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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…?

Podcast 3:Evo Foods’ Co-Founder Kartik Dixit speaks with Andrew D. Ive from Big Idea Ventures about starting a plant-based milk 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 Evo Foods‘ Co-Founder Kartik, 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, this is Andrew from the big idea food podcast. Today we’re going to be talking to Kartik. He’s the co founder of the vo foods in India. They’ve developed a product, which is a plant based egg product. Let’s have a conversation with him. love to get your thoughts and feedback. Reach out to us via big idea or any of the platforms where you’ll find us across social media. Thanks very much. Kartik, how are you? 

Kartik 00:33 

I’m good. I’m good. How about you? 

Andrew D Ive 00:36 

Very well, welcome to the big idea. Food podcast. Really glad to have you. So you’re what you’re a co founder, one more co founder in a plant based food company? Why don’t you tell us a little bit about you. And a little bit about your food company? 

Kartik 00:57 

For sure, for sure. So I think I’ll give you a bit of a background about me. My background is 

not really into the food industry or into, you know, any kind of, you know, previous work. But I directly jump into entrepreneurship after my graduation, in 2017, and co founded India’s first cultivated meat company called clear meat. And then afterwards, I started Evo foods, which is basically a really short biography 

Andrew D Ive 01:31 

has a terribly short biography. So, so you graduated from your graduated from undergrad in what? 217 2017? Right. 

Kartik 01:39 


Andrew D Ive 01:40 

So three years, three years, four years out of college at this point, right, right. Two startups under your belt, one that you left after a year or two in cell based meat. And now Evo foods, why don’t why don’t you tell us a little bit about Evo, 

Kartik 01:54 

for sure. So, Evo started out of the need to provide clean plant based protein to India. And consequently the world. The way we thought about it is that India is so much has so much crop biodiversity, for example, Indian, India has approximately 62,000 varieties of legumes right now. Why not use it in a sustainable way, why not create amazing plant based options for people here, and usually, you know, expand that to up to other countries. So that was the core thought behind Evo Foods we started back in 2019. Me and my co founder sada, we are really passionate supporters of sustainability, nutrition, she started in the US, so she knew all about what was going on at that time, you know, beyond meat impossible would what they were doing in the US. So she was pretty much, you know, accustomed to the fact that plant based revolution is going to happen one way or the other. And in India, that was an opportune moment at that time. Because, you know, GSI was also starting his work. One, one got hired in 2017, I guess at the same time, I also started working in the sector. So a lot of great things were happening. And we thought that one thing which was missing is the ag sector. Because egg is such a versatile food and it’s such a non religious food in India, because religion is a big part of our country, we have to absolutely make sure that whatever we are producing is up to the standards of different variety of religions. So if you see the dynamics of vegetarianism in India, if you want to convert to non vegetarianism, you’re not likely to start off with a 

chicken or mutton, you’re most likely to start off with an egg and there are three dots. So green dot red dot and this yellow dot right or sorry, orange dot right now, which which relates to recipes, which contains eggs. So, in such a different 

Andrew D Ive 03:58 

way before we pass over that why don’t you explain what you mean by India 

Kartik 04:05 

for sure. So, green dot usually means that the product contains dairy as well as plant based ingredients. orange dot means that you know, it contains egg and red dot means that it contains meat, any kind of meat, chicken, mutton etc. And this is a unique system proposed by fssai so that you know, people from different walks of religion can identify foods based on their religious and their preferences. For example, if a vegetarian sees a green dot, then he will purchase that he will purchase that. 

Andrew D Ive 04:40 

So this is a labeling system within Yeah, that that kind of Okay, got it. 

Kartik 04:48 

Right. So we thought that, you know, since people already have, you know, very less egg is seen as a very less offensive food. So that’s why we thought that we can start With an egg alternative, which is not only made from the, you know, legumes, which they already know, which they already eat on a regular basis in their daily diet, and just make it like these are your legumes in a different form in the form of an egg in the form of a liquid egg. And that’s what we ought to do. And that’s what started our whole product development. We got some scientists on board product developers on board. And it started the whole journey got into big idea ventures, New York City accelerator. Lucky for us, that turned out to be and then raised investment from Ryan, Dr. Sanders freedom, wedge invest, and other angel investors. One thing which we did in the last few months was that we carried out a sort of a launch event, which got sold out within an hour of disclosure, which we are really, which was really surprising for us as well, because we didn’t know that, you know, obviously, India was ready for plant based protein now that they’ve gotten such big responses, we know that Evo foods is gonna, is going to succeed in Tier One cities in India, because of the great response we have gotten. 

Andrew D Ive 06:11 

So let’s talk a little bit about the product itself. You’re using lagoons, and you’re making what you called liquid, liquid egg. What’s the, you know, what? What’s the use? Why liquid egg? Why not some kind of solid form? You know, how did you come to a conclusion about what you needed to bring to market first? 

Kartik 06:32 

Right, right. So that journey from deciding the form factor to deciding the ingredients was very, very intricate. We, you know, we asked people what they thought of it, what they thought of the idea. And they said that even if we even if we can get like a normal egg, for example, in a shell made out of plants, which is incredibly difficult, that would be really great. Then the second choice was if they can get a liquid, which can behave exactly like an egg, and the third choice was powder. Because Indians are accustomed to using powders in the baking recipes. There are alternatives available based on that. But there was no liquid version which was present in the market. And most importantly, it makes their lives easier. They don’t have to break an egg every time they need to make a scramble or an omelet. Plus, most importantly, people are really scared about antibiotics in the whole supply chain in India, antibiotics are heavily used as a substitute for sanitation in the poultry supply chain. So people are concerned about that, there was a clear need for plant based liquid Agra, which we identified. And and that’s how we ended up on that form factor on the liquid form factor. So just to show you, this is our product. Not sure if you can see that. When it comes in a bottle. It is equivalent to 12 eggs, as you can see from the pack itself, there’s a measuring line, out of which you can measure how many eggs you are using right now. Which is quite novel, which we found out that could be a really, you know, in a way it can help consumers track how many eggs were eaten. 

Andrew D Ive 08:15 

So that’s 1212 a dozen eggs in a bottle equivalent. What about price? People more? Is it more expensive to buy a dozen eggs? Or is it more expensive to buy? Evo and how, you know, how do they compare? 

Kartik 08:33 

For sure. So, rising is one of the what I would say is a deterrent while purchasing plant based foods globally, right. Even if you see the US market, plant based meat alternatives are a little bit or or I would say you know, at least 1x or 2x higher than normal, normal meat supply price was a main data and we didn’t want it to be a really expensive 

alternative to an A, but a little bit, you know, I would say under the premium category. So what we did was we developed it to a local supply chain. We use a local supply chain for all our ingredients, including all proteins including our hydrocolloids and everything. And 

we made sure that the price is somewhere close to premium and category in India. So if you see some brands or in the Indian subcontinent, or less kegs, for example, they are priced at around 250 rupees, which turns out to be approximately $4 a dozen. We are also in that price range. So, what the model you just saw a while into a dozen will cost approximately four to 4.5 dollars at conscious choice, because we didn’t want people to think that you know this is out of our reach. We wanted to make it aspirational, but achievable. 

Andrew D Ive 09:56 

And does that give you the kind of margins you need to incentive buys the supply chain so that they’re actually happy to put it on the shelf and so on? 

Kartik 10:04 

Absolutely. Because our supply chain is based out of India, we can afford to make it at a really affordable price. And we have really healthy margins with which we can carry out a business and make it sustainable in the long term. 

Andrew D Ive 10:19 

Got it? And what are the channels that you’re looking to sell the product into initially? 

Kartik 10:24 

Right. So when we considered the whole sector in India, we thought that going directly into, you know, direct to consumer, or retail might create something which we call as, what is the term I’m looking for? It’s, it’s, it’s, it’s like, you know, when when you see a novel product on Amazon, for example, you know, and there’s an expectation which man, that’s how I got it. So there’s an expectation mismatch for all of the products in the novel food category. So if you say list these kinds of products on Amazon, you see a seeker on on the product reviews that are five star reviews. Equally, there are three zero star or one star reviews on Amazon. And that’s what we found really interesting, we thought that going direct to consumers or going listing on different kinds of e commerce platform might not be a great strategy, because people don’t really know what a plant base tag is. And that’s why we made sure that it really makes it clear on the packaging itself, we have made sure that people understand and what it is through packaging. And then when the channels 

are considered, my co founders background lies in the hospitality industry, she is also a part of NRA national restaurant association of India. And through that, he knows a lot of restaurant years. And we have already partnered with more than 55 plus restaurants kind of inspired by impossible food strategy. So make sure that people get to try the product first, they get to enjoy it, they get, you know, the trust is transferred from one needs to defend to the other. And then you know, roll it out slowly into direct to consumer or other channels, when people are aware that such a thing exists. 

Andrew D Ive 12:16 

Got it. So, how’s that going? 

Kartik 12:21 

It’s going really good, we’ve been we’ve been getting a lot of positive responses when tasting is concerned with the restaurants. So far, we have managed to get approximately three to five top restaurants in Mumbai under our brand, what we want to do is co brand with restaurants as well, because co branding will really create that kind of awareness about the brand evo, what it stands for. That’s why we are really, you know, looking forward to co brand and with restaurants. You know, if you’ve seen impossible foods flag on a particular burger, that’s how you’ll see it in India, in Mumbai in different kinds of restaurants. And so people will get to know that this they are consuming an evo burger or evo sandwich or something like that. And most importantly, what we found out is it doesn’t necessarily need to say plant based egg, it can just be evo, for example, you know, impossible burger beyond burger, something like that we want to create evo sandwich or you know, evo burger or Evo good G or evo, omelette, evo fritatta. So, you don’t make that product stand out by itself not dependent on the term plant based thing. 

Andrew D Ive 13:37 

So, you’re looking at restaurants to kind of get the brand out there which is you know, from what I can tell the impossible strategy right where they they got thought leaders involved they got people you know, chefs and so on putting it on their menu and then you know, the the great and the good testing it in the best restaurants. What about getting it to the kind of common person the regular person the the normal grocery convenience, you know, distribution channels, is that part of the strategy? And if so, when do you see that coming along? 

Kartik 14:12 

Not this year for sure, because one thing we are really sure of is the whole Indian ecosystem. So I don’t think India is a market for plant based proteins for a billion people right now, it can take anywhere between five to 10 years for people to get awareness about plant based foods in general. So, but the consumers most of the consumers 50 to 60 million people living in Tier One cities in India, Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore Chennai, these are the kinds of consumers we are looking for those who are aware about plant based alternatives those who have eaten or drank some kind of plant based milk. You know, eaten for example, a meat meat alternative or eat soy chop, which is like a popular dish in India. So, so yeah, chop is something which is made out of soy And all purpose floor, which resembles meat a lot. So it’s a really popular dish in India. If they know about sweatshops, then that’s like a starting point for them to understand what these alternatives are right now and what they can do with the taste functionality and nutrition. So, so yeah, chop eating people in Tier One cities in India, these are the consumers we are looking for. And our goal is to be present in at least 1000 restaurants across three cities in India, Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore by next year. After that, we’ll be sorry, go ahead. Yeah, it will be available to, you know, consumers to purchase, why retail and Amazon. Got it. 

Andrew D Ive 15:43 

So over the next 12 to 18 months, the strategy is the food service. So restaurants in particular, get that to you say 1000 or 1500? Something along those lines, correct? 

Kartik 15:59 

Oh, then yeah, tell stone to 1500 restaurants, it can be anywhere in that number. Got it. And the 

Andrew D Ive 16:05 

expectation is that those restaurants will use that Evo brand as part of their menu, it won’t just be an ingredient that they put in without mentioning. 

Kartik 16:15 

Yes, for sure. co branding is a great, you know, a great way for us to put our brand out. And most importantly, it can introduce the brand to chefs as well. For example, chefs can get to know that, you know, this is all possible. And they can tell other chefs about it. So it’s kind of creating an practice as well. Even in Mumbai, we are seeing whenever we trial with chefs, you usually get inquiries from other chefs, probably from other restaurant chains. So that’s what it is, you know, creating like a network effect. 

Andrew D Ive 16:50 

So when the restaurants so forgive me, I’m just sort of thinking through the strategy for a second, from, from a restaurant perspective, who’s going to be selling those selling your product into them is that you’re going to do that internally, you have your own team that’s going to be dedicated to introducing the product to chefs and so on. Or you finding a third party that has those kind of relationships as a way of going to market. I’m just sort of, you know, as you’re a young company, how are you kind of covering that sort of 1000s restaurant? sales process? 

Kartik 17:31 

Right, right. So we’ll start off with anchor brands, what we call as anchor brands, and these are the restaurants where usually influencers dine in and it creates an impact because people usually in India follow a lot of Western values when living in Tier One cities. And they see, you know, influencers such as cricketers, you know, bollywood celebrities, they usually go to these kinds of places and try out different recipes. So our target is to partner with these kinds of brands, first in Tier One cities, so that the word spreads, what that will do is that will encourage more and more chefs from different tiers of restaurants to try out evo was the word spreads. And once the word spreads, we will start to reach scale or bring the price down and then target more tier two or tier three restaurants. In these you know tier one cities in India, we usually like to focus initially on restaurants which are really exclusive which are really known for the taste of the foods I’m known for their whole literary experience so that people can get to know about it right that something like a plant based diet can be used in sushi something it can be used in an omelette breakfast food. And one thing we are trying to do is we want to make it a wholesome holy a food not just for breakfast, as egg is usually seen. So yeah, this is our strategy for the next one year and definitely launch into retail. 

