an opioid known as BCM7 is released in the body. According to the book Devil in the Milk: Illness, Health and the Politics of A1 and A2 Milk, individuals who struggle to process BCM7 can experience an exacerbation of particular health issues with continued exposure to A1 milk protein.
Though positive health claims related to A2 milk are becoming more prevalent, Bota believes that the local Guernsey cows are the “secret ingredient” that distinguishes his products. And while he wants as many people as possible to have access to Origin products, he is not willing to sacrifice the principle of local sourcing.
Instead, he wants to do something no one is doing today— create a nationally recognized, locally sourced brand of milk by building a network of farms across the country that would have access to the Origin name, while obtaining their milk supply from within 200 miles of their local market.
“It’s not easy and it’s not convenient,” says Bota. “The vision is not to create an industrialized commercial dairy operation, but rather to work with local farmers and encourage them and create a market for their wonderful products.”
“We would take the distribution, marketing, and bottling hassle away from them while giving them credit for their quality products,” says Bota.
It’s not hard to imagine a Guernsey-driven change in the way milk is produced with Bota at the wheel. Despite his forward thinking, Bota is inextricably grounded in integrity and tradition.
The young immigrant who worked his first job from dawn to dusk at the West Side Market is really not so far from those early efforts. His eyes light up when he describes his desire to reconnect consumers with the way milk used to be.
“Origin Milk harkens back to a time when milk was delivered to your doorstep. We want to bring that same ethos back, which is the idea that the food we’re consuming, the milk we’re drinking, is coming from local farms and sustaining local farmers and communities. That’s ultimately best for the cows, farmers, land, customers, and even the bees that pollinate the grazing fields.”
Origin currently offers whole and 2% milk, chocolate milk, butter, half and half, heavy cream, goat’s milk, and feta cheese.
In the future, Bota foresees Origin expanding to offer drinkable yogurt, crème fraiche, artisan cheese, and even baby formula.
You can find Origin products at Heinen’s, Market District, Whole Foods, Constantino’s, and a number of other specialty grocers. Find out more about products and distribution at OriginMilk.com.