PodcastBe A Guest
JOIN OUR COMMUNITY
Episode
114

Amy Keller

Co-Founder & CEO of PurePlus

Ep
114

Restoring The Health Of The Planet And Its People Through Climate Candy

Jun 7, 2022
With
Amy Keller
47:59

Restoring The Health Of The Planet And Its People Through Climate Candy

Think of candy, but in this case, it’s made out of upcycled fruits and vegetables (yes, you read that right) and it helps the environment, so it’s not only good for you but it’s good for the planet too! That’s what FAVES by Climate Candy is, and its co-founder and CEO, Amy Keller, is here to school us on food waste, climate change, candy manufacturing, and so much more. Amy is also the CEO of Pureplus, which works with farmers to turn their unwanted produce into plant-based powders, which ties into FAVES and Climate Candy. Fun fact: FAVES actually stands for Fruit And Vegetable Sweets. See what they did there? 

In this episode, Amy talks about what inspired her to address multiple problems, such as climate change, poor nutrition, unhealthy food, and food waste, to name a few, through candy. It’s really worth listening to her share her entrepreneurial journey in founding Pureplus, Climate Candy, and FAVES, obstacles she overcame, and lessons she learned to make her the successful impact-driven entrepreneur and advisor she is today. Press play on this episode now!

Amy’s key lessons and quotes from this episode were:

  • “When I look at that capability to share this dream of ours to teach millions of citizens how easy it is to affect change, it's high time people realize and seize their full power that it's really what we choose to eat, and that includes all of us.” (11:20)
  • “As an entrepreneur, you're exposed to new insights, transformational experiences, really unique opportunities to make a positive impact in the world.” (28:33)
  • “One of the things that you learn as an entrepreneur is that you have to take action and rise from some of these setbacks and understand that they're not setbacks. They're all learnings.” (29:41)

In this episode, we also talked about:

  • All about Climate Candy (7:56)
  • Incumbents vs. startups (16:40)
  • Entrepreneurial lessons from Amy (28:32)
  • Amy’s great advice for early stage founders in the candy space (36:47)
  • The world in 10 years according to Amy (42:28)

Transcript of the episode

Maiko Schaffrath  00:00

This episode is brought to you by Content Multiplied. It's not a secret anymore that content creation is really important, but very few people talk about the importance of consistency, and I myself have really struggled with that consistency. And for that reason, I looked for a solution, and Content Multiplied was a really good one for me. Since using them, I've been able to focus on what I enjoy the most which is recording podcasts while Mhyla and her team are really taking care of everything else. Whether you have a podcast, you're holding keynote speeches, you're doing a YouTube series, you're writing a blog, a newsletter, a book, the Content Multiplied team can really take whatever you're producing and repurpose it into a series of micro content. And suddenly, you have dozens and dozens of pieces that can be shared for you, and Content Multiplied even takes care of that for you. Unlock your content superpower with Content Multiplied and go to contentmultiplied.com today. That's contentmultiplied.com. Thanks, Mhyla, and let's go into the show. 

You are listening to Impact Hustlers, and I am your host, Maiko Schaffrath. I have made it my mission to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs to solve some of the world's biggest social and environmental problems. And for this reason, I am speaking to some of the best entrepreneurs out there who are solving problems such as food waste, climate change, poverty, and homelessness. My goal is that Impact Hustlers will inspire you, either by starting an impact business yourself, by joining the team of one, or by taking a small step, whatever that may be, towards being part of the solution to the world's biggest problems. 

In today's episode, I speak to Amy Keller, the co-founder and CEO of FAVES, a company making candy from upcycled fruits and vegetables with low sugar and all-natural ingredients, and it's good for the climate, so it seems like Mission Impossible, but we'll talk about the product in a bit. Amy has spent much of her career in social impact actually supporting projects as an advisor and also spending time as an executive with organizations like Live Earth and XPRIZE Foundation. And I'm really excited to have you on the show, Amy, to talk about FAVES and your journey.

Amy Keller  02:43

Thank you. I appreciate you having me.

Maiko Schaffrath  02:46

Amazing. So, let's cover first a bit your personal story and also your family history a little bit in terms of, how did you end up working in sweets, and what's your personal journey throughout the last few years?

