There is very little awareness of what the people in the food industry actually do. This stems back to the lack of knowledge and awareness of the range of degree courses and programs available that will equip them for a career in food.
My FoodJobRocks! by Adam Yee is the first podcast of its kind that allows listeners to hear directly from people who are in the food industry and have a passion for what they do. They share how they became involved in food and describe what it is they do, plus a few more fun questions just to keep things entertaining. Listen to them here, and stay tuned for a new episode every Monday.
Ep. 244 – The BioTech Startup that Created a Movement with Arvind Gupta and Po Bronson, from Indiebio
Today we have Arvind Gupta, Co-Founder of IndieBio and Po Bronson, Managing Director of IndieBio. They both wrote a book together called Decoding the World, A Roadmap for the Questioner. A, I would say an anthology of all of the wonderful technologies Po and Arvind have incubated through their journey in IndieBio.
For those that don’t know, IndieBio is this amazing biotechnology incubator in San Francisco. I’ve spoken there a few times myself. Basically, imagine this incubator that takes these fantastic ideas but also has the equipment to create a viable product for future funding.
A lot of companies like Memphis Meats, Clara Foods, Prime Roots, Geltor, Perfect Day, NotCo, Endless West, New Age Meats, Finless Foods. Why am I naming so many of them? Because not only are these companies hot, up and coming superstars in the food industry, but I personally have friends in all of these food companies!
It’s been an honor to have the opportunity to interview the team in charge of sparking the flame and I ask how they started and got involved in IndieBio, how young people can contribute to this biotech movement, and I think we have a very touching and important discussion about the value of doing creative art with your science career.
Po and Arvind have great chemistry and it was a blast talking to them. I added a bit of pre-audio banter, because I found it so funny.
Show Notes IndieBio – Independent Biology
Located in Jessie Street
Why IndieBio?: It lowers the barrier of entry of BioTech Startup
IndieBio: What are huge problems that no one can address that we can solve?
We have areas in new York, China, etc
Notable companies that went through IndieBio
New Age Meats
Sandhill Road: Silicon Valley Money
Worldly Priorities: Do we need an environmental disaster to finally understand that this is an issue?: Cognitive Dissonance is a huge problem.
We might need something bigger to happen
Do you think there’s going to be more companies solving this?: The younger generation is taking note and they are asking “what can I do to change it?”
In most situations, the taste will always have to win for consumer acceptance. Environmental challenges are generally second-teir
How did you start?:
Arvind: My thesis was modifying e.coli to dissolve wood at 1996
Venture Capital is the ultimate business model to take all the risk
How do we have scientists take more risk?: Most safe jobs aren’t as safe as you think
Generally, you’ve already bet on yourself with your PhD
For Po: IndieBio is a movement, not everyone needs to be a founder, but everyone can be part of the movement. It’s not just the scientists
Author of 7 New York Times Best Seller Indie books
People thrive in a balance between security and risk and different people have different thresholds
Po, you’re an author, why are you in food?: I’ve grown up in it my whole life around food
Why did Po and Arvind create a book?: We’re both artists so we get along
Dr. June Axup – plays Ukelele and sings science songs
In this industry, your mind has to be extremely fast
Also, most companies that go here have a sense of performance art because it’s so ambitious
My Food Job Rocks:
Arvind: We play an important role in having scientists build meaningful companies
Po: I love proving people Wrong
How do people get into IndieBio?: A one-page application. You can attach a pitch deck if you got it
We do 10 startups twice a year every 6 months in San Francisco and New York
Where can we find your work?
Indiebio.co – You can select SF or NY
Decoding the World – DecodingtheWorld.com
Social Media: Po Bronson
Social Media: Arvind Gupta
How’s the pandemic treating you this year?: This batch, we couldn’t do food companies but next batch has a few p
Ep. 243 – You Can Do Anything, You Can Be Anything with Ryan Bethencourt, CEO of Wild Earth
This amazing episode is with Ryan Bethencourt, Founder and CEO of Wild Earth, but this guy invests, mentors and influences and has had such an impact in the alt-meat and biotech community. If you’re in the plant-based community and don’t know Ryan, get to know him, follow him on LinkedIn, he is one of the lynchpins in this innovative field and shares a ton of amazing content.
So what has Ryan done so far? Well, started a company? Several. Invested in innovative technology? Scientist? Yep. Been on Shark Tank? Got an investment on Shark Tank! This guy has done everything!
