Mid-Day Squares adds some sweet capital to its ‘chocolate gone crazy’ empire

Mid-Day Squares has had an interesting journey to where it is today, including an idea founded in a kitchen, a declined acquisition from a chocolate giant and a music video rebuttal.

The Canada-based company was founded by Nick Saltarelli, his wife, Lezlie Karls and her brother, Jake Karls in 2018 after coming from different careers in areas like product development and marketing.

The startup was born out of Lezlie Karls’ initial desire to get into plant-based foods when she whipped up the idea for Mid-Day Squares’ first product, Fudge Yah, in her kitchen. It is a double layer of chocolate, chunky on top and soft on the bottom, that includes fiber, protein and Omega-3 to help satisfy the hunger cravings you get after lunch — hence the mid-day part.

“When walking the grocery aisle, we saw that people were looking for more protein and less sugar,” CEO Lezlie Karls told TechCrunch. “We saw a white space for functional chocolate. There are a lot of chocolate bars, but no one is making chocolate that gives benefits like fiber and fills you up.”

Nearly four years later, one flavor is now three, with Almond Crunch and Peanut Butta joining the lineup.

Mid-Day Squares Nick Saltarelli, Lezlie Karls, Jake Karls

Mid-Day Squares co-founders, from left, Jake Karls, Lezlie Karls and Nick Saltarelli. Image Credits: Mid-Day Squares

Lezlie Karls and Saltarelli describe themselves as introverted, and wanted to bring in someone who could help create a community. That’s where Jake Karls comes in. At the time, he was running a clothing business on college campuses, hosting parties with hundreds of people and working the social media channels.

One thing that swayed him to join his sister and brother-in-law was that he realized the food and beverage space was operating from an older playbook and not making much noise. That was the opposite of what they saw for Mid-Day Squares.

“I asked them, ‘what if we are the different ones, the ones that tell the story that emotionally connects?’” Jake Karls said. “I showed them a slide of a rock band and told them this was the strategy: We are going to become a rock band, but will sell chocolate, showing the good, bad and ugly of the business using social media. Then people will feel like they are buying from a friend because they know us.”

The method was tested when, in 2021, Hershey’s wanted to purchase the company. After deciding the deal wasn’t for them, the company received a cease-and-desist letter from Hershey’s about using the color orange for its packaging, something that had not been a problem. They responded with a music video entitled, “Chocolate Gone Crazy.”

Today, the company has a mix of 65% in-store retail and 35% online. The bars can be purchased in more than 2,400 stores, including Whole Foods and Sprouts nationwide. It also locked in a partnership with Target that will put Mid-Day Squares within a six-mile radius of most Americans.

Mid-Day Squares is now looking at a fourth flavor, and took in its third fundraise of $10 million to get the ball rolling on that and an expansion into other retailers, convenience stores and internationally into the U.K., Latin America and Asia.

In addition to the fourth flavor, they have plans to launch a fifth in 2023, and have another two in the product pipeline.

Saltarelli considers the new funding a Series C, mainly because the company did not want to take on convertible notes. Mid-Day Squares previously raised $7.5 million, and with the latest investment, has a $35 million pre-money valuation.

The lead investor on the round was Siddhi Capital, which was joined by BFG (Boulder Food Group), Selva Ventures, Harlo Entertainment and a group of individual investors, including Peter Burns, David Cynamon, Mike Fata, Bobby Parrish, David Meltzer, Noah Brennan, Clayton Christopher, Gurdeep Prewal, Dylan Barbour, Rachel Mansfield, Elly Truesdell and Alexandre Guertin.

The company, on average, sells 13 bars per store per week per flavor and ended 2021 with $8 million revenue. Saltarelli expects to see double that at the end of this year. He has an ambitious goal of reaching $100 million in revenue by 2025, and the company has its own manufacturing plant with the ability to produce the capacity needed to get there.

Saltarelli also hinted that when the investment runs out, Mid-Day Squares will likely be in position to go public in Canada.

“We are building a brand, not just to be a product on the shelf, but to build a deep community,” Lezlie Karls added. “People are tired of buying from conglomerates where they don’t know who is behind it. We are offering a $3.99 square to be part of this journey with us.”

Recipe app Pestle helps you organize, plan, and cook hands-free or with friends on FaceTime

A newly launched recipe app called Pestle aims to do more than provide a place to save and organize your favorite recipes. The app, from indie developer Will Bishop, also helps you plan meals, create shopping lists, keep up with new recipes from creators, and even cook hands-free or with friends and family remotely over Apple’s SharePlay feature for FaceTime.