Amy Keller  03:02

Sure, sure. So, I come from sugar. My family owns a candy factory Spangler Candy Company. We sell 2 billion Dum Dums Lollipops every year. We're the world's largest lollipop maker. But also, we make everything from Neccos to Sweethearts to Circus Peanuts to Candy Canes. You name a nostalgic candy. I think for me, I've had a career working on the environment and health and well-being as a seven-time Ironman in which, obviously, health and nutrition are an important part of the sport. These two worlds collided when I was in Svalbard, Norway visiting the Global Seed Bank to learn more about food security. 

At the same time I was doing that, I was reading Paul Hawkins' book, Drawdown. I don't know if you've read it before, but in it, they talk about food waste being the number one thing you can do around climate, and I learned that roughly a third of the world's food is never eaten, which means land and resources use and greenhouse gases emitted in producing it was unnecessary. So, interventions can reduce this loss and waste, and as food moves from farm to fork, I was trying to figure out, where can we reduce that demand? So, while cross-country skiing across the Arctic Circle, I built this company with a business plan to illuminate the power of food, fruits and vegetables, to restore the health of people and the planet.

Maiko Schaffrath  04:35

Amazing, and let's talk about that. Was there a moment in your career though where you said, "Okay, I've got this expertise. My family's been in sugar for a while. I've got this expertise, and I want to use it for good?" Was there a moment where you're like, "Okay, actually, I can do something in this industry"?

Amy Keller  04:59

Yeah, I think before founding Pureplus, I was the Global Head of Partnerships at Live Earth, and I was tasked with leading government, NGO, and corporate partnerships. So, when you look at the United Nations and them meeting in 2015 for the COP 21 and signing the Climate Change Treaty and really aiming for us at Live Earth getting signatures and petitions so that leaders would get on board with their efforts and successfully adopt a new climate treaty for a sustainable future, I think launching that campaign with these artists, NGOs, or governments, brands throughout the world to raise awareness made us realize that through Live Earth and through these partner organizations, isn't it amazing what you can do around climate change? But we wanted to figure out, how can we build a community? 

And when I looked at the fruits and vegetables that were being used by ingredient companies around the world when I came back from Svalbard, I realized a lot of them were used for flavor and color and more clean label ingredients, and I thought if we could utilize that 20% that goes on harvested on the field, because they're imperfect and make it into a plant-based powder, it now has two, three years shelf life. So, now, we can actually get involved with the global citizens, and they can realize that through their wallet, they can purchase something that is a climate-impactful product. 

So, as we built the powder to have that shelf life, we thought about being that ingredient company to replace sugar and filler and foods, because we realized there was a lot of extra in these single delivery items. And because I do come from candy, it was interesting just to see, how much can you put in something as small as three or four or five grams? And so, I was trying to figure out, how can we make it fun around super foods that are right here in your local environment, instead of feeling like, "I need to go get acai in Brazil," or these different fruits and vegetables that were becoming a thing. 

So, taking the most climate, impactful, nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables from the US or from Europe and saying, "How do we work with that and tell the story of the local farms and communicate through channels an educational moment around what is in your food and the need for people to get five to eight servings of fruits and vegetables?" I think it was a combination of all these things I knew to build this thing called Climate Candy and start a completely different category, something that's just not been out there before in the in the candy world.

Maiko Schaffrath  07:49

So, what's the definition of Climate Candy? Tell us more about that.

Amy Keller  07:56

Well, we actually put it in the Urban Dictionary, so you can look up climate candy. It was approved back in November. It's a real word, but it means that it's candy that was created using upcycled fruits and vegetables, and it's something that is focused on utilizing the fruits and vegetables as a nutrient-dense formula, so giving back for the health of people, but also the planet. 

I think when I look at our goal to recreate candy using fruits and vegetables but keep that nutrition intact, it means that we have to utilize a different form of production. When we look at the nearly two-thirds of food waste and where it occurs in that production-distribution side and then local sourcing of ingredients to the manufacturers and distribution locations, it really improves the carbon footprint of FAVES dramatically if we look at the entire supply chain. 

And then, second, we improve basic food safety standards. The higher standards extend food supplies and prevent waste. You're using the high quality technology that's out there. Third, we focus on the customers. Now, all of a sudden, the result of these strategies is that more people can be fed nutrition, and it improves the environment, because there's less stress on agricultural resources, urban landfills, and really the global environment overall.

Maiko Schaffrath  09:26

Hmm, got it. Which design principles did you apply in the early days to the product? Was it always clear that you wanted something that's good for the environment, helping solve climate change in terms of reducing food waste and also having a healthy product? Was that very clear from day one? Or how did  the product development evolve and the principles you applied to it?