Andrew D Ive 19:07 

Okay, awesome. So Okay, got it. interesting approach. How many restaurants have have decided to take it so far? 

Kartik 19:19 

We have partnered so far with 55 plus restaurants from 20 plus brands. You’re looking at rolling it out in April, fully into these restaurants. As a part of our strategy. It will start off with tier one restaurants in Mumbai where usually celebrities go and influencers go will conduct a lot of tasting tastings are usually a part of our strategy. Because once people 

get to taste the product, they’ll check that you know, it tastes exactly like an egg. It also has the nutrition it also has the you know necessary vitamins and minerals in their daily diet. They can ask the chef about it. What we have done we have created different documents for chefs to use in the form of recipes as well as in the form of communication. So how do you, you know, make sure that it doesn’t get translated to something called as a vegan food or a non vegan food or, you know, it just, we are really trying to stay away from the whole categorization into a particular type of vegan food. So that’s why we have made it really clear in the communication booklet we have created that you can explain to it, you know, using in this way that it’s made out of plants, made out of legumes, it’s 100%, plant base, it contains all of your essential amino acids. And it is delicious. That’s it. That’s the whole messaging we are trying to create with restaurants. 

Andrew D Ive 20:46 

Got it? Okay, so 12 months, restaurants, 18 months restaurants, ideally hit something around the 1000 restaurant, from a numbers perspective, then move into other channels like grocery or, or what’s what’s next, what comes after that. 

Kartik 21:07 

Right now or Andrew, to be honest, we you don’t see us spending a lot of money on the Indian market, even after a year of operations. Tier One cities is what we are looking for, as our target market. And then we would like to launch into other markets such as us, because in the US, plant based tech is the fastest growing category amongst all plant based foods as you are already aware enough, right. So in the US consumers already know about this stuff, they are already aware of other alternatives, which are incredibly high priced. In this way, we can create a value add for the US market that not only it is incredibly tasty, it is also delicious, it is also nutritionally superior, but also it is affordable. So even if we sell for example 2x of the price of what we are selling in India, we would still be cheaper than the most, I would say the most hyped plant based egg alternative out there in the US. So that’s that’s the advantage we might have for the US market entry. And sometime next year, we would definitely want to be in the US market. Okay, so 

Andrew D Ive 22:16 

you don’t see yourself converting that buzz in India into an opportunity for everyone to get access, you still see it being very much a restaurant based product. 

Kartik 22:31 

Right. And, and the reason why we are looking at it is because of the price. Right now in India, if you see the price of normal eggs, it is approximately in the range of four to six rupees per egg, and we at Evo have managed to get the price down to up to 20 to 25 rupees per egg, by next year, we can definitely bring that down in the range of 15 to 20 rupees per egg, but that will still be higher. And we’ll need external resources external investment so that we can convince restaurants in tier two cities or you know, convince consumers in general to buy our product at a at a really high price, according to them. And the consumers usually when they are based in Tier One cities, they already have that purchasing power to buy evo in the form of either a dish or through channels such as Amazon or retail. But that’s the limiting factor here price is a limiting factor in the Indian market, if we can bring the price down to let’s say, a 10 rupees apiece, then we can definitely expand in India, but that will internally amongst the bow, it will take a long time, for example, three to four years it will definitely take for us to reach that price. 

Andrew D Ive 23:45 

And is that a is that a production challenge? Is that a scale challenge or both? I mean, is it very much about if the volume was at such a point, you would be able to be down close to the cost of an egg or even even, you know, even if you multiplied your volume by 1000 times it wouldn’t necessarily bring the price down to that point. 

Kartik 24:09 

Now if you’ve multiplied by 1000 times, then definitely we can reach the price scale. That’s what we are considering right if we are able to reach that kind of scale in Tier One cities in India, then we can bring the price further down by simply negotiating you know, better prices with with the suppliers. But the way we are seeing it will take you know ingredient reduction as well as efficient production research. So that, you know we can make Evo the most nutritious and affordable protein source on the entire planet by 2025. That’s the ambitious goal we have. But of course that will take some time on our end. 

Andrew D Ive 24:47 

Do you see yourselves I mean, you talk about the you know the best, most nutritious source of plant based protein on the planet. Still specifically in egg or do you see Evo at some point, broadening Outside of egg once it’s, you know, covered off India started to for example or got successfully into the United States. Do you see yourselves remaining an egg for the for the duration? Or are there other ideas on there? You know, obviously don’t tell us what those ideas necessarily are. But are there other ideas that you’re considering? 

Kartik 25:20 

Not as of now, because there’s, egg’s such a versatile food it can be made into omelet scrambles, retarders, it can be used in baking, geling agent foaming agent. So there are a lot of functionalities to cover first with an egg for example, the egg we have right now the liquid egg it right now is you know, not shelf stable ambient shelf stable, it’s under refrigerated conditions. So we would like for it to be shelf stable. That’s another goal on the existing product front, we want to create different versions of an egg, for example, and egg Patty are ready to cook omelette. These kinds of different variations. For example, egg biryani to egg biryani is going to definitely become a hit in India. Kind of products we want to create, we want to be focused on the whole egg platform for the next five years at least make Evo the most nutritious and sustainable plant based egg in the whole world and then move beyond egg early and look into other categories, but not for the next five years. I will say. 

Andrew D Ive 26:22 

Got it. And tell us a little bit about your co founder as well. You mentioned a little bit tiny, tiny bit about your story. But how did you and shop come together and what’s her her background and why she doing this? 

Kartik 26:37 

For sure. It’s an interesting story we met back in 2018 at a food conference in Mumbai. So at that time, I was working on cultivated meat front. And she said to me that Karthik I want to introduce cultivated meat at my restaurant. And I said to her that, no, that’s not going to happen within the next three to four years. And she was a bit disappointed, but we always kept in touch. And you know, her background lies in the hospitality. She studied hospitality and management at Boston University in the US. Then she came back to India worked at different restaurants, different hotel chains, and then co co founder and started her own restaurant, which is called as candy and green in Mumbai. And from the early on, she was a big proponent because candy and green is a vegan and vegetarian restaurant, right? It is India’s first Farm to Fork direct, you know, she grows her own vegetables on the rooftop and uses the same vegetables in the recipes. So it’s a novel concept for which she got applauded by Forbes under 30, under 30, in 2018. A big proponent of sustainability in food. And that’s what that’s what led to, you know, US connecting on a deeper level. Because we both care about sustainability and food we both care about climate change, and how our food systems impact climate change. And how India can be a global leader in providing plant based alternatives because of Global Diversity. And that’s what we co founded. That’s a little bit about. 

Andrew D Ive 28:09 

Fantastic. And do you think there’s some sort of mission element to to what she’s doing as well? I mean, obviously, she’s very stimulated by food. She’s been in the hospitality industry and restaurant industry for some time. But is there a mission component to this? Or that’s not? That’s not really part of it? 

Kartik 28:29 

No, no, absolutely. The way she saw it is that using her approach of you know, impacting people through a restaurant, versus impacting people who a big company, which creates tons and tons of food, in the form of plant based egg or plant based meat, plant based dairy is much more effective at producing, producing a change at a larger scale. And that’s why at that time, she was also looking to start something in the plant based page when I left my previous startup, and that’s how we got together. So there was definitely a mission element to it, that, you know, to create a change at a larger scale. It’s not preferred that, you know, you start a restaurant in mumbly, because that’s a very limited approach, right, to create that kind of a team. And that’s what she’s trying to do. Okay, 

Andrew D Ive 29:22 

so tell us a little bit about how you got the company started. Obviously, you guys came together as a team. Where did you go? You went through some form of product prototyping. I know that you guys, I’m not sure where you were in the cycle when you guys applied to big idea ventures, and we’re looking to you know, join the accelerator, get investment and so on. Why don’t you take us a little bit through some of those steps. 

Kartik 29:48 

Right, right. Right. So at that time in August, we got a plant biochemist on board. You know, we’ve worked through different formulations. I already had a few ideas about the ingredients we can use to make plant based egg. For example, chickpeas, which are, which is what we are using right now to create the formulation, we tried a different combination of chickpeas peas. The goal was to make it as nutritionally comparable to an egg as possible without hampering the functionality at all. So we created some prototypes, introduced it in shudders restaurant, ended some trials with consumers in February, and then definitely brought an answer from Big Idea ventures about the selection into New York City accelerator. And at that time, also COVID hit and our timelines got pushed by, otherwise, we were ready to do priors, we were ready to improve the product. But then obviously, it got pushed back, as it did with a lot of startups, I guess, 

and really created a disruption basically, in the whole development process of evo. We resumed back in 20 2020, in October, and then we started resuming all of our processes. You know, we had a lot of challenges, some of our equipment broke down, we had to get access to different equipments at that time, there were a lot of low COVID restriction, so we couldn’t get any, to produce some form of, you know, plant based tech to give tasting to people. But now that we are back on track, we think that, you know, we are ready to go into the market, ready to get feedback from people as much as possible, and then improve the product further to launch more broadly into tier one cities in India. 

Andrew D Ive 31:36 

Now, I was gonna ask how the fundraising process when because that’s often something that, you know, new teams, new companies find challenging, but I don’t know whether it’s you or shuddha, or both of you, but you guys have been able to create a lot of excitement 

around evo A lot of people have been engaging, supporting, you know, G, as you mentioned, Varun from GFI was, has been a strong evangelist and so on. Obviously, we became an evangelist when we invested. So you know, you guys have really got a strong tailwind. You know, so from your point of view, has the fundraising been challenging? Or is it actually been relatively easy given the excitement? 

Kartik 32:19 

So initially, it was challenging, Andrew, because when we started back in August 2019, we tried to raise some funds through Indian VCs, Indian accelerators, and none of them responded to us. Like you guys did, because they didn’t know about the whole plant based space in general, right. Okay. So they didn’t know about the plant based space. When we pitched the idea to them, they said that, why would someone would like to switch to a plant based diet or a plant based meat or plant based dairy, so they were not aware about the space, as I would say, and the excitement about the sector was not there. I think in 2020, after the pandemic, and the word spread, beyond meets IPO, as well, in 2019, they got really excited about the sector. It’s really interesting that how one company’s success can fuel the whole sector. But that’s what we found out after that. We got and we also got an interview request from Y Combinator, which was really exciting. It was an interesting process to go through, we realized that, you know, we should really work on our product well, and at that, I think it was just two months into the journey, we got an offer from them for an interview. We also got an offer from TechStars, and other accelerators. But we decided to, you know, definitely focus on BIV BIV, because BIV’s focuses alternative protein itself. And that’s why you know, BIV, BIV also gave us a lot of traction in the fundraising space. It definitely gave us a platform to to introduce the concept of clean protein to India. And I would say that, it’s it was initially challenging, but 

then it got easier as we went to the BIV program, and got you guys on board. 

Andrew D Ive 34:11 

That’s great to hear. So talking of the challenges for a moment, what do you think, Well, what do you anticipate could be some of the challenges that you may encounter, bringing your product successfully into India? 

Kartik 34:27 

Right supply chain is one of the biggest constraints here because cold chain is not on par with global standards. And that’s why we are actively trying to make the product ambient shelf stable. But the way we are seeing it one advantage of our, you know, whole strategy 

of going into food services that we can piggyback on the existing cold supply chain, which restaurants already have, right. every restaurant has refrigerators, they care about their own supply, and they make sure that the supply stays good. So we can piggyback on the existing model and We can create that whole path through full service first. But then again, if we want to launch into, let’s say, you know, something like Amazon, something like retail, then that will take additional investment on creating that supply chain, if we are going through it from a refrigerated point of view, if we make it shelf stable, then the constraints will definitely go away. But in the initial one year, we definitely expect some unique challenges on the supply chain front. Other than that, hiring great talent, because India is definitely one of the most talented countries in the world, but finding that relevant talent to make sure that we stay into the innovation game, and not lose out on momentum on that front, right. Because ultimately, what you saw in beyond meat was that they started from chicken, and then ultimately went to Robbie and and you know, sausages and all of that. We want to be on the exact same trajectory when product innovation is concerned. So finding talented people is going to be another challenge, we are actively trying to hire great people on board, probably those who worked in alternative protein companies into the US. And someone if someone is seeing this, and hearing me out, do reach out. If in case you find Evo who’s interesting, because we are always ready to create a unique profile for you as a person, if we see that there’s a fit. If we see that you’re passionate about the sector, then we are definitely the right kind of Geico for you. 

Andrew D Ive 36:32 

So talking about recruiting the right people, obviously COVID has allowed us to, you know, work across geographic boundaries in a way that wasn’t imagined two, three years ago, using zoom and Skype and Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, all the other things that people 

are leveraging to people, great people who want to apply to Evo foods need to relocate to Mumbai, or are there certain roles, certain people that can be kept, you know, can work with you, outside of India? 

Kartik 37:10 

Andrew, if you can give us some more funding, then we can definitely be able to create a lab in us. So we won’t have any issue. But yeah, on r&d front, you will have to ship to Mumbai, if not on the r&d front, if more on the front end, you know, marketing, performance marketing, digital marketing, and these kind of roles, more on the front end part of it, then you need necessarily be in Mumbai, actually, we prefer an in person, kind of group, because that has accelerated our whole process. What what we couldn’t achieve during the whole pandemic time, we achieved that within the first three months of, you know, 2021. And that’s because we got our own lab space, we’ve got, you know, our own office space as well, which is combined at a really great price. So in India, you can do and definitely do that. But ultimately, you know, walking out of a group in person, understanding your team members will definitely be a boost. But yeah, this is not a necessity for people to, you know, just apply to evo foods. 