The result is a well-built recipe app that provides a better experience for the end user, and one which tries to respect the creator content it organizes by offering source links, tools to discover more recipes from the same creator as they’re published, and a feature that encourages repeat visits to recipe sites. But some of Pestle’s other features make it almost too easy to bypass creators’ websites, which could cause concerns.

Like many people who use the web to find cooking inspiration, Bishop grew frustrated with the clutter common to today’s recipe websites where you have to scroll all the way to the bottom to find the actual recipe steps — a format designed to capture more Google Search traffic. Also like many home chefs, Bishop found himself copying and pasting recipes into Apple’s Notes app so he could annotate them with his own tweaks and tips. This wasn’t the ideal solution, of course — as it involved many manual steps and resulted in a disorganized system, given that Notes isn’t designed to be a recipe database. So he decided to create his own solution with Pestle.

The app integrates with Safari, so you can save any recipe you find on the web by tapping on the “Share” button from your iOS browser, like Safari or Chrome, then tapping on Pestle from the list of apps that appears. Pestle will automatically import the recipe, including the list of ingredients and instructions. This is similar to how other popular recipe-saving apps work, like Whisk or Paprika, for instance.

However, where other apps may highlight the source directly on the recipe’s page, making it obvious who to credit, Pestle’s attribution link is tucked under its 3-dot “more” menu at the top of the recipe’s page. This isn’t likely an issue for the end user, who can easily seek out the link if they need to refer back to the website for more information. But it could cause complaints from the recipe’s creator, given that it takes an extra tap to get to the link, and feels a bit hidden.

In addition, while competitor Whisk even goes so far as to not import a recipe’s instructions — forcing users to visit the recipe site, where they can then choose to copy and paste instructions into the app for later reference — Pestle automatically imports the instructions alongside the ingredient list and nutritional info. Again, handy for the end user; less so for the creator.

Finally, while premium users can enjoy smart suggestions of new recipes from the recipe sites they like to visit, these can also be browsed and saved without a website visit.

Bishop, however, says he tried to be careful about the implementation here with regard to creator content.

Image Credits: Pestle

“Ultimately I think Pestle compliments recipe websites as opposed to simply taking. Firstly, when you share a recipe to Pestle, you have to already be on their page. Meaning you’ve loaded their ads, their ranking improves, etc,” he explains. “Pestle is akin to clicking the print button in recipe websites.”

Plus, he notes, the sources are attributed and linked to, and the app also prompts you to revisit the website after you finish cooking to leave a review, which is an interesting idea in terms of recirculating traffic from the app back to the creator’s original content.

“Additionally, recipes are not redistributed en-mass,” Bishop adds. “Pestle users can share recipes with one another, but if they share the recipe to someone who doesn’t have Pestle it’ll simply load the original site.”

From the end user’s perspective, there are few complaints as Pestle offers an easy-to-use app with a lot of helpful features. Though you can create your own folders, Pestle will automatically organize recipes for you by category and cuisine, so you can quickly find recipes without having to come up with your own foldering system.

As you cook, you can switch into a guided experience where you move through the recipe on a step-by-step basis. You can also set multiple timers along the way, and tap on links within each to be reminded of the quantities you need. Many other apps force you to switch back and forth between ingredient lists and the steps, which can complicate matters when the recipe’s steps have to be implemented quickly or when hands are messy.

And if dirtying your screen is a concern, you can also navigate the app hands-free using voice commands like “Back” and “Next.”

Image Credits: Pestle

Pestle also supports Apple’s SharePlay, so you can place a FaceTime call with family or friends, and cook together while using the app.

Premium users gain access to a few more features, like the discover section for finding new cooking inspiration, handoff and sync between iPhone and iPad devices, 14-day meal planning support, and shopping lists with Apple Reminders integration. (It won’t go so far as to help you order the ingredients through a shopping site like Instacart, however).

The paid subscription is on sale during its launch where a “lifetime” subscription will cost just $4.99, rather than the $9.99 per year (or $0.99/mo) subscription that will otherwise be available. After launch, the lifetime subscription will later cost $25.

Bishop, a 19-year old indie developer and former WWDC scholar, had built other apps before Pestle, including an Apple Watch Reddit app Nano for Reddit and an Apple Watch Twitter app, Chirp, among others. But Pestle is his main focus as the others are largely self-sufficient.

He’d like to bring Pestle to other platforms, but for the time being, that may not be possible as a one-person operation, he says.

