Cleveland - While the meat snack sector shows no signs of slowing (see Candy & Snack TODAY September/October 2019), the b...
Our food systems are broken. Food should make us healthy but instead it's making us obese and diseased.
And what's worse? The foods we make at scale, particularly animal proteins, are causing irreversible damage to our planet, stripping our soil of nutrients, causing droughts, fires, and yes, even global pandemics.
In a world that is increasingly fraught with environmental destruction and global health issues, alternatives to meat-based products are fast becoming necessary to feed a growing population. Yet, the most popular meat-alternative products on the market today contain ingredients like GMO soy, canola oil, cultured dextrose, chloride, lecithins, methylcellulose, xanthan gums, and "natural flavors". Are we replacing one broken industry with another? How did we come so far from eating real food?
AKUA creates delicious foods that are sustainable, regenerative & healthy
We have the technology to make beautiful, nutrient-dense food at scale that is healthy for you and for our planet too. AKUA creates delicious, protein-packed, meat-alternative products from the most sustainable source of food on earth: ocean-farmed kelp.
Kelp sequesters carbon and nitrogen as it grows abundantly without the need for freshwater, dry land, fertilizer—making kelp farming a promising form of regenerative aquaculture in the fight against climate change. Bonus points? We source our kelp from majority women-owned ocean farms in Maine, USA.
Since our company's launch in April 2019, we have debuted three initial product lines: Kelp Jerky, Kelp Pasta, and now, Kelp Burgers. Our vision is to create a platform of clean-label, meat-alternative products - including Kelp Nuggets, Kelp Sausages, Kelp Crabcakes, Kelp Balls, and more - that are sold online, in retail, and through food service and restaurants around the world.
Healthy for you, healthy for the planet too 🌍
At AKUA, we are committed to creating products with superior nutrition. This means clean-label and locally sourced ingredients packed with vitamins, minerals, omega-3s, protein, and fiber. We offer foods that are free of all eight major allergens, binding agents, chemicals you can't pronounce, and can boast labels like "non-GMO" and "zero added sugar".
Our first product, Kelp Jerky, is made from kelp, shiitake mushrooms, pea protein, and superfoods, and comes in four delicious flavors: Sesame & Nori Salt, Rosemary & Maple BBQ, Hibachi Teriyaki, and Spicy Chili & Lime. With 10G of fiber, 10G of protein, and 70% of your daily value for iron, you'll be hard-pressed to find another vegan jerky on the market like it.
Our Kelp Pasta product is as simple as it gets: ocean-farmed kelp cut into noodle shapes and dehydrated into tangles that make it easy to eat kelp in its purest form.
And AKUA's next product: The Kelp Burger is a whole foods, plant-based burger that's non-GMO, non-processed, chews like a meat burger, and tastes DELICIOUS.
In fact, our customers say it's "the best vegan burger" they've ever had, and we're receiving customer ratings of 9+ on average. We're so excited by the feedback so far, and really proud of our nutritional profile too.
We anticipate that AKUA's Kelp Burger will be our hero product with projected sales eclipsing our Kelp Jerky product by Q3 2021.
And what were most proud of? We've created the most nutritious plant-based burger on the market today.
Named one of Fast Company’s "World Changing Ideas" for Food in 2020
Since AKUA's launch of Kelp Jerky on Earth Day 2019, we've been listed as one of Time Magazine’s Best Inventions of 2019, and named one of Fast Company's World Changing Ideas for Food in 2020.
AKUA's Kelp Jerky is now in 40+ stores nationwide including iconic places such as Erewhon and online retailers like Amazon and Thrive Market. AKUA's business is currently about 70% D2C, where we've grown our sales between 20%–110% MoM since early 2020. Our return customer rate is currently 32% and AOV is $35.00. Below is a graph that shows our quarterly growth in 2020:
On March 9, 2020, AKUA hosted its first and last Kelp Burger tasting party in NYC for the foreseeable future. In a scramble to figure out how to replace IRL sampling events, we started selling our Kelp "Beta" Burger secretly all summer to consumers at a discount in exchange for product development feedback.
We sold 2,000 Kelp Burgers that have been enjoyed by over 500 customers during our secret beta period and have seen repeat purchase rates close to 50% with ZERO spent on marketing/ads.
This October, we chose Honeybee Burger to be our first restaurant partner in Los Angeles, a chain which helped to launch The Beyond Burger and Impossible Burger, and now serves the the AKUA Kelp Burger named "The Sea Bee".
In the lead-up to the holidays, we will sell the Kelp Burger D2C through our "secret link" as well as through our website's waitlist.
In January, we will officially launch our Kelp Burger in 12-packs sold for $36.99 direct-to-consumer, as well as into 5+ restaurant chains across the U.S. We are in talks with several suppliers to replace polystyrene and provide us with sustainable shipping solutions for our e-commerce business.
We currently have two distributors - one on each coast - to sell our Kelp Burger into retail. In Q1, we will launch our 12-packs with Costco.com, and into Costco, as well as our 4-packs into Erewhon, Kroger, and others, targeting 1,500 doors across the country. We are working on a 4-pack retail solution for our Kelp Burgers to be sold in the first plastic-free burger packaging in the freezer section.
What does Sir Richard Branson have to say about AKUA's products?
In the first few months of our product development for Kelp Jerky back in 2017, AKUA's co-founder CBM found a way to get Sir Richard Branson to try some samples and here's what he had to say:
Since then, AKUA has sold its products to thousands of customers all around the world. So who are AKUA's customers?
One of our very first interns described our target market best: "people who eat at Sweetgreen!" We love this comparison for the same reasons we love Sweetgreen, and everything the company has done to make it easier for people to eat healthier foods while supporting more equitable food systems.