Andrew D Ive 38:15 

So those top restaurants you mentioned before the 1000 to 1500 that you guys are going to be targeting. Are they purchasing their ingredients on a day to day basis in local markets? And they’re sending people out to go buy this ingredients fresh? Or do they have companies that are providing them with their ingredients, and so on? And maybe we can even be more specific if that are those companies getting shipments of chilled dairy and eggs already brought to their, you know, their shipping Bay on a day to day basis. So in other words, if you can get your product into those, those centralized distributors who are providing those restaurants with their dairy, maybe that’s a way of actually scaling that that growth more quickly than needing to go and tackle 1500 restaurants day to day. 

Kartik 39:10 

Absolutely. That would be an ideal approach. But I would say that each restaurant we have encountered has a different kind of a buying process. They have different suppliers, for vegetables for tofu for for example, meat. And one thing which was consistent during the whole process is that there is no structure. For example, in the US, you have food service companies who cater to a lot of restaurants. That structure right now is missing in India, even in Tier One cities. And until that structure is in place, we can’t really depend on that. So what we’ll have to do is we’ll have to create our own supply chain of supplying 

through to these restaurants first. And obviously we’ll have to partner with restaurants who have chains and centralized kitchens. That everything from our And can taken care of when it reaches their own kitchen or own facility. So that’s, that’s a big part of strategy, we’ll we’ll go after that, after we have created an impact in the first restaurants. For example, let’s say, Starbucks, right? Starbucks has a central kitchen. And then, you know, it can be really easier for us, if we can ship the product to them, they can make the product out of their central kitchen and ship it to 200 to 250 outlets they have in the country. So these kind of models we are looking for. But for the Indian restaurants, it’s really hard to find that single supplier who supplies to all of them, and create an impact to that. 

Andrew D Ive 40:40 

Okay, and so you, so I didn’t just make sure I’m hearing the right thing. Starbucks, for example, have a central district central manufacturing system, or facility that they then use to get that product made and sent out to all of the different Starbucks throughout a region, or even the country, perhaps, there are certain restaurants that may use a similar approach, I would guess, particularly if they’re a chain, and they’ve got multiple outlets. But there’s there’s not a kind of distributor that distributes dairy products to 50% of the tier one restaurants in Mumbai, for example, they are they are all finding their own way of getting their own ingredients. 

Kartik 41:24 

There are platforms, for example, there’s, there’s a company called a snowman, which is used by a lot of companies for their own supply chain, they can piggyback at platform, there are new startups such as there’s this interesting startup called is where I grew, you know, they are yet to start up their cold chain supply process, but what they do is they take the lead, take your product, they supply they they store it in their own warehouse, and they ship it to different kinds of consumers. So these are the platforms which are coming up. You know, we are also talking to some distributors who have chains, similar to the daily supply chain. But yeah, it will take some time for us to figure out exactly the dynamics of your distribution in India, because it’s, it’s really fragmented, it’s really difficult for us to find that single player. 

Andrew D Ive 42:16 

So it makes sense potentially to go city by city, right Mumbai first, because that’s where you guys are based. What would be the next city after Mumbai, 

Kartik 42:26 

we are deciding between Delhi and Bangalore, because Delhi is usually where people experiment a lot less like, this is a very different thing we found out about you know, while researching for the market, because in Mumbai, you got people who are really picky with the restaurants once they was this, for example, hackathon, right hackathon is a great example of how this strategy works. So usually, when people try to eat Asian food, they usually go to hockessin. And they stick to it, they don’t try other places, if they want to try Asian food, they will stick with her cousin. And in Delhi, it’s the 

Andrew D Ive 43:03 

Asian chain in India. 

Kartik 43:06 

Yes. So basically, they saw a lot of great Asian food. But But what you see is a lot of influences go there. And when Delhi is concerned, you see people spending on different types of experiences, every time they go out. They don’t necessarily stick to one particular restaurant. And that’s why the volume of these restaurants are also high in Delhi. in Bangalore, usually the traffic is a bit of a hectic problem for people to go out to have a meal. So what they do is they try out restaurants, according to their area, according to their geographic area, and try not to go beyond their geographic area per se. So these are the kinds of interesting things we are experiencing about the Indian markets of tier one tier a tier one cities. And that’s really important for us to figure out at an early stage rather than go into the market and then figure it out. 

Andrew D Ive 43:58 

That sounds really interesting. 

Kartik 44:01 

Yeah. Interesting. 

Andrew D Ive 44:04 

I kind of like the idea of going to the city where people are sort of running around trying everything and getting really getting really, you know, interested in new things. That sounds like a great place for Evo to be after Mumbai. But, you know, I guess if you’ve got a 

city where people don’t move much out of their local area, and they’re just focusing on eating a lot in a constrained geography that’s going to be kind of interesting as well, providing you’ve got outlets in those key geographies. 

Kartik 44:35 

Yeah, for sure. I mean, you know, in Mumbai, usually people are really excited about their own restaurants. The cheese they are really fan of that’s why we are starting off with Mumbai you know, so that they can go to that place and then they can get an offer. Like you know, we have Evo on board. But when in Delhi I think we’ll have to change your strategy a bit you know, it will be more like you know, we are present in these restaurants over On to all social media channels. It will be like an expensive when we go to Delhi. 

Andrew D Ive 45:07 

Okay, so we’re now in 2021. Let’s fast forward to 2025, four years from now, give me some predictions where Evo will be 

Kartik 45:20 

Evo will be present in at least five countries, that’s for sure. Because we are tackling the problem, according to the price. And most importantly, next year, we’ll be ready for the US market because we are already on price parity with multiple categories. In the US, we are cheaper than almost every plant based like there is in the us right now. Not I would say cheaper but more affordable, because cheaper is such a bad word, it can create a bad influence. So I would prefer affordable. And most importantly, then it makes sense for us. So I usually get this question a lot, why are you not moving to Southeast Asia, because we found out that the prices there are definitely lower than what they are in the US. So us first, and then in the next five years, across all continents, that’s what we want to achieve. 

Andrew D Ive 46:14 

I think your prices have got to be similar to the US maybe even a little bit more expensive, I would imagine. So anyway. 

Kartik 46:21 

Usually, usually in the US, you got anywhere between 1.5 dollars per dozen, approximately $7 per dozen, like for an organic egg. And we did that research. For the US market. We are price comparable with some liquid eggs in the US which are sold sold off the shelves, for 

example, Whole Foods. And we are also price comparable with some premium categories. And organic eggs are a little bit higher than evo. 

Andrew D Ive 46:51 

So the interesting thing is, I’ve probably lived in five different cities in in the US. And because I’m in to the foods industry, I spend a lot of time in grocery stores in lots of different places. If I go to a new place, the first thing I do after I get to a city as go and check out the grocery stores. Most of the 12 dozen eggs have kind of the least expensive the sort of regular non organic, nothing special 12, you know, 12 eggs, I think is typically around the 379 399 for dollar range. Then when you get into the organic, and then if you look at organic plus humane. So a brand law in the US, for example would be vital vi t al those those eggs are typically you’ll get them from between 550 and $7 per dozen, depending on which outlet you’re buying them from. So, you know, six, seven bucks for 12. Organic and humane eggs is probably a good price. So I’m not sure where your dollar 50 for 12 eggs is coming from. But you know, if you put in dollars, 

Kartik 48:09 

I’m sorry. 1.5 dollars 2.7. That’s the range we found out. But obviously there might be some issues, you know, because we research a lot on web. But yeah, these are the kinds of prices we saw on the web, at least. On the most storefront I think you’re right, it can range anywhere between three to $7. That is the range. And we are at, you know, for four to five, even if we sell at you know $6 per dozen, that that also means that we are price comparable with organic eggs in the US, we wouldn’t 

Andrew D Ive 48:42 

be tough to get your product to be organic in terms of the ingredients that you’re you’re using 

Kartik 48:50 

one second? Yeah, of course, I mean, organic, we can definitely make it because there’s no lack of ingredients from the supply chain perspective. But we’ll need to check whether there’s a demand for it. For example, organic plant based AG, in case consumers demand, it wouldn’t be hard to create basically, it’s just a funnel. 

Andrew D Ive 49:15 

But the funny thing is you’ve already got the market from an egg perspective, looking at the egg market as organic and non organic when you go in and look for egg related products you’re looking for, you know your or eggs rather, you’re looking for either organic or non organic, right. So I mean, if you’ve got consumers already thinking about eggs in those terms, giving them the choice between an EVO assuming that at some point, you’re going to give consumers a choice. Good sounds like restaurants are obviously the next 12 months. But once you broaden outside of restaurants and you bring it to the American consumer, giving them a you know an organic, sorry, a non organic version at whatever your current price point is. For the expectation of your price point would be to the US, and then putting a buck on top, or $1.50 on top. And having an organic version would probably be a really distinct differential between you. And as you say, the most well publicized liquid egg company in the us right now, I don’t think they i don’t think i’ve seen anyone with a liquid egg that has an organic version. I almost want to cut, I almost want to cut this out of the interview. So people don’t do this, it’s kind of annoying that we’re gonna give them a heads up, right? 

Kartik 50:34 

I’m sure. So I mean, when you send it in this way, it makes sense because, you know, it matches their perceptions of normal eggs. And that will be really interesting for us to create, I think we can definitely look into it when you know, entering the US market launching two versions of it simultaneously, 

Andrew D Ive 50:51 

especially if it gives you an extra dollar 50 margin when I would guess the cost of sourcing raw ingredients that organic versus non organic is not going to be $1.50 per bottle. 

Kartik 51:05 

Absolutely. And one thing which you will really find interesting is that if you go on some platforms in India, such as big basket, the organic versions, for example, I consume organic legumes regularly. So when you see the price difference between organic and non organic, it’s not much it probably three to four rupees, which is not that high for a person, you know, who’s who’s who’s preferring more healthier foods. So I would say it will be not challenging for us to create, I’m assuming from the initial impression. But yeah, we’ll definitely look into it. And definitely, this is really interesting. 

Andrew D Ive 51:43 

Wow, look at that. Another another great reason why we talked today. 

Kartik 51:50 

product ideas, strategy, ideas, everything. 

Andrew D Ive 51:54 

So you’ve already said that getting great people is going to be a challenge or going to be a bottleneck because obviously it’s always a bottleneck dreading getting amazing people to join the team. What are some of the ways that people listening can potentially help you obviously, if they’re in if they’re in Mumbai, or, or Bangalore or Delhi and they’re local, they can go along to a restaurant and ask for you guys, either, you know, either to have to stop 

or to have those restaurants stop you, or they can just specifically asked for you on the menu. That’s one way people can help you. But what kind of help Are you looking for from people listening to this? 

Kartik 52:32 

Absolutely. The thing which you said matters a lot because when you know consumers go to their restaurants favorite restaurants on a regular basis, if they demand Evo to the restaurant, and if we if we get into the inbound inquiry through that, that’s that’s more of a pool than a push from our side. So I would say that you know, if you are able to create that pool for us for evo, just by demanding better egg alternatives, better alternatives in general in your favorite restaurant, and giving us our contact Hello accurate Evo foods dot iron at double o at Red Evo foods dot iron, that will be really great. We are really grateful for it. Other than that, 

Andrew D Ive 53:14 

if let’s let’s just let’s just slow that down for a second. The email address if someone wants to find out about having your product in a restaurant or recommending you to restaurant is Hello, h e l l o at Evo, BB o foods with an S at the end? dot i m correct. Right. Right. Okay, just wanted to you spoke really fast. I just want to make sure anyone listening doesn’t swerve their car over to like, you know, get into an accident because they want to try and write this stuff down. 

Kartik 53:46 

Boy, sure. So hello at the depot And definitely you can ask us where the restaurant, there will be a store locator or a restaurant locator feature on the website, which we are working on right now. Where you can find out what’s the nearest restaurant to use serving evo. Another thing which you can do is refer us to relevant people across different sections such as r&d, or marketing or branding, or performance marketing. So these kinds of roles we are looking to hire over a period of next year are most most intensively on r&d because we feel that you know, that’s that’s where our mode or all future modes will come out of. So definitely refer us to some great people you know, that will help us create this whole plant based revolution in India. 

Andrew D Ive 54:34 

Okay, so that’s that’s people referring you. What else? What else can people do? 

Kartik 54:43 

You know, ask ask about evo. Ask about evo a lot about, you know, to your favorite restaurants or your favorite chains. For example, if you demand to subway every time you go there that, hey, we need a plant based dag. If they reach out to us, then that’s fine. Otherwise we are already trying You know, contact them, usually, you know, you can cut it cut that part out, we’re looking to, you know, reach out to somewhere as well. But yeah, definitely ask about your about Evo or plant based ag in general to your favorite restaurants. Yeah, I will enough from your and we won’t ask much. 

Andrew D Ive 55:17 

And the product is available in Mumbai now, or is there a particular month when it’s going to out? You said you’re already in 55 stores, right? 

