Planetarians is giving a second life to wasted food, and tackling child nutrition and obesity at the same time.
This company uses an extrusion and "steam explosion" technology to turn 'waste' food, namely byproducts of the food industry that don't otherwise get eaten by humans, into high protein, high fiber snacks that can help address the rising trend of child obesity. By starting with low-cost oilcake, which is the leftover matter after pressing oil crops such as sunflower and canola, and treating it with a process to break down the insoluble fiber within it (which is otherwise not digestible), Planetarians founder Aleh Manchuliantsau believes that "food recycling unlocks access to affordable healthy meals for growing population."
According to the company's "Our Story" page, Manchuliantsau relates his experience as a father of children who have less outside play time than previous generations, and who "sit most of their time," and connects it with the rising issue of obesity. As every parent knows, kids eat all the time, or more precisely, they want to snack all the time, and as Aleh puts it, "they don’t like food that looks healthy." And while that may not be true for some kids, who will readily devour large amounts of fruits, nuts, and vegetables as snacks, other parents may commiserate with the struggle between trying to feed their kids a healthy (or healthier) diet and the reality of actually getting their kids to eat it, as well as keeping the grocery spending within their budget.
The work of Planetarians is geared toward changing that, with a side serving of food recycling, because its high fiber and high protein snacks are said to be the perfect blend of ingredients to satisfy kids' hunger and feed their growing bodies, while remaining a low calorie food. The 12 grams of plant protein per serving in the Planetarians products, which comes from sunflower seeds, and the 11 grams of fiber per serving, are claimed to provide more protein than beef and more fiber than an apple, and in a format and taste that kids (and adults) will eat.
"... while the web is full of recipes on how to make artichokes yummy, peas a pleasure, and kale more attractive to your kids, parents have to constantly balance supplying nutritious meals to their families and dealing with their children, who look at these vegetables and say, “Looks weird. I’m not eating it.”"
These "snacks against obesity" are aimed at helping increase fiber consumption, which has been falling in the developed world, and which is linked to a healthy microbiome, as well as working "like a built in portion control" for those who eat high fiber meals. The protein content of the snacks, which is often a selling point in the marketplace, is being compared to that of meat (27.8% vs 26% for meat), but at a lower cost and with smaller environmental footprint, because it's not only plant-based, but it's also a byproduct of another food production process.
Here is a quick video pitch about the product and the company at a TechStars demo day:
It appears as if the first production run of the Planetarians product was a success, as it's currently sold out on Amazon, but the company is taking pre-orders for the next release. The website has a sample request form, which can get schools sent a sample pack to trial the product. If you're interested in learning what the company can do with its platform, the founders will be at Startup Weekend Food + Tech in Boulder, Colorado, from November 17-19, 2017.