A big takeaway from this episode is that Ryan was told no all the time. Why? Because he had dyslexia as a kid but after reading some science fiction and then busting his butt working really hard, he kept on breaking expectations and is now a literal limitless human being and has leveraged his weakness into his greatest strength. I know Ryan personally, and I never knew this story! You’ll learn a bit more about his personal life such as why he moved out of Silicon Valley to Research Triangle Park in North Carolina and set up an awesome sustainable food fund with his wife.
Based on the length of the episode and the quality of today’s guest, I don’t have to tell you that you will learn a lot and be inspired in this interview. The best takeaway in this episode is that even if people say you can’t, you can.
Show Notes Mark Cuban Shark Tank Deal
What do you call yourself when you talk to people?: If it’s simple I say I run a dog food company
I also have invested in/helped build 130 startups
I cofounded Indiebio and I cofounded Wild Earth
The first investor in Memphis Meats, Not Co, Geltor, Clara Foods
Arvind and Po’s Book
Silicon Valley actually has a biotech ecosystem but it was hard to break in.
Once the recession hits, we bought biotech equipment and put them into our garage
SOS Ventures backe dour company called IndieBio and we would provide a lab to scientists
NotCo in the US
Wait, are you an investor and a CEO?: Yes, I’m an AND person. I do both
Sustainable Food Ventures
What Are You?: I’m many things, but you and I have done the “and”. Give yourself permission to do both and it’s ok to fail and don’t listen to the people who say no
I was dyslexic as a child and really had a handicap in school. My parents always believed in me and introduced me to science fiction
Science fiction told me about what is possible and taught me to work harder to make these goals happen
Once I found that computers helped me work faster, I leveraged technology to do great job.
Eventually, after I looked up from the grindstone, I became more knowledgable people
GATTACA – the swimming part
Book: Three Body Problem Series – Chinese Fiction - Three part series
What other cultures can do science fiction well?
Each culture can give us a different lense into science fiction
Silicon Valley – The Rome of Technology
Ryan was always looking at multiple hubs to leave Silicon Valley
Steve Case – AOL Focus on the Rise of the Rest
Research Triangle Hub
Marilis Holme, my wife and I created a new future of food fund in the triangle called Sustainable Food Ventures
It is harder to set up a fund in undeveloped projects but it’s worth it
What is your strategy in developing cities?
Big Idea Ventures
Veggie Victory – Rise of Plant-based Meat in Nigeria
Plant-based Meat is supposed to be 1% of the meat market right now
How do people get money from startups?: Just ask us. We help
Book: Zero to One
Golden Beef- Real Beef but slaughtered free
Better Meat Co
Why did you start Wild Earth?: Funny enough, no one wanted me to make this company and they wouldn’t want to invest in me on dog food
Dogs eat everything
We are actually getting some interesting data on d
Ep. 242 – Product Development Tips for Communicating Complex Projects with Lindsay Wisener owner of WiseBev
We kick off this interview with some product development tips. Lindsey Wisener works with all sorts of clients big and small and so we talk about the best way to say, communicate feedback.
Lindsey owns WiseBev, a consultancy with a built-out lab in Indiana
It’s important to note that Lindsay built a consultancy with a functional lab from scratch but it took her a while to do so but by leveraging her experience and doing it right, she now thrives with a small team, making innovative products.
We break down step by step how she did it. From what she studied in University to the value of keeping your connections close when you’re ready to try something new.
Show Notes Peas on Moss with Lindsay Wisner
Robert Kay from Isagenix
What do you say in a sentence eor less?: I help people bring their beverage to life
I own and operate WiseBev and specifically do beverage
I have a small team of scientists. I live in a rural part of Indiana
Is it hard to get clients when you’re rural?: Sort of, so I made my own business
How do you communicate projects?: I do live tastings with my clients and have an objective when we taste. I take notes while we’re live.
How do you communicate feedback?: If it’s objective like a comparison, it’s a bit easier. If the objective is subjective, we talk a bit more specifically about the flavor profile
Who do you usually talk to during a tasting?: Generally the Internal R+D team.
