The chips utilize patented infrared dry-blanching (IDB) technology (no water/steam) to blanch and dehydrate produce in a more cost-efficient manner that preserves their nutritional and organoleptic qualities, and will be followed by ‘plant-forward’ cookies with 25% veggies.
Co-founded by TCHO Chocolate founder and serial entrepreneur Timothy Childs, Treasure8 has a multi-pronged business model, which includes creating CPG brands utilizing the IDB technology that can later be spun off; selling or leasing IDB ‘SAUNA’ machines; co-manufacturing CPG products or ingredients; and developing partnerships across the supply chain.
“It started when we were making healthier snacks for food deserts and with Google, and we needed a dry dense vegetable. We looked at freeze drying and thought we could do better,” Childs told FoodNavigator-USA.
“We started looking at dehydration technology co-invented by our food waste mentor Ed Hirshberg and the USDA, which the USDA had filed a patent around some years ago, that has since been granted and covers a pretty wide range of other drying modalities. We test drove it, thought it was amazing, dropped all of our consulting projects, and have spent the last two and half years commercializing it.
“We have the exclusive license for the patent and the rights to produce the machines and the products thereof, and we’ve since filed additional patents with the USDA to create additional cover around this.”
He added: “It’s a completely new form of dehydration – basically a dry-blanching process that disables the enzymatic activity that promotes rotting that is more cost effective than freeze-drying and frying. It’s low energy, and captures practically all the color, flavor and micronutrients, in a two-stage drying process.”
‘It’s a completely new form of dehydration’
So how does the Treasure8 business model work?
According to Childs: “We’re developing private label and our own brands [organic beet, apple, and sweet potato chips under the Ground Rules brand now available for purchase online, and ‘plant-forward’ cookie thins with 25% veggies under the TC's Bakehouse brand] to show what this technology can do.
"We’re also open to doing co-manufacturing with other brands; so we’re working with a large scale co-manufacturer for our cookie thins.
“As a tech company, part of our play is to create brands, part of it is to license the technology, and some of it is to sell or lease the machines,” explained Childs, who has a storied background in virtual reality, pre-web internet, chocolate, and machine vision tracking systems used by NASA.
“We want to work with partners and growers that can use this technology, and put these dryers on location as close to the field as possible, as shipping water is stupid.”
Our chips crunch like a potato chip but we’re not using oil
But how different are the fruit/veg chips Treasure8 is making to dried fruit from Peeled Snacks, or Bare Snacks’ thicker baked fruit and veggie chips?
According to Childs: “Our chips crunch like a potato chip but we’re not using oil. They are light and delicate but have a super great crunch, which is totally different [to ‘baked’ fruit/veg snack brands such as Bare Snacks or Rhythm Superfoods or dried fruit brands such as Peeled Snacks]. The flavor and color retention is great and we have higher nutritional density than products that are air dried or oven dried.”
We’re most interested in infield waste and post-production waste
Suitable for everything from strawberries and blueberries to corn, tubers, mushroom, tomatoes, beets and apples, the SAUNA technology is not just applicable for consumer packaged snack products, but for large scale ingredients production, which will likely be the 'workhorse' of the Treasure8 business, said Childs.
“You can make powders, diced pieces and whole ingredients with flavors and textures and colors that are just amazing from gluts, seconds, uglies, and imperfects as well as from post-production food streams all the way to regular Grade A sources.”
He added: “We’re most interested in infield waste and post-production waste, and we’re looking for invariant sources of both of those.
“So working with infield waste, part of our technology stops the rotting process enzymatically, and by working with growers and doing the drying closer to the source, we can take more bruised produce than most and turn it into high value products, for example.
“With post production waste, we’re working initially with juice pressing, but then we’ll look at beer, wine, tofu… one stream after another. So with what’s left after you’ve pressed carrots, beets and greens, for example, we’re creating high value ingredients we will be using in our cookie thins, for example. We’re also looking at colors, flavors and nutraceuticals.”
Treasure8 is an engine that creates products and brands are set up for acquisition
Treasure8 – based on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay – has raised $9m to date from investors including New Zealand Maori trust The Tuaropaki Trust, Mike Burbank, Scott Pofcher, Joel Solomon, Jim Villanueva, Takeshi Kohjima, Shaari Ergas, David Rowan, Dr Eric Bonabeau, Arno Hesse, and Powerplant Ventures, and is now raising $20m in a Series B with a $2m convertible note front end, said Childs.
“Treasure8 is like an engine that creates products and brands that are set up for acquisition. We get to a minimal viable product, we build a brand around it, build a supply chain, get a co-manufacturer set up if we’re not making it ourselves, build velocity and then find an operator to take it up.
“We’re our own incubator for brands and companies, mostly focused on food waste. We’re not really a cookie or a chip company, but we need to demonstrate what’s possible, and we know a lot about building consumer brands.”
What is infrared dry blanching (IDB)?
According to the USDA patent: "Conventional blanching and dehydration requires use of steam and forced hot air. This invention [IDB] is the first to effectively use infrared radiation energy to perform simultaneous blanching and dehydration of fruits and vegetables.
"Since this technology does not involve the addition of steam or water in the process of blanching, it has been named 'infrared dry-blanching' (IDB) technology.
"IDB is intended to be a replacement for current steam, water and/or microwave blanching methods. It can be used to produce many kinds of value-added dried, refrigerated, frozen and dehydrofrozen foods such as fruit and vegetable products.
"In general, the advantages of IDB include (1) uniform heating which enhances energy efficiency and limits damage from over-heating, (2) capability of zone heating to address differential density, (3) ability to treat large or small lots with the same piece of equipment, (4) portability, since equipment can be built on wheels, and (5) a safe, non-toxic process with no harmful side-effects to humans or the environment."
“Through our strong partnership with Treasure8 we developed a patented and transformative technology to add value to food and food waste that I believe will transform the food industry.”
Dr. Tara McHugh, research leader, healthy processed foods research unit, USDA Agricultural Research Service