Meez keeps recipes in one place so chefs can continue whipping up culinary delights

Meez, a company creating professional recipe software and a culinary operating system, brought in its first-ever funding round of $6.5 million to continue developing its tools to help chefs manage their recipes.

Josh Sharkey,, Meez

Josh Sharkey, CEO of Meez. Image Credits: Evan Sung

CEO Josh Sharkey, a chef himself for most of his career, incorporated the New York-based technology company back in 2015. However, what touched off the search for a place to keep his recipes and processes came more like 15 years ago when he lost the notebook where he kept recipes and how to prepare dishes. Colleagues were using everything from the standard Google or Word documents to spreadsheets, but Sharkey wanted a more digital approach.

“The idea of how to digitize everything stuck with me,” he told TechCrunch. “There are tools for things like inventory management or financial software, but there wasn’t anything built for the things we do in the kitchen or related to what we actually do.”

He and his team built Meez to be a collaboration tool, recipe keeper and progression, training and prep tool all rolled into one — Sharkey referred to it as a “Google Drive for chefs.”

The technology has two components, the first being how users put their recipes into the system and then how to make them scalable and usable by both the user and their kitchen colleagues. It also includes resources that chefs tap into daily, like ingredient yields and unit conversion, a menu cost calculator and automated allergen tagging and nutrition analysis.

The software was launched in 2020, and Meez already counts as clients major restaurateurs, like Jose Andres and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, as well as culinary schools, including the Institute of Culinary Education.

Struck Capital led the funding round and was joined by Craft Ventures, Relish Works, Aurify Brands, Food Tech Angels and Branded Strategic Ventures. Angel investors backing the company include Snap’s former head of product Bobby Lo, Shef founders and Bento Box founder and CEO Krystle Mobayeni.

Meez, kitchen

Meez software. Image Credits: Meez

Meez started in December 2020 with 20 paying customers and has grown to more than 750 today among a diverse mix of restaurants, from fine dining to fast casual and culinary schools, an area that Sharkey plans to dig into in the next year. Also during that time, the company’s revenue grew steadily 22% month over month, which he attributed to the company’s unique approach and digital adoption making its way into the kitchen.

“The adoption curve hit the infancy stages of the food world,” Sharkey added. “Culinary professionals are starting to realize how to do more with less, and they can’t rely on their labor all the time. Things that worked before the pandemic don’t work now. This is a helpful tool and necessity because you can’t just rely on the recipe anymore, there are other things you have to do to it to be able to operationalize your content, and there was not a place to do that before.”

Sharkey intends to deploy the new capital into developing an iOS app and technology development, including menu planning, self-onboarding automation and to launch and test direct-to-consumer recipe engagement.

In addition, the company plans on attracting new restaurants this year and growing the team. Meez has 17 employees now, and Sharkey expects to add another 10 this year.

“Culinary professionals are some of the most creative and inventive people on the planet. But due to the physical nature of their work, very little attention has been paid to how digital technology can be leveraged to improve their workflows and systems for collaboration,” said Adam Struck, CEO of Struck Capital, in a written statement. “Josh is a unique founder in that he’s a professional chef, restaurant industry operator, and technology expert. He’s been able to synthesize the pain points that plague almost all kitchens into a platform that’s intuitive, beautifully designed and addresses major pain points for one of the world’s largest and oldest industries.”

Umamicart bags $6M to deliver traditional Asian ingredients right to your home

People come together around the dinner table and the food they love, but for Umamicart founder and CEO Andrea Xu, it wasn’t always easy to find the ingredients to make the foods she grew up eating with her family.

Xu’s parents are Chinese, but moved to Spain, opening up their own Chinese restaurant. She recalls the grocery stores not having the kinds of sauces, thinly-sliced meat cuts and vegetables common in Asian cuisine. Even when she moved to the U.S. for college, she and her friends would talk about what wasn’t available in the one aisle of the grocery store dedicated to Asian cooking.

Andrea Xu, Umamicart

Andrea Xu, founder and CEO of Umamicart. Image Credits: Umamicart

“Food has been a way to connect back to identity, but there was difficulty in accessing foods that were prevalent in my household,” she told TechCrunch. “In the U.S., there are 29 million Chinese Americans, yet there is still a hurdle to access products.”

With most anything available for delivery these days, Xu decided to put that to the test with Asian ingredients. In March, she and Will Nichols, formerly with FJ Labs, launched Umamicart, an online Asian grocer and delivery service offering both a curated and comprehensive selection of traditional and creative Asian products.

