See the latest developments in the future of food from Big Idea Ventures and our global portfolio.

For press inquiries, please contact us.

As fermentation continues to emerge as the third pillar in the alt protein sphere, one Chicago-based startup has created what it claims to be the first whole muscle seafood alternative through microbial fermentation. AquaCultured Foods has developed novel tech which allows the creation of fungi-based alternative seafood options, from calamari and shrimp to whitefish and tuna.

“As the first to create whole cut seafood alternatives via fermentation, the opportunity is almost limitless in the future food landscape” – Anne Palermo, CEO & Co-Founder, AquaCultured Foods

Utilizing its own proprietary strain of fungi, AquaCultured Foods creates a bioavailable complete protein, which replicates the texture, appearance, and nutritional profile of fish. The fungi naturally grows in fibrous threads, thus replicating the texture of meat, and crucially without the need of processing.

Aqua Cultured Foods
©Aqua Cultured Foods

Featuring at this month’s Future Food-Tech Alternative Proteins summit, AquaCultured CEO & Co-Founder Anne Palermo used her experience and knowledge of the sector to identify what she believes is a market white space for whole cut seafood alternatives.

“Plant-based seafood is an area that has been notoriously lacking in options. Identifying this lack of supply in spite of the overwhelming global demand has helped us to realize the market white space at hand,” she explained to vegconomist.

AquaCultured Foods stresses how its products are grown, rather than processed, allowing them to retain all naturally occurring proteins, fibers, and micronutrients, and avoiding the higher levels of sodium, starches, and isolates often found in plant-based proteins.

Aqua Cultured Foods
©Aqua Cultured Foods

The startup is in the process of raising $1.5 million to launch up to six SKUs in 1000 outlets, as well as rolling out its Popcorn Shrimp product into foodservice. After having recently featured in the Big Idea Ventures alt protein accelerator program, the company is looking to further its R&D, scale production, and expand its team.

“As the first to create whole cut seafood alternatives via fermentation, the opportunity is almost limitless in the future food landscape. Any way that traditional seafood can be used, from raw sashimi to battered and fried popcorn shrimp, our seafood alternatives can be utilized as a 1:1 replacement. Which is helping Aqua Cultured Foods make a truly impactful difference in both protecting our oceans and creating a more sustainable method of food production,” Palermo stated to vegconomist.

The race to move lab-grown meat onto supermarket shelves and onto dinner plates is heating up as more companies that cultivate cell-based meat and seafood — also known as “clean” or “cultured” meat — start to emerge.

Unlike plant-based meats that have rapidly grown in popularity, cultured meat is a lab-grown meat alternative produced from animal cells.

However, cultured meat faces serious challenges with cost reduction, scale-up and regulatory approval, according to a report by market research company IDTechEx.

Dr Vinayaka Srinivas co-founded local startup Gaia Foods in 2019 together with Thanh Hung Nguyen. Both are scientists by training and have over 20 years of experience in biology research.

Gaia Foods was started based on a simple idea: A cow weighs more than 600kg and when we kill it, we only use less than 50 per cent of it to produce meat. So why don’t we produce just the amount of meat that we are going to consume?

“(With) this, we can reduce great wastage of animal products, animal cruelty and also diseases that spread from gracing large herds of cows in a small land mass,” he said.

Replacing butchered meat with cultured meat

Gaia Foods is Southeast Asia’s first clean red meat company that produces meat using stem cell technology.

cow lamb pig
Image Credit: Seven Mile Road Church

It essentially develops cell-based cuts of pork, beef and mutton; and it’s doing so by growing animal cells on scaffolds, or thin plant-based surfaces, so that it mimics the texture of meat cuts as opposed to minced meat.

It also controls all the materials that are necessary for producing the meat to ensure that it doesn’t contain any antibiotics and other contaminants.

The goal of the company is to produce meat in a cleaner, green and animal-friendly manner that people can consume without any guilt.

In fact, the production of cultivated meat in a controlled environment is expected to reduce the land usage by more than 98 per cent, water usage by more than 95 per cent, and greenhouse gas emission by more than 80 per cent.

Srinivas shared that as a cultured meat company, he finds that it’s challenging for them to secure a space for them to do their work.

This is not any general co-working or commercial space. We need a regulatory approved place with all the instruments in place. (It) can be very expensive to start out on our own, so we need the support from different agencies to help us with that.

Apart from that, most investors like to see the product developed or ready to taste. Since we are very particular about all the ingredients that we source, this is one of the biggest hurdles (when we want) to showcase our product to investors.

– Dr Vinayaka Srinivas, co-founder of Gaia Foods

He also noted that many investors understand that the technology is not going to be profitable in the next few years, so they are ready to invest in them.

Producing cultured meat is an expensive affair

Gaia Foods is developing meat products using just muscle and fat cells from cows, lambs and pigs to eliminate the need to slaughter animals for their flesh.

Producing cultured meat is highly expensive and not scaleable in a cost-effective manner.

The cost of production currently stands at S$6,000 per kilogram, this is largely due to the expensive animal serum and pharma-grade nutrients used to grow and feed the animal cells respectively.

cultured meat
Image Credit: Food Navigator

As such, Gaia Foods strives to play a major role in making cultured meat a cost-effective meat in the future.

One of the ways to do so is cell line development. Although they use non-genetically modified (GM) cells, making them grow outside animal body for long periods of time is a challenge in itself.

However, the duo is confident that they can help bring the price down. They are already experimenting with developing a similar serum from plants and yeast, as well as cell feed from nutrients extracted from plants.

They are hoping to accelerate this development process if they are able to hit their goal of raising S$3 million by the end of this year.

To date, the bootstrapped startup has been relying on their US$125,000 seed funding from Big Idea Ventures.

The Temasek Holdings-backed firm invests in alternative protein companies that focus on cell- and plant-based foods and related technologies. In Singapore, it has invested in Karana, LVL Life, Confetti Fine Foods and Shiok Meats.

We are still an early-stage company to (generate) a revenue (but) after we started the company, we have managed to get attention from several investors and institutes in the likes of Big Idea Ventures, Temasek Life Sciences et cetera.

– Dr Vinayaka Srinivas, co-founder of Gaia Foods

Growing cultured meat is much faster

Gaia Foods was started in December 2019, right before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Before all the borders were closed, we had isolated small fingernail-sized animal samples and harvested stem cells from it. From then on, we solely relied on stem cells to do all our research,” said Srinivas.

“Cultured meat is the process of producing meat from the animal stem cells in a controlled environment. Just like how we produce noodles or any other food materials, we will use animal cells, give them proper nutrition and harvest them to produce any meat of choice.”

stem cell meat
Image Credit: Synthego

Typically, growing cultured meat in a factory takes anywhere between four to six weeks, as opposed to animals which will take around two to four years.

According to a Straits Times report, the nutrient broth costs about S$300 to S$400 per litre, and Bovine serum costs S$800 to S$1,000 per litre. The Bovine serum is the most widely-used serum for cell culture, and is added to the nutrient broth to help cells multiply.

The current cost of production is still very high, mainly because of all the supply chain (needed) to produce some of the components are not in place. Going forward, the cost of producing cultured meat will be equivalent or lower than traditional butchered meat in the market.

– Dr Vinayaka Srinivas, co-founder of Gaia Foods

When asked about some of the misconceptions about cultivated meat, Srinivas said that the core messaging that they want to bring centrestage is to make sure that this technology is a very simple way to produce meat and not science fiction.

“This is the biggest misconception (that are) in people’s minds — that this tech is somehow very secretive and uses lots of harmful chemicals.”

“Meat of the future”

Over the past two years, more than 15 alternative protein startups have set up base in Singapore.

Currently, the local alternative protein scene is dominated by the likes of first-movers Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, whose sausages and beef patties are now commonplace in supermarkets and resturants.

Gaia Food wants to do the same. It intends to go mass market in the next five years, and launch their first product in 3.5 years at S$15 to S$20 per kilogram, which is close to prices of traditional meat today.

gaia foods
Beef prototype by Gaia Foods / Image Credit: Gaia Foods

In October last year, Gaia Foods created its first structured meat product – six thin pieces of beef that were pancooked and served with rice noodles.

Commenting on the food tech industry, Srinivas said that the way in which we produce and consume food will significantly change in the future.

People will be asking more questions about the source of their foods, energy footprint and welfare of the animals. With these questions, we see a massive opportunity for alternate protein companies to have a huge role to play in the future.

Gaia Foods wants to be one of the leading technical and manufacturing powerhouses when it comes to novel food tech and we see ourselves playing a huge role in transitioning people’s habits from butchered to cultured meat in the future.

– Dr Vinayaka Srinivas, co-founder of Gaia Foods

Seafood is the most traded commodity in the world, and it is estimated that 85 percent of wild fish stocks are overfished or fully exploited. As a way to address the plethora of environmental issues found within the commercial seafood industry, startup Aqua Cultured Foods is developing alternative forms of seafood using fermentation.

The company, based in Chicago, Illinois, is in the process of developing whole muscle cuts of alternative seafood using fungi. I spoke on the phone this week with Anne Palermo, the CEO and founder of Aqua Cultured Foods, who was looking for a solution that could help feed the rapidly growing global population. She said, “The more I looked into fermentation, the more I thought that was the way to do it. You can create whole, bioavailable proteins that are very efficient to produce anywhere in the world.”

Using its fermentation process, Aqua Cultured Foods can produce a wide variety of seafood analogs — shrimp, white fish, ahi tuna, scallops, and calamari, to name a few. According to Palermo, the products will have the slippery and delicate texture found in many types of seafood, and will also contain the vitamin B12, which can sometimes be challenging to acquire naturally in a vegan or plant-based diet.

When asked about the process and tech behind developing the whole-muscle cuts of seafood, Palermo said she could not share much at the moment. The startup currently has three pending patents for its alternative seafood and the process behind it, including one for its proprietary fungi.

The Good Food Institute considers the plant-based seafood industry a white space, and this sector currently only accounts for 1 percent of total plant-based meat sales. There are so many different types and species of seafood, so at the moment there are seemingly endless possibilities for innovation in this space.

For alternative seafood, there are three different categories: plant-based, cultured, and fermentation. Aqua Cultured Foods seems to be really the only company in the fermentation category, but Prime Roots and Quorn each have one alternative seafood product (lobster ravioli and fish sticks). Blue NaluWild TypeShiok MeatsAvant Meats are a few companies that fall into the cultured meat category. The plant-based category includes Sophie’s KitchenNew Waves FoodsGood Catch, and Hooked.

Popcorn shrimp will be the first product launched by Aqua Cultured Foods, but the release date of the product has yet to be announced. The whole-muscle cuts of seafood will be available at some point after the popcorn shrimp on retailer shelves.

 

Podcast 5: Grounded Foods Co-Founder Veronica Fil speaks with Andrew D. Ive from Big Idea Ventures about starting a plant-based cheese company. 

In “The Big Idea Podcast: Food” series, each week our Founder Andrew D. Ive will speak with some of the most innovative minds in the food space about the exciting projects they are a part of.

The podcast can be viewed at the links below:

 

Please view the transcript of the interview below:

 

Andrew D. Ive

0:00 

Hi, welcome to the big idea food podcast. I’m Andrew, I’m your host. Today we’ll be talking to Veronica, the co founder of Grounded Foods. Grounded have made the most amazing plant based cheeses recently launched and taking the plant based cheese category by storm. We’re going to be talking to her about how they started, their motivations, and how they’re going to build a great plant based cheese company. Look forward to getting your feedback and comments, by all means, reach out after the podcast look forward to hearing from you. Thank you. 

