Next generation snacks –aka ‘micro foods’ – will pack a stronger nutritional punch, says Journey Foods

By Elaine Watson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Picture: Journey Foods
Picture: Journey Foods
The next generation of snacks – or ‘micro foods’ as Journey Foods founder and former Google entrepreneur in resident Riana Lynn dubs them – will deliver a greater nutritional bang for your buck thanks to technology enabling companies to identify and source a wider array of nutrient-dense ingredients, she predicts.

The Chicago-based start-up has not provided a full ingredients list for its first wave of products (‘Journey Bites’) – launching via the JourneyFoods website​ ​and Amazon this week - but says its wares will feature ingredients including “mango, cayenne, chia seeds, baobab fruit, seaweed complex, citrus pectins, plant-proteins, probiotics, and added fruit cultures” ​and have a 12 month shelf life (before you open the pack).

And the Bites are just the beginning, claimed Lynn, who has worked with food and tech experts to construct the platform​ ​designed to help Journey Foods – and other food companies – “identify, catalog, and develop unusual and underutilized ingredients, constituents, bioactive compounds, and structure properties from a global array of plant, marine greens, and other non-animal product elements​."

75% of our food comes from about 12 plants and five animals

"A big mission of ours is to promote and educate people on the importance of biodiversity," ​she told FoodNavigator-USA.

"75% of our food comes from about 12 plants and five animals, and we want to help change that, at least on the plant side. We’re working to bring in unique species of fruits many people in the US would never have the chance to taste easily, from cherimoya to baobab, and many more. When we do use more common fruits, like strawberries and mangoes, we’ll try to use cultivars that are not commonly used in order to promote biodiversity in that way."

She added: "The site is a dashboard or portal where partners can co-create products with us based on flavor and nutrient targets, and we are already working with several b2b customers.

"While this is a database, it also uses AI​ [artificial intelligence] for pathways to better and more efficient information. Our algorithms can predict which recipes will best fit nutritional, pricing and organoleptic requirements prior to production, allowing us to to reduce both recipe testing and R&D resources. Our scientists are iterating on-the-go nutrients and prototyping faster; the new R&D."

Machine learning 

The focus is “scientifically-proven functionality and affordability, nutrient density and biodiversity​,” added Lynn, who co-founded juice bar brand Peeled in 2010 and founded the FoodTrace​ food traceability and supply chain management platform in 2013.

“We catalog the properties of thousands of potential ingredients. Using machine learning, our database of ingredient properties is sent as input to predictive models. Machine learning algorithms analyze different combinations of these properties that have met our requirements in the past, in order to predict which new combinations may meet our requirements in the future. We have used our current products and several partner products at training models to test the accuracy of our algorithms.

"Products that meet our Class A specifications in production, commercialization and traceability are then tagged in our system for full transparency and optimization."

She added: "We have also created several proprietary​ [animal-free ingredients that behave like] gelatins... ​[the company is not providing further details at this point]. This is interesting for two reasons: one, they lock in the favors just as powerfully as an animal-based gelatin, extremely hard to create, and two, we can sell this animal-free gelatin as a standalone ingredient. We’re working on other ingredients that will be in this realm."

Nutrient density and biodiversity

Rather than approaching grocery retailers in the first instance, Journey Foods is talking to hospitals, corporate offices, airports, and other non-traditional accounts reaching busy Millennials seeking nutrition on the go, said Lynn, who claimed her bites are “higher in protein and fiber than traditional fresh fruit, and are also rich in polyphenols and unsaturated fatty acids, without all the added sugars​."

The company - which was recently awarded a $15k grant from the Soylent Innovation Lab and a year of free office space in Los Angeles – has backing from “small venture firms in Chicago and some leaders from Google, Four Seasons, and Arlan Hamilton from Backstage Capital,” ​among others, said Lynn.

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