Amy Keller  09:53

Well, I think increasingly, we expect our professional endeavors to line up with our values, interests, personal histories, and beliefs. I wanted to have a clear and deeply satisfying answer to the question, "Why did you spend all this time building this company or building this product?" So, when I decided to create Pureplus, I wanted to make a positive impact on people's lives and health and the health of the planet. 

The business idea was very consistent with my values and lifestyle, and it contributed to my personal goals and dreams, so it makes it really easy to do work when all of that lines up. It directly and positively affects lives beyond mine, and the world's better off if I succeed, so it has that positive environmental impact. We consider ourselves Earth first. 

It's funny, because there's so many things out there that are considered healthy candy, healthy snacks, and they're really focused on the 'me,' not the 'we.' We consider ourselves Earth first. It's like, how do we create a set of food-focused climate restoration goals to educate the public on our mission? Creating an eating candy can help reverse global warming and improve health of people and planet. 

It's very odd for people to think about, because it's so simple. But food is rising as one of the most powerful levers for reversing global warming. When I look at that capability to share this dream of ours to teach millions of citizens how easy it is to affect change, I think it's just high time people realize and can seize their full power that it's really what we choose to eat, and that includes all of us.

Maiko Schaffrath  11:41

Okay. What's really intriguing for me is to hear a bit more about how you actually think about the core problem that you're solving, because there seems to be quite a few problems that this could solve, like if you think about what types of sweets people are usually eating that are really unhealthy, that are contributing to obesity, to ill health. 

There's the food waste problem that you're solving. That food waste problem is very closely related to climate change. There's a few different problems coming together, and I'm wondering, do you feel like you're focused on one of those or are they really intertwined for you? And how do you measure and focus on these problems as you grow the company as well?

Amy Keller  12:32

Right. For us, it's about the climate first. We are Climate Candy, so it's the way we eat and produce food being a significant contributor to climate change. In fact, agriculture is estimated contribute 13-24% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Given this enormous footprint, wasting less food presents a key opportunity to address climate change. With food being this optimization like you're talking about with health, I think it also is this really strong lever for the environmental sustainability on earth. 

I think it requires a combination of substantial shifts towards mostly plant-based dietary patterns, which is on that health of people side. But then, it's a dramatic 50% reduction in food waste if we're going to hit the goals of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 and 2050. This really also is a probably 100% increase in the consumption of fruits and vegetables. I mean, only one in 10 are getting their 5-8 servings a day. 

Even myself, as a plant-based vegan athlete, it's very hard to get to that point, even 10 servings a day, because that's even better from a health standpoint. When I created this business, I launched the product so it could grow continuously and be that category-definer, being new to the world, be different from what's out there today. And I realized that the most exciting businesses are the ones that are that differentiated, that disruptive, and I think that imbued with this mission and personality, we've given it. 

Now, on the side of, obviously, obesity, diabetes, concerns around what has actually inhibited the candy market, we've seen a lot of manufacturers come up with sugar-free and low-calorie candies to tackle this situation. But what I've observed, these improvements, a bigger challenge to face is around, what can we do that's not just an alternative sweetener or a zeroed-out label? As an athlete, I look at and say, "Wait a minute. Food is fuel, so how do we redefine that category of healthy candy to include high nutrition content?" 

Because right now, it looks like they're just switching out ingredients, and you're ending up with this 100-calorie snack. But I think that our goal is to recreate candy. All of a sudden, you're adding candy with the word climate, and it's like we're using fruits and vegetables, and you're actually getting the nutrition from it, not just using it for color or flavor, and it's just on the label, but you're realizing that through the typical methods of making most confections, they're destroying that nutrition in that tasty treat. 

Over the past few years, our nutrition scientists have tested dozens of recipes and form factors and flavors of candy that can be congruent with our mission. Most importantly, they all had to have those high run rates. We've always done things at full scale factory operations. That way, we'd be sure that we have a positive environmental and social impact is maximized. It's not something that we started in a very small kitchen process. We wanted to make sure this is the same product you're going to get when it's put through an SQF-audited facility.

Maiko Schaffrath  16:08

Alright, okay. So, yeah, my question is just on the role of incumbents versus startups. Obviously, you have expertise in both. I'd be really keen to understand, in terms of a transition towards more healthy snacks and sweets as well as eco-conscious sweets, what do you think is the role of those? Is it that we need more startups disrupting the space? Do you see incumbents already taking action, or is it a mix of both?

