There’s a growing variety of plant-based dairy products on the market today, from coconut yoghurts to oat milk and cashew cheese. But one startup believes that there’s an untapped opportunity when it comes to the little-known Kenari nut, a nutrient powerhouse found in the Indonesian rainforest, grown on trees that help to sequester carbon and protect villages from natural disasters.
The idea to launch FairFlavor Foods, who recently joined Brinc’s latest food tech accelerator cohort, came when Italian food scientist Gabriele Castagnetti visited villages nestled in Indonesia’s Sulawesi island and stumbled across the Kenari nut. Castagnetti quickly fell in love with the Kenari nut and told childhood friend and fellow food scientist Marcello Giannuzzi all about it over a phone call.
“Gabriele and I are both food scientists, we were born in the Emilia Romagna region, also known as the Italian Food Valley, and graduated together in Italy back in 2002,” Giannuzzi told Green Queen Media.
After learning more about Kenari nuts, which are grown on Canarium indicum trees in the Eastern Indonesian region, providing communities with shelter against typhoons and natural disasters while absorbing carbon from the atmosphere, the two said that launching a venture that utilised the super crop – packed with protein and essential amino acids, loaded with fibre, vitamins and minerals – was a no-brainer.
Our proprietary technology enhances texturisation and produces that bouquet of flavors that you can only achieve through fermentation.Marcello Giannuzzi, Co-Founder, FairFlavor Foods
“We fast forward a few years and here we are, bringing vegan, delicious non-dairy cheeses, gelato and desserts at net benefit to nature,” said Giannuzzi.
Since its inception in November last year, the startup has quickly gone to work to begin developing dairy-free prototypes. Using microbial and enzymatic fermentation – a technology slightly different to Perfect Day’s precision technology, but still sitting within the “third pillar” of fermentation alternative proteins – FairFlavor Foods is able to remove all the off-flavours from the nut and create dairy alternatives that are “same but better”.
“Our company is still very young, but we have been able to develop our first functional cream cheese and gelato paste prototypes,” Giannuzzi explained. “Our proprietary technology enhances texturisation and produces that bouquet of flavours that you can only achieve through fermentation.”
Describing their fermentation method as “revolutionary”, the co-founder added that the end product is able to deliver the “unique creamy taste and texture” that consumers desire when it comes to dairy products – often the most difficult category to quit for those striving towards a plant-based diet.
Our goal is to complete the product development and market testing cycle of our initial cheese products before the end of 2021.Marcello Giannuzzi, Co-Founder, FairFlavor Foods
With ongoing R&D, FairFlavor Foods says it hopes to be able to release a whole range of Kenari nut-based cheeses – including spreadable, stretchable, hard and semi-hard cheese alternatives. Vegan cheese is a fast-growing category, expected to double from its current US$2.7 billion market value to US$4.5 billion by as soon as 2025.
FairFlavor Foods has also set its sights on creating dairy-free gelatos and desserts using Kenari nuts. Giannuzzi says that the company plans on capturing both B2B and B2C opportunities.
“Our goal is to complete the product development and market testing cycle of our initial cheese products before the end of 2021,” he told Green Queen Media. “We plan to launch our gelato in the next months following live market testing which we are currently conducting.”
While the food tech has so far been bootstrapped, they will soon be gaining access to financing through the Brinc program, as well as the MassChallenge accelerator that it has joined, in order to fuel its development and scale up plans.
“We can access pre-seed funding, and we will soon engage with investors that share our vision and values for the second round,” said Giannuzzi.
Lead image courtesy of FairFlavor Foods.