Our customers skew female but just slightly over men (60%/40%). Surprisingly, only 30% of AKUA's customer base describes themselves as vegans/vegetarians. The majority of our customers describe themselves as flexitarian and say they choose AKUA because they "are trying their best to eat a little better every day."
To further establish a market for kelp-based foods, we've worked with a network of nutritionists and doctors including Dr. Mark Hyman and Dr. Steven Gundry.
And in January 2020, we welcomed ocean-advocate and influencer Chelsea Kauai to our team. She's one of a handful of influencers we've chosen to work with to share our story with the world via social media.
Selling our products online, in retail, and in food service
AKUA is a consumer packaged goods company that sells its products online, direct-to-retail, and through four distributors to grocery stores nationwide.
Across our products, we currently operate at an average margin of 40% and will benefit from economies of scale as we expand, further increasing our margin.
In order to scale our Kelp Burger quickly, we will work with our distribution partner who currently sells over $800M in beef, chicken, and seafood (including many burger options) into 4,000+ doors on the East Coast. We will be their first vegan food option.
In April 2020, U.S. meat alternative product sales grew 100% compared to 2019
It’s a brave new world for companies selling meat alternatives and sustainable snacks.
In the past two years, meat-alternative, plant-based foods have grown 29% to a total market size of $5 billion.
Growth is projected at 15%+ YoY with frozen plant-based meat accounting for 66% of all plant-based meat dollar sales today.
Plant-based burgers are the fastest growing segment in the frozen-plant based meat section.
And while shelf-stable meat-alternative foods make up just 1% of the total plant-based foods market, according to Presence Marketing, plant-based meat snacks like Kelp Jerky are growing at a whopping 40% YoY.
Analysts are suggesting that the plant-based meat market will be worth $28B by 2025 globally.
Almost half of U.S. consumers said they were likely to change what they buy to align with their environmental standards. In 2020, that number rose to 83%.
Bluegreen ocean strategy: creating a whole new category in the plant-based foods market
Today, the vast majority of seaweed consumption takes place in Asia, representing 10-15% of daily diets. In the U.S., that number is pretty close to zero.
However, seaweed snacking (e.g. nori sheets) as a category is growing 30% YoY in the U.S., and the commercial seagreens market for food is projected to be $25B globally in the next 5yrs.
AKUA is the first mover in creating an innovative, new plant-based foods category featuring seagreens with a focus on sustainability and environmental impact, following other Eastern trends from yoga and acupuncture, to functional mushrooms.
A new platform for meat alternative products made from a unique blend of algae, fungi, & pea protein
Our vision is to create a platform of clean-label, meat-alternative products including Kelp Nuggets, Kelp Sausages, Kelp Crabcakes, Kelp Balls, and more that are sold online, in retail, and through food service and restaurants around the world.
We want to build a brand that consumers can trust when it comes to sustainability, nutrition, sourcing, and more. In the coming months, we will officially launch our Kelp Burger direct-to-consumer, as well as into 10+ restaurants across the U.S.
Following the holidays, we'll be working with two distributors - one on each coast - to launch our Kelp Burger with Costco.com, and into Costco, Erewhon, Kroger, and others, targeting 1,500 doors across the country.
In the years ahead, AKUA plans to launch at least one new plant-based, frozen product every 18 months, building a global community of customers.
Backed by CEOs of Blue Bottle Coffee, Four Sigmatic, SmartyPants, and more
AKUA has raised $750K through prominent founders and investors including the CEOs of Four Sigmatic, Blue Bottle Coffee and SmartyPants Vitamins, environmentalists Susan Rockefeller and Clay Rock, and VC funds including Able and M13.
Today, we're raising growth capital on Republic to fund the national roll-out of our Kelp Burger. Funding will go to investing in key operations and logistics talent to support the company's omnichannel growth, as well as to support scaling marketing and advertising, and continued R&D on future products.
To further support our growth, increase our environmental impact, and to help with future fundraising efforts, AKUA is a member of the Sustainable Ocean Alliance Accelerator and the SeaAhead's BlueSwell Accelerator in partnership with the New England Aquarium.
Meet the woman making kelp the new kale
By 2027, the global plant-based foods industry will be worth $74 billion dollars. Yet less than 3% of all capital in the world is invested into female founders. All in a time when 93% of household food purchases are made by women.
AKUA is led by Courtney Boyd Myers (CEO, CMO) who is an entrepreneur, environmentalist, and journalist. She started in the industry as an adviser to GreenWave, helping to support the ocean-farming supply chain. In 2017, she asked GreenWave founder Bren Smith, "What can I really do to help this industry take off?" And he said, "We need your help creating a consumer market for kelp." So she set out to make "Kelp the New Kale".
Prior to launching AKUA, she helped build the Summit Community, a global network of founders, creatives, and innovators. Previously, she helped market companies such as Four Sigmatic and Unframed Ice Cream. She began her career as a journalist at Forbes Magazine and The Next Web and has been recognized as one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business.
Matt Lebo (CFO, COO) has brought R&D in-house at AKUA, where he oversees production, operations, and finance. Prior to co-founding AKUA, Matt worked in various roles including Investor Relations, Equity Research and Management Consulting. He has also consulted for several start up food companies such as DADA Daily and KROMA, helping across various functions in production, operations and finance. In his free time he likes to be outside, tinkering in the garage or on his motorcycle.
Eve Palmer (Marketing & Sales) is AKUA's first employee and fell in love with the world of seagreens after stumbling across AKUA. She’s worked with start ups like Taika, INSCAPE, and Steward, assisting them with brand building and community development.
Oh, and we'd never forget our Team Mascot... Tero the Otter!