Amy Keller  16:40

Well, I think, when I look at spending the year of 2021 redeveloping the candy line at factories from upstate New York to St. Louis to Chicago to NorCal to SoCal, really looking at what can we launch through retrofitting equipment to handle plant-based fibers, we not only developed a proprietary line of powders, but also moved us past the concept phase to have equipment at the ready for high run rate production. The lesson we learned early on in a CPG world is it must be delicious, obviously, and especially considering the sweet tooth out there. 

I mean, I ate Dum Dums since I was one, so I know that the tip of your tongue, you better taste that sweet. It better not be just a fruit snack or fruit leather. This is candy. This is Climate Candy. This is the candy category. I think many early form factors and recipes needed to have that flavor explosion and that sweet satisfaction. When you look at some of the things out there today, either it's alternative sugars to give that sweetness. It's always these entrepreneurs, but then you're seeing some of the incumbents, the larger conglomerates saying, "How do we just buy into those entrepreneurs' companies?" 

So, you're seeing the huge chocolates and the Lily's and SmartSweets all get bought by larger entities, so that then, they can use their distribution channels to push it out from a national and a global standpoint. They see it as, we can't change over the nostalgic candy. There's people that love that candy the way it is. Especially with Spangler Candy Company, it's been around since 1906. People are used to that small Dum Dums lollipop, that Necco wafer. 

Everybody has that nostalgia for it bringing you back to that story of family or a story of some moment in time or experience. Those are the type of things it's tough to change, but as long as you don't upsize them and make them bigger, it could still have that sweet treat. That's the thing that I see in society today is still allowing for these sweet treats, but then making sure it's not a major part of your diet. Unfortunately, what I'm seeing today is it people just saying no to things, and the problem is I grew up and this candy was almost like a food group, but we had the opportunity to eat everything. 

And then, there would just be these glass jars of candy in our grandparents' house that were always filled, and you'd grab one as you ran out the door to go rollerblading or go skateboarding, but it wasn't something that was negative. What happens today is there's a birthday party for these kids, and the kids eat six cupcakes and as much candy as possible, or Halloween comes along and they just can't help themselves, and they eat so much candy all at once, and I think it's just unfortunate that we haven't figured out that way that that expectation's a little bit different.

Maiko Schaffrath  19:56

Hmm. Yeah, that's interesting. I recently learned about a Swedish model where they have a specific weekday, I think Saturdays, where the whole family goes to the shop to buy sweets, and everybody can have as many sweets as they want, and they really indulge in it, but they limit it to one day. I guess that's still limitation. I guess the model you're going for is, we can have it all; we can have low sugar snacks that are sustainable, that good for us. Obviously, if a phase is the only thing I'm eating, that's probably not good for me. 

But in terms of unreasonable consumption. how tricky is that to make it work? Because it seems like an industry either it is trying to replicate a really sweet taste that mainstream candy has, which is full of sugar with, as you said, sweeteners and things like that, which may or may not be good for you, or you go lower sugar, but it's not as sweet, and maybe customers aren't quite used to that taste. How did you go on that journey and where do you fit in there? Is it that people need to get used to a new type of flavor with your candy? Or did you manage to recreate what people prefer?

Amy Keller  21:16

I think that's what we did to be different was to make sure that we tasted like candy. Kids will tell you immediately if they think they're eating something healthy. We didn't want them to be able to taste the vegetables. We wanted to be stealth nutrition, and that's why we called it FAVES. It's an acronym for fruit and vegetable sweets. 

I remember one of these little girls that tried it. She was like, "Amy, I've got this great idea for you on your packaging. It says it's made with fruits and vegetables, but they're not teaching us cursive anymore at school. So, if you put it on cursive, then the kids won't know, but the parents will know they're getting something better." I think that's really interesting just to hear kids say, "Hey, this tastes like candy. Just don't let us know that we're saving six carrots and two beets and squash and soup to pumpkin." 

But there's that educational side where I want them to know, "By you buying this six pack, you're saving and rescuing this many fruits and vegetables," and then the end of the year, giving everybody the impact report and saying, "Look what you did. By buying and purchasing candy, you saved 200 pumpkins and 300 carrots," and whatever it may be and really making sure that the individual knows what they're offsetting, not us as a company, because there's no way that people understand completely greenhouse gas emissions, "Oh, I flew across the US or to Europe. I better offset. I'm planting some trees. I think that's an amazing thing, and Vice President Al Gore will tell you a million times that it's not about these climate technologies. Just plant more trees." 