Once it goes through the gauntlet, I’ve probably done around 50 or so samples so I have a generally good idea
How did you find out about food science?: Living in rural areas allows you to be iin tuned to food science. My animal science class had a video about being a food scientist
I ended up being a graduate student in dairy chemistry and worked at Johnson Nutrition
Johnson Nutrition focuses on three different types of formula: Baby, Toddler, and Older-than-Toddler
Then I worked at Kellogg’s nutrition
Insights on failed projects: Sometimes it truly is feasibility. The technology isn’t there yet
How is it different from working with Kelloggs and Entrepreneurs?: The big companies are still guarded by financials and technology. The smaller ones have different problems
Generally for Entrepreneurs, we have a two day working session and go through the whole process in understanding the challenges of making a beverage
What usually shocks people?: Generally the process cost and MOQ quantities. You can’t just make 2000 units. You have to make millions.
MOQ- Minimum Order Quantities
When did you start your consulting business?: I was 30 and had my first kid and decided to do contract work. I started my LLC 2 years later
My first client was from my old boss at Johnson Nutrition that I still kept in contact with.
I started with a pH, aW meter, and some scales and had to drive to the local college to use the complex machinery. Eventually, I had enough money to create my own lab
I have a 25 acre place and thought I could create lab there.
Unfortuantely, there were a lot of challenges such as rezoning, put in a new septic system, approvals, inspection, and it cost 3 x as much and 3 x as long
But now it’s all good 4 years later. It’s a good investment for this type of situation
My Food Job Rocks: I get to spend all day in a lab creating new beverages
What trends or technology are you excited about?: Coffee innovation in tea. You might see some cool things in the tea space in the retail space
Have you noticed anything different in the clients you’re getting during the pandemic?: Alternate/non-dairy proteins is not going away. Hard Seltzer/Mocktails and some keto products
What is one thing in the food industry you would like to know more about?: Sensory science
Ivy Koliker’s episode
Do you recommend any books?: Gen Sincero. You Are a Badass
What about podcasts?: Biz Chicks
Ep. 241 – The Plant-based Influencer Dynamic Duo with Toni Okamoto and Michelle Cehn, authors of The Friendly Vegan Cookbook
Today, I interview Toni Okamoto, founder of Plant-based on a Budget and Michele Cehn, founder of World of Vegan to talk about their new book and their journey in building their business.
Combined, they have over 1.5 million Instagram followers and numbers in the six figures on various platforms such as youtube, email lists, and everything else.
Toni and Michelle built their following from scratch and turned what they did from hobby to business. In this episode, you will learn the journey that Toni and Michelle took to get there as long as some really insightful tips on running an influencer company.
But most importantly, they’re a dynamic duo and an amazing case study of how collaboration amplifies everyone.
The funny story is that I’ve met them personally and have even playtested their recipe. Why Funny you should ask. Toni’s husband is Paul Shapiro, author of Clean Meat, and a popular interview in episode 102.
When I moved to Sacramento to start Better Meat Co, Toni was one of the first people I met in Sacramento and Michelle also lives there. Since they loved to cook, they would do a lot of fun parties and cook delicious food. One of my favorites is a chocolate pie made of silken tofu.
Toni and Michelle are probably the most down to Earth people I’ve ever met. They are super authentic, super passionate in what they do, and they are just such nice, accommodating people who are just full of sunshine.
You can find their new, collaborative cookbook The Friendly Vegan Cookbook wherever you can find books, and we have a link to it in our shownotes!
About Toni Toni Okamoto is the founder of Plant-Based on a Budget, the popular website and meal plan that shows you how to save dough by eating veggies. She’s also author of the Plant-Based on a Budget Cookbook, co-author of The Friendly Vegan Cookbook, and the co-host of The Plant-Powered People Podcast. Okamoto’s work has been profiled by NBC News, Parade Magazine, and she’s a regular presence on local and national morning shows across the country, where she teaches viewers how to break their meat habit without breaking their budget. She was also featured in the popular documentary What the Health. When she’s not cooking up a plant-based storm, she’s spending time with her husband and their rescued dog in Sacramento, CA.
About Michelle Michelle Cehn is the founder of the popular food and lifestyle website World of Vegan and a YouTube personality who has reached millions through her creative and relatable videos. She is also co-host of the Plant-Powered People Podcast and co-creator of the 12-Day Dairy Detox, Plant Based on a Budget Meal Plans, and 7 Days documentary. Michelle has been on a lifelong mission to make kind and healthy living enticing, easy, and fun, ever since the age of eight when she first became a vegetarian. Also a passionate photographer and filmmaker, you can find her dishing out mouth-watering food photos and inspiration daily on Instagram, hanging with her pup Chance, and stepping into parenthood with her hubby Dan.