Umamicart aims to be a one-stop shop for home cooks, offering staple products and pantry essentials, recipe inspirations and occasion-specific kits for cooking activities like holiday roast duck, DIY sushi night, hotpot and dumpling making.

Orders can be placed via the company’s website — and soon a mobile app — with same-day delivery for New York City customers, or next-day delivery to ZIP codes in greater New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia, Maryland, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C. areas.

Today, the company announced $6 million in seed capital in a round co-led by M13 and FJ Labs, with participation from Picus Capital, Starting Line, Golden Ventures, First Minute Capital and Goldhouse Ventures. This brings the company’s total funding raised to $7 million, including a $1 million seed round.

Brent Murri, investor at M13, was introduced to Xu by FJ Labs, and said Umamicart was in line with the kinds of consumer technology his firm typically invests in, looking at the digitization of food. M13 has invested in similar companies, like Thrive Market and Shef.

“The combination of Andrea and Will as co-founders is one of the best market fits I saw this year,” Murri said. “Andrea has learned from her parents and retained a lot of relationships with food distributors, while Will led Instacart’s New York City market, so he knows how to scale the grocery business. All of that set them apart.”

He noted that grocery experts expect half of the U.S. population to make at least one digital grocery purchase next year. However, the digitization of grocery stores is not equal to everyone, citing the Asian market as one that is largely offline, providing space for companies like Umamicart to offer a curated selection of food with good customer experience.

The new capital will enable the company to expand its delivery range, grow its team and add product catalogue and geographic service areas as Umamicart sees increased demand from customers. Xu would like to provide more diverse offerings for Southeast Asian cuisine and increase the number of recipes available to users.

“We are also seeing huge interest from people who didn’t exactly grow up eating Asian food, but have come to enjoy it and cooking it,” she added.

The global food delivery market was estimated at around $111 billion last year, with forecasts showing that to be $154 billion in 2023, according to a report from ResearchAndMarkets.com. Overall interest in cooking and eating ethnic food continues to increase. U.S. retail sales of ethnic foods was $12.5 billion in 2018, up from $11 billion in 2013, while annual spend at Chinese restaurants in the U.S. was estimated to be just over $15 billion in 2020.

Umamicart itself saw 313% in quarter-to-quarter web traffic growth since its launch in March, is growing 20% to 30% month over month and now has more than 3,000 products.

The pandemic showed some key insights that when cooking with Asian cuisine, people prefer fresh products, but if those aren’t accessible, it impedes cooking and people try to find swaps, Xu said.

“Consumers are also rejecting what is in the international or ethnic aisle and want to source products and brands that are better,” she added. “We value that, so when they come to Umamicart, they know that what we put on our shelves is a vetted product, tried and true staples or the best new brands we were able to scout.”

New capital gives Mosaic Foods additional runway for plant-based frozen meals

Mosaic Foods, a plant-based food company, announced Tuesday $6 million in seed funding as it continues to develop more products.

The New York-based company came onto the food scene in 2019, co-founded by Matt Davis and Sam McIntire, with its line of frozen veggie bowls that includes recipes like peanut tofu bowl and butternut squash and sage pasta.

Prior to Mosaic, Davis, CEO, and McIntire, CRO, worked with each other at Bain Capital Ventures. They realized that to eat better and adopt a plant-based diet, it takes some work, especially to find flavorful dishes that won’t make you miss meat.

At the core of Mosaic Foods, the co-founders believe that we should all be eating more plants and less meat. However, the excuse they heard most often was lack of taste as a reason not to go plant-based.

Matt Davis, Sam McIntire, Mosaic Foods

Mosaic Foods co-founders Matt Davis and Sam McIntire. Image Credits: Mosaic Foods

“If we take the excuse out of eating more plants and make it delicious, people will look forward to eating more plants, and it will have a huge impact,” McIntire told TechCrunch.

“We want to make eating plant-based as easy as ordering takeout,” Davis added. “We ended up cooking our own favorite recipes, and the first six dishes came out of our own kitchen.”

Here’s how Mosaic works: choose a meal plan — eight or 12 meals, with the flexibility to skip or cancel; select from the breakfast, lunch and dinner options; you will receive the fast-frozen items to store in your freezer; and it comes with instructions for no chopping, cooking or cleanup. Meals cost, on average, $4.99 per serving.

Two years after launching, the company has gone from six to 50 products, grown 15 times in revenue, opened a 16,000-square-foot kitchen in New Jersey and expanded shipping to California. It has also expanded its product line to include oat bowls, soups and family meals, while also starting Mosaic+, a curated collection of meals created in partnership with top chefs and food personalities.

