Podcast #16: Incredible Eats co-founder and CEO, Dinesh Tadepalli, speaks with Andrew D. Ive from Big Idea Ventures about starting a company that has created edible cutlery to replace plastics and help the oceans and the planet.

Podcasts

YouTube Episode: https://youtu.be/tgE6urIcG6o

 

Incredible Eats

Their mission is to reinvent the way we eat food and drink drinks by replacing all plastic utensils with incredible edible options.

 

Big Idea Ventures

Our mission is to solve the world’s greatest challenges by backing the world’s best entrepreneurs

 

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/bigideaventures/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bigideaventures_/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/bigideaventures

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BigIdeaVentures/

 

Big Idea Food Podcast Host

Andrew D. Ive, Big Idea Ventures Founder

Andrew is the founder of Big Idea Ventures. BIV’s purpose is to solve the world’s greatest challenges by supporting the world’s best entrepreneurs. Our first fund + accelerator (NY, Singapore, and Paris) invests in plant-based foods and ingredients to impact climate change, animal welfare, and personal health. Investors include Tyson Foods & Temasek. Our second fund is focused on reducing CO2, plastics, waste, and water in the food industry. Friedman School Entrepreneurship Advisor. Harvard Business School graduate, Procter & Gamble brand management trained. 

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/andrewive/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/andrewive/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/thefundingguru


Transcript:

 

SPEAKERS

Andrew D Ive, Dinesh Tadepalli

 

Andrew D Ive  

Hi, this is Andrew from the Big Idea podcast focused on food. Today we’re going to be talking with Dinesh Tadepalli, the CEO and founder of Incredible Spoons. They’ve created a product, which can be used as a single use plastic, in other words, a spoon a knife or fork, a straw, the cup, the top of a cup of coffee, using actually a cookie based ingredient. So not plastic, not oil based, not something that will sit in the earth for the next 100 years, but actually dissolves and disappears very, very quickly when it’s in a landfill or when it’s in the trash. So please, let’s have a conversation with Dinesh. I hope you enjoy it. Please let us know your thoughts at the end. Many thanks Hey, Dinesh, this is Andrew from Big Idea food podcastWhat is it? What do we call it? Big Idea podcast food.So welcome to the podcast. Welcome to the video. Tell us who you are. And tell us about your company. 

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

Thanks, Andrew. This is the new study for Lee. I’m co founder of incredible eats. And we make edible cutlery to reduce single use plastics.

 

Andrew D Ive  

Edible cutlery to reduce what now? 

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

Single use plastics. 

 

Andrew D Ive  

Single use plastics. Okay, edible cutlery. So I’m supposed to eat a knife. What am I doing here? Tell me what this is all about. 

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

Yeah, so the concept is for 10 minutes of your time for a takeout or when you go to a shop to get ice cream or a soup or anything like that, for the 10 minutes it takes you to eat the food, you are leaving hundreds of years of plastic footprint by using single use plastics. So we innovated a solution that you can eat after eating with it. So we can literally eat a spoon after eating ice cream with it and even if you don’t have the appetite, since it’s made with food grains, it’s compostable because it’s food. 

 

Andrew D Ive  

Okay, great. So if somebody eats it, then it gets digested and it’s basically a super yummy kind of cookie type thing, isn’t it? 

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

Yes, I would compare it to a biscotti in the shape of a spoon. So it’s a little hard because it is used for eating your food and then once you have eaten it, it becomes softer so you can bite it and you can eat it as an after meal snack.

 

Andrew D Ive  

And if you don’t want to eat it because you’ve had enough, I don’t know Baskin Robbins or Ben and Jerry’s or Haagen Dazs or something like that. It’s not just for ice cream obviously, this is a product that can be used for soups and all kinds of things right? Afterwards, if you don’t want to eat it, you can pop it in the trash can, the rubbish bin if you’re British, and then it’ll go into a landfill and it will just dissolve in a matter of days. Probably hours. 

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

Yeah, that’s true and our spoons can stay firm for up to 25 minutes in hot soups and 45 minutes in cold foods. So it’s it’s applicable to both it’s not just for ice creams, because we have both savory and sweet flavors. 

 

Andrew D Ive  

So basically anything that you use a knife or fork or spoon for, from a grab and go food perspective or even in a fast food restaurant, these products are going to work like normal, and then they’re going to be edible or compostable almost immediately. 

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

Yes. Agreed. 

 

Andrew D Ive  

So how, maybe you know this maybe don’t, how big is the problem? how many plastic knives and forks and spoons are we throwing away on an annual basis? I don’t know if you know that world wide or just in the US. or what, but

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

Just in the US we used 100 million single use cutlery. I’m not even talking about the takeout boxes, just the spoons, forks and knives. The straws were a little more than that. Just the cutlery part we use 100 million per day and we dispose 100 million per day just in the US.