I definitely believe in that, but I think that if we can get it into the household and make people understand that they can do it through the food they eat, that's where I think there's success. That's what gets me super excited. We're not trying to be another just healthy snack or fruit leather, fruit snack type of thing. We're trying to be candy, and we're kind of re-educating around, almost like a grocery store. Let's say you walked in. Do I want to be in the confection aisle going up against all the others in the end cap? Not really. That's why direct-to-consumer makes sense for us, because we can tell our story better. 

When I look at the grocery stores, I'm like, I'd rather be next to the sweet potatoes, beets, carrots, squash, all of that, because then, it's an educational moment for the family. They walk in, they see us next to root vegetables, the kids like the candy, and they're like, "Hey, kids, and if you like this, you might love beets or carrots or squash." So, I think that's really what I'm looking for, to be very, very different than most when it comes to even the retail side.

Maiko Schaffrath  24:02

And yeah, where are you on your journey, actually? We didn't quite cover that, but you're selling the product, obviously, direct-to-consumer already, but how far did you scale already and what are your plans ahead?

Amy Keller  24:16

We already launched one form factor of FAVES on climatecandy.com. That's our direct-to-consumer site. We have a sweet and a sour too. And then, in August, we're coming out with another form factor of Climate Candy, and then, a quarter after that, we'll do it again. We just keep on being this modern day Climate Candyland, building this world where people can love the sweet and sour, chewy type candy, or you've got the people that love sweet and sour, hard type candy. 

We want to make sure that we're there for everybody. And then, we really look at e-groceries, online groceries, because we can still tell our story that way. And then, really cool partnerships, all about collaboration, influencers, doing things around experiences or where we'll find those families, art museums, sports centers, schools, that type of thing that's just a little bit different than most, and we're not looking to just be on your grocery store shelves where you don't understand the complete story around Climate Candy. 

So, yeah, it's very exciting times for us, and we closed our preferred round at the end of February with Trousdale Ventures and PTK Capital, which very exciting moment to know that we have the funding behind this to really feel like we can tell the world more about our wider goals.

Maiko Schaffrath  25:45

Hi, it's Maiko here. I want to interrupt this episode briefly to make you aware of two exciting things that are going on here at Impact Hustlers. First of all, if you are a founder solving social and environmental problems, and you're looking to connect to like-minded founders like yourself, you're looking to learn from some of the most experienced entrepreneurs, experts, and investors in the world, and you want some support and actually fundraising for your startup, we've built the Impact Hustlers Community. 

We are now about 100 entrepreneurs and founders, and we're growing every month, with more founders from all over the world joining us, and we're really here to support each other. Our goal is to build the most supportive ecosystem for impact-driven founders. So, if you're a founder, head to impacthustlers.com/community to learn more. 

And if you're not a founder, but you want to work for impact-driven companies, we have also recently launched something really exciting for you, and that is the Impact Hustlers Talent Collective. This is a group of some of the most ambitious and talented individuals in the world that want to use their talent to make a difference in the world and work for some of the most innovative impact-driven companies. If you're keen to join the Talent Collective, this is all free of charge, obviously. You can submit your application to the Talent Collective on impacthustlers.com/jobs, and what will happen as a result is that companies will start approaching you through our Talent Collective and share job opportunities with you. 

We'll also share our Weekly Jobs Update with you where you see relevant jobs in the field of impact, including from all the previous podcast guests, so you will actually see opportunities from companies that have been covered here on the show and also companies that are members of our Impact Hustlers Community. So, go to impacthustlers.com/jobs If you're looking for a job, or if you're a founder and need some support, go to impacthustlers.com/community. Okay, let's get back to the episode now. 

Got it. Let's shift gears a bit and go into your entrepreneurial journey. Obviously, you come from an entrepreneurial family. Entrepreneurship definitely wasn't new for you when you first started out, but I'm sure you still learned your lessons alongside along the journey. Is there anything that sticks out for you like one of the hardest lessons you had to learn as a founder, something that was incredibly difficult along your journey that you can share with us and that others can learn from?