Gather Ventures led the seed round and was joined by Greycroft and Alleycorp. The latest investment brings Mosaic’s total funding to about $10 million.

“We knew working with Adam (Slutsky) would be going after a huge opportunity,” Davis said. “By raising capital, we would be able to affect more lives faster.”

Slutsky, co-founder of Moviefone, former CEO of Mimeo.com and former president of Tough Mudder, founded Gather in 2019 and only invests in plant-based companies.

The sector is a personal one for him — he was diagnosed with heart disease at 42 years old and had to change his diet. Slutsky’s investment strategy is very hands-on, so he invests in about four companies per year.

“I am a big believer in this as the world moved from convenience to now health, environment and other ethical issues,” he said. “If you can do it for a price point, it makes sense, and these guys are it.”

The company now has 30 employees and is covering approximately 50% of the country, mainly on the eastern seaboard (but most recently added California in July). It is also on track to hit 1 million meals sold by the end of the year.

The new funding will be used to build on the team already in place, invest in infrastructure, which involves continuing to own and operate its own kitchens, and launch new products. The co-founders expect to be selling via other channels, in addition to DTC, by this time next year.

Foody cooks up marketplace for culinary creators

Husband-and-wife co-founders Daniel and Brenna Stitzel are developing a way for foodies to monetize their culinary creations and closed on a round of $1.5 million in pre-seed funding to officially launch Foody.

The investment was led by Serena Ventures, with Goodwater Capital and a group of angel investors joining, including Patreon’s Jack Conte, former Postmates exec Vivek Patel, Greenoaks Capital’s Neil Mehta and KeepTruckin’s Shoaib Makani.

Most Americans — 98% of them — cook at home at least once a week, but finding recipes means long internet searches and wading through food blog stories and ads to get to the recipe.

Foody enables users to buy recipes, or upload their own, and keep them in one ad-free place. It also is partnering with Michelin-star chefs, like Jeremiah Tower, and food bloggers to monetize their recipes and other content while building relationships with fans.


Foody app. Image Credits: Foody

The idea for the company came about when Brenna Stitzel decided to go to culinary school in 2020 after a career in banking. When the global pandemic shut down her school and available food items on store shelves dwindled, Stitzel began getting inquiries from friends about what they could make with the pantry staples on hand.

“People were looking for content, so I started putting out recipes, but I wasn’t satisfied with the tools available,” she added. “There was not one great software to help food creators of all kinds, from restaurants to authors, to monetize their content and get it out there, nor was there one central place for home chefs to save, share and store their recipes.”

The Stitzels then set out to build a tool for creators to publish and share recipes that they can push out to fans with QR codes and URLs. Foodies can sign up for free to use the site, and then be able to put together a collection of recipes for a small fee.

Foody is launching with over 30 creators, including a curated list of a dozen featured creators, including Tower, Brandon Jew (Mister Jiu’s), Evan and Sarah Rich (Rich Table), Harold Villarosa, Gaby Dalkin, Amanda Frederickson, Amanda Haas, Laura and Sayat Ozyilmaz, A16 Restaurant and Tu David Phu.

In Serena Ventures, the Stitzels said they found partners “who share our vision for building amazing software that empowers creators and improves the day to day lives of home cooks.”

“Food and cooking are such big parts of my life, both for my profession and with my family,” Serena Williams, founder and managing partner of Serena Ventures, said in a written statement. “I’m so excited to try new recipes on Foody, and I believe it’s time culinary creators from every culture and background have an opportunity to turn their creativity into income.

The company intends to use the new funding to grow its team of 10 in engineering and development to build out new products and features, Dan Stitzel said.

“We have a big vision for what amazing kitchen software could be that includes planning weekly meals and integrating with grocery delivery services,” he added.

Pinterest to test livestreamed events this month with 21 creators

Pinterest is expanding into live events. The company is planning to host a three-day virtual event that will feature livestreamed sessions from top creators, including big names like Jonathan Van Ness and Rebecca Minkoff, among others. The virtual event will run inside the Pinterest app from May 24th through May 25th, and will serve as the company’s first public test of directly streaming creator content to its more than 475 million global users.

The rise of the creator economy and a pandemic-fueled demand for virtual events led Pinterest to explore the idea of livestreaming. Last fall, it began testing a “class communities” feature that allowed users to sign up for Zoom classes through Pinterest, while creators used Pinterest’s boards to organize materials, notes and other resources. These communities also included a group chat option and shopping features.

The new livestreamed sessions will operate a bit differently.