Kartik 55:26 

No, me of onboarded 55 restaurants, we are rolling it out in April. So we did a little launch event in Mumbai, just to understand how people react to the concept of land based tech. And we found out that if you position it as a healthier alternative, if you position it, as you know, something like a yummy and fluffy egg, but made from plants, then the response is 

much, much higher than when you position it as a vegan egg. And that’s what we you know, understood during that whole launch event. And then people started reaching out from different cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, and asking that, you know, where can I find it? Where can I get it. So this, this is also creating like an exclusive effect for us as well. 

Because anything, which is exclusive, people would like to go on it. And we intend to do it slowly, right? Make it really exclusive, make it really, you know, aspirational for people to get, and then slowly launch into a broader market. 

Andrew D Ive 56:25 

And if I’m subway in India, I should reach out to you now, right, I shouldn’t wait until the products available in April, 

Kartik 56:35 

definitely, you can definitely reach out to us. Because what we have done is we have created different iterations of an egg from a food service standpoint, which will prove out to be really time saving for food service companies or food QSR providers in general for them to save time in the recipes and not who can make every time there’s a recipe 

Andrew D Ive 56:57 

called a so Evo foods dot i n. So Eb o f, ODS di and I’m looking at your website right now, I can see your smiling character, your smiling mascot on your bottle, the bottle looks amazing, I can see why people are really excited about this product. If I’m a restaurant in India, or an owner of a restaurant or a chef, I can reach out to Hello at Evo foods to Iam for samples so that they can try the product and consider whether it’s something they should add to their menu. And you would expect or hope that they would use your brand on the menu as a way of showing people that they’re using the best liquid egg in India today. Right? 

Kartik 57:46 

Right. Absolutely. 

Andrew D Ive 57:48 

Awesome. So I mean, I’ve pretty much covered everything I was going to discuss with you today. If people need to reach out to you they can find john Evo foods dot i n I’m guessing you have various social media platforms and things LinkedIn, Instagram, where do people find you on those on those places? 

Kartik 58:09 

You can definitely message us on Instagram, Facebook, reach out to me personally via LinkedIn. I’m usually very active on LinkedIn as a platform. Reach out to us via Twitter as well. We are very active we are posting a lot of content. You know a lot of egg puns, excellent egg puns on different social media platforms. Yeah, I know. I know. 

Andrew D Ive 58:32 

Good. Dad jokes. 

Kartik 58:35 

Yeah, yeah, that. But yeah, they are excellent experts. We are producing a lot of great content using our mascot, Sonny which is relatable. Because he is not judging you for your food choices. If you even if you are a vegetarian, non vegetarian, lacto vegetarian, he is not the kind of person who’s judging you. Just try evo. Just try a plant based egg and see if it works for you, and then buy for you. So that’s what we want to achieve through our social media. So give 

Andrew D Ive 59:06 

me three places in Mumbai April is April 1, April 15. April 30. April 15. Yeah, yeah. So give me three restaurants. If I’m in Mumbai on April 15, where I can go and At this rate, there’ll be people lining up so where can I get Give me three places I can go April 15 to try Evo Foods liquid egg. 

Kartik 59:30 

Sure. I would definitely suggest you know for the sake of shraddha to candy and green the first place second. Yeah, second would be flamboyant. Which is a great restaurant place. And the third would be Earth cafe. Which is in Bandra. So in these three restaurants will definitely find evo as a part of their menu. And you know, you can go there you can taste different varieties of recipes they have created with it and you can enjoy yourself. Now complete Go 

Andrew D Ive 1:00:00 

to and sign up to sign up for a mailing list so that they can actually get an email of where they can go taste the product on April 15. 

Kartik 1:00:09 

Absolutely, what we are also going to do is we are going to conduct more and more events in different restaurants in Mumbai, through which you can sign yourself up, it will be an exclusive list you will be selected on the basis of priority and then you will be invited to that event. After after we reach out to you directly or after you sign up. whenever it’s available, whenever the sports are available. There is going to have excitement along the lines of launch events. So definitely sign up on evo and in our mailing list so that we can reach out to you whenever we are ready for a tasting. And if 

Andrew D Ive 1:00:47 

you’re I don’t know a Bollywood star or Indian celebrity they should reach out to you Kartik Dixit di x it on LinkedIn or via your website and say, Hey, you know, I love what you’re doing. I really want to be involved. Is that is that a good way? 

Kartik 1:01:04 

Why Sure, boy. Sure. In fact, Andrew, this is just for you. 

Andrew D Ive 1:01:08 

And as the other and the other 15 people listening to the podcast? 

Kartik 1:01:13 

About 15 people, is it live? 

Andrew D Ive 1:01:15 

Now it’s not live, but I can guarantee that I’ve got enough family members that when it does go live, we’ll have 15 people listening to it, maybe 16? I don’t know. Let’s go crazy. No, I think you’re these three restaurants are a great starting point. But anyways, if you are a Bollywood star, if you are, you know an influencer, you can definitely reach out to me personally on LinkedIn, and you should actually post my email address as well. Well, we’ll post this within iTunes and various other places will also post the video on YouTube. And so there’ll be various ways underneath the video and the podcast where people can get your contact details. And it sounds like you’re going to tell me a top secret piece of information about a celebrity getting involved. So I’m going to stop recording. Oh, hello, something just popped up science Well, that’s really long. I can’t even read that. 

Kartik 1:02:12 

You can operate according and then read it maybe. 

Andrew D Ive 1:02:16 

Maybe I’ll put it under the podcast or under the video if it’s something you want people to, to go to. Alright, Kartik, really good to chat with you. I’m going to pause and stop the video and stop the recording. So you can tell me all about this top secret thing. And if anyone wants to find out about it, they should go register at your website on the mailing list in one way or another. You will give them your tell them the top secret thing when it’s when you’re able to publish. 

Kartik 1:02:44 

Yeah, definitely. 

Andrew D Ive 1:02:47 

Thanks. Thanks for your time today, Kartik. I’m going to stop the recorder in a few moments. 

Kartik 1:02:52 

Thank you so much. 

Andrew D Ive 1:02:54 

Thanks for listening to the Big Idea Food Podcast. I really appreciate you. Please do subscribe, then you’ll get notifications of the next podcast. If you have any questions or comments, please do reach out. We can also be found by a big and through Instagram, LinkedIn, all of those wonderful places. So enjoyed the conversation today. I hope you did too. I look forward to hearing from you. Bye 


© Big Idea Ventures LLC 2021

What did you have for breakfast today? Stop and think about it – most likely you couldn’t have eaten what you did without the humble honey bee (or its close cousin, the bumble bee) as one-third of the food we eat – think avocados, nuts, and berries – grows thanks to pollination by bees. From apples to almonds to alfalfa grown for cattle feed, every year crops valued at $20 billion depend on bees, which also produce $150 million in honey on an annual basis.

So as the world celebrates World Bee Day today on May 20, we thought we’d give some appreciation to these master carpenters and providers of sustenance – of which there are 20,000 different species in the world – by recognizing some of the ingenious ag tools that have been developed. These innovations not only help these incredible insects survive, but in many cases they allow these pollinators to take a rest and thrive, all while opening the door to tremendous investment opportunities.

But first a few facts:

– In 2019, there were just over 90 million managed beehives in the world. India has the most with about 12.25 million, followed by China with about 9 million, and Turkey with 7.7 million.

– Scientists have determined that bumble bees are on their way to extinction due to “climate chaos” and threats from disease, pests, and hive problems.

– Colonies are decreasing yearly, and in fact, in 2019 U.S. beekeepers lost 40 percent of their colonies, the highest national (some losses were much higher) winter losses ever recorded.

– Bees must gather nectar from two million flowers to make one pound of honey.

– One bee has to fly about 90,000 miles – three times around the globe – to make one pound of honey.

– The average bee will make only 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime.

– A honey bee can fly for up to six miles, and as fast as 15 miles per hour.

– Bees communicate by dancing.

Dozens of startups and innovative agtech companies have made their mark in the fight for our proud pollinators, many of which have been featured in GAI News.


Founded by preeminent researchers, including CEO Dr. Fiona Edwards Murphy, ApisProtect (Apis is the Latin word for “bee”) uses the Internet of Things (IoT) to monitor honeybee colonies via real-time hive monitoring powered by satellite-enabled sensors that are retrofitted to existing beehives. This Irish agtech innovator used its $1.8 million seed round in 2018, co-led by top-tier venture capital investors Finistere Ventures and Atlantic Bridge Capital, and including Radicle Growth, the Yield Lab, and Enterprise Ireland, to move forward with aggressive global deployment of its innovation.

In December 2020, they launched their bee monitoring technology in the U.S. with their most recent install with TJ Honey in Oklahoma. ApisProtect also has launched a hobbyist version of this technology in Ireland, with a rollout in additional European countries planned for later this year. This means that their technology has already monitored more than 100 million honey bees across three continents. Based on monitoring these nearly 450 hives, the company has over 15 million data sets.

“We have installed our monitors in locations across the world. It has been fascinating to meet and learn from beekeepers and observe the differences between the subspecies of honey bees in different states and continents,” said Pádraig Whelan PhD, chief science officer, ApisProtect. “What sets ApisProtect apart is that we do not share data with any other parties in the beekeeping value chain – all the value we create goes directly to the beekeepers.”

In March of this year, ApisProtect and CEO Dr. Edwards Murphy were featured in the BBC World News documentary Follow the Food, which highlights the importance of using new technology in food production. As Dr. Edwards Murphy noted in the interview, “Our science-based honey bee monitoring technology empowers beekeepers to manage their apiaries more efficiently, reduce labor and transport costs, and focus on cultivating larger and stronger colonies. Using ApisProtect, beekeepers can generate an additional $98 of value from each hive per year.” She also illustrated the extent of the need for bees, noting that in California – where the almond industry has 1.5 million acres of almonds and produces approximately 80 percent of the almonds in the world – two beehives are required to pollinate each acre so for the almond pollination season, over three million hives are needed.

The low-cost technology solution that ApisProtect provides allows beekeepers to double their gross margin per hive and reduce transportation costs by up to 25 percent. To-date, ApisProtect has raised over $3.6 million, with more expected fundraises in the future as it continues to test and develop its machine learning algorithms to improve accuracy and reliability.


Based in Israel and California and founded by Omer Davidi, a tech entrepreneur, and Itai Kanot, a second-generation commercial beekeeper, BeeHero was launched to answer a single question: Can technology help solve the problems bees face? With a focus on pollination, the company has developed in-hive sensors to monitor and collect data about the environment, pollination performance, and hive health.

To combat the lack of broadband coverage in rural areas, BeeHero works with Internet of Things (IoT) provider Soracom, a cellular connectivity provider that specializes in IoT and provides coverage across multiple networks and bands.

Bee Vectoring Technology

Out of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, is Bee Vectoring Technologies, which provides a patented bee vectoring technology that uses commercially-reared bees to deliver targeted crop controls through the natural process of pollination.

Poised to be a market disruptor in the global $240 billion crop protection and fertilizer market, Bee Vectoring’s natural precision agriculture system replaces chemical pesticides and plant protection product spray applications, and is noted to provide improved crop protection and yield results.

The company is gaining momentum with crops such as blueberries, strawberries, apples, and more, and in fact, the company’s invoices for the first three months of 2021 represented 18 percent more invoicing than its entire fiscal year for 2020.


Born out of an Indiana-based Beekeeping Club at the University of Indiana, BeeCorp, founded in 2016 by Ellie Symes and Wyatt Wells, was on a mission to prevent hive loss. In 2019, the company shifted its focus from preventing hive loss to determining hive strength with the launch of its Verifli product, which uses infrared technology to analyze the strength of hives. Five years later, and after securing more than $1 million in August 2020 from Elevate Ventures, IU Ventures, and THRIVE, the young entrepreneurs now employ eight full-time staff and nine interns.

Wells told Inside Indiana Business that the company has received a lot of interest from crop growers who rent bees for pollination, which spells much promise for growth. “A big shift for us over the next couple of years is going to be delivering Verifli to a wide variety of crop pollination events throughout the year. So, it won’t just be us with almond growers out in California; it’ll be berries and all these other things that get pollinated by bees in all kinds of states across the nation. So, that’s a pretty exciting thing for us,” said Wells.


In the spotlight for taking the hard work of honey-making off of bees is MeliBio, a California-based start-up making real honey without bees, which just last month closed US$850,000 in a pre-seed funding round, edging it closer to having its first product on the market, slated for late 2021.

Founded in 2020 by Aaron Schaller, Ph.D. and Darko Mandich, MelioBio seeks to claim its piece of the global honey industry – valued at US$9 billion in 2020 – with its development of a proprietary technology based on synthetic biology, precision fermentation, and plant science that replaces honeybees as a medium for honey production.

MeliBio is part of the brand portfolio of Big Idea Ventures and has lined-up 15 food and beverage companies that are committed to using the lab-produced honey.

Said Mandich in a November 2020 interview with Xtalks, “MeliBio is bringing the true story of the bees to the people because they are very important to us. There are 20,000 bee species other than honeybees, and they will never go extinct as long as we have beekeepers that keep the honeybees to multiply. The problem is with wild and native bee species that are dying, and they are dying because of huge pressures from the honey production industry and honeybees.”