 

Andrew D Ive  

Per day. I was thinking 100 million a year that’s a lot but per day now that’s insane. We’re basically you know, walking around on a, on a bed of plastic knives and forks and spoons and without even realizing it. That’s incredible. 

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

Yep and to add to that Andrew nature is giving back. We have been doing this for a while it’s not that we’re doing it right now, we have been dumping plastic for the last 50 years since the onset of plastic usage. We’ve been disposing it in the nature landfills and in the oceans and the oceans are now churning it and giving it back to us in the form of microplastics. So a human in the US or anywhere in the world, is consuming about one credit card sized worth of microplastics in his food, because the plastic is coming back to us via nature giving us back what we dumped. 

 

Andrew D Ive  

Okay, so let’s break that down. So step one, the plastic fork spoon knife that we use when we go and you know, or have a pizza, and they give us a little plastic packet with a knife or fork and a spoon that gets thrown away, eventually that gets to an ocean or it gets to the ground, it breaks up into little micro beads and various other things and then fish and other animals consume those microbeads of plastic, and then we consume the fish and we’re getting a credit cards worth of plastic on an annual basis back in our systems and our gut. 

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

On a weekly basis actually, we consume that much microplastic.

 

Andrew D Ive  

Thats crazy …..

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

Yes, it’s pretty scary.. That’s the reason why we started because I was so afraid for my children, I have two young kids and I was like, if I’m consuming this much plastic, what would they be doing in the future.  And, and by the way, it’s not just the food, right? It’s there in the air we breathe. If you go to an ocean, if you’re thinking you’re enjoying your ocean view, with a nice sea breeze coming at you, it has microplastics in it. It’s not just from the food. 

 

Andrew D Ive  

Now I was about to take a drink of water, but I’m cognizant of the fact that I’ve got my single use plastic bottle of water and so this is going to be adding to the problem as soon as I finished drinking it. So, okay, now I’m feeling incredibly guilty, I’m going to put it down and I’m not going to drink it, there you go. Alright, so let’s get back to Incredible Eats. You guys are manufacturing what spoons right now or you’re doing the whole range of products? 

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

As of now we’re aware at scale with our edible spoons but going forward, most likely by q3 or q4 of this year, we will be introducing edibles straws, edible sporks and edible chopsticks. So by end of this year, we will have four products and going forward, we will introduce the edible knife and edible cup, maybe the lid of the coffee, and the stirrer. So we have some of this in the pipe but we want to take it slow because we don’t want to just rush because it will be a huge inventory management issue.  We want to take it slow, take one step at a time and make sure we get in feedback. For example, our current spoons that we sell, we sold about 1.5 million spoons, that means that much less plastic spoons were used. Then we got feedback, we got 2000 to 3000 people who gave us feedback and we are improving based on that feedback. So I believe every startup goes through the research stage, then the criticism stage and then the crusade stage.  So we read the criticisms and we are taking the feedback, making the products better because we want them to be perfect. There is nothing to compare them to right now because it’s completely new. It’s very innovative. There’s nothing that existed before to compare it against. 

 

Andrew D Ive  

The funny thing is that I get hundreds of products sent to me by companies like yours that want us to invest all the time. Like I’m getting boxes and boxes of new foods. My wife will not try any of it. She’s like, No, none of this is appealing to me. I made the mistake of leaving an incredible eights box of spoons out on my office desk. So not anywhere that was sort of random in the house. And I came back and four of the spoons have been eaten. And I’m like, Okay, what what you know what, what the hell happened here. And basically my wife was like, Okay, I decided to kind of snack down on four of your four of your spoons. And little bit crunchy, but really quite good. So she Yeah, she was criticizing despite the fact that she just went through a cutlery drawer worth of, of spoons before she decided that it was a bit too crunchy.

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

Yeah, agree. Agree. 

 

Andrew D Ive  

So so let’s get back to it. The product itself? What kind of companies? Are you wanting to get these products in front of so are you going out to, you know, restaurants and companies like Starbucks and others and you’re trying to encourage them to swap from the single use plastics that are currently part of their daily lives to yours. Is that is that the go to market strategy here? 

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

Yes, so our initial focus was completely on the b2b food service. So that includes quick service restaurants like Starbucks, Haagen Daz, Ben and Jerry’s  any of ice cream shops. Ice cream is one of the places where people wouldn’t mind paying another extra few bucks. I’ll come back to that question later on how the strategy of including the spoon. So catering and also even like a football game where they serve ice cream or even a drink. Many people love to drink Coke or other sodas and beer at a game. So many straws that they use. So all these major places where they consume hundreds and 1000s of single use plastics every single day is where my main focus is but because of COVID, we had to shift it slightly towards the b2c and direct to consumer segment. But we want to get back to the b2b train where the biggest impact can be made.