Amy Keller  28:32

Well, I think that as an entrepreneur, you're exposed to new insights, transformational experiences, really unique opportunities to make a positive impact in the world, so I think that going into being this entrepreneur gave me the opportunity to inspire others that are willing to take action to and eager to learn, inspire them to leverage their network. The plus that we had from the start was the network we had, the research we could do, understand what was needed in the market. Where we started with the powders was a start, but understanding that you always had to pivot. 

You have to be very nimble. We didn't end up going out as an ingredient company all of a sudden. We used it as Pureplus inside. All of a sudden, we were making our own proof of concept around candy. Next thing you know, you're rejiggering equipment, you're finding what works and what doesn't, you're breaking things at factories left and right and trying to figure out what can utilize these plant fibers. One of the things that you learn as an entrepreneur is that you have to take action and rise from some of these setbacks and understand that they're not setbacks. They're all learnings. 

And so, as we learned along the way, it allowed us not to go out with some of the products that weren't as delicious or weren't quite the form factor that worked or not quite the sustainable packaging that we wanted, because we wanted to be completely circular. You just have to remain so much more open-minded and realize that there's all these things that kind of are roadblocks, but they aren't because the learnings allow you to then get to that next phase and the next phase, and then knowing that you'll slowly but surely build those partnerships and those investors that are truly strategic. 

So, you'll figure out of the people you're meeting along the way, who is along for the whole ride? Then, you realize these are the ones that understand the powerful partnerships you're trying to generate, or the storytelling, or doing things from a combined worldwide network, because we always think so big, and you can't help but do that. I think that's true for all entrepreneurs, and a lot of the female entrepreneurs that are on the rise that I meet. 

I'd say that probably, on all ends, it was always around operations, because you can have a really good idea, but if you can't execute on it, and you find that you can do it in a co-op kitchen, but you can't do it at scale, then that's not a product that's going to have velocity. And so, I never was one that said, "Oh, look, we can do it as small scale. Let's go and run it on full scale equipment." That's not going to work. It's not going to be the same form factor. Unfortunately, it's now going to be the same ingredients. 

I think a lot of times, you're seeing things in stores, you're like, "Oh, wow, what an amazing company. They're not putting a lot of these ingredients in," and I sit there and say, "Well, let's see what happens when they get a larger purchase order. Let's see what happens when they have to deal with contract manufacturing or build their own factory and their own equipment," because confectionery hasn't changed for a long time. 

And in a lot of the ones for Spangler Candy Company, what's great about it is that they were already brands that then became acquired. It was great, because everybody already knew some of the brand names under the Spangler Candy holding company, and I think that's why I built a company I did today, because Pureplus is the holding company; it's the powder lines, and then we put Pureplus, like an Intel chip inside a computer, we put it inside, so then, it's inside of the FAVES. It's inside of Climate Candy and everything that we do around that category.

Maiko Schaffrath  32:34

Let's be very clear on the Pureplus product, because we actually haven't spoken much about it. So, yeah, what are these powders and how do they actually get into the candies, and [are] there other use cases for those as well?

Amy Keller  32:47

Yeah, so Pureplus, when I first built that out with a color line of red, orange, green, and purple, it was a mixture of fruits and vegetables that were most nutrient-dense, but also most climate-impactful that I felt that would get us the most servings in the smallest amount. And then, we're going to put them into everything from bars and beverages and all of these kinds of healthy snacks you see out there that could utilize this as an ingredient. 

But when we looked at it, we said, "Well, why not look at the $80 billion global market of candy and show that proof of concept around something that has so much sugar and filler in it and figure out if there's an opportunity there for us to show the solution to others, so they can take advantage of it too?" I guess I'm one that's almost like open source. It's like more people need to do this, because there is this opportunity to provide things that are being wasted or also just more plant-based fibers and things into foods, so that then there's the stealth nutrition, so people are getting even more out of the food that they're eating.

Maiko Schaffrath  34:01

Got it. So, it's really a dual model where you're selling the powders and other manufacturers can actually start using those, and you also created your own brand where were you demonstrated it's also possible? Is that right? Is that a good summary? 

Amy Keller  34:16

No, we didn't do the B2B. Unfortunately, as an entrepreneur, you've got to pick and choose. And if we started a B2B company and a B2C company, we'd have to hire completely different people for two companies. I'd have a completely different sales source, marketing source, those teams, they don't identify if you're selling ingredients versus a consumer brand. 