 

So Grounded Foods, one of, In my opinion, the best if not the best, plant based dairy/ cheese company in the world. I’m sure I’ll start getting rude letters from other founders, you know, in the plant based space saying have you considered X and have you considered Y. But as far as I’m concerned in terms of all of the products I’ve tasted, today, Grounded is the best plant based cheese company in the world. So tell us about you, your co founder and Grounded Foods, and then maybe we can get into a conversation about it all.

 

Veronica Fil

1:26  

A big claim Andrew being the best plant based cheese company in the world. It’s been a two person unit coming out of Melbourne, Australia. So our products were originally created by my partner Sean who’s an award winning fine dining chef in Australia. He’s been running restaurants his entire career, he’s been in food R&D for the last 15 odd years, occasionally solving, you know, major flavor problems for much larger companies when their food scientists couldn’t crack the code on it. But he started putting plant based foods on the menu in our restaurant just because we noticed a shift in consumer preferences like the customers that were coming in, were largely from overseas, not necessarily local and they were all asking for more plant based options. Not only that, they were always asking for their dishes to be changed to be gluten free to be no sugar to be, you know, nut free, soy free all of the frees. And so he just intuitively started creating things for the menu that would be foolproof for him to serve to diners. 

Not true or any allergies, something that his own chefs wouldn’t stuff up because it’s just the same dish for everyone and one of those things was a cheese that didn’t contain any dairy. Now, Sean had this on the menu for a year before he told anyone that it wasn’t real cheese, including myself. And when I heard that the business side of me just started taking over and I said to Sean, “you do not understand what you’ve done” and I immediately wrote a business plan, pitched it to an accelerator program back home. Won a little bit of prize money and from there, everything just blew up. I think it was just a few weeks after that, Andrew that we met you at Big Idea ventures on the other side of the world, ready to commercialize the products and we just never went home.

 

3:27  

So I remember that you and I were there at this weird thing at Season Chips with this conference around food and food innovation, bringing together amazing companies and innovators and there was this sort of weird thing. I think it was like five minutes with an investor or something. 

 

So you and I were on a stage, there were two kind of stalls that looked like I don’t know, we were going to start playing a guitar solo or something. You and I were sort of propped up on these stalls and a video or TV camera or something was recording the whole conversation except that there was this big clock counting down because you literally had five minutes not a second more, not a second less and we sat down and you started your conversation with “I’ve got the most incredible plant based cheese and we want you guys to invest in it and we want to come to the United States”. I was thinking to myself, “Oh crap, one more plant based cheese company that wants to give us I don’t know, the next cashew nut butter cheese that everybody else seems to want to give us”. And you said “it’s made from something completely different”. and that was like Okay, now let’s have the conversation.

 

4:51  

Absolutely. So we make it from cauliflower and hemp and we do that because I guess, in Shawn’s mind, that was the most obvious solution for cracking the code on flavor and on mouthfeel texture, the entire sensory experience. I always say like that was not obvious to anybody else in the world, apparently. But to him, it made complete sense. And I think once everyone else tasted it, then they agreed. 

 

5:19  

That was in Melbourne, right?

 

5:21  

Yeah, this was back in Melbourne. I don’t think we ever expected that we would even build a company off of it initially. I initially just thought it would be a little side hustle for myself that I’d start commercializing some of Sean’s more creative products. At the time, he was doing a lot of plant based seafood as well out of, again, vegetable ingredients, such as celeriac. But the reason we decided to double down on the cheese is just because my background is in economics. All I had to do was watch the market for the last couple of years and see where I guess the big gap was happening. And we just figured, looking at the trajectory of plant based milks and meats, it’s more than likely that cheese is going to be the next big one to hit. So it just made sense to you know, right place right time. Let’s double down on that one right now.

 

6:10  

So I think you’re right, in terms of, you know, big opportunity, the next wave in terms of where consumers were looking for great, great products. But, you know, I want to kind of go back to something you said a bit earlier. I’ve got to know, Sean, and he is like an incredible guy. He’s actually quite a big deal in the chef slash food scene in Australia, that I think I saw a number of videos and a number of shows and things that he was a part of. Like, he’s, he’s the real deal when it comes to cooking and innovating in the food space. He’s not a food scientist, though, you know, well, I mean, tell us about Shawn. 

 

6:52  

Yeh he’s like a mad genius. He’s completely self taught has been his entire life. Just one of those obsessive genius personalities that will not stop until something is perfect. Currently he just has to do it himself, hands on, play with it until he perfects his craft. And I think I’ve never really seen Sean as a chef, I think he’s something much more, you know, his talent and his skill, something much greater than just being a chef in the past in the kitchen. He’s essentially, in r&d he’s creative. He’s a businessman. I think in the past, it’s just been confined to restaurants, whereas now we’re using those skills and taking them and applying them to something with much greater global impact, I guess.

 

7:45  

And you mentioned he has created a product, because people were asking for plant based cheeses as one of the frees …..  free from wheat ….. free from gluten, all that stuff free from dairy. He created the product, he plated the product, he sold it within the restaurant to multiple people, never once actually mentioning to them that the cheese they were eating wasn’t dairy. And nobody figured it out?

 

8:11  

Nobody ever suspected it. Like I think Sean’s got a reputation for making food. That’s not what it seems all of the gastronomical wizardry and wimzie. And, you know, smoke and mirrors behind it, which is what used to excite our diners, because, you know, they’d never get a menu at the start of the night, they’d get at the end, and they’d be shocked and delighted by what they just ate and how it had tricked their taste buds. So I think it was expected that Sean would be playing around with the perception in their senses in some way, shape, or form. But no one ever expected that it just wasn’t cheese whatsoever. I think the closest anyone ever got was asking which farm it was from because it tasted a bit different. So they just thought it was some, you know, the cheese was some artisan you know, small batch produced thing from a local farm.

 

9:02  

But the funny thing is, he was all about creating new flavors, new sensations, new tastes with different ingredients. But in this case, he used a different ingredient, a different combination of ingredients to create a taste, which was more traditional, it was a taste that was you know, to people’s taste buds the sensation in their mouth and so on. Cheese dairy period, it wasn’t trying to be anything different in that sense, but it was just made from something completely different.

 

9:32  

Yeah, I think we started working a lot together on the the sensory experience side of things and the psychology around taste and flavor and I guess the dining experience in general, because we used to use so many wacky you know, so much novel tech in the restaurant. Like we’d be hiring actors, engineers, musicians, psychologists, we even had, you know, sound and lighting technicians in there at one point We figured if we were going to kind of take people out of their comfort zone with all of these factors, we need to bring some familiarity back in a different way. So while he’d be using these unique and underutilized ingredients that people weren’t very familiar with, we still had to anchor them with something that they were deeply comfortable with and that was the flavor. Like, it might be different ingredients, but it’s still a flavor that you recognize. It’s a flavor that you’ve grown up with. It’s the same flavor as cheese.

 

10:30  

So we gave you an offer, we said, “Hey, we’re going to invest in you”. This was in you guys. We’re at that time in Australia. You pack up yourselves your lives, your little puppy dog. And you guys take New York by storm. How long after the offer were you on site in New York? 

 

10:57  

Seven days …. I was already packed. 

 

11:01  

So within seven days Grounded Foods hit America.  You have been here how long now?

 

11:09  

Since October 2019. So we kind of, we got here, we spent a few months going through the BIV accelerator and then as you know, COVID hit once everyone had completed the first cohort of the accelerator. So a bit a bit freaked out at that point but fortunately, we just got our visas granted. And that was, in all honesty, the scariest part of this entire business journey was just getting those visas granted so that we didn’t have to, you know, be deported, which would have completely screwed the company from day one. So we were very, very fortunate to get that one week before Trump closed the borders. At the time, I think had that been one week later, the business could be looking very, very different at this stage.

 

11:57  

And at the time, or around about that time you closed what a couple of million bucks give or take?

 

12:05  

That was later in the year. So that was last August, we did 1.74 million.

 

12:10  

Okay. Not a bad result, given that, you know,

 

12:15  

Given the pandemic, it was a bit hairy for a while. I think none of the investors knew that we were probably down to our last $1,000 in the bank account between us. It was getting really weird, drawn out a lot of our superannuation back from Australia, which is like the 401k here. So if this didn’t work, we didn’t have much to go home to.

 

12:39  

And so now what is it a week, we’re now kind of April the eighth some sort of just dating the podcast here, somebody will listen in a month’s time via Oh, it’s a month old already but you guys, I received my Grounded Foods fully commercial ready to eat product, no samples, no sort of test products here. I received a fully completely professional looking  product yesterday. A big brown box arrived and I waded through all of the kinds of materials to ultimately get to an incredible array of black packaging with your bold white logo. Haven’t tasted it yet. I’m waiting for that. But you’re now commercially available, right? People can come to grounded foods and buy, buy your product in the US?

 

13:32  

Absolutely. So they can buy it on our website and we’re about to roll out through retailers as well. So we’re launching through Whole Foods and I think we’re at about 100 other doors right now. The next month starting in California branching out just pretty much pocket by pocket by opening up different distribution centers around the US until we cover the whole country.

 

13:56  

I think the great thing about your product apart from who’s behind it, i.e. you and Shean, is that it sells itself. Anyone you know, not everyone always loves it. You’re not you know, I would guess one out of every 10 people says, for whatever reason, it’s not for me, but nine people out of 10 love it, they just really love it and that helps close the deals, right?

 

14:21  

Yeah, it’s good in one way but almost more frustrating in another way because the entire category of vegan cheese has such negative connotations around it. Because other brands have done so much damage to its reputation over the last few decades. It’s just been a category that’s been incredibly slow to innovate, has not seen the same level of innovation that we’ve seen from milk and meat like Beyond and Impossible and Only. 

 

So whenever you say the word vegan cheese, people immediately make a gagging face. So we really try to steer away from that label entirely. We will not say the word vegan on our products just because we’re going after a different audience, we’re going after mainstream flexitarian consumers that are just trying to dip their toes into the waters of trying plant based options, maybe for the first time even, and just starting to cut back on the animal based proteins. And I think if you if you call it a vegan cheese, then that can be really off putting to the consumers straight off the bat. So we just don’t we just don’t it’s just a novel cheese made from cauliflower and hemp.

 

15:34  

I think you guys could be the gateway dairy for the vegan lifestyle? I don’t know, I’m not sure. I think in a sense, it’s a bit of a challenge. Because after trying Grounded, I think it kind of is going to be tough for people to go try the other, you know, vegan cheeses and see it as anything similar. I think it’s, it sets the bar a little high. Now if we get great products like this setting the bar high in all of the categories, maybe people will, you know, be more flexible, flexible or even vegan. I think that’s the goal, right? Well, at least that’s my goal. It may not be yours.

 

16:09  

Well, no, I mean, we often ask ourselves, because we’re not vegan at the moment. We often ask ourselves, after tasting 70 products over the last maybe 12 months that have just really upped the game on what we’ve tasted previously. It’s like, hang on, why aren’t we eating more? Just every day, there’s less and less reason to not go plant based and I can foresee a future where like, there’s just no reason to not eat that way anymore and that’s what I’m hoping I think that we’re going to get there faster, well, much faster than I originally anticipated.

 

16:48  

I’m going to change tack now and not even just ask the other investors we work with, we all have the same goal to find great companies who raise that bar and give more and more reasons why people don’t need to be clearly in one camp or the other camp. And even maybe one day can move across fully to a completely 100% plant based lifestyle. No pressure but if we give them great foods, then you know, it makes it easier to do but it hasn’t always been plain sailing, you know, hasn’t always been an easy road. I’m sure there have been times when, as a founder with any, you know, young company, there have been times where you’re like nervous, concerned, scratching your head about, you know, what’s happening next. Anything in particular come to mind.

