Three-time entrepreneur Aidan Altman co-founded ForaFoods in 2018, launching first with an alternative butter product. He got into the space with business partner Andrew McClure because they found that supply chains for dairy and meat are unreliable, and not sustainable or friendly to the environment.
High-volume factory farms are the producers behind most big brand meat and dairy, which have also gotten much of the focus in the plant-based category. Altman said they realized that the only mainstream alternative for butter is margarine, which they didn’t think was good enough.
“We saw a big opportunity in the space to create something that did have the functionality requirements and the integrity of dairy butter to actually compete with it,” he told DairyReporter.
Altman said the ForaButter product tastes the same, bakes and cooks the same as real butter. It also has a higher smoke point and a longer shelf life because of the fat base. It’s made from coconut and ‘aquafaba,’ a clean label emulsifier developed by ForaFoods.
They describe it as an upcycled product from the chickpea boiling process, a water that has starches and proteins from the chickpeas. It’s used as a blending agent and holds the product together, like an alternative to a stabilizer or gum.
Breaking into industrial food
Altman said he was drawn to the Mars Seeds of Change Accelerator because it claims to be more focused on established small companies, rather than startups still looking for funding. The traditional model of an accelerator includes several months of mentoring before culminating in a ‘Demo Day’ in front of investors.
But ForaFoods already has funding and national distribution, so they are looking for the program to open doors to them in the industrial food space. They are looking to expand into a global company with reliable growth from the contacts available in the Mars network.
“This program particularly was more attractive to us because of the advisors they have on board. And the resources they offer are more geared toward the growth phase rather than the launch and fundraise phase,” Altman said.
Industrial food service buyers are the top contact Fora is hoping to make, as well as learning how to scale the business internally, how to build the team out and who to build the team with, according to Altman.
Fast-tracking 'purpose-driven' growth
Five other young companies join ForaFoods in the accelerator, which Mars said will help them “fast-track growth and live their purpose to build a healthier and more sustainable future.”
Gary Arora, Mars Seeds of Change Accelerator Lead, said "The world is changing at a rapid pace with consumer needs evolving and new approaches and technologies transforming business."
"The Seeds of Change Accelerator acts as a catalyst to help forward-thinking innovators bring their purpose-driven food-focused visions to life. And, in turn, we will gain valuable insight to further enable the world we want tomorrow."
More than 200 people applied and were narrowed down to 10 finalists, who then presented their brands in front of a live audience in Chicago on July 19. Mars said the final six were chosen based on the Mars Food purpose--’Better Food Today. A Better World Tomorrow.’
World flavors, plant-based eating, easy-meal solutions, responsible food and creating with care are all components in the purpose, according to Mars. The other five participants are Brooklyn Delhi, NoBull Burger, Oxtale, Prommus and True Made Foods.
Each company received a $50,000 grant upon selection and will work remotely with advisors for the next four months to scale up their operations.