Plant-Based Breaded Fish Sticks, Plant-Based Breaded Fish Fillets and Plant-Based Breaded Crab Cakes join the chef-inspired brand’s growing product portfolio

AUSTIN, Texas, May 20, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Gathered Foods, makers of Good Catch® plant-based seafood, today announced the launch of a new line of innovative Plant-Based Breaded Fish Sticks, Plant-Based Breaded Fish Fillets and Plant-Based Breaded Crab Cakes. Developed to recreate classic nostalgic comfort foods, the new lineup — crafted from Good Catch’s proprietary six-legume blend (peas, chickpeas, lentils, soy, fava beans and navy beans) — offers a delicious plant-based solution to bycatch, mercury contamination and overfishing.  These new products are here to positively disrupt the seafood category while delivering comparable protein and the same taste and texture as their animal-based counterparts.

Good Catch Frozen Breaded Line

The launch includes:

  • Plant-Based Breaded Fish Sticks (MSRP: $5.99): Deliciously flaky plant-based whitefish sticks have 12g protein per five sticks, each coated with a light, crispy breading. They’re a convenient freezer friend for quick and easy weeknight meals. Sized perfectly for little hands to dunk into ketchup, they also make craveworthy grownup meals. Each box contains 10 fish sticks.
  • Plant-Based Breaded Fish Fillets (MSRP: $5.99): With 12g of protein per serving, our fillets have a tender, flaky whitefish texture encased in a light, crispy breading. Keep these in the freezer for savory, crunchy satisfaction, without having to even think about a drive-through! Each box contains 2 fish fillets.
  • Plant-Based Breaded Crab Cakes (MSRP: $5.99): An ideal entrée-sized plant-based crab cake with 15g of protein per serving features a lump crabmeat-like texture and sweet crab flavor complemented with bell peppers, green onions, parsley and a hint of spice. Each box contains 4 crab cakes.

“These products are game-changers for the industry,” said Chad Sarno, Co-Founder & Chief Culinary Officer at Gathered Foods, makers of Good Catch, “Consumers have become more aware of the environmental impact of eating seafood and we’re proud to be a delicious, culinary-driven solution. We’re pushing culinary boundaries every day to deliver the taste and texture consumers expect from seafood. This product line has surpassed our expectations and we are incredibly proud.”

Good Catch has continued to expand its innovative product portfolio amidst the quickly expanding plant-based industry. According to the Good Food Institute (GFI), the retail market for plant-based foods is now worth $7 billion. Over the last few years, the plant-based seafood industry has shown steadfast growth. In fact, according to market research firm Fact.MR, over the next 10 years, the plant-based seafood sector is set to grow at a rate of 28% and will be worth $1.3 billion by 2031.

“This nascent industry, which is ready to surge, presents an immense opportunity for our brand,” said Christine Mei, CEO of Gathered Foods, makers of Good Catch. “As we continue to grow, our focus remains on creating craveable plant-based seafood alternatives that deliver on taste, texture and comparable protein. With our new breaded line, we took fan-favorite seafood products consumers know and love, and transformed them into great-tasting ocean-friendly alternatives.”

The new breaded line will be available in June in select retailers including Giant Food, Martin’s, Tom Thumb, Randalls and Acme, as well as select Safeway and Albertsons locations. Good Catch has significant expanded distribution in retail and foodservice planned for late summer and fall of this year. Visit for more information on retailers near you.

This product extension is the latest evolution from the plant-based seafood brand, expanding beyond its portfolio of six offerings, including New England Style Plant-Based Crab Cakes, Thai Style Plant-Based Fish Cakes, Classic Style Plant-Based Fish Burgers and Plant-Based Tuna, available in Naked in Water, Mediterranean and Oil & Herbs flavors.

Gathered Foods has had an impressive year thus far, most recently announcing a successful B-2 bridge funding round, securing $26.35 million with investments from Louis Dreyfus Company (LDC), Unovis Asset Management, Clear Current Capital and others. Additionally, the brand has had several launches expanding its foodservice footprint. Good Catch Tuna Melts are in all Veggie Grill locations and Good Catch Deli-Style Plant-Based Tuna Salad is now available across several states in Whole Foods Market prepared foods departments. In February, the brand partnered with Bareburger to bring its Plant-Based Classic Fish Burger to consumers through a new vegan offering called The Gulf Burger.

“We’re incredibly bullish about the future of Good Catch,” said Chris Kerr, Executive Chair of Gathered Foods, makers of Good Catch. “Our products fill a void in the marketplace. We’ll continue to lead in this category and have a few more launches this year that will excite both investors and consumers.”

About Gathered Foods
Gathered Foods, makers of Good Catch plant-based seafood, is an innovative food company focused on propelling change through plant-based alternatives. United by a love of good food, plant-based eating and animal welfare, Gathered Foods is on a mission to raise consciousness, reduce harm and preserve environmental resources, all while delivering a great culinary experience. The team is dedicated to creating craveworthy plant-based foods for everyone, from vegan to omnivore and everybody in between. Visit for more information.

About Good Catch
Good Catch is a chef-driven brand developing flavorful, plant-based seafood alternatives. Founded by pioneering chefs Derek and Chad Sarno, Good Catch products offer the taste, texture and eating experience of seafood without harming the environment. Good Catch products include single-serve, ready-to-eat pouches of Plant-Based Tuna and frozen Plant-Based Fish Burgers, Plant-Based Crab Cakes, Plant-Based Thai Fish Cakes available in retailers across the US and Canada, with growing foodservice partners and wider distribution planned. Stay tuned for more retail and foodservice news on Plant-Based Breaded Fish Sticks, Plant-Based Breaded Fish Fillets, Plant-Based Breaded Crab Cakes, plus more exciting product launches soon! Visit and follow @goodcatchfoods on Facebook and Instagram.

SOURCE Good Catch

Podcast 2: Uproot’s Co-Founder Jacob Conway speaks with Andrew D. Ive from Big Idea Ventures about starting a plant-based milk 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 Uproot‘s Co-Founder Jacob, 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, this is Andrew from the big idea food podcast. Today we’re going to be talking to Jacob from uproot foods. Great company. I think you’re going to enjoy this. If you have any questions or comments, please reach out to myself for Jacob. Or just put a comment on any of the, you know, YouTube send podcasts and all the other places where you may see this. Look forward to interacting with you. love to get your feedback. Thanks. Jake Conway, the man the myth, the legend. Tell us tell us a little bit about Jacob. And then maybe we can get into what you and your co founder are up to.

Jacob Conway 00:39


Yes, that sounds good. Um, who’s Jacob? a bearded vegan gnome is how I’m often described by friends. But I live in New York moved here from San Francisco. Technically Providence, Rhode Island where uproot started but I am 26 I am a pretty passionate vegan, and also some. Sorry, I’m laughing because that’s an understatement.

Andrew D Ive 01:06


That is a big understatement, man. You have savaged me on more than one occasion.

Jacob Conway 01:12


And you very interested in passionate about food justice in general and ways we can improve our food system. And just educating people more generally about where food comes from, why we eat, what we eat, how it gets to us. And the best way to move forward with that, because it’s not sustainable for a growing population right now. So there’s a lot of changes that need to be made. Yeah, pretty outgoing, energetic guy, love to run. I do love to eat, I love to cook, which I think sort of brought me to where I am today working in a food company. And you have been with that group for whatever. It’s almost two years now.

Andrew D Ive 01:54


When you say you’ve been uproot, you started uproot like there wasn’t an uproot milk before Jacob Conway.

Jacob Conway 02:00


Well, yes, I I’m a co founder uproot. Kevin had given birth to it. before I’d arrived, but

Andrew D Ive 02:09


Okay, so you’re number two.

Jacob Conway 02:11


Is there in the infancy? Yes.

Andrew D Ive 02:14


Oh, I should I should have given you shit about being number two that would I’m not sure. I’m allowed to say shit. Oh, well. I guess I’m gonna have to put like, an age and age monitor thing on this on this on this video. podcast. I can cut it out. So. Okay, so how did you get? How did you get here? I mean, when I say you, I don’t mean how did you get here to the business? Jacob Conway, why are you so passionate? How did you get so passionate about these things? Was there a moment in your life where you’re just like, you know, we’re treating these animals appallingly. And I need to personally do something about it. Not everyone gets that same motivation.

Jacob Conway 02:53


Great question. Yes, it’s very, it was a very clear path, I think for me, which it often not people but my brother, my I have three older brothers, my second oldest brother in like 2015, I was still in college. He was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. And he had his whole thyroid removed. Cancer came back, it was normal for his type of cancer. But for the second round, the doctors essentially said, it’s not big enough for us stock break, there’s not much we can let it grow, come back to us in a year. And we’ll remove everything. And my brother and my parents and I grew up with a mom who cooked a lot and my family has always been healthy. We’ve always been active people, but never focused on any one thing. So when my parents heard that diagnosis from the doctors, my mom’s thought was just kind of this, how is that possible that it’s 2016 at this time, and you have no other options other than just let this potentially deadly thing continue to grow inside of you. So my mom dove really deep into whole food plant based diet and found incredible stories of people never doing chemo never doing radiation just switching to very cater whole food plant based vegan diet to battle their cancer. And there’s a story of a woman who had stage four brain cancer, never had any operation never had any treatment other than switching her diet and fully put it in remission. And there’s a lot of these stories out there. But they’re they can’t really be. They’re one they’re not studied well enough. And two, it’s hard for doctors who studied Western medicine to support this stuff because it’s not in their training. They weren’t. No one in medical school tells you a vegan diet can do these sorts of things. Lots of doctors actually get like 19 hours of nutrition training total when they go to medical school. It’s pretty insignificant so my parents decided to go vegan with my brother as an effort to combat his cancer. Fast forward a couple years my brother still has cancer, but he’s doing really well. He’s on a more or less whole food plant. Besides, they tried some modifications before where it wasn’t fully vegan. But at this point, they all went fully vegan. Then I started working at my brother’s cookie company, which ironically, the cookies he was selling, it was in San Francisco, on demand anywhere. And the cookies they were selling weren’t vegan, which was funny, he couldn’t even eat them. And I had not gone vegan at this point. But I’d started being more plant based just because they were and I shared recipes with my mom, and it was fun. And then the overlap for me was seeing my family and my brother, my parents and my brother do it. And then I am an avid runner, like they said, and being plant based athletes, one of the most famous ones is rich roll. He is an incredible, incredible athlete turned his life around at 40 and is one of the fittest people alive, and he spoke vegan. And my thought process was just kind of if these athletes are performing the level they’re performing and they’re fully vegan, why couldn’t I do that? So I never I didn’t originally go vegan. for animals or for sustainability. I really went vegan, it was kind of selfish. I was like, this sounds great. Like if I can up my performance, if I can feel better if I can do better, just by being vegan. I might as well try it. So I weaned myself off of animal products in July 1 2018 was my like, our date where I said, I’m fully vegan from here on out, there’s no looking back. And then once I went vegan, inevitably just looking up recipes and doing research on vegan, I guess vegan morals and become vegan watching you, you do videos, it led me down the path of animal welfare sustainability. And I realized there was so much more to veganism than just what you were eating. I mean, the ripple effect of our food choices is more than we could ever imagine. So that’s sort of how I got to where I am today. I always say I went vegan for my health, but I stay vegan for animals. You can’t unlearn that stuff once you do know it. And I got pretty pretty far down there. But I also just tell people, there’s no there’s no bad reason to go vegan, which is true. I mean, it’s more sustainable. It’s better for your health, for across the board with some exceptions, but work with doctors to figure out how you can make veganism work for you. Um, it’s better for the environment, it’s I mean, there’s just a never ending list of ways it is beneficial. But no one can really point to why it’s bad. There’s like any food diet or however you eat, there’s complications, you might come into a lot across, like across that journey, but you need to address those as they come. But you can still be vegan throughout all of that. So that was the long answer.

Andrew D Ive 07:50


That that’s not the long arm. So you you’ve given me the long answer many, many times when we’ve, when we’ve spoken where you, you know, regard me on the benefits, etc. veganism. Let’s and by the way, totally, I totally agree with you. Now, the only thing I would sort of challenge a little bit is there’s no bad reason for going vegan. It’s not easy, man. It’s not easy. You know, maybe maybe it shouldn’t be maybe I was gonna say maybe it shouldn’t be maybe it’s worth doing. It’s it needs to be a little bit of hard.

Jacob Conway 08:25


Yeah, I mean, there’s not many significant life changes you can make that are both good for you and easy to do. We just get set in our ways.

Andrew D Ive 08:36



Jacob Conway 08:37


But yeah, I mean, I think the good outweighs the bad in that, in that scenario. I mean, I, I forget, I’m vegan all the time. I was with a friend. One day eating brunch. And it was a whole we did a whole homemade brunch and we’re sitting outside eating. And I had made a bunch of vegan options, though. I was filling my plate loading it up, and I asked someone to pass the whipped cream for pancakes. And my roommates looked at me, and I was like, why are you while looking at me like this? And we’re like Jacob, that is just a bowl of dairy. What are you talking about? But because I’ve been vegan for two years, and I’ve learned how to make so many things, and there’s so many good products out there now. I don’t even think about it. Like veganism is just eating to me. It does it. There’s no restriction. I don’t view myself as ever restricted. So there’s definitely those learning curves at the beginning. But once you figure it out, it’s smooth sailing. I mean, it’s I’ve never had trouble eating. I’ve never had trouble nourishing myself. I’ve never I mean, there’s all the reality is everyone listening to this probably lives in a major city, they have access to good food. They have access, they have the income to buy good food. And when you are in that position of privilege. You can do it like it. It’s totally doable.