 

17:42  

Yeah, every freaking day, Andrew like nothing is good enough. We cry on a weekly basis. But I think that’s the difference I think any founders that are not crying every week and not freaking out every minute of the day are probably not very successful ones. Because that’s just part and parcel of the entire journey. We find personally that the biggest things that we stress about the elements of the business that we don’t touch personally. So co packing, working with third party logistics providers, anything that doesn’t have our hands on it, and we can’t control is usually where things go arrive just because no one is ever going to have the same standards that you do. Right.

 

18:30  

Okay, so how do you deal with it? Do you become a minutia maniac? Or do you insource or in you know, deal with the things yourselves? Do you set up a contract manufacturing facility for yourself? Do you set up a manufacturer a packaging company? Like when do you stop? 

 

18:49  

it’s a balance, isn’t it? Because it makes no sense as you know, as a startup, that’s not even on the market yet to just dump millions of dollars into building your own facility, you know, take all that time to actually do it, when in reality, we just need to get on the market and validate the products first, see what people like and then raise the capital to take it to the next step. I think just looking at other companies in this space, and how they’ve done in the past, I think a lot of them have gone that route of setting up their own facilities, because they just didn’t have a choice. There was no one available to make their products. It’s a new process. It’s a new category. But it also took them years and years to build up to get on the market. A lot of them would invest all that money in a production workflow that it turned out later down the track our shit that actually doesn’t work, we’re going to need to buy all new equipment under a completely different way. We didn’t want to waste money on that. It’s a time sensitive thing in my opinion as well. There’s so much innovation happening right now that we don’t have time to just spend a year spending all this money just to see if it may or may not work. So to me Finding a co Packer is essential at this stage but also an incredibly difficult Feat and as I said before, no one really ever weighs up to the standards that you’ll have as a founder.

 

20:12  

Now I’ve had the pleasure of tasting multiple products that Sean has made around this area. Why don’t you take us through the products that you have decided to bring to market first? You know what products did you choose? Why did you choose them and you know, tell us a little bit about them.

 

20:34  

Sean’s done about 35 different styles of cheese in terms of formulations. Obviously, we’re not going to bring 35 to market all at once, that would be a good way to kill a business. But we chose the first three, which is the cheese free cheese sauce, a cream cheese, and a marinated goat cheese, all made out of hemp or mixture of hemp and cauliflower. We chose those ones, firstly, because we thought that they would be the quickest to get on the market, just fresh cheeses no lengthy fermentation periods or aging. So they can be cooked, you know batched up into a pallet relatively quickly. 

 

We also chose those ones because we thought that would be the most popular straight off the bat. So just thinking about volume and getting our name out there from day one, like cream cheeses and high brass copper then, apart from that, we’re also just thinking what products will form the basis of all of our other ones. Like if we can get the the manufacturing workflow right for these three products, we can essentially make all 35 of them off of the same equipment. So if we had chosen something like an aged cabin, air or green arrow, one of these other fancy cheeses that we’ve made in the past, that would have been great, but it wouldn’t have allowed us to make everything else on that same modular equipment it would have required, you know, setting up a whole other process to do the next range. Interesting.

 

22:05  

So the contract manufacturer or the third party that you’re using to execute on making these products, you figured out which product set they could do most quickly, most efficiently given the equipment they had, if you guys or when you guys decide to launch the range of products that Sean’s you know, allowed me to taste, they will mean they will need what new equipment, new processes, etc. And it will change the dynamic of the manufacturing process.

 

22:33  

Well, we we fundraised last year to buy our own equipment, because there was no turnkey manufacturing option for something like this and I think it’s the same experience for a lot of plant based companies. They’re doing something that no one else in the world has ever done before so there’s no facility that can you can just walk in there and give them the formulation and they just make it for you. So we built a very modular system, which allows us to make the most number of different products skews on the leanest setup possible and then every time we add a new product line or a different packaging format, it’s just a matter of adding that piece of equipment onto the end of it so that we can package it in a shred or a little single survey of old style cheese or something like that. But it’s essentially the same base formulation that goes into everything. 

 

That’s what we’re using this co Packer for, when we start rolling out additional products, we’re going to need different styles of equipment, I don’t really want to buy more equipment at this stage, because that’s literally the most expensive thing that we’ve had to do so far. So it will most likely mean going into different facilities, taking that base formulation over to them and just getting it processed at different locations. So we’re essentially looking at conversion plots to create the different product skews but all the bases created at the same co Packer at the start.

 

24:02  

I totally understand and have you figured out what’s coming next from a product perspective? Or is it very much about, hey, we’re in $100. Today, in the next six months, we think that’s going to go from 100 to maybe I don’t know, 300, or 500, or whatever the growth projections are, we’re just gonna double down and really kind of make sure we over deliver in terms of revenue and descend growth in the core products and we’ll think about what’s next later. How are you thinking about that kind of product graphs.

 

24:36  

So we’ve got this product matrix, our spreadsheet of all of the products that we want to do or the ideas and it really just comes down to cost benefit analysis on every single one nd always watching the market, always looking at customer feedback. And it’s really just being responsive to what we think people are going to buy. It’s not like a passion project thing. It’s not like we’re thinking or you know, a vintage cheddar we just we love that we really, really want to do that. Next, it’s like, we don’t care if something’s not selling, we’ll cut it off at the limb and do something else. So it really just depends on what retailers want and what consumers are buying. And that’s partly why we’ve got the DTC platform up and running. To us direct to consumer sales are just a marketing activity. It’s really just there so that people can tell us what they like we can split test different flavors, different formats, and then use all of the data that we’re getting from that platform to inform how we roll out our retail products.

 

25:33  

I love that you guys are making the consumer, the arbiter of where this business goes, I think that’s a really smart way to do it. You know, many, many founders sort of get passionate and fall in love with their own problem that they need to solve or the product that they want to deliver to market and they ignore feedback and then take note of what the markets telling them. And sometimes, maybe they hit it lucky. And they line those things up with what the consumer wants with what they want to deliver as, as an entrepreneur, you guys are by the sounds of it selectively choosing from the 30 at least 35 different products. I know Sean’s could create 35 products in a weekend. Yeah, you guys are gonna, you know, let the consumer tell you what they want. I think that’s super smart.

 

26:21  

I think it comes down to having the hospitality and restaurant experience behind us. Like if we wanted to just if this was just a creative project, we’d still just have a restaurant and leave it at that. But, you know, if we’re actually bringing a product to market and expecting people to buy it, they need to tell us what they want not us dictate it to them.

 

26:42  

So what advice would you or Sean potentially have for another chef out there that thinks they want to make that transition from, you know, restaurant chef to taking their their recipes, their creations and taking it to the broader market?

 

27:00  

It’s a very different business model, obviously, I think Sean felt really, really uncomfortable about it at first. Look, it took a long time for me to I won’t lie to convince Sean to completely walk away from a restaurant that was doing very, very well, you know, his career’s going gangbusters. And I’m asking him to just walk away from it entirely and just become a cheese mogul with me. That was no easy feat. But I’m glad he trusted me on that on

 

27:31  

Being married helps, I guess …..

 

27:33  

Exactly. I think one thing that really stuck out to me, though, when we first started was that even though I had the business experience, a lot of the feedback that we would get was, you know, Sean’s just a chef, how’s he going to scale these recipes? He’s, you know, he can do it in a, you know, little kitchen serving 50 customers a night, but how is he going to do it in a 25,000 square foot production facility? Well, he did, because he’s got that skill set. You know, he knows how to scale recipes, he knows how to manage cost of goods, he knows how to utilize stuff that would normally go to waste. Hence, the reason why we use cauliflower scraps, because at the start, that was his way of using up stuff that he didn’t want to throw away in his restaurant kitchen. So my advice to chefs is that you guys already have the skills to do this stuff. It’s just a different application. And don’t let anyone tell you that just because you’ve never manufactured a food product that you don’t know what you’re doing. You may have the skill set, you may have already set up a successful business, dealt with vendors, managed massive teams of staff ….. this is just a really big kitchen ….

 

28:27  

And they’re getting daily consumer feedback. It’s like, every day they take the show on the road into the restaurant and get that food in front of people in the mouths of consumers. They’re getting told every day, this is what we love. This is what we don’t like quite as much. They’ve got that data, they’ve got that insight that most food producers, you know, don’t necessarily get until they’ve invested a couple of million bucks in a couple of years producing something which they hope is going to work when it hits the show, you know, hits the mouths of the consumers.

 

29:20  

Absolutely. And I think that’s a huge competitive advantage for us as a founding team that we never had to go out and hire a food scientist or a food technologist or get someone to help us develop recipes for a concept that would have you know, we we already could do it ourselves. And I really think that chefs just intuitively have that ability. They don’t need I guess they they come from a different perspective of people that might be more formally trained in an academic sense. And that’s where we’re starting to see some really, really unique products come out just because different mindset just coming from a different place. You know, chefs can come up with different ways of doing things.

 

30:01  

So how do you you mentioned before that, you know, you guys are crying on a weekly basis, challenges occur. You ensure in a very different people. He’s the, you know, he’s the product development, creative genius, as you mentioned, and I think he truly yours that’s not hyperbole. You’re the dog eared, creative business person, sort of. And I’m sure he’s very good at business as well. But you know, you’re, you’re the, you know, you’re the business Rottweiler of this team who kind of gets things done and drives things through. Great team in that sense. Do you have what’s next in terms of building the team? What do you need to add that you don’t already have?

 

30:44  

Well, we started looking at our team after we close the fundraising round last year. So the first two hires was Jeff, who heads up our sales team. So that’s already I think that’s a core role for any any startup is sales, obviously, even if you’re really good at sales as a founder, the more people the better, right? To help you out with that. So that was hire number one, and then hire number two was Jason who is out, he heads up our operations. So he’s in charge of supply chain management, logistics, all of those, I guess, filling in the gaps that Shawn was just trying to teach himself at the start and trying to get this product, commercial, like scale it up on the production equipment, Jason was able to get in there and just accelerate that whole process drive down our cost of goods to a place where we never thought was even possible. So to me, that’s in a lot of startups, the first two roles that I’ve been looking to hire for.

 

31:45  

And you’ve got some more folks, too, that you’re out on the lookout for if someone’s listening to this, and they have a particular skill set. What are you looking for next, or maybe you’re not…..

 

31:56  

Not just yet, I think the next logical hires for us will just be two weeks to expand our sales team and other than that, we’ve done everything in house. So marketing, for instance, is something that I’d probably never hire for just because that’s my background. So we’ve always done all of the marketing ourselves, we, if anything, we use a lot of external agencies just to do the heavy lifting of stuff that we don’t have time to do. So even though we’ve done all the graphic design and branding and everything for our first range of products that was so time consuming to teach ourselves that we just never do that. Again, we’d rather just hire people to do that for us. I don’t really want to be sitting at my desk all day watching Google Analytics, and monitoring our AdWords, and you know, Instagram campaigns. So we hire people externally to do that for us. I think that’s the lane approach that I’d always prefer to do that because you know, if it doesn’t work out, or you want to switch consultants, it’s a very easy change to make, rather than going to the effort of hiring all of these full time staff from day one.

