Joining the NBC Chicago team to discuss tech trends, food and nutrition.
Riana Lynn, a biologist who became a serial entrepreneur, believes the future of nutrition is micro foods. As the CEO and founder of Journey Foods, she recently launched her first product: Journey Bites. These micro foods, which she defines as small, nutrient-dense, portable and affordable snacks, are only the beginning of her line and vision for the company. In an exclusive interview, Lynn shared what motivated her to start the company and what she is planning for the future.
When I first started entrepreneurship I just wanted to make a little extra money from solving a problem I faced moving to follow my dreams in the South side of Chicago researching with geneticists. I grew up on food stamps, but my grandmother had a garden and I was able to get scholarships to a private school that fed us great breakfast and lunch. As I began the journey to bring more fresh juices and learn how to run a brick and mortar company while building up an eCommerce platform.
The company was growing fast, and I had a lot of ambitions to explore farms and ingredients from other continents. As we scaled, I struggled with dealing consumer expectations of safety and procurement transparency and started working on “The Common Experience” QR codes, which I soon rebranded to FoodTrace.
Building FoodTrace brought even more exciting trials, opportunities and also many failures.
At the end of the day, I realized that the most impact I could make would be to create products and a journey for myself that brings me the most joy, comfort and actualizes impact.
With Journey Foods and JourneyAI I and some amazing team members can now set out to tackle the $600 billion nutrient access problem. We combine biotech and data science to drive better nutrition on-the-go.
Simply put, we are scanning thousands of land and sea plants to profile nutrition and locking them in with natural ingredients for less toxic delivery of small convenience nutrition for millions of people.
We are creating an entirely new category of food called Micro Foods. These new, shelf-stable products are highly nutrient-dense, resulting in food that is healthier, while also providing vitamins, energy boosters, aide in preventing certain diseases, and improve cognitive function. However, unlike many products today, Journey’s Micro Foods are made without any additional sugars and toxic processing ingredients.
We bring nutritional accessibility to the broader market by creating smarter, more agile solutions / R&D pathways. These food formulations are developed and predicted by our Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) platform, JourneyAI. They are then optimized to ensure shelf-stability and affordability through our biotech pathways for commercialization.
Our algorithms can predict which recipes will best fit nutritional, pricing and organoleptic requirements prior to production, allowing us to reduce both recipe testing and R&D resources. Our scientists are iterating on-the-go nutrients and prototyping faster; the new R&D.
I had a wonderful interview with Karen Hunter. She asks all.the.right.questions, and is really just passionate about educating the community. I am really looking forward to returning. Be sure to follow Karen Hunter on twitter and subscribe to her youtube channel.
Named one of the “Heavy Hundred” (The 100 Most Important Radio Talk Show Hosts in America) every year she’s been on SiriusXM, Karen has blazed a trail, bringing more action and less talk to the medium. She not only has some of the most provocative interviews with some of the biggest movers and shakers in the world, she is also a change agent—challenging her listeners to participate in the success they want to see and be.
It’s been an incredible year at Food Tank in terms of our ability to incite, inspire, and spotlight change happening across the food system.
In May, young leaders gathered at Apeel and Food Tank’s Aperitivo to confront food loss and food waste. Apeel Sciences and Food Tank invited speakers of The Global Food Innovation Summit to gather at Ratana, an acclaimed restaurant in Milan, for a sold-out event featuring food, drinks, and perspectives on reducing food waste. Danielle Nierenberg and James Rogers, CEO of Apeel Sciences, co-hosted the discussion featuring Alice Delcourt, Chef at Erba Brusca; Nicolas Jammet, co-founder of Sweetgreen; Riana Lynn, CEO of Food Trace; and Haile Thomas, CEO of The HAPPY Org. As the young leaders explored new solutions to the food system’s most urgent issues, more than 100 guests enjoyed a sustainable menu.
Read about the rest of the year at Food Tank here.