 

Andrew D Ive  

So if someone’s listening to that, and they’re sort of surprised, and to some degree is outraged by the sheer quantity of the single use plastics that are being thrown away on a daily basis? 100 million plus? What can they do? Can they reach out to their Starbucks or to the, their Haagen dazs, or to their other places that using the straws or plastic cups or spoons or forks or knives, and just suggest they reach out to incredible eats? Is that the is it as simple as that? Or is that not going to make a difference? 

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

Yes, definitely consumers have the right say, in fact, I have that as proof. I know there are a couple of places in Cincinnati, where the customers requested them and the shop started placing the order, but they’re in a very small scale but if you go to the Starbucks or even the big chains, right? I don’t think it happens just because one person does it. But it’s still very valuable. Because the more people do it, they take it more seriously. And they think okay, yes, it’s as simple as going to a shop and saying, hey, you’re selling plastic spoons, why don’t you change yourself. The more people that mention that the sooner corporates will change.

 

Andrew D Ive  

So people do have the power. So in terms of coming up with this product, how, you know, how, where did it come from? How did who came up with the idea? And how did you execute on it? 

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

Great. So around 2017/ 18 when my daughter was born, I went to an ice cream shop and that’s when the whole thought process started. Why am I using a plastic spoon? Even though I am very educated and I know the dangers of plastic pollution and the effects on climate change, still, when I actually went to an ice cream shop, I didn’t think twice before I ate with the plastic spoon and then threw it away. That hit me hard. I was like, I’m not making the changes that I’m supposed to make, and billions of people are also doing this every single day. That really made me feel, I need to do something about this.  And that’s when my entrepreneurship journey started. I went on a journey. I took my paternity leave, eight weeks of paternity leave and I went ahead and found the best alternative to single use plastic. That’s when I met my partner Kruvil and he was also trying to find something that would make edible cutlery possible. So together we decided we would put our education to good use doing something good and we spent about close to one and a half years in trials making the moulds and the machinery which can automate the edible cutlery production. So that’s the story.  It ended with a big big bang, because I introduced the stained spoons and caterer source in 2019. Those are the first 1015 spoons came out of the first mould that we designed and I got my first order of 125,000 spoons from a caterer in Canada. That was my first order. I had not sold a spoon before. So that concrete order made it very, very, exciting and confirmed these were needed in this world and I needed to continue further. I came back to the moment when I sold my home in the US  to expand the facility to scale up for fulfilling the order. That’s the brief story. 

 

Andrew D Ive  

So you sold your home so that you could bankroll your business that you think will have a dramatic impact on a better world. That’s awesome. So how many spoons, forks, knives, whatever. How many products so far have you sold? have you kept track?

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

Yes, I did. Because we reached our first goal of replacing 1 million plastic with 1 million edible spoons by by mid 2020. If I look at my current number, it’s about 1.5 million. That’s what we have sold so far and that means that many plastics have been replaced. This is just the spoons. As I mentioned, we are still exploring thie fork. The fork is very hard because if you put an edible fork right, the ends break easily. So we came up with this edible spork. I don’t know if you can see it. Yeah, so this is basically the shape for a spoon but the ends are very sharp so you can use it as a fork and a spoon. It’s a spork and also the edible chopstick and other shapes that we’re working on right now. The spoon was the easiest to make. That’s why we made it first and now we’re trying to work on the other shapes.

 

Andrew D Ive  

So I was at Starbucks this morning. I was sort of thinking about you guys as I was sipping my coffee with its plastic lid and so on. I mean that for me is something that they must do, they must be using or throwing away millions of those on a daily basis just through Starbucks, let alone you know all of the other coffee shops and drinks shops out there.

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

Yep, I agree. I observed on my journey, people expect non government organizations or plastic fighting organizations to put stricter laws through and to push people or corporates to act on it. Everyone is pointing their finger at each other saying that, hey, you should start doing this. And the corporates say, by this year I’ll reduce plastic usage by this much. But if you watched the John Oliver show recently, they keep reclaiming those claims again, and again, the recycling the claims that are made, because it’s very hard for them. Because plastic is so appealing in the sense, it stays forever, it’s very good for the consumer in the sense, it’s very easily adaptable to what their needs are.  So the whole point is, we need  a revolutionary idea that can actually make changes at the consumer level and at the corporate level and together, we can make a better world in the future. So as you mentioned one of the challenges we faced initially was the cost of the spoon. I went to an ice cream shop, and they said, Hey, I’m taking a plastic spoon for two cents, you’re giving me an edible spoon for like 15 cents. That’s a lot of expense for me. I even though I like to be sustainable, I can’t be as a business, I need to drive profits. I understand I understood the pain. I didn’t just say, Hey, don’t why did you say no to me? But But then when I thought about it, I gave them an idea that why don’t you use this as an upsell rather than thinking it as an expense. So basically, what I meant to say is, I go to the ice cream shop, when I order a scoop of ice cream, they give me an edible spoon by default for another 20 cents or 30 cents, or like this.