 

33:01  

And where do you see, Grounded, you know, everything works the way you want it to you and Shawn, kind of just drive the business? Where do you see grounded being, if you achieve your Nirvana in, I don’t know, five years,

 

33:15  

I would like to see that we become the first plant based cheese company in the world to truly break through this category, and make something that mainstream consumers want to eat in the same way that they’re willing to try Beyond and Impossible. Those burgers still need a slice of cheese on it at the end of the day and I want us to be that. we’ve made. We don’t want to be plant based cheese moguls forever, I can definitely see us one day down the track having a strategic partnership with another, you know, maybe even current dairy producer that’s looking to bring in plant based products into their portfolio or even looking to convert depending on where the market takes us. We’ll see where consumers pull us in the next five years, right? I have a feeling that, you know, current dairy manufacturers might be having a challenge on their hands. So they might be looking to work with companies like us in the future.

 

34:15  

So global? 

 

34:17  

Absolutely. File trademarks already filed and an international strategy….

 

34:23  

You’ve got an international strategy already. So 35 products to roll out in the US and plus International. So what’s after the US? What’s the next geography? Is it go back home and do something in Australia?

 

34:35  

No, because look, I think that Australia is a really, really exciting place in terms of plant based innovation, especially with the geographical proximity to Singapore, just Asia in general. I really think that’s where the hub of all of the excitement is at the moment, not necessarily the US, but just thinking realistically in terms of numbers. I mean, the market in California is still bigger than the market in Australia and New Zealand combined for these kinds of products, so it doesn’t really make logical sense to go back home to Australia. 

 

Next with it would more likely be tackling the EU, maybe branching out to Canada first, that’s a soft step to get, you know, to get much bigger, but we’re definitely looking at taking this company global and I think it just makes sense to consider we’ve got such a low cost of goods and make products out of hemp, which just grows like a weed all over the world, essentially, in a vast array of growing climates, with minimal fertilizer, or water resources. And then using cauliflower as well, like super accessible, super low cost, I would really like to see that technology taken into more developing countries. 

 

Even Latin America, for instance, using those ingredients that have grown, they’re using workers that are hired from that location where we’re selling the products. And just making something that’s a lot more affordable to everyday consumers than it’s ever been before, instead of having these kind of latest vegan products on the market, like happens at the moment, and I’m speaking of that, you know, is living at the base of the Hollywood Hills here. So I’m fully aware of how exclusive it can be and potential.

 

36:26  

So you know that we’re going to be opening up our Parisien office in June, July this year. So that’ll be an office and accelerator you’ll be able to, as part of the family be able to you know, you and Sean can come hang out in the in the office and use it as a base to go figure out what’s happening in Europe and what comes next. You’d be very welcome. Also, what what kind of help, would you need moving forward? If someone’s listening to this? And you know, you can ask them to help you in some way? What are you looking for? Is it more on the consumer side? Is it? Are you going to be going through a fundraising at some point in the future? What kind of help are you looking for? And how can anyone listening potentially get involved?

 

37:10  

Yeah, we’re gonna be doing our series A later in the year, probably around September, October this year. And then the other help that we need from a non cash injection perspective is just help with scaling up production. So we need other facilities, we need facilities that can handle our process that are willing to work with startups and that are interested in becoming part of the plant based economy.

 

37:36  

Now you were startup, but as you mentioned, you’ve already got contracts at Whole Foods and other places. You’ve got a couple of million bucks in the bank, give or take. So startup, yes, unstable and just getting going Not exactly, I think you guys are, you know, there’s a lot more solidity to you guys. And a typical startup, but at this point, not least of which because you know, the products amazing. So in terms of where do people go to find you guys? Where do they reach out to find Veronica and Sean as individuals, how can they engage with you?

 

38:09  

I always recommend hitting up our Tick Tock account, rounded CFC just because that’s where we put all the stuff that our investors don’t watch, way more fun. Otherwise, LinkedIn if you just want the more computer friendly stuff, otherwise, www.groundfoods.com. To find our products, learn more about them, see what we’re ingredients we are using and yeah, buy it online, if you want to try it.

 

38:37  

Now you launched the product. From an order perspective last week, a bunch of us ran as quickly as we could to place an order. Are you sold out? Yet, I was expecting within about a week you’d have sold out of your product, and there’d be this coming soon again, sign up on up on the website?

 

38:56  

No, Andrew, when we do something, when we’re committed to doing something, we go hard. So we, I guess took so long getting to market because we wanted to make sure that like when we get into production, we can supply it consistently. So I can’t see any shortage anytime soon, like, we’ve taken the extra time just to really make sure that there’s not going to be any of those initial initial hurdles, like last year when we did our pre sales and it sold out within a few within a few minutes. Yeah. And then we just had angry people emailing us every day.

 

39:28  

I think I think you’ll be surprised. I think you’ll get your stuff. They’ll reach a point where people hear about it more than you can just produce and you’ll get sold out again. I predict in the next 12 months there’ll be another you know coming soon on your website while you’re scaling up production again. So Veronica, if somebody wants to get hold of you groundedfoods.com in terms of you know, reaching out contacts ordering the product. The products were a cream cheese, a goat cheese from hemp and cauliflower with peppercorns, right?

 

40:02  

It’s a goat cheese so not not crumbly, like Greek Feta, it’s more smooth and semi firm goat’s cheese texture in little cubes.

 

40:12  

And then the third product is a cheese sauce.

 

40:15  

Yes, it’s our American style cheese free cheese sauce and it is an ode to Americans fascination with processed cheese and Velveeta, which everyone says they don’t but someone is buying that stuff and I know that they are and they’re just not admitting to it. So we decided to replicate, I guess that same addictive flavor of those kinds of products, but using natural ingredients through fermented cauliflower and hemp and not all of the numbers and aditives.

 

40:46  

So a healthier, potentially a healthier product range than the original products you guys are potentially superseding. Absolutely, absolutely. I don’t think there’s anything healthy about Velveeta. 

 

Oh don’t, don’t start or start getting letters from I don’t know, Kraft or whoever the heck makes it. Alright, so thank you so much for your time today, Veronica, Grounded Foods.com go to tick tock if you want to look at the fun stuff, go to LinkedIn, if you want to look at the boring stuff. Go to the website if you want to order the product and actually taste it. I really highly recommend it. Thanks for your time today. If anyone has any questions for you, they can kind of get connected with you during those over those platforms. Right. 

 

41:26  

Absolutely. 

 

41:28  

All right. Thanks for your time today. 

 

41:29  

Thanks a lot. Thank you, Andrew. 

I’m gonna pause it and then I’ll come right back one second. Hi. I hope you enjoyed the conversation with Veronica, co founder of Grounded Foods. By all means if you have any questions or comments, please do reach out to us or reach out to Veronica. If you want to find out more about Big Idea Ventures come along to Big Idea Ventures.com. We’re also on LinkedIn, and a number of other platforms. Look forward to hearing from you and by all means like and subscribe, the podcast or the YouTube video so you can find out when we update. We’re trying to do these on a weekly basis. We’ve got a wide range of great companies to introduce you to. So please do subscribe, and look forward to reaching out and connecting with you again. Thank you

 

Orbillion Bio, the Silicon Valley food tech dedicated to culturing premium heritage meats, has joined the Alliance for Meat, Poultry & Seafood Innovation (AMPS Innovation). The coalition is made up of seven other U.S.-based members, including players like cell-cultured seafood maker BlueNalu and cultivated chicken startup Upside Foods, who are working together to educate consumers and stakeholders about the emerging industry and accelerate the path to market for novel cell-based proteins.

Orbillion Bio has joined AMPS Innovation as its eighth member, the company announced on Tuesday (June 15). The group was created in 2019 by five U.S. cultivated protein startups including BlueNalu, Finless Foods, Fork & Goode, Eat Just, and Upside Foods, formerly known as Memphis Meats, and has since its inception welcomed additional members Artemys Foods and New Age Meats.

AMPS Innovation seeks to educate and communicate to consumers about the emerging cultivated protein sector through education, as well as work with stakeholders and government regulatory bodies to inform new policy, rules and help draft frameworks that will accelerate the path to market for cell-cultured proteins in the U.S.

“With the addition of Orbillion Bio, AMPS Innovation will continue coordinated efforts to engage key policymakers and stakeholders to educate them on their products and work with Congress, the USDA and FDA as they continue to build out a regulatory framework for cell-cultured meat, poultry and seafood,” said the coalition in a statement.

As a member of the coalition, we’re thrilled to work with industry partners to communicate with consumers, educate industry stakeholders, and inform a clear path to market.

Samet Yildirim, Co-Founder & COO, Orbillion Bio

Female-founded and Y Combinator-backed Orbillion Bio stands out from other cultivated startups in the space with its laser focus on developing slaughter-free and sustainable alternatives to premium heritage meat species such as elk, lamb and wagyu beef.

Samet Yildirim, co-founder and COO of the startup, says that it has decided to join AMPS Innovation because of their “commitment to crafting cell-cultured meat that consumers trust and feel good about.” 

“As a member of the coalition, we’re thrilled to work with industry partners to communicate with consumers, educate industry stakeholders, and inform a clear path to market.”

In addition to engaging with policymakers and the USDA and FDA, AMPS Innovation says that it has been working with big meat and seafood groups such as the North American Meat Institute and the National Fisheries Institute to include them into the rule-making process for labelling and guidelines for novel cell-cultured protein products to enter the U.S. market.

Cultured elk sausage at Orbillion Bio’s tasting event. (Image: Orbillion Bio)

The potential of cell-cultured meat is only potential until eaters choose it again and again and again.

Patricia Bubner, Co-Founder & CEO, Orbillion Bio

So far, Singapore stands as the only country to have approved the sale of cultured meat, giving San Francisco-based Eat Just, a founding member of AMPS Innovation, the go-ahead to sell its cell-based chicken bites in December 2020.

Patricia Bubner, co-founder and CEO of Orbillion Bio, says that the alliance’s work is key to build consumer confidence and trust in the U.S. market, which is vital if the sector is to achieve mass adoption and ultimately make an impact on sustainable protein production.

“The potential of cell-cultured meat is only potential until eaters choose it again and again and again,” said Bubner.

Currently, on the heels of its US$5 million seed funding and tasting event showcasing its cultivated wagyu beef, wild elk and lamb meat prototypes, Orbillion Bio is focused on scaling up its technology with the view to launch in the U.S. market first, initially in high-end restaurants and retailers.

“We know that consumer demand for more flavorful and sustainable meats is soaring,” commented Yildirim. “In joining AMPS Innovation and through our recent product presentations, Orbillion is moving quickly to respond to this consumer demand.”

Cell-based meat industry experts are calling on the French government to step up their efforts to tap into the opportunities to be made in the fast-growing sector, or risk missing out on the global market. Co-founder of the nonprofit Cellular Agriculture France Nathalie Rolland argues that there is a duty for the country to support the cultured protein ecosystem as part of its climate action under the European Green Deal.

The cell-based protein industry is being neglected by France, while other countries have raced ahead and begun to build their reputation as leaders in the space. Food import reliant Singapore, for instance, has made its name as the world’s first country to allow the commercial sale of cultured chicken produced by California’s Eat Just, and a number of food techs like Hong Kong’s Avant Meats have since flocked to the city-state to set up a base of operations.

Meanwhile, “startup nation” Israel has become another food tech hub, housing homegrown players like Aleph Farms, a Rehovot company that famously served up its cultivated steak to prime minister Benjamin Netenyahu, who has pledged to support more cellular agriculture initiatives as part of its food resilience push.

2020 marked a record year for the global cultivated protein space, with startups focused on the technology bagging more than US$360 million in investment, a figure six-times more than the amount in the year before.

Cultivated steak developed by Aleph Farms. (Image: Aleph Farms)

Rolland, a food science specialist and co-founder of Cellular Agriculture France, says that France is quickly falling behind on the technology that could provide food security, solve animal welfare issues and eradicate the dangers that factory farms pose to human health, as well as offer a far more sustainable way of producing animal meat.

