Food entrepreneurs have much learn from their peers and, luckily, Amsterdam has seen ambitious food startups multiplying over the recent years. Last week, Bas Gadiot, Partnerships Broker at Crosswise Works, took the participants of Wessanen’s Organic Food against Climate Change Challenge on a bike tour of some of the most promising new food businesses. Welcome to the world of seaweed tagliatelle, fermented tea and unusual breweries.
We began with Europe’s first food business incubator, the Kitchen Republic. In this shared commercial kitchen, 28 entrepreneurs work closely together 24/7 to make their food innovations a success. Bart-Jan Veldhuizen, co-founder of Kitchen Republic, explained he was inspired by similar spaces in the United States. But there is one crucial rule: all entrepreneurs must make different products and thus be willing to help each other out.
Although the kitchen is almost full, the incubator plans to expand soon. And what better way to imagine the future than by tasting some of the products made by Kitchen Republic’s members, who also gave us deep insights into their enterprises.
American Kelly Fagan is the founder of Cultured Kombucha, Amsterdam’s first kombucha microbrewery. In case you don’t know what kombucha is, you’re not alone. Meet a fermented tea with a nearly indescribable taste. Some say sour, some say sweet, some think of soda, some mention alcohol. It would be easy to dedicate an entire afternoon to discussing the arsoma of kombucha, but the bottom-line is that it’s healthy and soon coming to a store near you.
A completely different type of entrepreneur is Edwin Sander of Food Creativ. Chef and visionary in one, his outspoken ideas on how he’s going to reconnect strangers through the experience of sharing food is fascinating. Think of The Morning, his pop-up breakfast series during which he introduces cuisines from all over the world. Or Foodsy, a concept that is meant to fail: to highlight the importance of staff, the restaurant has no waiters.
All the way from Down Under, Peter Ong works in Kitchen Republic on his Baked in Amsterdam pastries and his Patricia Liqueur. The latter can best be described as the good ol’ Dutch jenever getting an Australian coffee culture makeover. G’day mate, gezellig! Peter: “The most important thing you, as an entrepreneur, can do is go out and stand up for your product. You have to tell customers and investors your story because you’d do it best.”
Our next stop was Nieuwe Hemweg, where we met many more inspiring entrepreneurs. Willem Sodderland of Seamore has one ambition: turning a niche crop like seaweed into everyday food. “I served a Bolognese seaweed to my kids and wondered what they thought of it. They said it was alright. When I told them they just are seaweed, their reaction was ‘So what?’ His entrepreneurial experience taught him not to waste time on pleasing everyone. Just make the product as good as possible so that people don’t think of the transition to more sustainable products as a massive change.
Gijs van Maasakker had a ‘Eureka!’ moment when he tasted fermented coconut milk as an alternative to yoghurt. And thus Abbott Kinney’s was born and soon made its way to the shelves of many organic shops. His ambition is to make plant-based alternatives that taste even better than the original. Several participants concluded he is on the way to fulfil that ambition.
What better way to end a day like this than with a cold beer? So we headed off to De Prael, a microbrewery with wonderful beers and a great social mission of giving people with a distance from the labour market – such as psychiatric patients and drug addicts – rewarding and meaningful jobs. Fer Kok, the brewery’s co-founder, was inspired by working in psychiatric hospitals. “I love beers, but I love this group of people even more,” he concluded.
It was an inspiring and energizing day for the entrepreneurs of Wesannen’s Organic Food against Climate Change Challenge, but there much more to come, so stay tuned!