 

Andrew D Ive  

Or they give consumers a choice where they say yes. Would you like a nice crunchy cookie spoon for you know, 15 cents? Which is what it costs? Or do you want to? Or do you want a plastic spoon and kill the planet? Your choice? easy choice to make, isn’t it?

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

No, actually, there’s a better way that we came across instead of asking your customer. We’re gonna give it by default on the bill.. And the customer can say I want to opt for a plastic spoon. The reason is, this will create awareness to the consumer. Otherwise, we don’t generally think twice about it. The whole point is we need to think before we act on it. And if the pain point is you when you are saying no the pain point increases. So basically what we realized was the better impact is when the stores are giving it by default by adding 20 cents to the order and the customer can still say no, but saying no is much harder than saying yes. Because now they know for sure they are intentionally taking a plastic spoon.

 

Andrew D Ive  

So one thing I’m quite aware of or one thing that makes me think is if you go shopping around the supermarket in the US and you are a member of the loyalty program, there are various items which are discounted, and at the end of the the transaction, they give you a receipt. And on that receipt, it says today you’ve saved $3.15 because of the choices you made in terms of your purchase.  if we could make or encourage those and if we keep bringing it back to ice cream, but anything any company that gives away a plastic knife, fork, spoon, straw, plastic cup, you know, whatever. If on those receipts, it said by you making your choice for an incredible eats spoon. We have this week saved 1300 spoons from being put in landfill. And I know that’s that’s a long sentence. And there’s a shorter, snappier, smarter way of saying that than that. But if we put on people’s receipt, thank you for choosing incredible eat spoon. Our total this week is 750 plastic spoons not not produced and not put in landfill.

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

That’s a great idea. Andrew, I think we should do that. And not just that right? We can actually put the millions of plastic count on like account on our website or even at the shop store. Were saying, Hey, this is the number of plastic items wenhave reduced because of opting to use Incredible cutlery.  That’s a great idea. I think we should do that.

 

Andrew D Ive  

 I think youn should too. So you were telling me something before we came on the line, which is incredibly exciting. I know that I don’t want to distract too much from your business. So we can always come back to questions around your business. But you were telling me about some good news that you guys just had today or yesterday.

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

Yesterday? Yes. So we are part of the top 10 fellows by NPR how I build this program hosted by Guy Ross and yesterday I had my interview with the Guy Ross how I build this program so I request all the listeners to listen to that as well. 

 

Andrew D Ive  

I was gonna say for those folks who aren’t in the US or don’t know, NPR is the public kind of radio channel, TV channel and so on. Great, great programming. kind of really thoughtful. They have a how I built this weekly show, right?

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

Yes, it’s twice a week. So Tuesday, Thursday,

 

Andrew D Ive  

Tuesday, Thursday, so two times a week, they have an interview with entrepreneurs and folks, typically entrepreneurs who have built amazing, really well known household name companies, you know, they’ve had some incredible alumni, you know, folks talking on this channel, and so Dinesh was on that or not, you weren’t on that radio program. Yesterday, you were the radio program yesterday being interviewed for the full time, right?

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

Yes, actually, I shared the space along with another stop here from my fellow program. But yeah, the two of us were there in the same in the in the single program and the single show yesterday.

 

Andrew D Ive  

Okay, so we’ll make sure to put in the shownotes, a link to that Dinesh, Dinesh will forward that and forward that to me, and we’ll add it to the show notes so that you guys can listen to that NPR, how I built that radio show. And it’s possible that they may choose one company out of

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

Yep. So the part of the fellowship program is they chose 10 fellows among 3000 applicants, and they, and based on all the 10 offers where we pitch to a panel of judges last week, and they’re going to announce the winner of this tomorrow, the fellowship winner, and we would be getting a $50,000 grant from sponsored by godaddy.

 

Andrew D Ive  

So Oh, that’s very cool. Okay, so that’s potentially $50,000. Well, you can use that to reduce X number of 1000 plastic spoons in the world.

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

So it’ll help us speed up bringing in the straw. That’s that will be billions of impact on the world. Yes.

 

Andrew D Ive  

So where are you based? Where is incredible eats?

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

Yeah. If you’re based out of Milpitas, California, Northern California, but our facilities in India.