The organisation, an association of experts, industry watchers and scientists, campaigns to support the country’s emerging cell-based field.

Livestock production contributes an estimated 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions and is driving unsustainable practices such as deliberate deforestation. Within the E.U., the industry represents a larger source of emissions than cars and vans in the bloc combined.

Rolland believes that France has an obligation to reduce its emissions by shifting to more sustainable ways of producing meat, a call made by many E.U. Green Deal supporters who say novel ways to produce protein – including plant-based, cell-based and fermentation – will be necessary to help the entire region slash its carbon footprint.

It’s also a business and food resilience case that Rolland makes for France to step up its efforts to support its domestic cell-based realm. “If the government does not invest in cellular meat companies in France, then French people will end up eating food brought in from other countries,” Rolland told RFI.

Cellular Agriculture France co-founder Nathalie Rolland at a tasting event hosted by cell-based salmon startup Wildtype. (Image: Cellular Agriculture France / Wildtype)

“We call on France to fund research projects very quickly to avoid falling too far behind in this fundamentally important market.”

There are players in France using cellular agriculture to produce slaughter-free meat, but only a handful of them. Paris-based startup Gourmey was the first to launch in France, and is working on developing foie gras directly from duck egg cells.

Core Biogenesis, on the other hand, is providing a platform of cost-efficient growth factors for applications in both cell therapy and cultivated meat.

The list is likely to remain small unless the government changes its stance on cultivated protein, especially after French agricultural minister Julien Denormandie made openly hostile comments suggesting the country would never allow or accept cell-based meat.

While consumer acceptance of the novel protein remains lower in France compared to the U.S. and other European markets, the country’s sustainability-minded younger generation could pave the way for a thriving French cellular agriculture ecosystem.

In September, research into cell-based meat acceptance revealed a relatively promising domestic market, showing nearly half (44%) of French consumers were willing to try cultured meat, though the figure in Germany was higher at 58%.

  • Actual Veggies veggie-only burgers are exactly what you see – veggies. The quarter-pound patties come in four delicious varieties— The Actual Black Burger, The Actual Orange Burger, The Actual Purple Burger, and The Actual Green Burger.
  • Actual Veggies burgers have no fillers or preservatives, only healthy, fresh, colorful veggies and ingredients you can actually pronounce.
  • Launched in March 2020, Actual Veggies is growing rapidly, demonstrating the increasing demand for plant-based food that is healthy and without hidden ingredients.

NEW YORK, June 08, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Actual Veggies, the first veggie-only burger, is bringing its flavorful and colorful chef-crafted burgers to fans nationwide. Starting today, Actual Veggies burgers can be found in the refrigerated section at more than 360 Sprouts Farmers Market locations, online at HungryRootImperfect Foods) and FreshDirect (coming soon) and directly from www.actualveggies.com/store (Click HERE for store locator).

Unlike other plant-based burgers in the market, Actual Veggies’ burgers are not trying to replicate the taste of meat, they’re letting the natural flavors and nutritional value of real, actual vegetables and legumes speak for themselves. Every chef-crafted quarter-pound, thick-cut Actual Veggies patty is filled with wholesome, veggie-only ingredients that give the patties their vibrant, natural colors. There are no fillers or preservatives, only fresh vibrant, colorful veggies and ingredients you can actually see and pronounce.

“After sampling every plant-based burger out there, we set out to create a ‘real’ and delicious veggie burger that wasn’t frozen or trying to taste like meat,” said Jason Rosenbaum, co-CEO and co-founder of Actual Veggies. “Actual Veggies is now redefining the plant-based burger category by putting the focus on real, healthy vegetables. Our veggie-only burgers are made with ingredients that you can see, spell and – most importantly – taste.”

Actual Veggies ARE Actual Veggies
In a quest to find a healthier alternative to traditional burgers, co-CEO and co-founder, Jason Rosenbaum, quickly realized that grocery aisles were full of imitation meats and highly processed, bland, frozen veggie burgers which are typically loaded with preservatives. Not to mention they didn’t even look appetizing.

Together with co-founders, Hailey and Alex Swartz, they created a better option full of fresh farm-grown vegetables and ingredients that were not only healthier, but filling, delicious and colorful–something the sandwich sector has not yet seen before in a burger. Actual Veggies burgers are packed with protein and fiber, and appeal to a wide variety of nutritional and dietary needs, and are vegan, gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free, saturated fat-free, preservative free, Kosher and are Non-GMO Project Verified.

“After tasting the Actual Veggies product and seeing the passion of the co-founders, Jason, Hailey and Alex, we knew we had a winning opportunity on our hands,” said Andrew D. Ive, Founder of Big Idea Ventures. “The growth the brand has already experienced is tremendous and we are excited to see what’s next.”

Actual Veggies currently offers four varieties of its thick, quarter-pound, veggie-only burgers: The Actual Black Burger, The Actual Orange Burger, The Actual Green Burger, The Actual Purple Burger, and The Actual Green Burger. All four varieties are available in packages of two 4 oz patties or a 12-pack option. Actual Veggies can be stored for 14 days in the refrigerator, or 15 months in the freezer.

  • The Actual Black Burger
    • Fresh ingredients include: black beans, carrots, red onions, red peppers, parsnips, oats, cassava flour, lemon and a signature spice blend
    • Each patty has 8g of protein, 10g of fiber and 0g of saturated fat and only 190 calories
    • Available at Sprouts Farmers MarketHungryRootImperfect FoodsFreshDirect (coming soon) and online
  • The Actual Orange Burger
    • Fresh ingredients include: sweet potatoes, carrots, red peppers, cauliflower, navy beans, oats, onions, lemon, cassava flour and a signature spice blend
    • Each patty has 6g of protein, 9g of fiber and 0g of saturated fat and only 190 calories
    • Available at Sprouts Farmers MarketFreshDirect (coming soon) and online
  • The Actual Purple Burger
    • Fresh ingredients include: beets, carrots, onions, quinoa, navy beans, oats, lemons, cassava flour and a signature spice blend
    • Each patty has 8g of protein, 7g of fiber and 0g of saturated fat and only 190 calories
    • Available online
  • The Actual Green Burger
    • Fresh ingredients include: kale, broccoli, zucchini, oats, parsnips, navy beans, peas, quinoa, hemp seeds, lemon cassava flour, and a signature spice blend
    • Each patty has 7g of protein, 7g of fiber, 0g of saturated fat and only 180 calories
    • Available at Sprouts Farmers MarketImperfect FoodsFreshDirect (coming soon) and online

Additionally, Actual Veggies burgers provide an excellent canvas for recipe inspiration from around the globe. Each individual burger offers the distinctive flavors of its ingredients, while being approachable and familiar. While they’re perfect for grilling, sautéing or sprinkling on a salad, they can also be used in an array of different recipes and cuisines. Click HERE for some Actual Veggies recipes and images HERE.

For more information about Actual Veggies, please visit www.actualveggies.com or follow us on Instagram or Facebook.

About Actual Veggies
Founded in March 2020 and headquartered in New York City, Actual Veggies is redefining the plant-based protein industry with its line of veggie-only burgers. The four different varieties of its quarter-pound, chef-crafted veggie burger patties are made with only fresh, actual vegetables, grains and a signature spice blend: The Actual Black Burger, The Actual Orange Burger, The Actual Green Burger and The Actual Purple Burger. Each patties’ vibrant color is indicative of the vegetables used in each burger. Actual Veggies is a portfolio company of Big Idea Ventures, an investor in up-and-coming food and agricultural companies. Actual Veggies can be found at Sprouts Farmers Market, HungryRoot, Imperfect Foods and online at www.actualveggies.com. For more information, please visit www.actualveggies.com or follow us on Instagram or Facebook.

Podcast 4: Actual Veggies Co-Founders Jason Rosenbaum and Hailey Swartz speak with Andrew D. Ive from Big Idea Ventures about starting a plant-based burger company.  

In “The Big Idea Podcast: Food” series, each week our Founder Andrew D. Ive will speak with some of the most innovative minds in the food space about the exciting projects they are a part of. 

To listen to the second episode featuring Actual Veggies‘ Co-Founders Jason Rosenbaum and Hailey Swartz, click on the links below!

 

The podcast can be viewed at the links below:

 

Please view the transcript of the interview below.

Andrew D Ive

00:00 

Hi, welcome to big idea food podcast. This is your host, Andrew D Ive from Big Idea ventures. So today we’ll be talking to the co founders of actual veggies. I don’t want to go into too much detail about what they do they do it far better than I do. So let’s get into it. And if you have questions, or comments, please do post them. Like and Subscribe this via YouTube, via the various podcasts and so on. Look forward to engaging with you. Thanks very much. Actual veggies. How are you guys doing?

 

Jason & Hailey (Actual Veggies)

0:39  

Doing well? How are you?

 

0:43  

Hailey this is your cue.

 

0:44  

Oh, sorry. I’m great. Thanks for having us.

 

Yeah, go ahead.

 

0:53  

We don’t normally do a podcast with like three people. So it’s

 

0:56  

Jason and I have done a few. So we’re good at this. Don’t worry.

 

0:59  

I really yeah. You drop the ball then.

 

1:05  

I thought he was answering for both of us. So I was giving him that one. 

 

1:11  

When has he ever been allowed to do that? Come on.

 

1:14  

Yeah, that’s true. Okay, let’s get going again.

 

1:18  

This is all live. This is it. We’re not going to change this. This shows the dynamic of like the actual veggies team. It’s very cool. So let’s get back to it actual veggies. Welcome to the podcast. Love you guys have been, you know, following your journey now for quite some time. Why don’t you guys tell us about the company and what it is you’re doing.

 

1:44  

Go ahead, Jason.

 

1:45  

Perfect. So what we’re doing essentially is we’re making the best veggie burgers that have ever existed. And we kind of hit on all the different pain points in veggie burgers out in the market. And we offer this refrigerated fresh veggie burger that has all clean ingredients. And it’s all completely naturally colorful. And we really play off of the different colors. So we have four different burgers that we launched with the actual black burger, that’s black beans, the actual orange burger, its sweet potato, the actual purple burger, that’s beets, and then the actual green burger. That’s all your different super greens. And what’s amazing is you can really see taste and smell all the vegetables in them. And they just taste amazing because they’re all chef crafted by our partner who’s a chef. But it’s a it’s been an exciting journey. I mean, almost every single day is a roller coaster a lot of up but obviously some down as well.

 

2:36  

So I mean, veggie burgers pretty horrible stuff, right? Traditionally, now.

 

2:41  

Now they’re so good. The great thing about them is that like we’re finding that people who don’t eat meat, love them, people who are trying to eat less meat, love them, they’re so versatile. They go on the barbecue, they go in a pan, they’re easy in the oven, and even in the airfryer that’s we’ve been hearing a lot of that and as people are trying to eat healthy, especially during COVID times and but also have less time available. It’s a really convenient, easy meal to make that’s absolutely delicious. And it’s just it’s really one of my favorite things is seeing all the different ways that our customers and consumers are preparing it. It’s like every day it’s a new way.

 

3:19  

So my daughter is 18, soon to be 19, and for the first 16 years of her life I don’t think she tried a vegetable period, she would not eat vegetables. Is this actual veggie going to crack that code. Is it making vegetables, you know, interesting, approachable for you know, kids and adults alike?

 

3:39  

yeah, that’s what’s super interesting. We’re also seeing people use this as not as like their side, you know, as a replacement of the veggies on their plate. The colors are really good. The taste the seasonings, like really add to it. And it’s definitely a way to get your daily vegetable regardless, like I said, if you’re eating completely as a vegan or flexitarian.