Andrew D Ive 09:57


And I think be IV big ventures were sort of focused on making it available to everyone. So in other words, finding the companies like yours who are bringing new, innovative products to market which don’t require people to change their, their likes, their dislikes, the flavors, they’re the kind of sensations, the textures they’ve grown up loving, they can just do it in a more sustainable way. So let’s let’s turn to uproot, tell us tell us how of all of the things you could have done to move this forward across, you know, across veganism, etc.


What, why

Andrew D Ive 10:37


uproot? And tell us a little bit first about what it does, and why why it’s special.

Jacob Conway 10:43


Yep. So I’ll serve as who we are, and then I got there so uproot, we are, we are currently a plant based milk company, our aspirations are larger than just plant based milk. But um, that’s where we got our start. And that’s what we’re focusing on right now. And our mission is to make plant based milk more accessible to everyone. And we don’t believe that you need to reinvent the wheel to do that, I think you need to, we think you need to meet people where they are. So that’s kind of what makes us different. And that’ll allow me to tell you, can you unpack that I’m

Andrew D Ive 11:23


not sure what that means. So

Jacob Conway 11:25


I’m going to So what I mean by that is right now, so many of the plant based options are just products on a shelf in a retail store, or something you order online. And there, in order to get those as a consumer, you need to go to a grocery store, read through the options, read through the ingredient labels, you kind of need to do, the onus is on you to do your research, figure out what’s going to work for you, and then purchase it at the grocery store and hope it works out, which is totally fine. And I think there needs to be some responsibility for each of us to do our own research about our food. But our goal and uproot because plant based milk has come as far as it has soy milk has been around for a very long time. Nobody is the idea of plant based milk is not foreign to anyone at this point. There’s nuance within what types you have in in protein and things like that. But everyone knows what plant based milk is. So instead of making you go to the grocery store and find it and redraw this, we’re going to meet you where you are. And that means we’re going to be at your hospital, we’re going to be at your college dining facility, we’re going to be at your convenience store, we’re going to have a plant nice soft serve option for you at the vegan drive thru or at the non vegan drive thru. So we want to bring it to people as opposed to forcing people to go find it. Um, our focus is on food service. That’s where we found a big gap in the market. As I just said, so much of the innovation has been brought about and retail, but food service has largely been ignored. So so many people are still finding themselves in these scenarios where they are trying to go vegan, they’re trying to be diligent about it, they’re trying to be good and healthy. But if you’re in the hospital, and they say we don’t have any plant based milk, what are you supposed to put on your cereal, I mean, your options get very limited very quickly once you leave that retail space. So we want to make sure that plant based milk milk is accessible to everyone everywhere. And that includes like K through 12 public schools as well. Dairy is how they can milk that students are served in schools for decades now. And I think we’ve all sort of evolved past that. And there needs to be more options for kids. So many students are lactose intolerant, and don’t even know it, or just don’t have another option. Um, and we think you should have that option. And we want to be the one to provide that to them.

Andrew D Ive 13:45


So just just so I wouldn’t say just to be clear, you guys are not coming up with something new. This is not you know, milk made from, you know, some ingredient that nobody’s ever thought of before. This is it sounds like uproot is about accessibility and distribution, about getting it into places where it isn’t right now. putting it into formats, in ways that make it much more accessible and digestible and relevant to people based on where they are. So, as you said, hospitals, schools, restaurants, yeah. Also that I guess the question is, where’s that? Where’s the uniqueness of that? Where’s the barrier to entry there? Not that you need a barrier to entry? Maybe that’s not what it’s about.

Jacob Conway 14:30


Um, first, you hit the nail on the head, we still make our own milk. And we do think what we’re offering food services is significantly better than what their current options are the current plant based milk options out there are so we’ve improved upon that. And we think there’s uniqueness in the way it can be served. So dispensing hardware and for example, coffee shops, currently still use mini fridges under the counter with cartons that’s wasteful. It’s inconvenient. It’s time consuming. We think there’s better ways to do that. And we want to bring those to market. That’s a bit further down the line for us. But yes,


it’s a good point.

Jacob Conway 15:08


Um, the barrier to entry question. I think this is something that we’ve learned as we’ve grown uproot. But because of the way our food system works, so much of it operates on this relationship, transaction. So knowing where you’re, where and who you’re getting your products from, knowing that it’s going to be there on time, knowing that they’re going to have enough for you, knowing that you can trust the quality. And you can trust where it’s coming from and how it’s made. That’s one big, I guess, differentiator for us, we are starting there. So it’s that first mover advantage, once we’re in these college cafeterias, if students are giving us rave reviews like they are, if it’s cutting down on the time that staff need to descend on refilling machines, or fridges, or whatever it is, and if we can help them reach their any facility reach their sustainable sustainability goals better by introducing plant based options and reducing packaging waste, there’s no reason for them to switch you. It doesn’t have this constant one up mentality that retail has, at the end of the day, what you’re really trying to do is affordable products that are also healthy to people and making sure they will enjoy them. And we think we’ve cracked the code on that. And the response so far has shown us that we have and will be very happy with our product. So it’s a combination of the product itself, the relationships performed with people and being the first ones to really take this approach.

Andrew D Ive 16:48


Perfect. You mentioned universities, how have you How have you gone about engaging universities around this this kind of message this product? And how receptive are they? And who of you who do you want on board that you haven’t got yet.

Jacob Conway 17:07


So as I mentioned before, one thing that works are advantages, everyone has a base level knowledge of what plant based milk is what non dairy milk is. So most of our outreach, if not all of our outreach is really just cold outreach to universities, to hospitals, to K through 12. school to small retails shops, vegan shops in New York. And all of them know what plant based milk is, but it’s this pitch of, we’re bringing it to you, you don’t have to go through a distributor catalog to figure out what plant based milk is going to be best for you. We know it, we know it really well. And we’re gonna do all the legwork to get it to you right now. And we will get we guarantee that people are going to like it. So it’s been a lot of cold outreach, really establishing early relationship with these schools and getting to know their needs. Because that’s the other unique part about food service that I think maybe is different from retail, retail, you develop the product, you get your distribution, and you just start sending it out. And to a degree, you can do that in food service. But everyone’s needs are different. Not every hospital has the same cafeteria style setup, not every college has involved in needs, all of them are a bit different. Do you really need to get to know these schools and get to know what they really want. What what’s going on, it’s gonna make everyone’s lives easier. And that’s been really bizarre to go down that path with them, because it helps influence the things we’re going to develop in the future and the products we’re making. So predominantly cold outreach to the schools, and then word of mouth. Inevitably, this is, how do I it’s not necessarily an old industry. It’s just things have always been done a certain way, and they continue to be done that way. What I mean by that is, people are perfectly happy to work with paper forms and word of mouth and the more handshake relationships that you would maybe expect, especially as a startup, as we all adopt tech for everything. This industry, food service kinda lags behind on that. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But you know how to work in that space. So you need to be comfortable showing up and having a 30 minute conversation that’s not about plant based milk, but you’re getting to know your customer really well. Um, and you have that special relationship with them and dropping off samples and giving them a couple cases so that students can try it and they can get the feedback and the reality is our end consumer is not usually the person we’re selling to the people we are selling to are older, several generations older than our end consumer. So they grew up drinking dairy, they still drink dairy, but we need to sort of bring them into this fold of oat milk and what does that mean and why is it better and P milk How do you turn peas into chocolate milk? These are cognitive That you kind of need to spend time unpacking with these people. But I mean, that’s also part of appgrooves mission. And that’s why I love what we do. Because I don’t believe the change we want to see in our food system is going to come from just putting products in front of people and hoping that it works. You need to educate people, you need to people need to know why they’re making the food choices they’re making. And I don’t think those are necessarily conflicting things, I think you need to start with education. And then you can put products in front of people, and they can make those dishes decisions for themselves. But I think part of why our food system today is so messy, is because we let these brands we let these large food companies just dictate what was healthy, what wasn’t healthy, what natural men, what whole food men, and a lot of these are marketing terms that have been manipulated over the years. And people are buying things, but they have no clue what’s actually in it. They don’t know where it comes from, they don’t know why it’s good, or why it’s bad. Not to put food into those two categories only. But education is a huge part of that.

Andrew D Ive 21:07


And good taste.


Yes, good taste, it always has to taste good.

Andrew D Ive 21:12


Which uproot does, you know, you were kind enough to put an up uproot dispensing machine in the office at Big Idea ventures, which meant I spent a lot more time at the office than I should have. Basically just drinking chocolate milk on a daily basis.

Jacob Conway 21:29


It’s good to go across it’s it’s like the soda machine where you go across and get one of each flavor. You can just hop across and mix your pea milk with your selling milk with your oat milk

Andrew D Ive 21:38


and test all the flavors and they’re all really really good. Are you putting those dispensing machines in places outside of universities? Or are you trying to get into offices and things? Or is that just not?

Jacob Conway 21:49


Yeah, so if you don’t mind, I realized that I sort of skipped over the actual product. But our first product was a dispensing machine similar to those dairy big silver dairy dispensers you see in colleges where you lifted a handle, and there’s a little plot rubber spout and milk comes out. We did that for plant based milk. And that was our first product is mentioned. We launched that at Brown and Wellesley College. Last year, we had five other schools on board, and they are all still on board. But the pandemic happened and that changed everyone’s needs. And that we have gotten to our single serve launch, which we’re launching right now. eight ounce cartons of milk, which are safer during the pandemic for people would have also allowed us to access a lot more spaces like retail, like small retail and hospitals, for example, where maybe a dispenser didn’t make sense. But to your point, yes, we would like to see the dispenser in other places in office setting is one of those places. K through 12 is another one of those places where you sort of have that traditional lunch line where people are going through, they can fill cups, they’re filling cups of water, they’re filling cups of milk and juice, there’s no reason they can’t fill a cup of plant based milk as well. And then, at larger hospitals and larger dining facilities cruises are another good example when those do come back, you have this large cafeteria setting where people are serving themselves dispensers were would work really well there some larger hotel chains, where they have a consistent breakfast or lunch dining operation, those dispensers would make sense. So you’d like to see those lots of places and then we’d like to see adaptations of the dispenser versus you walk into a convenience store there’s always those creamer setups and a lot of them do have smaller countertop dispensers with three types of everyman you can try there should be a plant based milk dispenser there as well so that you can whiten your coffee with plant based milk options as opposed to the dairy options that are

Andrew D Ive 23:46


perfect. Quick question for anyone that’s kind of not necessarily got into the plant based milk space yet from a taste from a consumer perspective. What are the choices that you guys provide? And why why those choices? Why an oat versus a soy or a P or you know, whatever are the choices that you guys are providing what are the differences between them and why choose one versus another?

Jacob Conway 24:10


Do we have oatmeal, soy milk and chocolate female. And there’s varying reasons for all of them. Oatmeal is a mix of it’s just become incredibly popular in the last three years, probably three or four years. So that’s what people want. But oat milk also is a great base because it yields a very creamy and milk analogue product like milk, similar products, get that whiteness. You get that sort of I call it chug ability. Where it doesn’t feel too heavy. It’s nice, it’s cold, it’s refreshing. It hits the palate just right, though milk is a crowd pleaser. It’s great and coffee because the flavor is pretty mild and it’s just good. feels familiar to people, I think that’s why everyone likes it. So. So milk was a given or oat milk was a given. And then soy milk is kind of the, the Oji of the group, the original, it’s got that eight grams of protein that you want, you can do unsweetened oat milk, or sorry, soy milk, and it’s still pretty great. You don’t need to sweeten it that much to make it good. But with regard to protein, it fills that spot for milk. I mean, I always tell people, if you’re actually looking for a milk substitute, soy milk is where you should sell soy milk, or plain milk is where you should look. Because you want that protein content, you can get eight grams of protein and a glass of female for soy milk pretty easily. So soy No, soy milk also brings in maybe older generations where that’s what they grew up on. That’s what they’re used to. That’s what they like to have. It’s familiar to people. So it’s a tried and true one, and I think is important to have an email is another sort of newcomer, it’s even newer than old, no one is familiar with it. But again, you get those eight grams of protein, especially in something like chocolate milk, where you’re gonna have sugar content, you want to make sure you’re also providing something else that’s beneficial, which is that protein content, eight grams of protein in P is also one that’s the flavor profile is definitely I think, newer to people and maybe a little harder to get used to talk like cocoa does a really good job of masking that. So they pair really well together, you get that protein. And you could do a chocolate soy milk, but we didn’t want to pit soy against itself for the chocolate variety in the regular because then everyone’s going to go for the job. So it’s nice that they’re able to stand on their own, I think.

Andrew D Ive 26:54


Perfect. So you guys,

Jacob Conway 26:57


one other thing I want to mention Andrew just because it’s me and you know how I am. At one point, we did have an almond in a coconut milk. Um, there are several reasons we phase those out. But one of the most significant ones is those are just two of the least sustainable options. omens. 80% of the world’s almonds are grown in California, they take an incredible amount of water and a drought ridden state. And they also require intense pollen is pollination practices, which results in these bees that are brought in in order to pollinate these almond orchards. But they’re driving out native species of insects, natives, he sees it. He’s an environmentally it’s just not, it’s not good, it’s not beneficial. So Omen didn’t make the cut. And also almonds just don’t have a captivating nutrition profile, you don’t get that protein. Most almond milks are just water, you’re getting two almonds, two, three almonds and a glass of almond milk. You might as well just be drinking water at that point. And then coconut milk also, it’s all imported from outside the US. So you have emissions tacked on there. And then inevitably, with the demand for coconut going up coconut oil, coconut water, coconut milk. native species in other countries where this is harvested, are being cut down in order to make room for these coconut farms so that we can meet this, this demand port but again, not a sustainable practice. So we found our sweet spot with these three, you can get oats, you can get soy, you can get peas, all grown in the US. Um, and they take a lot less resources to make and to transport. Um, and they just yield better. Sorry.

