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

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

The podcast can be viewed at the links below:

 

Please view the transcript of the interview below:

 

Andrew D. Ive

0:00 

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

 

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

 

Veronica Fil

1:26  

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

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

 

3:27  

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

 

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

 

4:51  

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

 

5:19  

That was in Melbourne, right?

 

5:21  

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

 

6:10  

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

 

6:52  

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

 

7:45  

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

 

8:11  

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

 

9:02  

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

 

9:32  

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

 

10:30  

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

 

10:57  

Seven days …. I was already packed. 

 

11:01  

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

 

11:09  

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

 

11:57  

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

 

12:05  

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

 

12:10  

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

 

12:15  

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

 

12:39  

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

 

13:32  

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

 

13:56  

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

 

14:21  

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

 

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

 

15:34  

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

 

16:09  

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

 

16:48  

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

 

17:42  

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

 

18:30  

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

 

18:49  

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

 

20:12  

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

 

20:34  

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

 

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

 

22:05  

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

 

22:33  

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

 

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

 

24:02  

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

 

24:36  

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

 

25:33  

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

 

26:21  

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

 

26:42  

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

 

27:00  

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

 

27:31  

Being married helps, I guess …..

 

27:33  

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

 

28:27  

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

 

29:20  

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

 

30:01  

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

 

30:44  

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

 

31:45  

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

 

31:56  

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

 

33:01  

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

 

33:15  

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

 

34:15  

So global? 

 

34:17  

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

 

34:23  

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

 

34:35  

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

 

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

 

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

 

36:26  

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

 

37:10  

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

 

37:36  

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

 

38:09  

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

 

38:37  

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

 

38:56  

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

 

39:28  

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

 

40:02  

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

 

40:12  

And then the third product is a cheese sauce.

 

40:15  

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

 

40:46  

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

 

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

 

41:26  

Absolutely. 

 

41:28  

All right. Thanks for your time today. 

 

41:29  

Thanks a lot. Thank you, Andrew. 

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

 

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