How Lifeway Foods Is Standing With Ukraine During The War

It's been three months since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, meaning civilians are still facing volatile living conditions. Companies around the globe, such as Stoli and McDonald's, have been open about showing their support for Ukrainians. This month, another brand — whose product is fundamentally Ukrainian — recently posted an announcement of how it plans to stand with the country.

Lifeway Foods is an Illinois-based food company that specializes in kefir, a fermented milk drink that is high in nutrients and probiotics. According to the company's website, one serving of traditional kefir contains 12 probiotic cultures, in addition to 8 grams of protein and a generous amount of calcium. Though kefir made its way to the West in the 1960s, it has a much more extensive past, per the Raw Milk Institute. For millennia, the drink had been popular in the region of the Caucasus Mountains, which is between Asia and Europe. In the 20th century, immigrants from countries of Soviet occupation, such as Kyiv-born Lifeway Foods founder Michael Smolyansky, popularized the drink after bringing it over during the Cold War, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. With its deep Ukrainian roots, Lifeway Foods' homage to the current crisis in Ukraine holds a personal meaning.

Lifeway will donate up to $1 million to Ukrainian relief

Lifeway Foods announced earlier this month that it will be releasing a special charity bottle of plain kefir, featuring the colors of the Ukrainian flag, in June. The company states that 100% of the profits from the bottles will go "toward Ukrainian humanitarian aid with a commitment of up to $1 million." Julie Smolyansky, the CEO of Lifeway Foods who fled Kyiv with her parents and later took over her father's company, explained her family's motivation for the cause with the statement, "Lifeway was founded with a mission to bring an ancient Slavic superfood, kefir, to the U.S. It afforded my family the opportunity to participate in the American dream, fulfill entrepreneurial aspirations and pursue basic human freedoms." She went on to say that the funds should also help relatives of Lifeway employees who are based in Ukraine.

Lifeway has also hosted fundraisers to support this cause, presenting the Chicago Chefs Cook for Ukraine event that raised $700,000 for chef José Andrés' World Central Kitchen. The brand did not specify where the charity bottles will be sold, but its products are currently available at supermarkets such as Whole Foods.