Andrew D Ive 28:49


No, I mean, I think that’s fantastic. I think I agree with you. 100%. So that’s uproot. Thank you for thank you for the background. You and Kevin. You are the You are the uproot duo. Why don’t you tell me a little bit about Kevin and his motivations. We’ve kind of covered

some of yours. Obviously, it’s not it’s not very cool to have you talk about Kevin’s motivations without Kevin being here. No. But you know, I don’t want the Batman and Robin of you know, milk in the universe in the university sector and more broadly than that and not being both covered.

Jacob Conway 29:25


Yes. No, Kevin is Kevin is the he get like he said he gave birth to uproot? He grew up with a milk allergy. His whole he and his brother both did. So they were raised on rice milk. And to this day Kevin’s mom still drinks rice milk. It’s pretty funny, but they sort of grew out of that allergy but continued to drink plant based milk because they liked it and because I don’t know you could have a bad day and it doesn’t agree with your stomach. But um, that was Kevin’s that was how Kevin found the inspiration for uproot. He had had plant based meals his entire life. And then in college, he saw that there just weren’t good options. I think a lot this resonates with a lot of kids our age who went to college when did and you would have to run up to the counter and beg the chef to like bring out a carton of almond milk that they were stashing away in the back in the cafeteria plan offering plant based milk was not a normal thing, you just decided that you weren’t going to eat cereal ever, because there wasn’t an option for you to put it on milk. I had phased out liquid milk in my diet in college as well. So I experienced that. So Kevin was working and he’s an engineer. And he was working at shark Ninja, they make vacuums and blenders and stuff. And Kevin was seeing products like juice era, which was short lived, but these counter top dispenser ideas. And he thought that could work for plant based milk because like I said, he had seen his mom bring home carton after carton his whole life and knew that it was wasteful, there had to be a more efficient way to do this. And that’s when he started tinkering with this idea of providing plant based milk through some dispensed option. And he was camped outside Whole Foods asking parents as they walked out if they drink plant based milk, would they be interested in a countertop dispenser doing these questionnaires and found that the market wasn’t quite there for the countertop dispenser at home for a variety of reasons. But he pivoted your food service and started talking to he went to Brown University. And while he was there started talking to the food service director. And they were very receptive to the idea of having plant based milk available to students because the future directors were seeing kids ask for it more and more. So Kevin came up with the idea. And that’s how he got to the idea of uproot. Um, Kevin also is just very smart and understands the complexities of providing this many people with food as well. And he’s a problem solver. So he really enjoys being given something like this and saying, solve it, make it make it work. And he’s very good at that. And then having an I came together because I was living in San Francisco with roommates, we’ve gone to Brown University as well. So I have this network of students who have gone to brown. And I had just finished working at my brother’s cookie company, and was trying to figure out what was next for me. And one of my friends who was having friend as well said, hey, my buddy just started a plant milk company out in Providence, Rhode Island, you should really think about he’s looking for a co founder, you should really think about reaching out to him. And I kind of laughed the first time and I was like I don’t I couldn’t tell you where Providence is on a map, let alone move there and start working on a plan, please your company. But Kevin I had a couple phone calls. And I realized, yeah, he had, he was making milk, he had something legit. And he was doing it making it happen. So I flew out on March 2019. And spent two weeks and Kevin lived on an air mattress in his apartment and I got to make milk in the kitchen with him. I mean, he was already serving Brown University and Johnson and Wales University, though we were hitting, I had a beard net on a hairnet, we were making milk by hand. And then I was sold and I went back to San Francisco packed up everything I owned into a car, drove across the country, and moved to Providence lived in Kevin’s apartment for two months before I got my own and have not looked back since. And we were in Providence for a while, obviously got accepted to be IV, which was a huge launch pad for us began large scale production of our product. And we both moved to New York. And now we’re based here and get Nick going.

Andrew D Ive 33:45


based in New York based in Brooklyn.


Yeah, Kevin’s in Brooklyn, I’m in Manhattan. But yes,

Andrew D Ive 33:51


those bricks, they didn’t look like Manhattan bricks. Maybe they do look at that.

Jacob Conway 33:55


I think it’s a bit of a newer building. But yeah, they’re, they’ve got a nice read john Gill.

Andrew D Ive 34:00


So obviously, it can’t all have been just sort of plain sailing and just, you know, making it from home. And suddenly you’ve got a business, obviously, and I don’t really want to dwell on COVID too much. Because, you know, people will be listening to this, I hope in in two years time, three years time, four years time. So you know, some of the kind of business challenges you’ve had and how you guys put your heads together to solve them?

Jacob Conway 34:26


Yes, good question. And one thing I would say this is kind of advice to it’s a problem we face in and can be transformed into advice to other entrepreneurs. When people tell you things are going to take longer than you expect. That is very real advice. No matter how confident you are, about someone saying they’re going to deliver something to you on time saying that something’s gonna go out when it should be produced when it should, even in the best case scenario

Andrew D Ive 35:03


I’m second,

Jacob Conway 35:05


Miami, baby. Yeah, baby. If you’re a small company, you’re small price you are going to get pushed, things are going to take longer than you expect them to always no matter what other people tell you. So take that advice. Um, other business challenges we face is just being flexible. I mean, even when we had a product that was going to work, trying to get it, trying to coordinate getting it in a dispenser, getting it to schools, making sure everything’s certified, um, it just, there’s so many layers to these things that you can’t anticipate. You always need to build and build, build in the unknown. And I think that’s a fairly common piece of advice. But yeah, what I mean by that is, even when you think you’ve done your due diligence, there’s more for you to learn, there’s more for you to find out. It’s never the full story until you are on the ground doing it. It’s in your hands. You’ve got a customer, it’s been sold to them. Nothing’s final till it’s final really. Um,

Andrew D Ive 36:09


so you got went? So you guys went from handmade? Rhode Island? Kevin’s kitchen? By the sounds of it. Maybe it was his bathtub, I don’t know. And then you moved. And then you moved to a commercial manufacturer, I co man, a contract manufacturer. And that. So just to credit for people listening, that contract manufacturer is a third party, who is basically making the product to your exact specifications. Correct?

Jacob Conway 36:39


Correct. We had, we had another company finalize these formulations for us. They have a countertop simulator, that that simulates this large scale production process of creating shelf stable liquid. And we have them sending us little bottles of the product to sample. And we tweaked that formula to get it just right, and then brought it to the CO manufacturer gave them all the specifications, and they made 1000s of gallons of it for us.

Andrew D Ive 37:09


So no more no more cranking it out in the in the kitchen.

Jacob Conway 37:12


Thankfully not those were long, hot days in the kitchen in Rhode Island.

Andrew D Ive 37:16


So what are you guys doing all day all the time? is you just like hanging out living the life or now that somebody else is manufacturing the product for you? How are you finding your time focused?

Jacob Conway 37:26


Yeah, good question. I’m outsourcing that to cauvin has allowed us to focus on sales, it’s allowed us to focus on our brand. So we just went through a bit of a brand refresh, which sounds funny to do it only two years old. But it was important, especially as we brought a new product to market, it really significantly changed who we were speaking to, and how we were speaking to them. So we’ve been doing a lot of a lot of marketing, a lot of sales. I think while we were hand making product, we thought we had sales under control. But now that someone else has handled it, you really realize how much goes into that. The constant upkeep of checking in on people, because even if people want your product, you’re never going to be the number one priority on their list. So you got to keep bugging them, you got to keep building on those relationships, distribution, focusing heavily on that making sure that once we do have these customers that we’re able to serve them and accommodate the growth that we anticipate seeing in the next year. I ating on future for uproot. But are we selling people when we say, bring uproot on board? Or is it really just a carton of milk? And the answer to that is obviously no, we have a much larger vision for ourselves, we want to be the go to provider of non dairy options for food services. So I’ve covered it all but creamer, softserve, milk shakes all of these things we want, we want them to have good access to those options. And we want to be the ones to provide that. One piece of advice they also did remember in a struggle we have faced is realizing that even though you are a new company, and you’re a startup and it’s 2021, and everything’s exciting, and everyone’s going plant based, the industry is not caught up with that. So you’re you’re taking this new product and this new world of plant based and trying to make it fit into an old model of food production and ingredient sourcing and manufacturing. All of those things are suited for the boom of canned foods and in little package like crackers for kids lunches. I mean, they haven’t really caught up to new forms of packaging and trying to be more sustainable and accommodating non allergen products. I mean, everyone is still learning. And like I said, you need to you need to really understand that you can’t just show up and Hope it all works.

Andrew D Ive 40:01


So question. If there are universities where uproot is not present today, is that basically? Are you? Are you going to need to get in there and speak to the purchasing folks? Or can university students who listen to this who are proactively kind of wanting these things in their own universities? Can they reach out to their own university to their own purchasing departments? How would you?

Jacob Conway 40:33


Yeah, you know, how

Andrew D Ive 40:33


should they? How should they do that? If they’re looking for this on their college?

Jacob Conway 40:37


Yeah, the answer is yes, you can reach up and tell your food service director, tell your chef, Chef, I really enjoy talking to chef just because I like food and making it but um, any of those people really have the power to raise their hand and say, we want to bring on a new plant based milk so you can go to them, you can also go to upwards website and just submit your information to us, we have a form on there a contact form, tell us what school you’re at, tell us your name. And we will get in touch with your food sewer service director or chef if you don’t want to, and let them know what we have. And that would be great. Because oftentimes, they want that proof. They want proof that their students are asking for these things. And it falls on us to show up and get the students to rally around us. But we know that the demand is there. So when students speak up, it’s it’s a huge benefit for us. Eventually, hopefully, we’ll get to a place where we are available through distributors and schools will see us as a unique option because we are the only plant based milk to be in this multi variety dispenser. And they’ll see the appeal of that. But we want these relationships to be open and direct and and intimate. So we want people to reach out we want them to know who Kevin I are, we want them to know who it is and where it comes from.

Andrew D Ive 42:01


And in terms of people backing the company who’s who kind of got behind you guys from a from a you know, investor perspective, who sort of in the in the fight with you who’s who’s trying to build this business.

Jacob Conway 42:15


So Kevin, I, we were scrappy, we have been scrappy, for a long time, a lot of our initial money was what is called free money, meaning we didn’t have to give up any equity. We entered a ton of competitions in Rhode Island, and we won quite a few thankfully, we sold them. And that was all of our initial funding. And then obviously, the funding through B IV we’re working on are closing our pre seed round right now, which is a mix of angels and some friends and family. But we have good contacts in the vegan world, and we’re hoping to bring them on board as we really skyrocket right now now that we have a product out there. Um, we want people who our mission resonates with who believe in changing the food system and who believe in creating better access to plant based products for people. There’s a lot of incredible individual vegan investors out there people who have started their own funds, and they’re small, but they really get it and there begins themselves and they have an understanding of what we’re doing and this passion where this really comes from.

Andrew D Ive 43:22


So here’s a tough one for you. And I’m not sure if the answer to this question, but would you accept investment from a non vegan?

Jacob Conway 43:32


That’s a really good question. Um, Veronica feel who was in our program, I’ve talked to her about this as well. And I mean, being, not everyone who puts only plant based and I had to grapple with that personally for a little while. But I think ultimately, it’s a combination of two things. One, it’s this sort of cheeky response of, yes, I’m glad to take money from non vegans so that I can put it towards vegan initiatives because that means dollar, if the money is going to me, it means it’s dollars that aren’t going to non vegan companies, which is a win in my book. But the other the other component of it is just the reality that we are we work in a in a broken food system as it is right now. And in order to get to where we need to be you do have to make compromises and you do have to be willing to to be flexible, not necessarily in your values or in your morals, but about how you get there. And sometimes that means taking money. When it’s not how do I when it’s not your first choice, I guess I’m in a perfect world, everyone would be vegan and I’d be fully financed by vegan and vegan people who who share this mission and this fashion but that’s not the world we live in. And it creates really cool opportunities where you can also have that deeper conversation like I’ve had with Many times about why veganism is the future and why it’s so important and why we need these products out there. And hopefully, that will have a ripple effect. And we can get people to start shifting where their money goes to more begin companies.

Andrew D Ive 45:15


Perfect. So if someone’s interested in getting uproot for their college, for their office, for their retail store, you know, for their restaurant, etc. Or if they’re interested in talking to you about your your investment round, and I’m guessing whenever they listened to this, you’ll probably be at one stage or another have an investment round. Where should they

reach out to Jacob and Kevin,

Jacob Conway 45:43


you can reach me directly at And Kevin’s is Or they can go on our website and the contact form there is the best place to reach us, it goes directly to our inboxes. So it’s, it’s just like you’re directly emailing Kevin or myself. Our website just got a nice refresh recently. So all the product information, you can see it in real life on there. And we’ll send people samples, we will, we will get it to you one way or another we will make sure of it. And then the cartons will also be available on Amazon within the coming week. So if people really, if you want it at home, if you want it for your kids, lunchboxes, whatever it is, you can get the single serve on there as well.

Andrew D Ive 46:30


And you’re selling those single cells in packs of 12. And so


  1. 18 Yep, a box of 18.

