FOOD AND BEVERAGE TRAILBLAZERS PODCAST EPISODE 20
PODCAST: ‘Sustainability is not good enough’ - WhatIF Foods CEO on regenerative foods vision and manufacturing innovation
WhatIF Foods claims to be the world’s first firm focused on regenerative crops, and already has several unique products to its name from bambara groundnut-based instant noodles to ube (purple yam) shakes and more.
The Singapore firm’s motto is to change the world ‘one meal at a time’, and according to Langwallner, the way forward requires a lot more than just focusing on ‘sustainability’ but also paying attention to regeneration and regenerative crops.
“[The trendy] plant-based and vegan products today are helping to bring more consumers to the table, but most of these products do not have the answers for the challenges that a significant number of smallholder farming have, as well as fully addressing consumers’ nutritional needs,” he told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“I feel that what we call sustainability today is something that is really not good enough as it does not resolve a lot of the questions out there, and we really need to go forward into a much more regenerative mode. [So at WhatIF], we are proud to be the only firm around with a focus on making products from regenerative crops which can help to solve these challenges.
“[Our] selection criteria for crops is that these be complete in nature to can help replenish nutrients [in consumer diets], that these can grow these crops in situations where land is really challenged and has been left behind after intensive monoculture, and also where we can work directly with farming communities to improve livelihoods.”
He added that today, about 75% of all food consumed comes from just 12 types of crops and five types of animals, showing how food systems are playing within a very narrow margin compared to the many types of material sources available out there.
“This also means that the entire agrofood industry is focused on just a few [sources of food ingredients],” he said.
“As a result, current processes, tech and equipment out there is all very tailored to these crops, and do not work with regenerative crops like ours. So, we had to redesign the whole food manufacturing process to create healthier, more nutritious products with regenerative crops.
“The aim for us is not to change consumption habits of consumers and prevent them from having their 3-minute instant noodles if that is what they are used to - so this required rethinking questions like why instant noodles need to be fried and to find a better processing method, etc., so there are many people working on these solutions in our team.”
In the long run, Langwallner’s goal is to grow the firm to reach billions of servings of food to consumers on a regular basis, and to become the ‘Tesla of the industry’.
“If we can truly reach billions of servings of food to consumers everywhere, then the regenerative, nourishing foods we use will become part of the system, and you can’t take them away anymore so the impact will be there for a long time to come – that’s the ultimate goal,” he said.
“To reach this scale, let’s aspire to be a Tesla – starting small and a bit more premium, then bring cost of production down and feeding out the [products] to the masses, thus changing the world one meal at a time.”
Listen to the podcast above to find out more.