A large percentage of America’s fruits and vegetables are thrown out before they are eaten because they don’t look perfect. This shameful practice has a significant financial and environmental cost.
Enter Amy Keller, co-founder of Pure Plus+, a startup that saves produce destined for landfill and turns it into FAVES.
Per Keller FAVES is a “delicious, healthy, candy made out of the most climate impactful, nutrient dense fruits and vegetables.”
GreenSportsBlog spoke with Keller about the company’s unique, way-above-the-Arctic-Circle birth story and how she and her team plan to disrupt and improve the $80 billion candy market.
Triathlon is a sport that demands efficient use of resources — i.e. the energy stored in one’s body.
Thus, it is fitting that an Ironman triathlete Amy Keller, is a co-founder of start-up Pure Plus+, a company that makes food products solely from fruits and vegetables that otherwise would have been unharvested. Keller is particularly excited about their new candy product, FAVES, since candy-making is in her DNA.
“My family is Spangler Candy Company — we sell two billion Dum Dum lollipops every year,” Keller noted. “I’ve also completed seven Ironman triathlons and worked with Al Gore during the 2015 COP21 that resulted in the Paris Climate Change Agreement. So, health, nutrition and the environment are very important to me.”
The candy, triathlon and environmental worlds collided for Keller when she visited the Global Seed Vault in Svalbard, Norway in the winter of 2018.
What the heck is the Global Seed Vault, you ask?
“It is located in one of the northernmost, most remote areas in Norway, well above the Arctic Circle,” shared Keller. “The United Nations has created a ‘doomsday vault’ of sorts to hold the back-up copies of all the seeds in the world, which may be needed in times of famine or some other sort of cataclysm.”
Keller, who founded a social impact agency that brings together governments, non-profits and business on projects that will accelerate adoption of the U.N.’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), had her eyes opened on the trip to the Global Seed Vault about food insecurity.
At the same time, she was reading Paul Hawken’s climate change-fighting book, “Project Drawdown”, through which she learned that lowering food waste is the third most important thing you can do to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
“Food waste carries a direct global economic cost of $1 trillion,” Keller noted. “In the U.S., 40 percent of food becomes waste and of that waste, 50 percent are fruits and vegetables. And so much of those are thrown out because they don’t look right, not because they’ve gone bad. So that trip really illuminated the food waste crisis for me, especially as a triathlete for whom food is fuel.”
Among those on the trip with Keller to Svalbard were Kevin Wall, an Emmy Award-winning producer and environmental activist, and Dr. Susan Smalley, a behavioral geneticist and Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at UCLA. The triumvirate saw, in the tragedy of massive food waste, an opportunity to make a positive difference and build a business. So, they wrote the business plan for what would become Pure Plus+ while in Svalbard.
And then they kicked the business into high gear.
“By the fall of 2018, our team started building our supply chain of soon-to-be-discarded fruits and vegetables with farmers,” recalled the long-time vegan. “And by early 2019, we were ready to show proof-of-concept with color line powders that would end up creating a candy made from fruits and vegetables.”
The Pure Plus+ team came up with a brand name — FAVES — that has a powerful double entendre.
“FAVES, an acronym for fruits and vegetables, means one thing for an on-the-go adult and that is they will get two daily servings of fruits and vegetables in one pack,” Keller shared. “For kids, we want FAVES to be their favorite candy.”
Pure Plus+, which is being funded primarily from angel investors in the environment, climate and human health arenas, is serious about minimizing their carbon footprint. The fruits and vegetables in FAVES are being sourced from local farms located in the mid-west and west coast of the U.S.
And, given the urgency of the climate crisis, and the mammoth size of the candy market — it’s $80 billion annually worldwide. Keller, Wall and Smalley are looking to scale the business quickly through E-commerce.
“FAVES will launch this Fall,” offered Keller. “We are using social media to build awareness and buzz. Our business model always has been e-commerce and now the coronavirus pandemic has validated that approach. We are selling direct-to-consumer through our website, www.myfavesweets.com, and on Amazon.
On-the-go millennials and GenZers who crave a healthy, tasty snack is the initial primary target market. Athletes, particularly those of the plant-based persuasion, are being looked to as ideal spokespeople by the Pure Plus+ team. In fact, Keller has a marketing plan in the works for the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo next July.
Between now and then, the focus for Keller and the Pure Plus+ team is to build awareness and trial of FAVES and to seed the product with influencers, including among athletes.
“Earlier this year, a few Chicago Cubs players climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and we were able to give them FAVES for their backpacks,” recalled Keller. “They realized they couldn’t carry any fruits and vegetables on that trip, so we became a healthy substitute. Going forward, we are looking at the domestic (AVP) and international (FIVB) beach volleyball associations as that sport’s healthy living, zero carbon footprint plan and cool ethos is a perfect fit.”
GSB’s Take: Food waste is an environmental and climate issue that gets far to little attention. It says here that Keller & Company’s idea of using healthy if misshapen fruits and vegetables as the ingredients for a tasty, healthy candy has the potential to scale and make a difference, especially among millennials and GenZ-ers. Pure Plus+’ decision to launch FAVES as an e-commerce brand also seems to be a wise one, especially given the coronavirus pandemic.
You can reach PurePlus+ on Instagram at @PurePlus.us and @favesweets