This Chile-based startup uses tech to R&D next-gen plant-based foods while adhering to UN Sustainable Development Goals 3 (Good health), 8 (Good work and growth) and 12 (Responsible production).
Are vegan and plant-based food always beneficial for consumer health and the environment?
The number of environment-friendly consumers is on the rise without doubt. Plant-based products are becoming a major sales growth point at grocery retailers in countries like the US, almost doubling the sales of overall food.
Data released by SPINS retail sales on April 6, 2021 reveals that grocery sales of plant-based foods that directly replace animal products have risen by 27% in the past year, reaching US$7 billion.
However, are the companies supplying this demand able to completely cater to clean manufacturing and packaging?
The Live Green Co is one such startup. Based out of Santiago, Chile, the startup makes possible the switch to mass clean eating with their AI/ML recommendation engine Charaka. The startup recently used Charaka to launch the world’s cleanest ice cream that they have researched, developed, and commercialized in just 90 days, while existing processes take up to a year or more with regard to just the R&D. The ice-creams are available in all major health food stores in Chile and will hit the shelves of Chile’s most popular supermarket chain, Jumbo, by April end.
The Tech Panda spoke to Priyanka Srinivas, Founder and CEO of The Live Green Co, about their efforts to offer consumers with clean food from farmer to fork.
Without sustainable practices from farm to fork, foods from even increasingly conscientious companies might be vegan, but not healthy for consumers or for the planet
“Despite the growth of plant-based foods and diets, many companies offering such options still find themselves offsetting the positive carbon benefits of cutting animals out of the loop by using synthetic and highly processed additives and unsustainable production processes and plastic packaging. Without sustainable practices from farm to fork, foods from even increasingly conscientious companies might be vegan, but not healthy for consumers or for the planet,” she says.
“For us, the future of food is not only plant-based but also clean, functional, and sustainable. We go beyond imitating animal products to offer original and real flavours, not synthetic aromas; 100% clean and functional ingredients, not chemical additives; and sustainable production and packaging, not industrial pollution and plastic packaging,” she explains.
After working with internationally reputed brands like Calvin Klein and Target Corporation for over 12 years, in her early 30s, Srinivas wanted to try her hand at entrepreneurship. She knew it was risky, but also knew that she had enough corporate experience and networks to fall back on if things in the startup world didn’t work out as expected.
“I chose sustainability, because it is one of the biggest issues of our time, and I had gained good exposure to global trends and updates during my three-year stint at Target Corp’s grocery section and international travels. Now, as I look back, I realize that my first brush with sustainability was as a five-year-old at home in the kitchen,” she recalls.
Our technology blends the ancestral wisdoms of plant nutrition with biotech and machine learning to prescribe entirely natural plant alternatives for the animal, synthetic and highly-processed additives in our food at a fraction of the R&D time and cost
She even wrote a blog about this a little while ago.
“Our technology blends the ancestral wisdoms of plant nutrition with biotech and machine learning to prescribe entirely natural plant alternatives for the animal, synthetic and highly-processed additives in our food at a fraction of the R&D time and cost. The resulting formulations promise to deliver cleaner, more nutritious, and sustainable products at scale,” she adds.
The startup has currently been selling their burger and pancake mixes in 250 Points of Sale in Chile, including in Jumbo, and also in Peru and Amazon USA. In addition, their ice-creams are heading for Jumbo, Chile, by the end of this month and in Mexico by August or September of 2021.
However, says Srinivas, their objective is not just to use Charaka to make and sell plant-based food products under their own brand.
“We are here to change the way the world consumes and make healthy and sustainable eating available and affordable for everyone and not just for a niche. There is still no clear market leader in that space,” she says.
We are here to change the way the world consumes and make healthy and sustainable eating available and affordable for everyone and not just for a niche
Thus, they have started partnering with big retailers and food manufacturers across the globe to use their tech to clean existing products and to launch new co-branded cutting-edge products.
“From that perspective, in the next five years, we see ourselves growing exponentially, beyond Chile and being a global market leader in this space. Using our tech, we are going to reimagine everything Nestle and PepsiCo in a tastier, healthier, and more sustainable way, at scale,” she adds.
The Live Green Co USP
While competitors like Just Eat and Not Co solely focus on molecular analysis to imitate animal products, The Live Green Co´s tech (Charaka) goes beyond to focus on original and new flavours, clean labels, functional ingredients, and sustainable production and packaging to disrupt the way the world consumes.
The products developed using Charaka are so clean that even five-year-olds can read and understand the ingredients
“The products developed using Charaka are so clean that even five-year-olds can read and understand the ingredients. The databases of plants and their functional, organoleptic, physicochemical, phytochemical, and nutritional properties that we have built, and are continuing to build, make Charaka help us R&D new products at 10X speed and cost efficiency,” says Srinivas.
As a woman business owner, Srinivas has had to face several challenges to get where she is.
“The statistics are certainly not in favour of women founders. The numbers regarding advanced stage VC funding for female-led startups are depressing, and I have extra ‘red cards’ such as being a woman of colour, a foreigner with permanent residency still in process, a first-time entrepreneur, and a non-Ivy leaguer in this part of the world. And then, on top of that, we are amidst a once-in-a-century pandemic,” she says.
Despite these challenges, she is thankful for the ample support around her.
“I am surrounded by my amazing Co-founder, core team members, mentors, and seed round investors, who continue to strive to bring Live Green to the next level. I’ve also been lucky enough to connect with other amazing women,” she says.
Last year, she spoke at the Vegan Women Summit and was named one of the 100 Women Leaders in Chile.
Since the pandemic, the startup has seen 5x growth. It has had a successful tech pilot with Sigma Alimentos, a US$6 billion food manufacturer with presence in 18 countries. The company has raised US$900k seed funding from investors in Chile, Argentina, Mexico, and Puerto Rico, and US$350k in grants across Chile, Puerto Rico, and Germany. Also the company was ranked in Global FoodTech 500 2020 and the only LatAm startup to be on CleanTech’s Global list of ‘50 to Watch’ 2019.