Left to right, Vince Vitale of Aketta, Joi Chevalier of The Cook’s Nook, and Addie Broyles of the Austin-American Statesman

Yesterday I made a rare sortie into downtown Austin to attend a “Food Tech for Social Good,” one of many, many events during session Austin Startup Week. Joi Chevalier of the Cook’s Nook, Austin’s first culinary incubator, with her background in academia, high tech, and the culinary world, always has smart things to say.  Addie Broyles, apart from being a journalist, blogger, entrepreneur, and pod caster, is a seasoned moderator.  It was a great chance to see them both in action. And since I’ve been thinking about insects as food recently, I was intrigued to hear what Vince Vitale, marketing manager for Aketta, which has a 25,000 square foot automated cricket farm near Austin Airport, had to say.

Here are five takeaways.

  • Having a newsworthy product really helps in getting funding for a start up for social good.  Question to self. Is funding going to crickets (or lab meat) rather than good ole beans, peas, and lentils? Probably yes, though the latter may actually be more likely to increase healthful, sustainable food supply.
  • Startups in this area toss around all kinds of words, just like any specialist groups. Functional eaters (is this from Technomics 7 Eater Archetypes?). CPGs.  Consumer packaged goods, in case you are as ignorant as I am. Evangelists (for your start up).  Love learning these. Where can I try them out?  And sustainability, not new, never defined, was definitely the word of the morning.
  • Finding some way to measure your social impact is crucial. Thanks, Joi. Although I know nothing about start ups and social good, my heart always leaps when someone insists on data, measurement, precision rather than hand waving fuzzy good feelings.
  • Packaging is one of the largest expenses on a startup’s spread sheet. Loved the discussion about how using kraft paper bags and a rubber stamp or a label established your artisanal, social do gooding credentials.  And then this morning I ran across this extreme example of the power of packaging from a Mexican tequila company. Would you pay for Clase Azul’s tequila?  Thx to David Owen on Food and Farm Discussion Lab.
  • Fascinated by the tension between the suspicion of corporate capitalism among the audience of primarily food movement sympathizers wanting to make a difference and the fact that to do social good their food companies have to make a profit.  Anyone up for a historical study of founders of food corporations from Borden, Guinness, and Heinz through Whole Foods, Celestial Seasonings Tea, and Lite and organic all kinds of things. What about making Appetite for Change, Warren Belasco‘s classic and still relevant study of of how the counterculture took on the food industry, required reading for social good food startups?

Fascinating couple of hours. Thanks all.

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