We decided to use our powders in our own products, which made the most sense so that that way then, down the road, if there's an acquisition opportunity, people can look at us and say, "Not only are we acquiring an amazing brand and amazing community that identifies and is like-minded around what we're doing with upcycling fruits and vegetables from farms, they're also getting this ingredient side," where if they're a large enough company, and they've got a model of snacks that they want to change and iterate on, they would then have this ingredient and formulas to be able to work with. I think that's what's great is we've built this scope of work within our company that allows us to show that R&D side that entrepreneurs can do.

Maiko Schaffrath  35:32

You mentioned a minute ago the challenge of companies really being able to produce at scale. And yeah, if you look out there, there's loads of startups, even in the Impact Hustlers Community, I just got some products from one of our founders here. Well, it's not advertisement. I think my video is not going to be visible, but some nice chocolates from a founder, and he's just starting out, and he has a background in big industry, but the big challenge is really scaling up production and being able to even cope with that. Obviously, you have some good experience. 

Again, I guess that's what I call an unfair advantage, in some ways, like some advantage over somebody like me starting out and not having the background you have, but is there any advice you can share with founders getting into the space, especially food and sweets in terms of production? Is it just a case of getting the right talent early on if you don't have to expertise in terms of production? Is it a case of partnering with incumbents? What are the models that you've seen work well? And what's your advice to early stage founders in this space?

Amy Keller  36:47

I would say it's all about partnership opportunities for immediate growth. So, focusing on your supply chain, working with those that you can- for us in the agricultural sector, to build the upcycled supply chain from seed to market, that was the most important thing we could do. By building that powder line first, and especially during this time of this supply chain crisis, then I could know that we have access to our most important ingredient. 

And then, from a manufacturing standpoint, utilizing, yes, my experience, but I never actually worked in the family factory. I was off trying to change the world in Washington, DC. I was all about, what are we doing about climate change? I was working with Live Earth on global concerts for change and a different world. I did the exact same thing. I had to find out who to work with. Who are the right manufacturers that can help keep the nutrition molecules intact with this product? 

How can we get that run rate needed for partnerships so that I could go to a larger entity and say, "Yes, I'll be back in four weeks, six weeks, whatever it may be, and I can fulfill those size purchase orders"? I think it's just a matter of people, whatever business they start, they just have to determine, just like me, that it has some sort of focus on your values and lifestyle and that it contributes to those goals and dreams. I think that's the biggest thing is what kind of positive impact you want to make. 

And for us, it's always been about the environment, because myself, my founders, Kevin Wall and Sue Smalley, and all the investors, they invested in me not for another CPG brand but for what we were committed to for the overall impact, the environment. It was more like, okay, how do we use the seed money to expand our footprint in the industry? How do we focus on sales growth and generating revenue for the business? 

Because then, we can keep telling this story, and we can keep on getting in front of people in an affordable, accessible way through candy and be able to make sure that you're based on sound rational business analysis, based on logic and good reasoning that leads investors to see that your offering has the highest potential return with the lowest possible corresponding risk. You've got to run it like a business, especially if you're impact-focused, because there's a lot of investors out there, they're like, "Oh, it's so focused on impact. What's the business model?" 

So, you really, really need to make sure that they understand that you've got things covered, especially after certain rounds that you're bringing on the full-time employees. They can bet on me for so long, but then you guys slowly but surely bring in the team around you to make sure that you've got all of the things stacked in your place to be able to get into a Series A round or to get some of these larger partnerships.

Maiko Schaffrath  39:54

Any advice around, especially in the food space, partnering with manufacturers and working with for them to develop the products? The reverse is actually building your own in-house expertise, manufacturing yourself starting from scratch. What path did you choose and what would you recommend to founders? Is there any?

Amy Keller  40:16

There are a lot of food innovation scientists out there, and there's a lot of them that will utilize funds from entrepreneurs to make a proof of concept. Problem is, is that it's done in a lab outside of a manufacturer. I solely believe that either you've got to partner with them but immediately know what the machinery is and work directly with that manufacturer, or you have to work directly with the R&D team in the manufacturing. 

Because without that, it's a product made out of a kitchen. It's a product made out of a co-op kitchen. There's no way that that same formula is going through 100-foot long line equipment. For me, it's focused on the supply chain, making sure that you know what ingredients that you're looking for, what are your no's, absolute not using when you're working with a manufacturer, and seeing if they're as disruptive as you, because a lot of times, those manufacturers, they're fearful. 

