As the world gropes its way toward a dietary future that is hopefully more nutritionally and environmentally friendly, the concept of superfoods has become a thing.
Generally speaking, these can be just about any old concoction that claims to provide better mixes of nutrition and oxidants than just, you know, food. In Silicon Valley, this conversation has been led by Soylent, the venture-backed Food 2.0 startup that sells a mixture of chemical something-or-other that it claims will “provide maximum nutrition with minimal effort.”
But Soylent’s reputation took a little hit this year when it recalled its nutrition bars over concerns they were making people sick (insert poop emoji). The company had already faced some criticism over the mix of chemicals it used in its products.
This setback has created an opportunity on the other side of the globe in Finland, a country that has long prided itself on its abundance of naturally healthy foods, including berries, mushrooms, and a variety of goodies found in its forests.
In fact, Finland is enjoying a kind of superfood startup boomlet, and it’s hoping to spin that into international markets in the coming year.
During a recent visit to Helsinki, I got a chance to meet five Finnish superfood startups at an expo at the Maria 0-1 startup hub.
The company makes a plant protein food product called “Pulled Oats” that’s suitable for cooking. The product has caused a sensation in the country, with the company unable to meet demand. Fans have created apps and websites to track arrival of new shipments, and they can sell out almost instantaneously.
CEO Maija Itkonen explained that “Pulled Oats” is a mixture of oats and beans. She says it contains more protein than a chicken breast, and while it is often cooked with other foods, some customers just eat it as is, straight from the box. The company is trying to expand its production facility and is hoping to eventually launch other related products.
Here is Itkonen speaking a few weeks ago at the Slush conference in Helsinki:
Ambronite bills itself as a “supermeal,” a drinkable mixture of “berries, nuts, seeds, and greens, dried and milled and portioned.” The company claims it contains 100 percent of your daily recommended allowance of vitamins. It is green.
Not exactly new, Puhdistamo has been around since 2008. The company has a line of 48 products, ranging from powdered supplements to chocolate bars made from natural ingredients from Finland, such as goji berries and chia seeds. Chocolate bars = yum.
Verso Food is developing a line of healthy foods around a textured fava bean mix. I can personally recommend the Verso Fava Bean Granola.
This startup was originally created by a group of entrepreneurs for use within the pharmaceutical industry. Their products include lingonberries, bilberries, chaga (a fungus that grows on trees), and pine bark. All of these are found way, way, way up in the Finnish forests at the Arctic Circle. Eevia is actually more of a B2B operation, harvesting and processing the raw material for other companies to turn into healthy delectables. Still, if you want a shot of pine bark…