Guest post by Lorena Galvan, Thought For Food Ambassador.
Millennial food innovators are pioneering a better food future from farm to fork. Our Millennial Innovators Uprooting Our Food System series profiles the bright, creative and driven university students from around the world that make up Thought For Food (TFF), a next generation food innovation platform. A global community as well as a summit and business competition, TFF empowers breakthrough solutions to feed nine billion people by 2050. During this month-long series, we will highlight the work of select TFFers who are working to transform our food system.
In our fourth series post we chat with brothers Eli and Lee Cadesky, co-founders of C-fu FOODS Inc, a startup dedicated to providing sustainable sources of alternative protein using insects. The Cadeskys started the company as students after becoming finalists in the 2014/15 Thought For Food Challenge. Our interview has been edited for brevity.
Eli Cadesky: I was working in private equity while completing my MBA full time and focused on developing C-fu’s business model, ensuring it created triple bottom line (people, planet, profits) success. Lee, the mad scientist inventor, was completing his Masters of Food Science when he invented the process. We understood from the start that promoting insects as sustainable solution to food security would require reengineering insects into versatile products with processes that were scalable and easily adaptable to global conditions. At the heart of this was creating products with similar texture to their non-insect counterparts. We market ourselves as an innovative ingredient company using proprietary food science to advance insects as a sustainable food source.
EC: Insects provide a spectacular way to grow sustainable proteins that this planet needs, but I don’t need to convince you that people don’t want to see insects. The issue the industry faces isn’t supply (though prices could come down from scale and automation), it’s creating products that can displace traditional animal protein and have high consumer appeal. We abstract food and that’s what people want, case in point, how many people would eat a steak if prior to indulging you showed them pictures of factory feed lots or cows? Insect foods are no different. In short, it is our goal to build new product lines that brands need to allow consumers to eat their way to healthier planet, and selves.
EC: We originally thought our products would be great for food aid, but TFF’s Start-up Bootcamp challenged us to re-examine our business model and engage consumers to better understand their needs and wants. What we found was that consumers who were adventurous and sustainably minded wanted innovation. They wanted our products. So our business model evolved into C-fu FOODS Inc. which now provides brands and chefs the ingredients they need to continue innovating in the edible insect space. By focusing on our competency, food science, we have now created a second patent pending process for soluble insect/cricket flour. This unlocks beverage applications and provides a more functional product at a better price.
EC: As mentioned above, TFF was instrumental for us, we are a company because of the Thought For Food challenge. Additionally, the best part of being a finalist was the opportunity to join and network with the TFF community. When you’re making an ingredient that can be used for bug burgers and ice cream, well suffice to say, there aren’t that many people who accept and support you, you’re in many ways an outsider – someone challenging convention. When you’re amongst TFF’ers, you’re on home court, you’re amongst proven leaders and like minded innovators who provide a wealth of knowledge and experience. With TFF a crazy idea like insect foods is welcomed with open mouths.
EC: If you think what you’re doing is crazy, that’s a good thing. To be an entrepreneur you have to be at least a little crazy and you should welcome change with open arms. A disruptive start up is by definition trying to make great changes, so it’s logical that you likely need to change too, so embrace change and the feedback from others remember no one can achieve great things alone.
Lastly don’t give up, it’s a lot harder than you think, that’s a good thing. You might not win a single start up competition, we’ve never placed first, but the goal isn’t winning, it’s, for us at least, about learning and adapting.
If you are a university student passionate about disrupting our food systems, sign up by December 1st to participate in the 2015/16 Thought For Food Challenge. Ten finalist teams will win a trip to the TFF Summit in Zurich, Switzerland, where they will compete for a chance to win up to $15,000 to launch their ideas.