For starters, they’re not directing users off-site to Zoom for the sessions. Instead, users will launch the livestreaming experience directly inside Pinterest mobile app and remain there during the sessions. Pinterest users can also comment to interact with the creator during their stream, but there is no longer any shopping functionality, Pinterest tells TechCrunch.

Image Credits: Pinterest

The livestreams allow up to five “guests” and an unlimited number of viewers. Meanwhile, moderators — which may include Pinterest employees, during this test — will help to control the experience. They will also have the ability to remove people from the chat if they do not uphold Pinterest’s Community Standards.

The forthcoming event’s lineup will focus a variety of topics, including food, design, cooking, style and more.

Jonathan Van Ness‘ session will discuss morning rituals and self-care routines. Fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff will teach Pinterest users how to style their summer wardrobe. Others featured during the event include food creators GrossyPelosi and Peter Som, who will showcase favorite recipes; Women’s Health magazine will talk about using vision boards to achieve your goals; Jennifer Alba will show how to communicate the Zodiac through sign language; and Hannah Bronfman will offer ideas for creating an at-home spa night.

In total, Pinterest will feature around 21 creators throughout the three-day event, with around seven different sessions per day. Users will be directed to the live event via a new “Live” tab inside the Pinterest app for iOS and Android, where they can view the schedule and join sessions.

Image Credits: Pinterest

“As a visual platform, people discover billions of ideas on Pinterest every day, and we’re always looking for new ways to help them bring those ideas to life,” says David Temple, Pinterest’s head of Creators.

Temple notes Pinterest has integrated with third-party livestreaming technologies and built its own in-house messaging systems to power live interactions.

“We’re excited about the opportunity to respond to Pinner feedback for more dynamic and timely events as new interests like cooking have emerged for many in quarantine, and trends like beauty, fashion, and home renovation are on all-time highs as we move into a post-pandemic world,” Temple adds.

However, Pinterest isn’t discussing how it views the potential for live events longer-term. For the time being, it’s not offering tools that could woo creators away from other platforms where they can monetize their fans through features like donations, tips, virtual gifts, paid ticketing, subscriptions or brand partnerships via a creator marketplace. Without such options, Pinterest could have a hard time competing for creators’ attention.

Image Credits: Pinterest

Nearly every big tech platform today is making a play for creators, and some are even willing to throw cash at them to win them over. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok and Twitter are all building out features that let creators do more than build an audience to monetize through ads or brand deals. Now, fans can send creators money during or after streams, subscribe for exclusive content, pay for access and more, depending on the platform.

New types of creator services are emerging, too, including the audio chat room experience pioneered by Clubhouse (and being cloned by everyone else), as well as dozens of virtual events startups hoping to win the market.

Pinterest’s attraction among such heavy competition isn’t clear, but the company will use this experiment to learn more about what works for its own community.

Pinterest tested its livestreaming technology with employees a few weeks ago, but this will be the first time the feature will be available to the public.

While the event lineup can be viewed on the web, the livestreams themselves will only run inside the Pinterest app for iOS and Android starting May 24th.

While other startups develop alt-proteins for meat replacement, Nourish Ingredients focuses on fat

Plant-based meat replacements have commanded a huge amount of investor and consumer attention in the decade or more since new entrants like Beyond Meat first burst onto the scene.

These companies have raised billions of dollars and the industry is now worth at least $20 billion as companies try to bring all the meaty taste of… um… meat… without all of the nasty environmental damage… to supermarket aisles and restaurants around the world.

Switching to a plant-based diet is probably the single most meaningful contribution a person can make to reducing their personal greenhouse gas emissions (without buying an electric vehicle or throwing solar panels on their roof).

The problem that continues to bedevil the industry is that there remains a pretty big chasm between the taste of these meat replacements and actual meat, no matter how many advancements startups notch in making better proteins or new additives like Impossible Foods’ heme. Today, meat replacement companies depend on palm oil and coconut oil for their fats — both inputs that come with their own set of environmental issues.

Enter Nourish Ingredients, which is focusing not on the proteins, but the fats that make tasty meats tasty. Consumers can’t have delicious, delicious bacon without fat, and they can’t have a marvelously marbled steak replacements without it either.

The Canberra, Australia-based company has raised $11 million from Horizons Ventures, the firm backed by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing (also a backer of Impossible Foods), and Main Sequence Ventures, an investment firm founded by Australia’s national science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.