 

Andrew D Ive  

Okay, and where are you selling your product? Where is it available for sale?

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

Yeah, so it’s currently available for direct to consumer, it’s available on Amazon. It’s available on our Shopify site incredible spoon.com and for the b2b, we are directly approach them or they approach us through our Contact Us form on the website and that’s how we make the purchases. And on the on the ice cream shops, smitten and bay area has the spoons. I need to check with them if the stock if they still have the stock because of COVID there was some disruption, but yeah, and the respective stores about 1000 TJ Maxx home goods store carry these in their gourmet food section.

 

Andrew D Ive  

What about I think there was an ice cream store is it Europe based or here of Haagen dazs. So Haagen dazs to take it as well, certain geographies where it’s

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

so Haagen dazs just did the trial with us. The first trial happened in America in the US at the Mall of America back in 2020, February of 2020. But because of COVID, they kind of put a pause on it, and they go to revisit us, like end of this year in the US. But in Europe, we’re working with Haagen dazs, like the first trial happened in Portugal. And that was a decent success. And now they’re planning to expand the trial to France and Belgium going forward in the next three, four months, but it’s too soon. I mean, it’s still under the trial phase right now, before they get into the full scale.

 

Andrew D Ive  

Okay, so if you could choose a company that you could work with that you could partner with, that would give you the kind of impact that you’re looking to have. You mentioned, you’re already going to sort of in trial with Haagen dazs. But what would be some of the companies on that shortlist that you’d like to engage with?

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

Actually have a long list but the higher preferences are Starbucks for the straws, and even the spoons they use for oatmeal and yogurt, and Chipotle because they’re also very sustainable and very environment friendly, because they use the sporks and spoons and add for the burrito bowls, and also the straws for the drinks. And any QSR or quick service restaurant which is aiming to reduce plastic, like I know that McDonald’s in Europe, they announced by 2025 they will reduce their plastic consumption by 40%. So imagine eating a mcflurry with a chocolate spoon and eating this spoon after. So these are some amazing fits that you can have. It’s not just truly sustainable but it’s also a fun addition to your menu as well.

 

Andrew D Ive  

Yeah, I’m trying to get my head around eating a mcflurry let alone eating a mcflurry with the edible spoon.

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

We don’t even think about the other part of it, but if you look at it from the plastics point of view, irrespective if you are a vegan or not, it’s still impacting the planet. So I want to make sure that each and every QSR, which has the most consumption of plastic utensils I would like to get them to be replaced with an edible utensil and not just QSR. Even concert halls,gaming centers, all these arenas they use and sell a lot of plastic too.

 

Andrew D Ive  

So a couple of companies that should probably talk to you. One is Delaware North, which is in Buffalo, they’re responsible for a number of stadiums and food concessions in those stadiums. So Delaware North, they also do airports, food concessions in airports and things like that. So Delaware North who are based in Buffalo, that’s a company you should probably connect with. The other one that springs to mind is Compass and Bon Appetit management company. Out of California, those guys do a lot of events and build like Lincoln Center, and various other places, events, and so on.  Now, obviously, because of COVID. Events are sort of slowed down and there are less people to think about these things but as life returns to some semblance of insanity and normality, those companies are the ones you should probably chat with. Okay, so you’re in California, you’re focusing on US, although you’ve been doing some trials and so on in Europe. Where do you see your company going over the let’s say, the next two to three years, obviously, the NPR radio thing yesterday is going to completely blow the lid off of this company and you’re going to go crazy from now on, but where do you see yourselves as Incredible going over the next two to three years?

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

Yeah, so our goal as a company, we would like to reduce the 100 million plastic utensils by 2025, which is basically one day of consumption. Right. But that’s our first main goal. And with all the traction that’s happening, and all the PR that we’re getting so far, we believe that we can achieve that.

 

Andrew D Ive  

100 million units of single use plastics, yes, by 2025. It’s an incredibly high number but I wonder if it’s enough to take three years to get there. If it’s one days waste? Yeah, I don’t know that there’s an inconsistency there somewhere, right?

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

Yes, I do agree but then, as I mentioned, people are very susceptible. So the corporates, I need help from the corporates to achieve this goal. I know that goal is very small compared to the consumption that we have right now but taking one step at a time, once one major chain partners with us then everyone else would do so too and then we can immediately scale up and meet that goal  as soon as we can. But there are challenges ahead too because this is more expensive than plastic, and we need to fix those challenges. So that will also take some time to change that mentality that people are willing to pay that 15 cents extra for your product.

