Susie Gutierrez

Susie Gutierrez, founder and owner of Susie’s Seitan.

By David Durrett – a current intern at GreenStar Food Co+op, David Durrrett is a lifelong resident of Ithaca as well as a graduate of Ithaca College. He is a freelance reporter whose work has also appeared in Tompkins Weekly and The Ithaca Voice, among other publications. 

Try Susie’s Seitan at our Cascadilla St., December 18, 12 PM – 2 PM! Susie will be present to sample her seitan locally made in a variety of flavors.

For 30 years, Susie Gutierrez has served Ithaca as a local producer of seitan, which she sells at GreenStar Food Co+op, among other retailers.

Seitan is a gluten-based vegan food Gutierrez describes as delicious and a good source of protein for vegans, vegetarians and even those who eat meat. She offers seitan in three different styles – sandwich slices and 16 oz. or 32 oz. loaves. The loaf can be sliced for sandwiches, heated in a skillet, diced for stir-fry, crumbled for burritos or tacos, or used in a variety of other ways replacing meat as an ingredient. Slices and  loaves are also available in a variety of flavors like BBQ, Lemon Teriyaki, Bake-Un, Sundried Tomato, Cajun, Curry, and more. 

Gutierrez has enjoyed seitan since she first tasted the vegan meat alternative long ago. She still likes eating it, no matter who makes it.

“At the time, I didn’t know [making seitan] was what I was going to be doing for 30 years, but it’s more than just a product to me. It’s something I would buy.”

Gutierrez got her start in 1991, when she moved from Miami to Ithaca. Her goal was to start a business in Ithaca, and she started with non-dairy desserts before focusing on seitan.

“Basically, it started from nothing,” Gutierrez said. “I think I had about $1,000 to get the equipment that I needed.”

During the same year Gutierrez arrived in Ithaca, she got in touch with GreenStar. She succeeded in convincing them to sell some of her products and has been working with them ever since. Gutierrez’s seitan is sold as far away as New York City, but GreenStar is the only establishment that sells all the varieties of her seitan.

“I feel like they are the ones who got me started,” Gutierrez said about GreenStar. “They’re the ones who gave me the chance to put my product in their store 30 years ago. I’m very grateful to them.”

In the past, Gutierrez sold other products in addition to seitan at GreenStar, such as vegan spanakopita and seitan filled with stuffing for Thanksgiving or Christmas. Over time, she chose to exclusively focus on making and selling seitan.

Gutierrez enjoys shopping at GreenStar, and especially likes the prepared foods it offers. She considers the store’s new location to be beneficial to her because GreenStar is the only place that carries all the sizes and flavors of her seitan, and more people stopping by GreenStar means more potential customers for her seitan.

“The new location and the new store is bringing in some new people,” Gutierrez said, ” I think that’s where a lot of new people are trying my product.”

One of the things Gutierrez finds most fulfilling is when people buy her product, especially since many of the people who do so have been buying what she sells for years.

“It’s quite a rush and very satisfying when I see people buying my product in the stores,” Gutierrez said. “That’s a lot of fun; it’s very enjoyable to see.”

Gutierrez often enjoys eating seitan from other producers and seeing what they do differently. She finds that in some cases, other producers of vegan food follow her example and make things that were almost unheard of back when Gutierrez first got started.

“Being in business for 30 years, I pretty much did things that people didn’t do yet, and over time, they all caught on, which is great,” Gutierrez said. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted Gutierrez by increasing prices for seitan ingredients, such as gluten, spices and soy sauce. She said that an order of ingredients that might cost $71 before costs $107 now.

 “When everything starts going up in price for my materials, it does affect me,” Gutierrez said.

 Gutierrez intends to continue staying true to her business’ purpose- producing seitan- even as she grows.

“Basically, what I have right now can only get bigger,” Gutierrez said. “I don’t really push it much. People call me if a café is opening and they want to try some seitan, or different things like that. I’m all open for new accounts, more accounts. I have the capacity to do quite a bit, make a lot of seitan.”