Konjac is a root vegetable that is primarily grown in Asia and is sought after for its fibrous structure, versatility in food and beverage applications, and low-calorie count. While primarily cultivated in China, "Japan is the first country that really commercialized this ingredient," using it in noodles, juices, mochi, puddings, and other products, Hu said. Additionally, konjac has been used in plant-based seafood alternatives.
Bringing konjac to the West
Hu was inspired to bring konjac to a Western audience through baking mixes that honor her hometown in the southwestern part of China, which is a main producer of konjac. Hu also learned about the functional properties of konjac, including its ability as a binding agent to structure proteins, carbs, and fats, while competing in a fitness competition, Hu explained.
“For me, there are two bottom lines. One is I really wanted to do something to bring a wellness solution [to market], ... and the second thing I really wanted [was] to promote my hometown because my hometown is really an underrated place. It's called Yunnan, and it's a biodiverse hub spot with really rich agricultural resources.”
Given konjac's versatility, it can be used to make gluten-free baked goods by providing a lower fat option over rice flour or other flour substitutes, Hu said. Moyu’s baking mixes are also formulated without added sugar, free from the top 14 allergens, and they include 9g of protein and fiber.
By focusing on baking mixes first, Hu not only hopes to introduce those in the West to a crop from her hometown, but she also wants to make baking easier for everyone. The Moyu baking mixes require four or five eggs to make pancakes, and Moyu has a section of baking recipes on its site for inspiration.
"This is also solving the problem that people have the concern that baking is really a big project," Hu said. "I want to really mix those cultures, using our ingredient [and] our flavors to introduce that to the Western world. On the other hand, also want to encourage more people [from] my background to bake."
The potential to expand beyond baking mixes with konjac
With Moyu's first product now available through a direct-to-consumer offering, Hu is now turning her attention to growing the brand and finding other opportunities to showcase the versatility of konjac in other product categories.
While not ruling out a move into retail, Hu added that Moyu would need “to make sure the market is there” and that consumers are familiar with konjac for baking, she added.
"We're working on the direct-to-consumer side to introduce this new concept, to showcase [it], to people,” Hu said. "As a startup, we will be focusing on providing [instructions on] how to use this mix to make different things, ... and we're focused on the solution and also ingredients side."