 

4:01  

But it tastes great in a bun? Oh yeah. Like taking it off the barbecue, slapping some, you know, plant based cheese on top and some ketchup and just taking a big bite. Yeah. So how did you guys come up with this? Veggie burgers have been around for a while, veggie products have been around for a while. You just sort of woke up and said, We can do this better or like what’s the story?

 

4:27  

So I stopped eating meat towards the end of 2019. And I stopped eating meat for health reasons. My cholesterol was always high and I tried everything and eventually I was like alright, I’m going to cut out meat and see if it helps my cholesterol drop. So my favorite food was always the beef burger. So that was the first thing I was missing. And I pretty much learned that there’s two different types of vegetarian burgers on the market. 

 

The first is your imitation meats that really look tasty and bleed like a beef burger. But the problem is they’re really processed. They have a lot of sodium, and they’re called they’re plant based burgers but they don’t have them the plants in their ingredients. So they taste good, they look good but for me, they’re not that healthy. So it didn’t really work for me. And then on the other side, you have these kind of like antiquated, old school veggie burgers that really haven’t seen much innovation or any innovation throughout the years. And they’re really just these like, frozen, like kind of hockey pucks that just sit in your freezer for months and months and they’re just not exciting. 

 

There’s so many pain points, they’re thin, they’re small, you need like two or three to be even close to being filled up. And like we always had those when we were growing up, and they literally lived in the freezer unless there was nothing around for dinner. And it was just a last minute thing to fire one of those up. And it’s simply because they’re just not that exciting. And they’re also just not that healthy. They just don’t taste great. So really, we discussed why is there not like this restaurant style homemade style veggie burger that you can go buy at a grocery store, and then cook it up in five to 10 minutes. 

 

So we created this like thick, colorful veggie burger that just tastes amazing. It doesn’t have any fillers or preservatives, almost every other burger out there that you look at, has like oils, they have coconut oils, which is really bad for you once you heat it up. They all have all these other ingredients that help the burger bind cellulose eggs, bread crumbs, we cut out all that and we just use just veggies. And it’s just a clean burger that tastes amazing and it just was something that was not on the market. Because everyone’s so focused on imitation meats, and we were just like, hey, let’s make the best veggie burger out there. And that’s what we did.

 

6:29  

So from a nutritional perspective, how do your products break down? Like, you know, salt, sugar, fiber, you know, all those good things, tell us about that.

 

6:40  

Yeah, so they have about like 200 calories each. So not high in calories. They’re high in fiber, they’re low in fat, they have a decent amount of protein. And really, we have like 50% less salt and sodium than the other players out there. So that’s definitely something that we’re playing into is making sure health is front and center.

 

7:01  

What’s your number one selling skew?

 

7:06  

Well, so right now, we think that you know, so the black burger is the most versatile. Again, that’s the burger that the veggie burger that our customers are really comfortable with. But it’s really across the board when we have like someone try them, which one they liked the best. So it’s still probably too early to say exactly which one.

 

7:27  

So you’ve got how many, how many, how many flavors, how many colors,

 

7:31  

We have four different flavors. And then in terms of what we’ve sold the most, it’s by far the actual black burger, but the actual Greenburgh are starting to creep up.

 

7:41  

Awesome. So it’s kind of like 30%, the black burger, the actual black burger 20%, the actual green burger, and then the other guys are sort of quickly coming up behind?

 

7:53  

Yeah, it’s funny, the purple actual purple burger is probably our least sold from like a revenue perspective but the fans of the purple burger are the most vocal and the most excited about it. So it’s definitely a niche flavor. Yeah, it’s a beat based burger. So people love them or hate them. But the people who love them, they really love them.

 

8:18  

And how are these things being made that you guys sitting around in your kitchen switch squishing the stuff together with your hands and knees? Or how?

 

8:26  

I’m actually we have a big coal manufacturing facility out in Denver. I’m actually there. Right now we’re in the midst of a big production run. So yeah, we have a big facility. It’s a big operation. In it, it’s, it’s pretty exciting, because like, when we first started, we were just using our chef’s commercial kitchen, and we really scale this thing grow grew quickly to be able to fill capacity over at a big packing facility.

 

8:53  

And how did actual veggies get it start? Who said yes to actual veggies first, from a distribution or a sales channel perspective.

 

9:03  

So not to toot your horn, but having big idea ventures as our backers has been super helpful and making us legitimate in the eyes of investors and sales. Um, we definitely, we got a lot of introductions that led us to the right people, and the right connections to scale this a lot quicker than we could have on our own. So, you know, I think the idea was at the right time. You know, I always say it’s the perfect, you know, your dream is to get the perfect product market fit. And I think we did that. You know, it’s a product people want and it’s a market that people want it in. But really, all the mentors that big idea ventures we we were not afraid to really, you know, bother you guys all the time and ask for the right connections and right interactions to help us scale as quickly as we were able to.

 

9:53  

So who’s who said yes, first, which channel which which retailer which, you know, okay, I’m going to take a gamble. on actual veggies.

 

10:01  

So we the first technical place that we sold our product was a place called pop up grocer in Brooklyn, New York. It’s a traveling grocery store. Alright, cool. It’s one store. So it was very exciting. Our sales were were out of the roof, it was amazing. Our first like real big production. And our first real big order was in QVC, where we launched this year, January 8, and we sold out instantly. So that was like, that was our first like, moment, like, wow, like, we’re really onto something, this is a product people want. This is a product that, you know, the sky’s the limit here, essentially. So that was our first customer. And from there, it honestly feels like it’s kind of happening overnight, where orders and new vendors and new customers are just coming in, like almost in our sleep. It’s it’s, it’s amazing. Like, it’s just like all the work we put in last year’s laying down the foundation, with big idea ventures with our other investors with our other mentors. It’s all kind of coming to fruition now, like within the past month.

 

10:59  

Absolutely. So obviously, because of COVID, you couldn’t be in the studio of QVC, sort of watching the the ticker go as people are placing their orders, because, you know, I’ve seen the movies where you’ve got, I don’t know, 10 minutes, and everything, you know, the orders are coming in in those 10 minutes. And that’s the only 10 minutes you’ve got at that particular point in time and the, you know, the the video starts or the you know, the presentation starts and if you’re lucky the telephone start ringing, the internet starts getting its orders, the clock starts getting all of the numbers of all of the orders that are coming through and it’s a success. Now you weren’t there for that, but I’m guessing that was pretty much the experience.

 

11:47  

And yeah, so it was it was funny. Obviously, with technology, it’s a little different. But like one thing of starting our company in March 2020 is we don’t really know that what the reality of doing things in person is. So we, we had to sit and wait a few hours until we got our first cvc numbers and then it was just like, this moment of like, really, really like, Is this real? Um, it was just the fact that we pull it off QVC and like I said, and like Jason said it, it really made us feel like a legitimate company. So

 

12:24  

Have you got that? Have you got the video of that, that kind of that presentation on your on your website or anything for people to see the kind of first time you guys went out on QVC?

 

12:35  

Yeah, so we have the video, if you go to do search QVC actual veggies, you can see the video there. And we can also put it in the show notes as well.

 

12:44  

Oh, great. So they actually keep you up on the website constantly. So you’re an ongoing vendor to them. That’s awesome. So what what came next after what came next after QVC.

 

12:56  

And so a huge, sort of randomly. So hungryroot solid hungryroot is an online retailer that’s growing like crazy. And the exact consumer, we want to reach someone who’s healthy, who wants to eat healthy, but and clean, but also really values like a delicious meal. They found us in the pop up grocer. And they reached out and they said, you know, we want to try your burger. So we didn’t even have to reach them. And they did a huge order that with repeat orders every four to six weeks. We’ve just shipped our first order to them, I think at the end of March. And then we have another one early May. And like I said, they’re a great partner, their audience cares about the same thing our consumers care about. And it’s just really fun to work with them.

 

13:48  

That’s amazing. And obviously, how you came together as a team? Who’s doing what roles those sorts of things. You you’ve all been, you know, tied down a little bit by COVID. Although I think you guys risked it a few times. I think there were certain drinks, parties and barbecues and things where you guys all kind of came together and hung out. I don’t know whether you wore your masks then. But you’ve been able to create this business as a team from different places. You know, take us through some of the the challenges you’ve had. Obviously, I don’t know that there’s been too many completely sleepless nights where it was touch and go in terms of whether the company is going to survive. Maybe there were some and you just didn’t tell me but you know, take us through some of the the obstacles and how you found your way around those.

 

14:38  

Yeah, I do want to reiterate for us, we I think one of the advantages we had is we didn’t start the company before COVID. So really, we’ve only known working remotely. And I actually can’t imagine sitting in an office with my brother and Jason every day.

 

14:55  

I can’t imagine that either.

 

14:58  

Yes, that’s something that I say is an advantage, we didn’t have to pivot our strategy. We didn’t have to figure out like how to, you know, all these meetings that used to be in person, we don’t know what that’s like. And if anything, we found that like, buyers and advisors and investors had more time to talk to us. And so you actually feel very thankful for that course, like, on the, you know, obviously would not wish this pandemic on anyone or anything but that it has it. We did, there was a lot of positives that came out of it at the same time,

 

15:32  

and tell the big negative that happened.

 

15:35  

Yeah, you can.

 

15:38  

So just a quick story. So with, I guess it doesn’t matter. So with hungryroot our first order, this was our first like big, big production order. A nightmare happened where our one of our machines broke. And it was our machine that essentially takes our burgers go into our trays, and then the machine will seal the burgers with film, the machine completely broke. And we had to seal 20,000 trays. We lost a lot of sleep over this trying to figure out how the hell we were going to seal these machines. We ended up finding a another co Packer that was based in Colorado. We trucked everything over to them. They had the machine it was working, they ended up doing it for us. But it wasn’t as easy as it sounded. And obviously, it obviously cost us money financially. But it was a nightmare. But luckily, we figured it out. We made it happen. We got the product to Hungryroot, but it was like an ongoing issue for almost a week where we put all of our brains together to try to figure out a solution. And luckily, we made it work. 

 

16:43  

One more nightmare that we had. I thought I thought this is the one you were gonna bring up. So I think y’all know this one. But um, when we first apply the big idea of ventures to be in your cohort to um, we sent you guys burgers from Los Angeles. Oh, there you go. There’s the laugh um,

 

17:01  

I still haven’t still haven’t tried the product. 

 

17:04  

Yeah, so there’s supposed to be a burger. It’s supposed to be stable. That’s one of our our core differentiators is that we’re a stable burger without any fillers or oil, or preservatives. Um, we did not freeze. We did not send the burger with ice or dry ice or anything. The burger was not yet stable. And I remember, we got an email from you, Andrew. And it was like a picture of what was supposed to be our burger, but it looked like soup. And you and your humor were like it looks like the American soccer team just kicked this burger across the United States. We really thought we blew our chance at being in a big idea ventures cohort that no way we will get in without a, like a product that was working and tasted good. And so it was it was quite a surprise when we actually got the investment and joined the current cohort.

 

17:59  

Yeah, we were I mean, we invested in you guys. We knew you’d figure out the product eventually. And you have look at you guys. I mean, Mike Barrow, who’s the guy, for those that are listening is the person responsible for distribution sends me texts almost daily with updates on you guys. He’s like, Oh, my God, they just got into this channel, this this account and that account and look, you know that they’re blowing up and like he’s, you know, texting me on everything you guys are doing? Why don’t you? Why don’t you take us a little bit through the team members, obviously, we’ve got Jason and Hahley, what do you guys do? And who else is on the team? And what are they up to?