 

Andrew D Ive  

Yeah, it’s incredible that 100 million units is a baby step in anything’s right, but it is 100 million units is one day’s worth of waste. It is a baby step. But that’s an incredibly huge number. Now saying that, I think there’s a lot of people out there, hopefully a lot of people listening to this, who would be happy to pay 15 cents, for a number of reasons. One, because they’re not putting a piece of plastic into the ground, and it’s gonna stay there for next 100 years. Or if it doesn’t stay there, it’s not going to end up in, in the stomach of an animal and in our own stomachs eventually, if we’re eating animals. But, instead of that 15, for that 15 cents, there’s a positive as well, which is, you’re getting a cookie, you’re getting something that’s kind of yummy and kind of delicious, and it adds to the overall experience. I can think of my wife, my daughter, etc, all of whom would be probably very happy to add 20 cents to the to the bill.

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

Yes, I mean, the consumers will drive the change, I’m pretty sure but it’s just that it’s gonna take some time. That’s the reason why I put a reasonable goal of 2030/ 500 million, and I’m striving for that I’m literally not sleeping enough for the past two to three years, because I want to reach that goal.

 

Andrew D Ive  

You need more people on the team? And then let’s figure out how we do it by 2023 instead of 2025.

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

Yes, yes, Agreed. Agreed. I would love to do that. I mean the faster I can do that the better it is.  I just said I try to be a realist sometimes so that’s when these things come into play and push it forward. Yeah.

 

Andrew D Ive  

So how do you want people to help you and support you be part of this movement that you’re delivering?

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

The first, all the listeners, I would sincerely request to think twice before you pick up the next plastic spoons, fork or straw and if you really have to use it, please let the shop or anyone know that please give us an alternative that we can use, so we can say no to this. That will drive the change because corporates listen to consumers and that can drive the change. Apart from that, from the business perspective, we are looking to expand the team, so if there are any very interested individuals who would like to work with us and join our incredible journey to save the planet, that would be great, too.

 

Andrew D Ive  

What about students at universities? and things like that? I would hope and I don’t know why I feel this way but I would hope that there are universities out there, where the students are very conscious of what’s going on around this problem and they’re encouraging their universities to find other ways of providing these things. Are there universities out there who are much more forward thinking and are their students encouraging their universities to think differently about plastic knives, forks, forks, spoons, etc? 

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

Yes they do but thankfully, from the universities that I saw, because I did my masters in USC, the most of the indoor dining hall, they use the reusable stainless steel, they’re only the concession part where you actually go to go take out like a yogurt cup, or even a drink to go, that’s when they use the plastic part. And yes, the next generations are more conscious than us and the students and the next the next generation of the people and if they if any one of you are listening to it, yes, going and go talk to you University, that there’s something better than plastic that exists, and it’s going to be fun to us, too. So that’s a good suggestion.

 

Andrew D Ive  

I would suggest that if anyone’s listening to this, who are students, if you’re still at either high school, university or whatever, reach out to Dinesh an Incredible Eats, and he can probably give you something that you can give to your college or university and so on, so that they can find out more about this sort of cookie based alternative. Well, out of interest, where do people find you? If they want to want to, you know, if they got more questions to ask?

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

They can approach me on my LinkedIn or they can email me at the dinesh@i-eats.com 

 

Andrew D Ive  

dinesh@i-eats.com and you’re on LinkedIn and Instagram and things like that, or?

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

Personally I’m not on Instagram but my company is on Instagram it’s called eat the spoon but on on LinkedIn, you can search me by Dinesh Tadepalli and you’ll find me. 

 

Andrew D Ive  

So eat the spoon on Instagram. I would love it actually, if people who go and buy something, whether it’s an ice cream or whatever, if they find that they can actually get an incredible spoon as part of that purchase. If they take a photograph of it and post it to Instagram and link back to you guys. That would be cool.

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

Yeah, that’d be really great and helpful, and it’ll increase our content. Yeah.

 

Andrew D Ive  

So let’s get a couple more quick questions and then we’ll let you guys go. You’ve mentioned selling your house to do this. You’ve mentioned this has been a passion for you for the last three, four years. Over the last two to three years of starting and growing this business, what, in your mind, what was the toughest or most challenging aspect of starting and growing this business?