Show Notes During the pandemic
Michelle now has a new baby
Toni now has a new dog. Pitbull handle - @eddiethepittie
Toni Okamoto – I’m an author
Michelle – I own the website World of Vegan
Toni’s Instagram: 400,000 followers
E-newsletter: 60,000 followers
Website Plant-based on a budget: 15,000 users/day
Michelle’s Instagram: @vegan: 1.1 million people
Also do youtube videos
Toni’s audience is more budget friendly
Michelle’s audience is more focused on veganism
Over time, our audience blends
We chose the word The Friendly Vegan to promote the love of food
On our book, we look for cheaper ways and more available options for the world
What’s the most underrated plant-based protein?: Lentils
Lentil Shepard’s pie
Tuna Salad made of Chickpeas
Ep. 240 – The Complex World of Agricultural Economics Michelle Klieger President of Strategerm
Michelle Klieger is an agricultural economist and founder of Strategerm Consulting.
Michelle and I have been LinkedIn connections for a while and I like her content, which is always insightful and interesting. Mainly because her field dives deeply on the economics of the farmer. We as food scientists aren’t that familiar with not only how food is grown, but how does it move throughout the world or how does your dollar, affect the farmer?
You’re in for an eye-opening discussion about the farmer end of the equation. For example, we’ve probably heard of a lot of produce and animals that have gone to waste. Why can’t we all donate all?
Other questions like the crazy ways in how food travels for efficiency sakes. Is shipping millions of pounds of food from another country more efficient and sustainable than local? The answer is, that it’s complicated! You’re going to hear us say a lot about this in this episode.
If this episode makes you think and you want to understand another important segment of the food industry, Michelle has her own podcast, The Grower and the Economist and her job is to strategize and educate people about the complex world of Agricultural economics
Show Notes LinkedIn
I’m an Agricultural Economist, recently focused on trade
The trade war has recently been putting a lot of strain on the economy
Coronavirus hits a lot of issues including imports exports and labor
Is the supply chain good and stable?: It’s switched into a Just In Time model. If you focus on efficiency all day, if a disruption hits, you’re in trouble. Efficiency generally means large facilities with a lot of outputs
One meat packing plant can carry 5% of the meat production
Potatoes excess due to COVID
Animals slaughtered because of COVID
Why do we waste excess food?: Either harvest is difficult, labor was short, or the tomatoes were rotting
We grow on a scale in most places where we can’t understand. Think 10 million pounds. They can only donate 1 million pounds
I think the system has proven more resilient than we think
Keep in mind that operating margins are low
Restaurants need 80% capacity to break even. 50% of seating capacity is slowing killing people.
Surprisingly, the government has kept things afloat
What is the specialty industry?: One example is high-value yarn. She got the payment for number of pounds of wool which was $100 dollars. Farmer’s market food is generally specialty. The government only pays commodity rate
We’ve done a great job optimizing our food system but less good at considering the environmental impact
Are grassroots movements effective? Such as the consumers voting with their dollars?: I do believe that it’s important and it’s one of the questions that isn’t being asked. We aren’t really asking people about how much they would pay for premium food. Asking a farmer to add more stuff I really hard
There’s a huge trade-off of diversifying volume and specialty. There’s a huge risk in farming such as natural disasters
It’s not a widget
I studied animal sciences. I wanted to be a wildlife veterinarian
After an incident with a leopard attacking crops, it had me thinking about our crop system
I felt like I could deliver more impact by focusing on agriculture than healing animals
I took the GRE, went to the University of Maryland, moved to DC. Worked for a nonprofit in conservation and then agricultural consulting
One example: What do Americans think of Chilean kiwi?
Another: Japan’s export tracking how do you sell Chilean Kiwi’s?: I learned that Kiwis are not that sweet, not that valuable, and more of a salad fruit
Adam’s Kiwi’s story: We actually ship kiwis to other countries and receive kiwis to other companies
In a carbon output, ships are actually more efficient than trucks
Life Cycle Analysis
What is one thing in the food indus
Ep. 239 - Building The New England Food Ecosystem with Lauren Abda, Founder of Food Edge, Branch Food, and Co-Founder of the Branch Venture Group
Before we get started, just wanted to let you know that this episode is sponsored by Food Edge, an online virtual summit taking place this week and I’ll be interviewing the founder of this digital summit today, but first, let’s hear a little bit more about this event from Lauren.