 

18:37  

So So yeah, I’m the CEO and co founder. Hailey’s co founder and president. And then Hailey’s brother Alex is our co founder. And he deals with operations and logistics. So he’s the director of that. So pretty much. We met with a lot of people when when we started, and they told Hailey and myself that we should pretty much never attend meetings together. And we should always kind of be doing our own thing and, and kind of carving out our own role. A lot of times when we met with people like that, like we left, and we were like, We were very scared or like, are we doing things right? Like, some of those people we met with are no longer that some of them are founders of other food companies. 

 

Some of them are no longer even in business. So it’s like, you kind of have to take everything with a grain of salt. So what works for Hailey and myself is we do a lot, we wear a lot of the same hats. And it just works for us. We attend a lot of the same meetings. Usually I know what she’s doing, usually, you know, she knows what I’m doing. There are things that I kind of break out and kind of took ownership on as well as Hailey has, but our roles definitely collide and overlap a lot. Whereas Alex, our other co founder Hailey’s brother, his role is really defined. He’s He’s our guide that deals with everything from sourcing ingredients to our co Packer to really owning the relationship with our co Packer to owning all of our logistics in terms of picking up products, shipping product, things like that. So he’s really defined. I kind of stick my nose in there every once in a while but he’s he’s got that down to a science. 

 

But yeah, I mean, Hailey and I are both involved in everything from marketing. When it comes to finance, I usually kind of take the lead on that. When it comes to like social media, stuff like that Hailey takes the lead on that. Sales, we kind of break up. We’re usually both involved in it together. But there’s certain people that I deal with them sales or that she doesn’t. 

 

But yeah, we really just, you know, we’re kind of just every day, like, what makes it so fun is like, every day is different. We don’t know what’s going to happen. A lot of it’s unpredictable. We’re learning a lot under fire. And we really just work well, as a team. There’s no egos here, at least I don’t think there are. And it just, it just works. Like, people tell you like, you know, there, you have to do things a certain way. But we’ve done things the way we’ve wanted to do it. And it’s been fun, and it’s working. And we’re gonna keep doing it our way. And it’s great. I mean, that’s pretty much how it’s played out right here. It is, like, we were both kind of all over the place. And we stay organized. And it works for us. Yeah.

 

21:01  

So who’s the chef?

 

21:04  

So we, when we first started, we brought on chef Joel, who we brought on as an equity partner, and pretty much brought this vision to him to kind of create these burgers. And he pretty much brought it to life in terms of just, you know, the recipes and making it happen. So he’s involved in everything from just kind of recipe creations and things like that.

 

21:25  

And you said, you guys have roles that sometimes collide, sometimes overlap, and so on. I’m guessing you guys have never disagreed on anything.

 

21:33  

There we we pretty much agree. disagree. Okay. That’s I’m trying to think of a few things that Yeah, there’s been a few things that we’ve really disagreed on. Um, but I, it’s interesting, at the end of the day, we want the same thing. 

 

21:55  

What is that what’s the same thing?

 

21:57  

We want to grow the business and we want to make our consumers happy. Um, so I’m like, it’s interesting, I think having three of us, usually it’s two against one. And then that’s sort of the way that we would like would solve something. And then the other way that we’ve like, solved disagreements is it will bring in like a third party, who is unbiased. And that’s really worked really well. But again, there’s no ego. And we really, we always, it really just works. And I, you know, I know we’re a year in, but I’m hoping that that remains the case.

 

22:38  

I guess what could change the dynamic is if you guys ever do sit in the same office together, that may change everything.

 

22:49  

That’s That’s why I moved across the country. I was in New York, and Hayley and I would sometimes work together, but she made me move all the way to California. So now we are we are far apart.

 

22:59  

Is that how it’s gonna be? You’re going to be California for the rest of the company. And Hailey, you’re going to be New York, are you? Do you see yourself Hailey moving across to LA and joining the glitterati at some point?

 

23:11  

NO? for the foreseeable future? I’ll stay here. And my brother will be in Chicago. And like I said, it works. Yeah.

 

23:21  

It’s, it’s really interesting. I wonder if we’re going to see this kind of group of companies that started during COVID and see, and I wonder if that’s going to make them kind of totally different ways of doing business, if it’s going to make them scrapier, if it’s going to make them more tenacious, than the kind of companies that needed to your point, Jason pivot, because of COVID and do things differently? You guys had to build it from scratch during this thing? It’s going to be interesting, it’s going to be really interesting.

 

23:56  

Yeah, no, that’s definitely the case. Like I said, I really do think it just has made it easier to have more meetings, and keep our expenses down to not travel to those.

 

24:07  

You also mentioned, focusing on keeping making customers happy. I think it’s a fantastic kind of filter for everything that you do. But where do you see actual veggies? Being? You know, what, what are your personal goals as a team for the next, let’s say five years? Yeah,

 

24:26  

So I’m just gonna last because this is actually probably one of the things that we argue about. I was like, trying to remember what the last thing we argued about, and this is it. Um, so obviously, actual veggies is not we don’t want to just be a burger company. There’s a lot you can do with the actual veggies brand. And I think it’s all about celebrating vegetables and like making food delicious and making it what it is and being transparent about what that is. Now when and what those products are going forward is something that we’re still we’re still tackling, there’s so many different ways we can go and there’s so many different ideas that we have and I think knowing when, and what products to launch next with are something that we’re still discussing internally. But Jason, you can probably share some of your ideas, which he has a lot.

 

25:22  

I’m not gonna share individual ideas. But yeah, that’s definitely like a point of contention of when do we start coming out with new products. So like, now we’re starting to see traction with our burgers, like Hailey said, we don’t see actual veggies as a burger company. we’re not pigeon holed to doing alternative meats, we can take this wherever we want, we don’t have to do what someone like get beyond meat is doing where they’re just doing imitation meats, we can really take this wherever we want. So that’s definitely where this is heading. 

 

It’s just a question of when we have a bunch of different awesome fun products that are getting close to you know, getting ready to go. but what’s really what’s really cool, which we haven’t even talked about yet, is we’ve had such success with these online retailers like hungry root, we have a couple other ones coming on board. But our big play here is is traditional retail. And we are we’re officially launching, I guess we can announce this now. With sprouts, they’re relaunching with every single one of their 370 locations, which is another reason why I moved out west is just so we can have someone on the ground in California that really cares and can can kind of go into the stores because most of their stores are based in the West Coast. 

 

But that’s what’s really exciting, we’re launching with them early May 370, stores, three out of our four skews, and it’s going to be a huge launch, they’re really getting behind us. And really, that’s just the start of it. I mean, we had a bunch of other retailers knocking on our door, but sprouts was just the perfect partner to launch with and they’re really getting behind this. So that’s where, you know, that’s where things start getting exciting.

 

26:53  

One thing I would one thing that for what it’s worth, I’m hearing from people who try your products that they are passionate about them, you know, it’s not just okay, it’s a bland burger, I could take it or leave it. I don’t give a crap when the next Damn, I said crap, that’s gonna have to change the rating of this podcast. Oh, well. Yeah. So, you know, when people are, they bite this product, they’d like this product, those who like this product, love this product, right? In terms of what you should do next, figure out a way for what it’s worth of asking your passionate consumer, right, you’re building a tribe of people who kind of get into what actual veggies is all about. 

 

There’s, there’s a kind of a story and a thought process of why you’re doing what you’re doing and how it’s different from anything else out there. Find those people who are your evangelists and give them some choices. If you’ve got, you know, five ideas 10 ideas of what products you’re thinking about next, ask the people that are voting with their dollars for you guys.

 

28:01  

That’s a great idea.

 

28:02  

I don’t know what that looks like. I don’t know if that’s like a, you know, a voting or getting people to call an 800 number or I don’t know what whatever. But there’s got to be a way of reaching out to the people that are actual veggie consumers.

 

28:15  

Just give my phone number I’m happy to get those tests done.

 

28:20  

Yeah, I mean, there’s got to be some way of reaching out to your most passionate consumers and saying, you know, what frustrates you about the food you’re eating today? What things do you want to see vegified? Or, you know, what, what do you want to see better nutrition, better quality ingredients better, you know, taste and texture than currently is out there today? And what you know, what do you want us to tackle next? Maybe you’ll get some good ideas.

 

28:45  

That’s great.

 

28:47  

Very cool. So next five years, still sort of in the thought process by the sounds of it? Are you building a team? Do you see yourselves being you know, four plus in at some point in the future?

 

29:01  

Yeah, I mean, definitely looking to build onto the team as we raise more capital. That’s definitely something that we want to do. But something that’s been really working for us is we’re bringing in part time, essentially freelancers, and because of COVID and because we never were in a physical office, we’re able to operate that way. So we found we have some amazing, amazing part time, freelancers, our designers, she is an absolute gem. She is incredible. We don’t we’re just going, you know, she’s part of the future. This company, she’s part time, eventually we’ll bring her on full time. We have so many other people like that. And we’re gonna keep going down that path just so we can stay lean. 

 

At first, like, we were like, alright, let’s build a huge company in terms of employees have, you know, 100 200 people, now we’re thinking more let’s stay lean. Like, let’s bring in amazing people that are part time. If they work out, we’ll bring them on full time. But yeah, that’s that’s kind of the route that we’re looking to take.

 

29:52  

And you’ve got enough to cope with with the US market for now, I guess. Any thoughts at some point in the future that you could be either licensing your, your kind of brand and your technology to other regions or doing it yourself, or is that just too far away for now? 

 

30:12  

We started engaging in those conversations already and really, we’re probably about a few months away to re engage in those, it’s definitely a channel that we want to explore, It’s just we want to make sure we’re, we’re comfortable in the US at first. 

 

30:29  

Got it. What are some of the challenges or gates obstacles that you’re coming up against right now, if any? Or is it all just plain plain sailing?

 

30:43  

It’s Yeah, I mean, it’s definitely challenges. One of them is, believe it or not, we’re already looking for our second or third co Packer, because we’re already getting to the point where capacity is going to be an issue, just because kind of orders are coming in overnight. So that’s definitely something we have a couple other amazing co Packers that we’ve been talking to for a while that were potentially going to start sending some business their way. So that’s definitely something I don’t know does anything else come to mind? Hailey, in terms of just like,

 

31:15  

I mean, I think the other thing for us, it’s not much, it’s a small challenge in the sense that so many people want our burgers and it’s a hard product for DDC. So it’s it’s expensive to ship. It’s an expensive supply chain. And yet, we want to make sure that as many people can try burgers as possible, as we’re, as we’re still in the process of getting into grocery stores nationwide. 

 

So working, you know, and it sort of takes a backseat, when you look at the quantity of orders that we’re getting to you to see because we’re not we’re not focused on promoting that, but at the same time, making sure that we can support it. So anyone can try our burgers, something that we constantly are revisiting.

 

31:55  

Given the low levels of sodium, fat, high fiber, you know, the density of vegetables, and, and the deliciousness, I would have thought that the school sector and the university sector would be probably really interested in what you guys are doing, you know, having this as a kind of meal one day a week in a you know, in a school district would probably give kids more of the nutrients they’re looking for for a healthy, you know, healthy diet. Is that something that you guys are already talking in exploring? Or is that something that you’d like someone if they’re listening to reach out about if, if they’re in that space?

 

32:41  

Yeah, so exactly what you just said, we have had some initial conversations, I think, right now, schools and universities are still trying to figure things out because of you know, how things are going to open due to COVID. But yeah, that’s definitely a space food service is definitely a space that we will love your audience to enter make the right introductions to, we’d really we have we have the ability to support those and would love to do those orders.