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

Okay, the toughest one would be the cost because we’re fighting against plastic or just super cheap. So the toughest part of the challenge that I had was, I needed to convince the corporate shops, people were much easier to convince because they’re willing to pay that extra money, but the shops and the corporates say we need to do this immediately, we should not just wait for the next project to start to introduce the non plastic cutlery. So we need to do it immediately.  Their biggest challenge is the cost. Why? Why is it too expensive? I can bring it down only to a certain level, but I can’t bring it down to the cost of plastic. So that’s a reason why I have to change their way of thinking. Think of this as a revenue generating product rather than as an expens. Think of it as a profit generating product. So that’s the challenge that I’ve been facing and thankfully there are quite a few people, at least the smaller shops, they love this idea and they’re making money. In fact, the ice cream store in San Francisco sell this for 50 cents extra. So they make like 20 cents extra profit out of a spoon, 30 cents extra profit. So that’s a happy thing for them.  And now the pandemic has affected most of these places and this is a good way to come out of this pandemic saying, Okay, I’m making an extra profit out of this as well as doing good for the planet, because that’s what we need to do. So yeah, that’s the biggest challenge that I have. The second smaller challenge that I have is the pandemic itself, because my entire initial traction was entirely focused on b2b. I didn’t even think about b2c at all. So when the pandemic came, all my b2b kind of got frozen, and then it halted and we used that low time to actually continue our research on the new shapes, as well as introducing the product on Amazon and Shopify because we wanted to see how the DTC segment works on the site. 

 

Andrew D Ive  

Sorry, I was gonna say you’ve used a lot of acronyms there. So business to business b2b business to b2c business to consumer, DTC

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

direct to consumer, the same business to consumer direct to consumer.

 

Andrew D Ive  

So in other words, e commerce, 

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

yes, yes, that’s true. 

 

Andrew D Ive  

Okay. I know what it is. Sorry, I’ll pretend I know what it is. I’m just making sure that anyone listening, knows what it is, as well.

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

The direct to consumer part of it, which we thought it’s just a secondary income or secondary revenue generation for us, is in fact helping us on the business to business side as well. The reason is, the people who are buying the spoon for themselves, they’re going to the shop with the spoons, and they’re eating the ice cream with the spoons, and they are letting the customer know, the shop know, hey, I’m having a non plastic spoon, which I can eat. I have some reviews, where like grandparents are surprising their grandchildren by eating the spoon. So it’s creating a fun atmosphere. It was so focused on sustainability, planet eco friendliness, and direct to consumer segment, all of a sudden it became fun.

 

Andrew D Ive  

So basically, people can take a spoon out, start eating something and as they’re having a conversation with someone, they can just put the spoon in their mouth and take a bite and frequently, you know, freak out the family. Yes, yes. Yes, that’s true. That sounds great. So if I want to buy those spoons, I can go on Amazon, right?

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

Yes, yes, we have them on Amazon, as well as our website incredible spoon.com

 

Andrew D Ive  

Incredible spoon.com. And during the pandemic, you were at Big Idea Ventures. So I hope you consider that the time you spent during the pandemic was actually useful time because you A. changed your business model. B. we started working together. So, you know, maybe the last 12 months wasn’t such a waste of time, you know, such a loss for you.

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

No, definitely not. I in fact, I really liked the slow time because I had the opportunity to pitch to you guys and, thanks to you, accepted us. And it has been a pretty great journey, because the connections that you provided, and like till now, right? To be frank, I didn’t have any experience of the food industry before. I’m an engineer by background. When it came to the food industry, I made some wrong choices. Like for example, initially, the first six months, I believed an agent who said he’ll bring in tons of sales and I gave him a retainer and they didn’t do a single sale till now.  So all these costly mistakes, I would have avoided if I had known someone in the food industry who says believe this guy don’t believe that guy. So I feel that I have that now with you, with the Big Idea Ventures team because all it takes is just a message to you folks and say should I do this or not do this, that’s it and you that you’re all combined experience. It’s giving me that what you call like a parent of feeling rather than Okay, someone’s saying don’t do this. Don’t do this because it’s it serves you better.

 

Andrew D Ive  

Yeah, I’m a big, I actually loathe retainers, such a bad idea. Now I’m sure that there are people out there who are an amazingly valuable retainer, but I’ve never seen them work to the benefit of the entrepreneur. Rarely.

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

Yeah. So that’s why I mentioned it. If COVID hadn’t come, if the pandemic was not there, I wouldn’t have looked for an accelerator or an investor or anything I would have just slowly bootstraped making a lot of mistakes. Now, because of it, I came across you guys and now I know I can easily avoid those costly mistakes going forward in the journey and it’ll also help me speed up, right, because it’s not just doing on your own but also help you speed up because of all the contacts and the press you can get through all this.

 

Andrew D Ive  

So have you been have you been looking for investors over the last 12 months?

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

Yes, initially not a lot, because I always feel that I need to successfully bootstrap and the second reason is I really want to work with an investor who understands the mission first and numbers later, because a lot of traditional investors look for numbers first and the mission next. So now with the recent attraction that is going on, I am looking to raise some money because we would like to expand our facility as soon as we can.  We are capped at 40,000 spoons per day right now. We need to introduce the sporks, straws and other shapes too and in order to do that, we need some money to scale it up. Not just for the scaling even for expanding my team. As I mentioned, I’m hardly getting any sleep. So I need to hire people and make it a real and sustainable company going forward.  Another reason for money is till now in the last two years, we have not spent a penny on advertising. So I don’t even know what my customer acquisition cost is because the IRA not spend any penny on them. It’s all through trade shows. It’s all through LinkedIn Sales Navigator, it’s all direct. It’s very organic and very word to word of mouth. So I also want to explore the ad side of it and see how marketing would work to boosts our sales to reach our first goal.