That organization is actually where the company’s two co-founders James Petrie and Ben Leita met back in 2013 while working as scientists. Petrie, a specialist in crop development, was spearheading the development of omega-3 canola oil, while Leita had a background in chemistry and bioplastics.  

The two had previously worked on a company that was trying to increase oil production in plants, something that the CSRO had been particularly interested in circa 2017. As the market for alternative meats really began to take off, the two entrepreneurs turned their attention to trying to make corollaries for animal fats.

When we were talking to people we realized that these alternative food space was going to need these animal fat like plants,” said Leita. “We could use that skillset for fish oil and out of canola oil.”

Nourish’s innovation was in moving from plants to bacteria. “With the iteration speeds, it feels kind of like we’re cheating,” said Petrie. “You can get the cost of goods pretty damn low.”

Nourish Ingredients uses bacteria or organisms that make significant amounts of triglycerides and lipids. “Examples include Yarrowia. There are examples of that being used for production of tailored oils,” said Petrie. “We can tune these oleaginous organisms to make these animal fats that give us that great taste and experience.”

As both men noted, fats are really important for flavor. They’re a key differentiator in what makes different meats taste different, they said.

“The cow makes cow fat because that’s what the cow does, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best fat for a plant protein,” said Petrie. “We start out with a mimetic. No reason for us to be locked by the original organism. We’re trying to create new experiences. There are new experiences out there to be had.”

The company already counts several customers in both the plant and recombinant protein production space. Now, with 18 employees, the company is producing both genetically modified and non-CRISPR cultivated optimized fats. 

Other startups and established businesses also have technologies that could allow them to enter this new market. Those would be businesses like Geltor, which is currently focused on collagen, or Solazyme, which makes a range of bio-based specialty oils and chemicals.

As active investors in the alternative protein space, we realize that animal-free fats that replicate the taste of traditional meat, poultry and seafood products are the next breakthrough in the industry,” said Phil Morle, partner at Main Sequence Ventures. “Nourish have discovered how to do just that in a way that’s sustainable and incredibly tasty, and we couldn’t be happier to join them at this early stage.” 

TikTok partners with Whisk to pilot a recipe-saving feature on food videos

TikTok is expanding its integrations with third-party services, with the launch of a test that allows creators in the food space to link directly to recipes found on the Whisk app. This is being made possible by way of a new “recipe” button overlaid on related TikTok food videos. The feature makes a TikTok cooking video more actionable as it encourages viewers to not just watch the content, but also take the next step to save the content for later use.

The new button could also potentially drive significant traffic to Whisk — especially if a particular recipe went viral — like the “TikTok Pasta” videos have, in recent days.

The addition is being made available in partnership with Whisk and is currently in “alpha testing,” TikTok confirmed to TechCrunch. TikTok says its also worked with Whisk to help identify food content creators who could serve as the first adopters of the new functionality.

We found the feature in action on one of TikTok’s top food creators profiles, The Korean Vegan, aka Joanne L. Molinaro.

Image Credits: TikTok screenshot


The button was also first spotted by social media consultant Matt Navarra on the @feelgoodfoodie TikTok account.

The way the feature works, from the TikTok viewer’s side, is fairly simple.

A user who’s in the test group may come across a video on the app that includes the new button that reads: “See full recipe.” The button appears just above the creator name and video description on the bottom left of the screen  — the same spot where the “Green Screen” button would otherwise appear. When tapped, you’re directed to a Whisk page where you can view the recipe photos, ingredients, and choose to save the recipe to your own collection, if you’re a Whisk user.

This all takes place while still inside the TikTok app.

On the creator’s side, adding the recipe button to a video is done during the posting workflow via a new “add link” option.

The ability to add a “save recipe” feature to a TikTok video wouldn’t necessarily have to be limited to food content creators, however. Whisk allows anyone to create a recipe community on its platform, which means people can grow their followings simply by curating their favorite recipes around some sort of category or theme — like Instant Pot meals or favorite smoothie ideas or comfort baking, for example.

Image Credits: Whisk

Whisk has also been working more recently to expand its recipe communities to serve as a home for curators and creators alike by allowing them to point to their websites, if they have one, or link out to their social media profiles, including Instagram, YouTube, and of course, TikTok.

The idea is that fans would view the content on social media and be inspired, then visit Whisk as the next step in terms of saving the recipe, creating a shopping list, or actually trying the recipe at home. This sort of “actionable” content could present a challenge to Pinterest, which has been expanding into short-form video through Story Pins. The feature allows Pinterest creators to share video content in the tappable “story” format — including recipe and cooking videos.