The Most Interesting Food Tech Trends of 2018
Leading food companies are facing pressure on all sides. Consumer preferences are shifting. Startups like Beyond Meat, JUST Eggs and Farmer’s Fridge are stealing market share. Meanwhile, food brands’ clients are becoming competitors as grocery chains invest more into their own private labels and as Amazon rolls out its own food products.
Some of these threats are immediate; some may be devastating 5–10 years out.
Many major food companies have begun to invest in e-commerce, healthier product options, new corporate venture funds, and other tools, but is it enough?
I noticed the top trends that emerged in the past year, including:
- Meat producers investing in alternative proteins
- Biology to the forefront
- Food brands adopting blockchain
- Growth in AI applications for food
- The rise in private labels
- New direct-to-consumer distribution strategies
- A boom in corporate venture capital investment into food and beverage startups
I will close out a full review on the last week of the year!
Healthy, inexpensive food should be a right for all. Without a healthy diet, our mental acuity, physical health, and mental health deteriorate. But what is a healthy diet? A healthy diet is considered to be a diet that has either positive health benefits or no negatives in regards to health. In the US, the highest obesity rate of any country in the world by far, the average nine-year-old ingested more than three times the recommended amount of added sugar per day. Not only does this cause the mid-day crash that requires more sugar to supplant energy, it leads to long-term heart issues, as well as other diseases. And people know this. So why aren’t people eating better?
Because healthy foods are notoriously way more expensive and less accessible in comparison to unhealthy options. In the United States alone, tens of millions of people live in food deserts without easy access to healthy options they can afford, as the large majority of these people are low income. It’s been found that there’s a higher density of fast food restaurants in these lower-income areas, in comparison to more affluent neighborhoods (Hilmers, Hilmers, and Dave, 2012). While convenience stores and other more affordable options, like Costco, Target, and Walmart, offer healthy options, like canned beans, some fresh produce, and fresh or frozen meats, there’s still an incredible disparity. Stores like Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and other higher-end grocers with vast selections of healthy options from fruit snacks to plant-based frozen meats often don’t exist for millions of people.
So what can we do? Let’s create a culture of smarter food. We need to gear research and development efforts to create lower cost, sustainable methods of sourcing foods, so we can create better foods from these ingredients for less money. Blockchain technology allows us to be more critical about where our foods come from, so it’s easier to support sustainable, ethical practices. For consumers, shopping strategically to get the most out of the money spent on organic or healthier foods will make it easier to get the better-for-you nutrition everyone deserves. Shopping more often, if you have time, and focusing meals around beans, frozen veggies, and what’s on sale makes it easier to get the healthier options at lower prices. Even though Trader Joe’s isn’t as prevalent as larger chains, like Jewel, Kroger, or Safeway, their prices are low and the pre-made, frozen, and plant-based options are plentiful.
High-quality ingredients do not always yield high-quality food. With misleading labels, harmful shipping practices, and farming methods that are less-than-ethical, consumers, restaurants, and small farmers alike are at a disadvantage when it comes to getting the best quality food items. Luckily, improvements in blockchain and food sensor technologies allow all people who consume or work in the food industry the agency to be as informed as possible about what’s going into their restaurants, stores, and bodies.
Consumers today are more quality conscious and informed than ever; people want higher quality, fresher products, with more people turning to plant-based food items than ever before. However, just because a product is made of high-quality ingredients doesn’t mean the product itself is high quality.
Improvements in food sensor technology allow consumers to track the ingredients in their food. Blockchain allows us to create public databases, called ledgers, where the food sensor data is recorded and stored, so it can’t be falsified, keeping people shipping food and grocery stores that sell it more honest. This transparency creates consumer security and automatic access to the global food supply chain, making it easier for cooperation across all groups, including food producers, sellers, and buyers. Blockchain also ensures higher standards for food safety and a healthier, more efficient supply chain. In my own work, I plan to utilize blockchain to increase transparency between the people who grow the foods for my team to continually innovate and the people who buy from me. This technology will create a stronger culture of accountability, ensuring companies use sustainable, ethical farming practices and shipping methods the maintain the integrity of the food.