Andrew D Ive 46:37


boxes are biting. Okay. And this is all Correct.


Calm, yep.

Andrew D Ive 46:44


All right. So Jacob, and Kevin website approved I’m guessing you. I don’t know, maybe you’re too cool to be on Instagram or any of those places. But

Jacob Conway 46:56


we’re Instagram, our handles are at uproot milk. Everywhere. We’re on Twitter, we’re on. We’re on Instagram. We’re excited. We’re in the process of revamping all of that right now to reflect our new branding and our new product launch. But in the next week, it’ll all be up to speed. So take a look, please engage, follow. I mean, like I said, part of our mission is education. So if you find us on those places, hopefully you’re gonna learn something about plant based milk that you didn’t know before.

Andrew D Ive 47:25


Check goodbye. Appreciate your time. Thank you. Thank you for spending some time with me today. And I look forward to getting feedback from people who listen to this, but also I look forward to people reaching out to you directly and helping your business. You guys are doing great things. I appreciate you.

Jacob Conway 47:40


Thank you very much, Andrew, thank you for the time. Hope to see you again soon. All right,

Andrew D Ive 47:45


I’m going to stop recording. Thanks for listening to the big idea food podcast. I really appreciate you. Please do subscribe, then you’ll get notifications of the next podcast. If you have any questions or comments, please do reach out. We can also be found via big idea and through Instagram, LinkedIn, all of those wonderful places. So enjoyed the conversation today. I hope you did too. I look forward to hearing from you. Bye.


© Big Idea Ventures LLC 2021

As more consumers adopt the new diet, plant-based food should offer not just the right taste, smell and price but also the right texture

Big Idea Ventures (BIV), along with Grand Hyatt Singapore, organised its first in-person and virtual tasting for plant-based foods called Tasting Big Ideas 2021.

The culinary tasting experience took place last week and was Big Idea Ventures’s third tasting event showcasing alternative protein innovations.

An image of the food at the event

BIV is a global VC firm-cum-accelerator in the plant-based food space. Its first fund, the New Protein Fund, recently raised over US$50 million.

“Working with these plant-based products is a great opportunity to share with like-minded guests who care deeply for food — things like where the ingredients come from and how it is being produced,” said chef Lucas of Grand Hyatt.

“It was like a black box competition, you receive the products, it all comes in boxes, you open and see — wow these are the products, then we think what we can create with that,” he added.

Here are the top trends that came out of the event:

Fermentation drives more options to alternative protein

Fermentation can develop everything from seafood to sustainable oils, and innovations in these areas will rise in 2021. The development of new alternative solutions entering the market will go some way to replacing their traditional products.

Examples of companies developing such products are Aquacultured Foods, a whole muscle seafood alternative created through microbial fermentation, and Farmsow, a B2B ingredients company developing alternatives to tropical oils and animal fats.

Alternative protein dine-in and take-out options growing

Plant-based options have thrived despite the pandemic, and many products have launched throughout the world.

Angie’s tempeh is a Singaporean plant-based protein tempeh company launched during the pandemic and is now available in multiple grocery stores. Haofood’s from China also developed the first peanut protein-based chicken and is now served in over six restaurants in Shanghai.

In light of the pandemic, Tasting Big Ideas 2021 and 2020 also offered a virtual tasting option where guests can opt to have a tasting kit delivered to enjoy in the comfort of their homes or offices.

Improving taste and texture for alternative protein

As more consumers adopt the new diet, plant-based foods are required to have not just the right taste, smell and price but also the right texture.

Increasingly, technologies and companies like “Meat. The End” is needed that will allow plant-based foods to be indistinguishable from traditional meats.

Cell-based products futuristic concept overseas but a growing trend in Singapore

Singapore was the first country in the world to give approval to the commercialisation of cell-based meat. In late 2020, the Singapore Food Agency gave the approval to Eat Just to sell cultured chicken to customers.

Companies from BIV’s portfolio company, such as Animal Alternative Technologies and Innocent Meat, foresee this trend and provide end-to-end solutions to scale the production of cell-based meat in a cost-efficient manner.

Image Credit: Big Idea Ventures

Following its recent launch in U.S., vegan startup Grounded Foods announced today that it is rolling out its vegan-friendly alternative dairy cheeses made from ugly cauliflower and hemp in over 160 retail locations across the country including select Whole Foods Market stores.

Most plant-based cheeses on the market start with a majority nut or coconut oil base. Los Angeles-based Grounded Foods, which was co-founded by a chef, uses ‘imperfect’ leaves, stems and ‘ugly’ cauliflower and hemp that aren’t sold in the mainstream market to make its alternative dairy cheeses using their own proprietary fermentation process.

Founded in 2019, the company claims that it has developed a more sustainable and environmentally resilient option to not only dairy products but nut-based ones as well and has produced a variety of cheese styles, like soft, hard, aged and rind cheeses as well as sauces. Its products are 100% plant-based, allergen-free, keto-friendly and high in calcium, protein, antioxidants, Omega 3 + 6 fats, vitamins and minerals.

This month, retailers will begin stocking the first three products in Grounded’s inaugural range – Cheese Free Cheese American Style priced at US$5.99, Hemp Seed Goat cheese at US$6.99 and Hemp Seed Cream Cheese, Onion & Chive at US$5.99.

In a press release seen by Green Queen, CEO of Grounded Foods, Veronica Fil said: “More and more consumers are incorporating alternative proteins into their diets for health and environmental reasons. Our goal is to introduce better tasting, more sustainable and more nutritious products to the plant based cheese category—and appeal to those consumers who are not necessarily vegan, but are interested in cutting back on dairy.”

Source: Grounded Foods

Our goal is to introduce better tasting, more sustainable and more nutritious products to the plant based cheese category—and appeal to those consumers who are not necessarily vegan, but are interested in cutting back on dairy

Veronica Fil, CEO of Grounded Foods

In a previous interview with Green Queen, Fil said that the company sources its ‘ugly’ cauliflowers from California and is looking for local suppliers and farmers to work with.

In addition, she shared that her ultimate mission is to “change consumer behaviour in a meaningful way by creating products that are so novel and delicious and accessible, that people don’t even think about the fact that they’re not eating dairy. If the product isn’t insanely tasty, everyday people just won’t buy it as an alternative to traditional dairy. That’s one side of the equation. But also, we want to be part of the solution – not contributing to the problem that’s occurring in our existing food system. So we’re hell bent on using environmentally resilient and local ingredients as well, not just importing whatever is cheapest or easiest.”

The products are available to order via Grounded Foods’ website, Pop Up Grocer in Chicago, select Whole Foods Market locations and retailers throughout California, Illinois, New York, Hawaii, Connecticut, Arizona and Oregon.

Back in July of last year, Grounded foods closed a US$1.74 million seed funding round which was led by VC Stray Dog Capital and saw support from consumer packaged goods investor Rocana Ventures, Veg Invest Trust, and members of the GlassWall Syndicate. Using this capital, the company scaled and accelerated its production and distribution of its plant-based cheeses.

With plant-based dairy gaining momentum worldwide, the traditional dairy sector is taking a hit. Last year, two of largest dairy firms in the U.S. had to file for bankruptcy and these kinds of headlines are only going to become more common given that the global plant-based cheese market is predicted to double its present value of US$2.7 billion to more than US$4.5 billion by 2025.

Big Idea Ventures (BIV), along with Grand Hyatt Singapore, organised its first in-person and virtual tasting for plant-based foods called Tasting Big Ideas 2021.

The culinary tasting experience took place last week and was Big Idea Ventures’s third tasting event showcasing alternative protein innovations.

An image of the food at the event

BIV is a global VC firm-cum-accelerator in the plant-based food space. Its first fund, the New Protein Fund, recently raised over US$50 million.

“Working with these plant-based products is a great opportunity to share with like-minded guests who care deeply for food — things like where the ingredients come from and how it is being produced,” said chef Lucas of Grand Hyatt.

“It was like a black box competition, you receive the products, it all comes in boxes, you open and see — wow these are the products, then we think what we can create with that,” he added.

Here are the top trends that came out of the event:

Fermentation drives more options to alternative protein

Fermentation can develop everything from seafood to sustainable oils, and innovations in these areas will rise in 2021. The development of new alternative solutions entering the market will go some way to replacing their traditional products.

Also Read: Conscious consumption is driving the trend in foodtech: Study

Examples of companies developing such products are Aquacultured Foods, a whole muscle seafood alternative created through microbial fermentation, and Farmsow, a B2B ingredients company developing alternatives to tropical oils and animal fats.

Alternative protein dine-in and take-out options growing

Plant-based options have thrived despite the pandemic, and many products have launched throughout the world.

Angie’s tempeh is a Singaporean plant-based protein tempeh company launched during the pandemic and is now available in multiple grocery stores. Haofood’s from China also developed the first peanut protein-based chicken and is now served in over six restaurants in Shanghai.

In light of the pandemic, Tasting Big Ideas 2021 and 2020 also offered a virtual tasting option where guests can opt to have a tasting kit delivered to enjoy in the comfort of their homes or offices.

Improving taste and texture for alternative protein

As more consumers adopt the new diet, plant-based foods are required to have not just the right taste, smell and price but also the right texture.

Increasingly, technologies and companies like “Meat. The End” is needed that will allow plant-based foods to be indistinguishable from traditional meats.

Cell-based products futuristic concept overseas but a growing trend in Singapore

Singapore was the first country in the world to give approval to the commercialisation of cell-based meat. In late 2020, the Singapore Food Agency gave the approval to Eat Just to sell cultured chicken to customers.

Companies from BIV’s portfolio company, such as Animal Alternative Technologies and Innocent Meat, foresee this trend and provide end-to-end solutions to scale the production of cell-based meat in a cost-efficient manner.

Earlier this year, Big Idea Ventures launched the Generation Food Rural Partners fund—a collaboration with universities to develop and commercialize food products and agricultural innovations to help fuel economic growth in rural areas.

In April, the New York venture capital firm announced its ninth and newest partner: University of Massachusetts Amherst.

With UMass Amherst having the top food science program in the country, it’s no surprise that Big Idea Ventures wanted the Western Massachusetts university to join the Generation Food Rural Partners (GFRP) fund.

According to David Sela, an associate professor in the university’s Department of Food Science, UMass Amherst is an ideal partner for the venture capital firm because of its flexibility and ability to conduct research on a variety of topics. “The bottom line is we want to make sure that we support the food industry and consumers in building a more sustainable, equitably distributed food system in the future,” he said.

The GFRP fund is focused on developing innovations in three core areas: food, protein and agriculture.

“When we talk about food…It’s not just products, not just ingredients,” Thomas Mastrobuoni, chief investment officer at Big Idea Ventures, said. “It’s the process, packaging, team members’ safety at the plant, anything that goes into creating products, all the way from the farm through to what the consumer is buying.”

They have a “special focus” on alternative proteins, he said. “How do we make those proteins better, more sustainable, more healthy for people? On the agriculture side, we can’t talk about food without talking about agriculture. How do we help improve soil health? How do we help grow the foods that we need?”

UMass Amherst researchers will be looking at topics such as the physiology of food once it’s ingested by humans, and the effects of polyphenols and cannabinoids in food systems. As for agricultural innovations, the university has been discussing ways to develop sustainable plant-based and meat alternatives.

Besides researching and developing agricultural innovations, the GFRP collaboration is also focused on commercializing the universities’ intellectual property. Based on the type of innovation, this commercialization could happen in a variety of ways. For example: Commercializing a consumer product would look different compared to a hardware product that’s being sold to a company.

“They’re looking to commercialize academic-led intellectual property… they’re looking to take what we learn in the laboratory and commercialize that, so that we can impact people in two ways,” Sela said. “One, improve sustainability, safety, deliciousness of food…as well as drive economic development around the country.”

Big Idea Ventures also plans to invest in developments that have the strongest commercialization potential. According to Abby Lyall, vice president of Big Idea Ventures, these investments will not be “dorm room funds,” or meant for student startups.

These investments are strictly for the commercialization of professional research developed by these universities, Lyall said. The startups funded by Big Idea Ventures could focus on anything from food waste preservation technology to greenhouse gas emissions to plastics and packaging.

“One key aspect of our model is we’re going to be bringing in executives to run these new companies that we’ve set up,” Lyall said. “And these new executives will have to have lots of experience in the area that the startup will be innovating in. If it’s in innovative ingredients, we’ll bring in somebody that has lots of experience in the ingredient space.”

Once researchers are identified, the venture capital firm will tell them that it wants to either license or buy the intellectual property. From there, the university can contribute the intellectual property to the new venture and become an equity partner with Big Idea Ventures. Or, the venture capital firm can create a new company that will license the IP from the school.

“We intend to take the researcher out of the lab and create a Chief Technology or Science Officer position, which will serve as an interim role until the [intellectual property] is completed, the product is ready to go to market,” Mastrobuoni said. “And it’s our job to enable the researchers with supporting role functions, whether it’s finance and accounting, marketing, legal, recruiting, and fundraising. We’re going to surround them with the talent they need to succeed.”

Sela, the UMass Amherst associate professor, said that he wants to accomplish two goals during the program.

“The first are the manifest goals of the fund, so to support and to promote rural development—economic development in rural communities, through sustainable food and agriculture,” he said. “That is the main goal. And the second goal is to further solidify our standing as leaders in food and nutrition innovation at UMass Amherst and as a broader network of universities, domestically and internationally.”

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