 

Andrew D Ive  

So the funny thing is, if you’ve sold 1.5 million units over the last year or two, it’s already a real business, right? It’s already a real business. It’s not getting there it is there. In terms of finding investors who are more focused on mission versus money. Couple of things one is having, you know, investors who are on the same mission as you is incredibly important.  Whatever that mission is, even if your mission is to raise money to make money, just have to, you know, be aligned with your investors. But if you guys can achieve your goal of producing and selling and reducing 100 million items over the next two to three years, that’s a sizable business, even though it’s only one day’s worth of waste for us right now. So you guys don’t have it’s not an either, or I think you guys are going to be able to make a significant revenue generating business, which does incredibly good things for the planet. So any investor in your compan is going to get money, when they back you.

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

I mean, because it’s hard earned money from any investor as well. Right. So that I understand that point of view, it’s just that instead of, it’s just the focus part of it, right, I want equal focus on both rather than one over the other. That’s my point. 

 

Andrew D Ive  

I get it but you know, any business selling the 100 million units over the next year or two is a decent sized business, even if it’s plastics, you know, reducing plastic forks, knives, spoons. Yeah, I think if we can do something around, straws, you know, plastic coffee cup lids, plastic forks, knives, etc. That’s, that’s huge.

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

We’re working on that. Definitely. One. Yeah, definitely.

 

Andrew D Ive  

So the other thing is taste right. Your products aren’t just cookie flavored products. You’ve got different flavors and different skews. Right. So how does that work?

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

Yeah, so right now we have vanilla and chocolate for our sweet flavors, and plain Organa chili and black pepper for the savory flavors. And all initially the flavoring started it with a mindset that, like, if someone’s using it, I don’t want it to change the taste of the food, they eat. Like for example, if you’re eating with a soup, or a salad, I don’t want thebspoon to change the taste of the salad or the soup. So that’s the reason why we put the flavor inside. So if you just licked the spoon, you don’t taste it, but if you bite the spoon, you will feel the taste. So that’s the reason behind why it’s very subtle. t’s not like a super sweet cookie. It’s a very subtle cookie. And think of a fortune cookie but much less sweet. 

 

Andrew D Ive  

My wife tried I think pretty much every flavor in the span of about 10 minutes without asking me so you know, she liked them. Dinesh, one last time where can people reach out to you if they’ve got more questions and want to know more about what you’re doing?

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

Great. They can reach out to me directly on LinkedIn Dinesh Tadepall or they can email me at dinesh@i-eats.com or you can feel free to leave a message on our website www.incrediblespoon.com and you can also buy the product there as well as on Amazon.

 

Andrew D Ive  

Awesome and if there’s one thing you want people to do after listening to this, what would that one thing be? I guess making a decision about not using a knife, fork, spoon, straw the next time they purchase?

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

Yes at least think about it. I know it’s very hard to do the change immediately. That’s the problem. Like we expect people to change overnight, but that’s not going to happen. At least if they start thinking about it. Okay, every time they eat something that has a plastic spoon or fork or knife, think about it, hey, I’m using this should I? Should I do something about this? How bad is it going to be in the future? Once you start thinking about it, the change will automatically follow.

 

Andrew D Ive  

I think you’re right. Dinesh, thank you so much for coming along to the Big Idea Podcast: Food or the Big Idea podcast, dash food. Appreciate your time. Congratulations on the NPR as I build this, right, it’s how I build this how I build this. Okay? And let’s hope that tomorrow you get some good news that you won the competition sponsored by godaddy and you’ve got $50,000 to help reduce the plastic fork, spoon, straw, you know, industry. Thank you so much for coming on. We’re gonna press pause and I hope people do reach out to you because you’re doing amazing things.

 

Dinesh Tadepalli  

Thank you so much. Appreciate the opportunity.

 

Andrew D Ive  

Hi, this is Andrew again, from Big Idea podcast foods that was Dinesh from Incredible Spoons. I hope you enjoyed the conversation. If you have questions or comments, please do leave them, like subscribe, and so on. You can also reach out to us via Big Idea Ventures.com or via LinkedIn, Instagram or one of those wonderful platforms. Please do find us next week. We put these out every week when we have great conversations with founders of fantastic food companies. Look forward to engaging with you chatting with you next week. Thanks

Lorem ipsum | Vietnam | cesiscompany.vn

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