Want to learn more? Contact me.
There is a great Nasdaq article available here: Read more.
Read more at Forbes.com here.
Building a sustainable and trustworthy company culture, especially in big food, is tough. I share my thoughts on an inclusive and mission-oriented Starbucks of the future.
“Consumers today are very fickle,” said Riana Lynn, who is a food and technology entrepreneur. She is also the founder of FoodTrace, a software company that allows food industry executives insight on food sourcing origins. I reached out to Lynn because as a Black expert in supply chain management and the food industry, she sits at a deeply insightful intersection of race, gender and technology. “If a situation turns into a meme or a conversation that holds true in the media a little too long, that’s kind of like what you see when someone goes through a food safety issue. That could hurt the culture and brand in a damaging way.” Lynn has seen in the companies she has managed that the damage will ultimately be felt in lost sales.
When larger corporations fumble, it can be a vital opportunity for newer companies to grab market share. “You can lose favor so fast with your biggest supporters, and it gives the advantage to smaller companies,” said Lynn. She’s also seen how cultivating intentional company culture can be a market differentiator. “A lot of food startups now are building culture and inclusion and an open learning environment into their mission as early as possible,” she said. Lynn has seen this approach prove to be a winning advantage when it comes to attracting customers and supporters who tie their values to their purchasing decisions, like Millennial consumers.
But it’s not just about short-term gain or loss. Lynn stressed the same sentiment that many people are raising when considering Starbucks’s decision to conduct their anti-bias training. It can’t just be about a one day event. “When it comes to a company like Starbucks, the best actions are long-term actions. It’s encouraging that Starbucks is having thousands of its employees take an unconscious bias training, but that’s not enough,” she said. Lynn suggests considering permanent changes that weave inclusion into the fabric of the company. “It has to be incorporated into the culture of the organization and in hiring practices of every major company, particularly public ones. Starbucks has a duty to build culture that advances the entire population, not only for the employees but also the communities that they serve.” Lynn noted that in any company related to food, minorities are relied on every day for industry success. “ The only way to solve these issues is to build solutions into your systems with long-term presence and effect. A one day training is lost on so many people if it’s not in human resource documents or policy, or in on-going training, or embedded within permanent best practices,” Lynn noted.
Young leaders gathered at Apeel and Food Tank’s Aperitivo to confront food loss and food waste.
Apeel Sciences and Food Tank invited speakers of The Global Food Innovation Summit to gather at Ratana, an acclaimed restaurant in Milan, for food, drinks, and perspectives on reducing food waste. Danielle Nierenberg and James Rogers, CEO of Apeel Sciences, co-hosted the discussion featuring Alice Delcourt, Chef at Erba Brusca; Nicolas Jammet, co-founder of Sweetgreen; Riana Lynn, CEO of Food Trace; and Haile Thomas, CEO of The HAPPY Org. As the young leaders explored new solutions to the food system’s most urgent issues, over 100 guests enjoyed a sustainable menu.
Head Chef Cesare Battisti curated a special menu celebrating ingredients otherwise destined for the landfill. Battisti honored overripe, stale, and typically less noble items with elevated dishes. Attendees enjoyed asparagus risotto recovered asparagus ends, while mondeghili Milanese featured meat Battisti previously used to make broth.
Apeel Sciences, recently named one of CNBC’s Top 50 Disruptors, supports creativity and fresh perspectives on sustainability as part of their mission to eliminate food spoilage. The company’s organic food coating blends typically wasted plant materials such as leaves and peels into a protective spray. “The result is a doubling of the marketable and edible lifespan of fruits and vegetables,” says James Rogers. “And we’re just getting started.”
Photograph courtesy of Apeel Sciences.