 

33:10  

Perfect. And if those people listening want to reach out what’s the best way of doing so.

 

33:16  

And you can just reach out over email, Hailey hailey@actualveggies.com, or jason@actualveggies.com. Reach out on Instagram at actual veggies. We are always willing and happy to talk to people.

 

33:41  

Fantastic. So anything that you want to kind of get out there that you you know, you want to talk about from either a company perspective or, you know, anything that you really want to bring up as part of this conversation today?

 

33:59  

Yeah, I mean, I think Hailey just kind of hit one of our points is we definitely see actual veggies going into restaurant chains. So that’s something that we do need help with. And if there’s anyone listening that can help with those introductions to different restaurants, or anything in food service, whether it’s universities, camps, schools, anything like that, we definitely need help there. Because that’s a huge, we see that as a huge part of our future. 

 

Something else that we’re starting to gear up for is to raise our series a round. We’re not actively trying to raise that right now. But we definitely will in the next, I’d say three to six months. So if there’s anyone listening that we haven’t already talked to, because I know we’ve talked to a lot of a lot of different venture groups and angels in the space if you haven’t talked to us or if you have and you want to re engage we would love to speak again or, or or meet because that’s definitely something we’re inevitably going to have to to raise it in the near future.

 

34:57  

I mean, we introduced very investors to you guys, you know, a year ago, but the story is dramatically different in the past 12 months, the kind of traction that you guys have been getting the success in the marketplace, the kind of avid fans, etc. I think it’s a very different story from when you were having those initial conversations, because then it was a, hey, we’ve got this great concept, we’ve got this great range of products. 

 

We don’t seem to be able to ship it anywhere right now, because we haven’t figured that out yet. But you know, it’s it’s early days. Now it’s, hey, we’ve got multiple proof points, multiple, you know, in the marketplace, we’ve got multiple people placing orders, we’re gaining revenues consistently. We’ve got avid fans, you know, let’s have a conversation. I think I think you should be in a great spot, actually. What do you I mean, obviously, you don’t want to get into too much detail about this. But series A you think you’ll be raising $1 to $2 million, something in that range? Give or take?

 

36:00  

Yeah, exactly. Right around $2 million. But yeah, well, like you said, What’s amazing is now we have orders. And not only do we have orders, we have reorders from the same customers. And we really have an amazing run rate in a projection where we’re, you know, doing multi million dollars in sales over the next 12 months. So it’s Yeah, it’s your like you said, it’s a completely different story from from where we were a year ago.

 

36:20  

And your cost structure is awesome, because you don’t have 100 people in the business. It’s what 4, 3 4?

 

36:28  

Yeah, there’s four of us. And then just part time people exactly.

 

36:31  

Wow. Okay, I should reinvest

 

36:34  

All right, yeah.

 

36:37  

This is actually an investment call. Hopefully,

 

36:39  

We’ll do the next round. Don’t worry about telling anybody listening, don’t bother about investing we’re gonna do the whole thing. No, I’m just kidding. Reach out to Jason and Hailey if this is, you know, a story and a mission that you’re interested in, if you’re interested in a company that’s growing very, very quickly. And it’s, I got to say, I would say no, normally it’s a delicious product. I’ve tried it. I haven’t, but lots of people I know have and they rave about it. So you know, it’s a delicious product and it’s a great business you should engage with them.

 

37:12  

And and Jason will ship the product directly from the packer

 

37:18  

I will or you will?

 

37:21  

I’m not sure it can get that far. Man. I don’t I don’t believe you anymore. I’ve given up. So you mentioned that you’re that Halley’s brother was doing the the kind of CO man that ingredients to sourcing that sort of thing. So why is your you know, why is your kept t shirted body sitting in a co man facility in in this the state that you’re in right now? Why is he not there doing this?

 

37:51  

He’s on the floor. He’s actually doing the work. Wow.

 

37:55  

Okay. There’s two of you.

 

37:57  

Yeah. So we actually have a meeting with the owner of the CO packing facility. So I flew out for that. But yeah, Alex is here. He’s been here longer than me. He’s, he’s downstairs, I see him now. He’s like carrying boxes, carrying our master cases and stalking him on the pallet. So he’s working.

 

38:12  

So let’s see how much money you guys are making. And if you’re truly boozy, are you guys sharing a hotel room? Or are you in separate hotel rooms?

 

38:22  

We are in separate hotel rooms.

 

38:24  

Oh my god, you’ve hit the big time, man.

 

38:26  

Yeah, we finally made it.

 

38:30  

Meal budget is $10 a meal and that’s one a day and the other meals are the veggie burger.

 

38:35  

So absolutely. What else you need to eat if you could eat breakfast, lunch and dinner? actual veggies? Right. Yeah.

 

38:43  

Thank you. So what are our salaries looked like you would understand why we are eating our product every single day.

 

38:49  

You got to make sure it’s good that way, man. You know. All right. So I think this has been for me, this has been a great call. I think we’ve covered off the key things, actual veggies. You guys are amazing. If anyone wants to reach out to you guys, whether it’s about telling me telling you how great your product is because their consumers, whether it’s retailers who want to stock that probably the first delicious, plant based vegetable based burger to reach out to jason@veggies.com or Hailey hailey@veggies.com or via Instagram actual veggies or via actual veggies.com. If you’re an investor, run, don’t walk because these guys have a great growth rate and a great trajectory. I just have a problem with the word trajectory. My teeth just don’t allow me to say that one. So yeah, you guys are going to be opening up your series A in the next few months or so.

 

39:53  

Correct.

 

39:54  

Okay, it’s now April the 15th when this goes live, You may actually either just be about to start your series A or be in the middle of it. So we’ll try and get it out a little earlier so that people who are interested in you guys can find out about it before you’re going through the investment cycle. Thank you. Alright, anything else to add before we press stop or pause and just say goodbye to each other? Yeah, she’s

 

40:26  

Thank you. Been great. 

 

40:27  

Why are you so locked in on New York? By the way, if everyone’s deserted you and running across the country? Why?

 

40:36  

She has a boyfriend in New York and now

 

40:40  

I’m stuck here is my boyfriend so that Yeah, no, it’s it’s good.

 

40:47  

All right, well, maybe you can drag him with you at some point.

 

40:50  

Exactly.

 

40:51  

There you go. Work on him. Alright, everyone, thanks for listening. This is Andrew from Big Idea ventures and actual veggies. do reach out to them if, if you want to just say hello to Jason or Hailey, if you want to get involved in in what they’re building in one way or another. I’m sure they will appreciate it. I’m going to press pause ….

 

I hope you enjoyed that conversation with the co founders of actual veggies. Great team call people doing some amazing things. So if you need to reach out to actual veggies, they gave you lots of ways to do so if you want to reach out to me, Andrew, I’ve your host from Big Idea ventures. Please do come along to big ideaventures.com. That’s it. We’ve I’ve enjoyed the podcast today. I hope you have if you’ve got questions or comments, please do reach out we want to hear from you and please like and subscribe and tell your friends your relatives, people you don’t even like very much tell everyone. Thanks again. I hope you enjoyed the podcast. Look forward to speaking with you all next week. Bye

 

© Big Idea Ventures LLC 2021

Description

The issue of single-use plastic is a glaring example of the problems with throwaway culture. In fact, scientists say we’re eating a credit card’s worth of plastic each week! Taking on this quest to save the planet from plastics, are incrEDIBLE eats, who have caused quite a stir with their idea – edible spoons! Rhianne Lovell-Boland speaks to Dinesh Tadepalli, Co-Founder of incrEDIBLE eats who shares more on how they are replacing single-use plastics with edible cutlery.

Chicago-based food tech Aqua Cultured Foods is launching what it claims is the world’s first whole-muscle cut seafood analogue developed using microbial fermentation. Looking to become a first mover in the category, much like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods has done in the plant-based space, Aqua Cultured is set on disrupting aquaculture by growing the most realistic, sustainable, fish-free seafood on the market.

Aqua Cultured is the latest to join the rising fermentation alternative protein space, the sector described as the “third pillar” next to plant-based and cell-based, and wants to carve out a new category by launching what it claims is the “world’s first whole-muscle cut seafood alternative created through the process of microbial fermentation.”

Using their novel technology, the Chicago-headquartered food tech produces a complete protein without the harmful environmental consequences of conventional aquaculture – from greenhouse gas emissions to overfishing and a whole host negative impacts from bottom trawling, such as bycatch and plastic pollution – and develops whole-cut seafood analogues from it.

Some of the whole-cut analogues that Aqua Cultured is developing include shrimp, calamari, ahi tuna, fish fillets, but its first product will be a frozen popcorn shrimp coming in three flavours and launching in “select markets later this year”, followed by marinated seafood pieces.

Currently, the majority of seafood alternatives on the market are made using plant-based ingredients and come in formats like chunks, crab cakes or shreds, such as Good Catch Foods’ vegan tuna and breaded fish fillets or Hooked Foods’ shredded salmon.

Aqua Cultured co-founder and CEO Anne Palermo says that there is an “opportunity in the market” when it comes to replicating whole-muscle cut pieces that can mimic the look and texture of traditional seafood. Palermo founded the company with CSMO Brittany Chibe in late 2020, and has gained the backing of Big Idea Ventures and AngelList rolling fund Sustainable Food Ventures.

The technology that the startup is using is different to that of precision fermentation food techs like California’s Perfect Day who uses it to create real dairy proteins without any cows, and Change Foods, a U.S. and Australia-based firmcreating animal-free cheese prototypes.

Within the fermentation space, Aqua Cultured falls into the biomass fermentation category, which takes the fast-growing component of microorganisms as an ingredient to produce large amounts of alternative protein – something that legacy meatless brand Quorn has done using filamentous fungi.

Speaking to Green Queen Media, the company’s co-founder Chibe explained that they use a proprietary fungi strain to produce their products, and “since we don’t alter DNA, our products are non-GMO.”

Aqua Cultured also ditches the need for starches and isolates that are often used in existing alternative proteins on the market, which means that its final fungi-based product boasts a better nutrition profile with fibre, micronutrients and naturally-occuring proteins – all the while giving consumers the bite, texture and sensorial experience of eating whole cuts of fish.

“This allows us to improve the health of our global community and contribute to the solution of how the world will meet its increasing demands on food supply,” said Palermo, who added that it caters to the growing clean label consumer trend.

Chibe revealed to Green Queen Media that ahead of its upcoming launch, which will be through foodservice channels, the company is “actively raising right now and looking to close the round in the next 60 days” to help fuel its growth.

Going global is also on the roadmap for the startup, given that it has already garnered “significant interest from international foodservice distributors and operators,” Chibe added.

While Aqua Cultured is set to be the first to use fermentation to debut whole-cut seafood alternatives, other food techs have debuted whole-cuts meats using the same technology.

Among them are Atlast Food Co., the Robert Downey Jr.-backed startup making mycelium-based slices of bacon and other whole-cut meats, as well as Meati Foods, who have developed chicken breast, steak and are set to launch whole-muscle jerky later this summer.

Still in R&D stage, newly founded Barcelona startup Libre Foods is on the same mission and plans to grow an entire platform of whole-cut steak, poultry and even seafood from filamentous fungi.

Singapore is fast becoming Asia’s most important food-technology hub.

Successfully scaling an early stage business is a challenge in any industry, though definitely more complicated in food & ag. Why does only a very small group of startups manage to disrupt the sector and create the impact the envisaged when starting their business. Is it about conservatism of the industry, regulation, access to capital or…?

Lorem ipsum | Vietnam | cesiscompany.vn

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident,

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap