We were lucky enough to connect with Eat the Change co-founder Seth Goldman about this innovative, mission-driven company’s origin story, guiding values, and future plans. Read on to find out how this groundbreaking snack company came to be.
Tell us a bit about the history of Eat the Change and the inspiration behind its founding.
My family had gotten involved in founding the restaurant PLNT Burger, and as we were building that business, two things happened. First, I came to see how my co-founder, Chef Spike Mendelsohn, was incredibly clever and creative with plant-based foods. And second, my son, Jonah, who was heading up the marketing, came up with the phrase, “Eat the change you wish to see in the world.” Just like the first time I heard the name “Honest Tea,” “Eat the Change” struck me as the perfect brand for a call to action and a call to accountability about the role our diets play in impacting the planet. I brought Spike and the PLNT Burger team to visit an organic mushroom farm that I knew from my organic certification days, and we started exploring all the amazing ways we could craft mushrooms into delicious snacks.
What do people need to know about Eat the Change’s mission, values, and objectives?
Before we sold a single pouch of mushroom jerky, we spent a year learning from community-based non-profits that are working to democratize planet-friendly diets. We came to understand which messages and issues resonate the most. That process led to two things: First, we set up a grants program (separately funded by the founders) to invest $1.25 million over three years into those non-profits. And second, we identified planet-based commitments that would shape everything we do. The first commitments were obvious – we would only use plant-based and fungi-based organic ingredients. Then we thought more expansively about our recipes. When we learned that six crops are responsible for 57% of all global agricultural output, we decided to eliminate sugar, corn, rice, wheat, potatoes, and soy from all of our recipes. Then we dug into issues around food and water waste and realized we could play an important role around these issues. We worked with our mushroom farmers to ensure that we could procure all of their not-ready-for-retail mushrooms – by the time the mushrooms are marinated and wood smoked, no one can tell if they are off-size or bruised. We also studied the water footprint of various crops, and were glad to see that our two main ingredients, mushrooms and carrots are some of the most water efficient. We hope someday to do more around our packaging footprint, but have not yet found options that are sustainable and safe.
How have the circumstances of the past couple years impacted the work that you do every day, and how has Eat the Change navigated these challenging times?
I started working on the business in the Winter of 2020, just as COVID was throwing us all for a loop. So instead of trying to launch right away, I took the time to really flesh out what Eat the Change would represent – to figure out what our 5 planet-based commitments would be. Once we did hit the market in early 2021, we did run into several (mostly labor-related) delays and then when we launched in stores, we had to work really hard to find a way to do sampling (which has always been a core part of my marketing strategy). We had our summer interns prepack small sample pouches, which wasn’t ideal, but it enabled us to connect with our consumers, which is so important.
What about your work at Eat the Change motivates you, inspires you, or makes you optimistic about the future?
Eat the Change is both a call to action and a call to accountability for adjusting our diets to match our concerns about climate change. When we help people understand the dietary choices they make represent their most important daily climate-related action, we can help direct them toward more planet-friendly foods. I’m optimistic that the more this realization takes hold, the more people will shift their diets. And of course, when we can deliver delicious foods that are packaged in a fun and accessible way, the more our community expands. We are confident people will want to join us by choosing to “Snack to the Future”!
Can you give us a sneak peak into any notable news or exciting product launches in the pipeline for 2022?
Yes! We have a new kids product made with carrots that we will be launching next month. We set out to create a snack-based version of Honest Kids – something that parents would embrace for its nutritional dimensions and kids would like because its fun and cool. The response from retailers so far has been phenomenal.
What has been the most rewarding moment or pivotal milestone you’ve witnessed during your time at Eat the Change?
I was surprised and delighted to see how creative Spike could be with our product formulations. It’s not hard to understand how a company like Beyond Meat can be so innovative with their team of scientists and engineers, but to see what Spike was able to create in our test kitchen, using only whole foods and common ingredients, to create so many new and innovative tastes is both surprising and exciting. We can’t wait to share!
Based on your experience, what advice would you give to those aspiring to start their own plant-based company, expand into the plant-based arena, or generally make waves in the sector?
There are two simultaneous trends going on in the plant-based world. The undoing of food relies on simple, transparent (usually organic) supply chains, whole foods and on creative recipes – brands in this space include Honest Tea and Eat the Change. And then there are the companies redoing food, such as Beyond Meat, where they apply science and creativity to recreate a category. While these two trends are divergent, they can also be complementary ways to change our food system. But they shouldn’t exist within one brand. Once you figure out which approach you are undertaking, find the exact niche where you know you can get some traction, then don’t stop working until it clicks. Once you’ve got proof of concept, (either in a sub-category or with a specific retailer), slightly expand the concept, then keep repeating until you’ve created a Masterbrand. And the most important piece of advice is to make your food delicious and have fun!
Where can people learn more about Eat the Change and find you online?
Visit our website at https://eatthechange.com and follow us on Instagram @eatthechange.
Image credit: Eat the Change