Green Banana Food B.V, foodtech startup that joined our 2017 cohort, offers a completely new way of making your favorite pasta-based meals even healthier, more nutritious, gluten-free using green bananas.
One of the newest food trends on the rise has been the conception of alternative pasta and bread. This trend has become more and more attractive due to the increased attention in low carb and gluten free diets leading many people to gravitate toward swapping out their portion of wheat pasta for a substitute that has a similar taste and flavor without the high carbohydrate load. The increasing of low carb foods market is confirmed by Euromonitor International claiming that the global gluten-free retail market has grown from $1.7bn in 2011 to $3.5bn in 2016 and is forecast to grow to $4.7bn in 2020.
We met Sean, CEO of Green Banana, to discover how he exploits this new consumption trend and learn more about green banana based pasta products.
M: “So Sean, how the idea to produce pasta with green bananas was born?”
Green Banana, BF was launched in 2016 in The Netherlands. The idea of food products using cooking bananas came after a visit to Uganda, where I am from. In Uganda green bananas are the most grown crop though with the least value addition and no food processing application. The high harvests are followed by substantial post-harvest loses and that frustration led me to look deep into the composition and functional properties of the cooking banana flour.
From end 2015, I finished my formal job in a Non-governmental organization in Amsterdam and was ready for the new path of entrepreneurship. The first step was collaborations with Wageningen University to understanding the nutritional benefit and physicochemical characteristics of green cooking bananas. From my kitchen table top, we tested pasta, pizza and bread and was greatly amazed. This was the start of “Green Banana Food Company” and new product development.
M: “How it developed?”
The biggest, scary and tough moment was making the choice to become a founder-entrepreneur. For sure end 2015 I knew I wanted to do this and started looking for entrepreneurship courses as I needed to transition from international development theories to learn what’s a business, what’s an MVP, how to launch a new product. Most important, from April 2016 I was able to get the first investment in product development, moving from kitchen to a pasta lab I set up in The Hague, The Netherlands
One thing I quickly learned is that I cannot do it alone, so I want to get the right team together. With minimal funding, the next quick thing I learned is that the uncertainty in startups is not an attraction to recruiting people. This is one of the biggest challenges I have had to manage, getting people for short periods and this high turnover means there’s often a period I was alone working with experts that give you a few hours a week for advice and building a network within production companies so as to access pilot production locations.
After a few taste testing events as food shows and cooking sessions with restaurants, in August we felt we have a pasta product that is ready to face the world and be challenged. This was around the same time that Startupbootcamp FoodTech was coming to Amsterdam for one of the FastTrack events.
M: “How is the acceleration path Startupbootcamp FoodTech?”
Startupbootcamp FoodTech acceleration is a process that came at the right time for Green Banana. Having finalized our product development processes we felt ready to venture further into getting ready for product launch and the SCB FoodTech programme is the ideal process to go through for a company looking to launch a product with a big bang.
The big test was during the Selection Days where we made a decision to cook our pasta for a mainly Italian group of people. I was freaking out, but my colleague assured me we have a good prototype, and indeed it was true. Got good reviews on the product and insightful points to improve on the product. I told myself that if Italy loves our pasta, the rest of the world will surely go nuts for the pasta.
I was amazed by the number amazing mentors and corporate partners we met during the Selections Days and this show of passion to green banana pasta energized me more and we ready to start our product launch journey.
SBC FoodTech is a very intense practical path and I find in a few weeks I focused on building a better team, finding production partners and develop our brand positioning. What I like most is that you are posed to narrow down your concerns to the key urgent parts of your company, because as a startup you have too many things to figure out so there are times of being overwhelmed with responsibility and deadlines.
M: “What are the next milestones for Green Banana Foods?”
By the end of the SBC acceleration, we aim to have finalized our launching pasta products, we will be launching 3 wholesome pasta varieties with green cooking banana as the main ingredient. We are working on getting to 2 or 3 of the leading supermarkets in The Netherlands and Italy. I have noticed that a number of mainstream supermarkets are also adapting to the growing health-conscious consumer needs and bringing in new alternative products, and this is where we want to be, as more and more people can have access to our affordable high nutrient pasta. The gluten-free pasta varieties will be launched after a couple of months later on.
At our food lab in The Netherlands, we have 3 other products under final R&D processes, so we will continue to bring out new and amazing products that offer better national benefits, quality, and amazing taste. This is the promise of Green Banana Food Company.
Do you want to meet Sean and his team? Request an invitation to out Demo Day below.