They've got very old equipment worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions. They don't want to see you break their machinery with plant-based fibers and not using flow agents. I think that's a key thing is understanding scaling and understanding that you don't want to deal with labor costs and audits and SQF certifications. That's a lot of money to build out a factory. 

I think you have to determine your timeline and when you want to do that. But for me, it made more sense for us to just keep on building these modern day Willy Wonka world candies and figure out which ones will scale and utilize different factories for each form factor and figure out which ones make the most sense for financial sustainability, and I think that's what we do.

Maiko Schaffrath  42:16

Got it. One more question about the future. If you think about 10 years ahead from today, how does the world look like FAVES and Pureplus succeeds?

Amy Keller  42:28

I'd say that the result of all the strategies, like I told you before, addressing the production-distribution, where two-thirds of food waste occurs, that will be cut down. Second, there'll be even further quality assurance with food, basic standards around fruits and vegetables, so we can utilize more of it; it doesn't go to waste. 

And third, I think consumers will understand where their food comes from. Now, all of a sudden, you're improving their nutrition, how they're being fed. People are getting to the point of getting their 5-8 servings of fruits and vegetables, and I think people are understanding that more and more today. And then, I think our urban landfills and our agricultural resources, they aren't being filled. It's not to the point where we're getting rid of produce in that way. 

As we build this product and generate customers learn more about upcycled or rescued produce, I think it's an intense focus on this idea. I think we'll get it right. I think people, five years from now, will understand completely what upcycled is, and hopefully, they'll choose that over many of the other produce products. Hopefully, they will also look at this and say, "Wow, we can actually achieve the SDGs." 

We can see what happened in Paris in 2015 with the Climate Change Treaty with Live Earth, and we can look for this opportunity to see food as the defining issue of the 21st century. I think mine's more around impact. But then, at that point, I would hope that we have such large distribution or were acquired by another company that can help us partner and distribute even wider. That would be my hope that many years down the road.

Maiko Schaffrath  44:16

Amazing. Thank you, Amy, very much for sharing your story and educating us about the product. I can't wait until you ship to the UK. I don't think that's the case yet, if I'm right, but I'll definitely watch out for that, and wish you all the best for your journey.

Amy Keller  44:34

Thank you so much. We really appreciate being on the show today. I hope that people learn more about how food is produced and what is consumed and how much is lost and wasted and how that can heavily shape the health of people on the planet. 

I think that by utilizing the current system more efficiently, we can feed the world's population today and tomorrow, and I think it is the lowest hanging fruit when it comes to stuff solving the puzzle of food loss and waste. I hope that others will look into what Climate Candy means and really listen to what we're trying to educate people around.

Maiko Schaffrath  45:13

Thank you. Appreciate it. See you soon. Bye-bye.

Amy Keller  45:17

Alright.

Maiko Schaffrath  45:20

I really hope you enjoyed today's episode and learned some valuable lessons from today's guest. I want to share two things with you. First of all, if you're a founder and you're solving a social or an environmental problem with your company, there is something that we've launched recently to support founders like you and to introduce you to more founders that are like-minded and that are solving very difficult problems in the world, and that is the Impact Hustlers Community. 

It is a community of over 100 founders that solve problems like climate change, education, the crisis in health care, and really pushing the boundaries on what's possible. And what we do as a community, we connect to each other, we run mastermind groups where you can connect to other entrepreneurs and founders. We bring experienced investors, entrepreneurs, and experts in to run workshops and ask-me-anything sessions, and you can also connect to others in our online community. And we have something for those of you that are actually fundraising. We have an investor matching tool where you get introduced to relevant investors based on the startup that you're building. 

But, it may be the case that you're not a founder, and you just want to be part of the change, and you want to join some of these companies that you've learned about here at the Impact Hustlers podcast, and we've got something for you as well. We've recently launched the Impact Hustlers Talent Collective. 

This is a group of some of the most ambitious individuals in the world that want to make a change and an impact with their careers, and you can join the Talent Collective, obviously completely free of charge. You can apply to it, and we will introduce you on a regular basis to companies recruiting people like yourself. You'll get access to exclusive job opportunities from companies that have been on the podcast but also beyond that. 

So, make sure that you go to impacthustlers.com/jobs if you're looking for jobs in the social impact space. Even if you're not actively looking right now, you should still sign up and be part of our Talent Collective. And if you're a founder, don't forget, go to impacthustlers.com/community. Okay, thanks very much for listening and bye. See you at the next episode.

Related Episodes