Pinterest hoped to use Story Pins as a way to differentiate its short-form videos from rivals, noting during its earnings last week that Story Pins are “not as focused on entertainment,” but rather “what the Pinner could do to enrich their own lives.”

TikTok’s selection of Whisk as a new partner makes sense as the recipe app has gained a rapid following since its late 2019 launch. Today, Whisk sees over 1.5 million interactions per month on its platform. It also just won a “Best of 2020″ Google Play award.

Whisk’s TikTok button, however, is not the first integration of its kind.

Last month, learning platform Quizlet announced a similar TikTok feature aimed at creators in the education space. In its case, the buttons overlaid on top of videos would link directly to Quizlet’s study sets, like its digital flashcards. At the time, it wasn’t clear that the new Quizlet feature was a part of a larger effort to connect TikTok videos more directly with related apps and services — an addition that could lead to an expansion in TikTok content and, perhaps, influencer sponsorships, further down the road.

There’s potential for TikTok to form other partnerships like this as well, given the app’s ability to drive trends across a number of content categories, effectively becoming the video alternative to Pinterest’s image bookmarking site.

At year-end, for example, TikTok published lists of 2020’s “top trends” in cooking, music, beauty, and style. On the style front, TikTok already ran a livestreamed video shopping pilot with Walmart that used influencers to drive purchases, demonstrating the potential in connecting video inspiration to consumer action in an even more timely fashion.

Nomad’s charcoal grill suitcase is modern ingenuity combined with classic cooking

Dallas-based Nomad set out to take an age-old cooking method and modernize it – but not by introducing connected or smart features. Instead, the Nomad Grill & Smoker takes classic charcoal grilling and relies on clever industrial design to make it packable and portable, while making sure cooks of all expertise levels can make great-tasting food even if they’re cooking with charcoal for the first time.


Nomad’s grill looks like some kind of fancy protective case that you’d expect to see traveling with a film crew, crossed with maybe a modern Mac Pro. It has an anodized aluminum build that uses a unibody casting in manufacturing, with high external durability and internal heat retention. It measures roughly 2 feet by 2 foot, and is around 9.5 inches tall when closed, with a total weight of 28 lbs including the cast stainless steel grill grate that’s included int the basic package.

28 lbs may seem like a lot, but it’s remarkably light for the cook surface you get with Nomad, which adds up to either 212 square inches of space in single-grate closed mode (good for smoking) or up to 425 square inches in open grill mode, which can double the cooking surface with the purchase of an optional second grate and charcoal placed in either side (better for open flame BBQing).

The case features a strong and durable dual latch closure system, and a reinforced handle for toting it around. Silicon skids offer protection for surfaces when laying the grill down to cook, and there are two magnetic air vents on either side for controlling airflow and flame, which are adjusted simply by manually sliding.

Design and performance

Image Credits: Nomad

The Nomad design is deceptively simple – at heart it’s essentially a metal box. But looking below the surface a bit, it actually hides some very advanced construction, including a layered shell design that means the outside never actually gets too hot, which is great not only for chef safety but also for setting it down on a wide range of materials during the actual cook process. For a portable grill, that’s a huge benefit.

Looking at the grill grate specifically, it features a honeycomb design that helps better distribute the heat, which is also domed subtly to allow more clearance for the charcoal underneath. It’s removable, but also snaps into place in the grill itself using magnets, which is great for transport and also for ensuring things don’t move around with any bumps.

One other huge benefit that seems like a small thing at first glance is a built-in thermometer that’s molded into the case. This provides you easy, clear temperature readings for the grill, and it’s analog so there’s no power required – another big benefit for portability.

In practice, the grill works exactly as you’d expect a great charcoal grill to work, which is amazing given its size and portability. It should definitely be mentioned that you’re going to be much happier getting the grill lit if you pick yourself up a charcoal chimney, which eases the lighting process – but that’s a great accessory regardless what kind of charcoal grill you’re using.

Image Credits: Nomad

I was particularly impressed at the Nomad grill’s performance when it comes to smoking. It maintains an even and consistent temperature with the box closed, and it’s easy to moderate the temperature with the built-in vents if you need to adjust the cooking intensity. The proximity of the charcoal to the food also imbues it with great flavor.

Bottom line

The Nomad Grill & Smoker is $599, which is a fairly high asking price, but it’s also unique in the market for the convenience it provides combined with the performance it offers. Whether at home or on road trips, Nomad is a wonderful addition to any home cook’s arsenal, and an all-in-one supplement that can replace even a dedicated, more fixed installation charcoal grill if that’s the way you want to go.