Use promo code "MFJRVIP" to receive 20% off tickets to the Food Edge digital summit taking place October 21-23rd, where you can choose to attend 1,2 or all 3 days!
So one of the PR people I worked with introduced me to Lauren Abda, Founder of Food Edge, Branch Food, and Co-Founder of the Branch Venture Group so I can help her talk about Food Edge on the podcast. Then the pandemic hit, that was delayed, and now they have a brand new online conference filled with great speakers and great resources.
So we circled back to talking about it and they offered to talk to Lauren. I always research my guests and I didn’t realize that Lauren was this super connector who knew like, every food company in new England. From my experience, knowing super connectors like Mark Nathan from Austin or Cynthia Maxey from San Francisco is the easiest way to get involved in a group of wonderful people.
How did Laura become a super-connector? By starting a meetup 7 years ago and building it bit by bit. Eventually, she was able to create money-generating revenue and had enough runway to connect full time.
So we also discuss how the pandemic has affected her specialty. Like everyone, events, conferences and connecting with people has been completely altered as the pandemic continues on but the good news is that there’s been a lot of adaption and a lot of innovation. Lauren talks about how her companies have adapted and how others have as well.
Disclaimer, my audio messed up! Maybe you might not notice it because of the editing but I recently bought a new sound mixer and forgot to plug it in to the software, blah blah blah. Rookie mistake! But that goes to show that even if you make rookie mistakes, you keep going. Even after 230 episodes.
Show Notes Happy Lights
Boston Winter Survival
Branch Venture Group
We’ve funded about 9 companies with around $2 million dollars
Atlantic Sea Farm – Saco, Maine. Seafood harvesting company
What States count as New England – Everything North of New York
Where do you live?: I live in Boston. I chose to live here because I went here in graduate school. I worked for the WTO and have a degree in food policy
What do you tell people who ask what you do?: I work with innovators who change the future of food
I have a degree in Food Science from the University of Vermont
Dan Barber was a graduate
Wolfgang Puck’s kids were graduates
Cell based research happens in Tufts
I started the Branch Foods meetup group at 2013 just to network in the food industry.
I made the group to share ideas, and collaborate and it started to take off
Laura started a meetup in 2013 and just did events weekly. Eventually, made more events and was able to monetize
Coworkering space – Branch Food in partnership with Cambridge Innovation Center
How has the Pandemic affected your business: We realized there’s a lot of pain in the food industry because of this so we had to relieve the pain by connecting them to the community.
Serving Up Support
Branch Food meetup group
What tech is really fascinating in Boston?: Nori – an all-natural protective silk-based layer. Diversification of protein is very interesting
I’m excited to learn more about: blockchain and supply chain. Anything that makes things more sustainable
What resources helped you create Branch Food?: Omnivore’s Dilemma – it set people on the journey on what’s in our food. Food Inc.
The Art of Gathering
Mountains Beyond Mountains
Tufts program: N
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This show has helped me with my food business
Through his podcast, Adam has introduced me to leaders and contributors across the spectrum of food jobs. He does a great job of getting honest responses to his questions, and many interviewees share great insights and practical advice. Adam also reveals his very relatable struggles and breakthroughs to his audience. As a small food manufacturer with limited product development experience, I get a lot out of this program, and find it substantial in content and charming in style. Keep it up, Adam!
A Resource Like No Other
I’ve gotta say...getting advice from people can be tough. Getting information can be tough.
Thankfully this podcast made it easy.
The food industry has been kept in the dark for so long, but MyFoodJobRocks is changing that.
I was eager to learn about this industry and what it takes to get in, where, and be successful at it.
So many stories, so much insight, whether you want to get into the food industry or just love food and what can be done with it, give this podcast a listen and you won’t regret it.
Addicting for any food/bev enthusiast
The guests are fascinating! I love scrolling to find a topic I’m interested in and spending an hour learning more about a world I knew nothing about before. Adam is candid and interviews like your average curious individual, the guests are animated and excited to share expertise. I have a long commute but I look forward to my episodes 2x a day. Being a foodie and now working in the industry I’m learning so much, thank Adam your podcast is like my digital mentor!