The Bay Area is known for its revolutionary approach to businesses. A food revolution got started here in the ‘60s (hello, California Cuisine!) and hasn’t stopped for breath since. Culinary innovation happens here, where the Pacific Ocean meets the San Francisco Bay and trendsetters flock to the region – from wine country to the Silicon Valley – to launch a name for themselves and for their pioneering products. In our first post wrapping up 2016, we looked at companies that are at the bleeding edge of food and technology. Here, we want to share a few of our favorite businesses that are mixing up old school and new school techniques to build revolutionary, modern food businesses. With trailblazers like these causing a stir in 2016, we can only imagine what is in store for 2017. More on that coming up!
Innovators Come in all Shapes & Sizes
- Kite Hill Foods – Old-School Cheesemaking for the Modern Vegan
Vegan cheese is as old as the Hippies that created it but delicious dairy-free cheese that actually, well, tastes like cheese, is what helped put Hayward’s Kite Hill on the map. Using a proprietary almond milk formula and traditional cheese-making techniques to craft fresh milk products such as yogurt, ricotta and cream style cheese as well as aged cheeses, Kite Hill has altered the landscape for plant-based cheeses by going old-school. Transforming almond milk into curds and whey takes keen effort and a nod to French cheese-making traditions which are fine-tuned to maximize flavor from the plant-based milks. Using cutting edge manufacturing processes and aging the cheeses in a modern facility helps, too. In May, Kite Hill received a stamp of approval from the food industry, receiving $18 million in funding from 301 Inc., the business development and venturing unit of General Mills, and CAVU Ventures. Seems hippies want their cheese and to eat it, too.
- Sonoma Brands – Züpa Noma and Smashmallow launch Sonoma far beyond Wine
Bucolic, sleepy Sonoma is about to become a hot hub of food entrepreneurship and culinary innovation. That is, if John Sebastiani has anything to say about it. Named for Sebastiani’s hometown, Sonoma Brands was launched to develop new packaged food brands. A lover of innovation and category disruption (his KRAVE Jerky reinvigorated the moribund category), Sebastiani is off to a roaring start, creating an entirely new food category with the gourmet, snackable marshmallow company, Smashmallow. Züpa Noma, a line of chilled soups also launched in 2016, with flavors like organic beet and orange basil that honor the culinary traditions of Sonoma. “Smaller, more innovative brands are going to drive the change in what and how we eat,” said Sebastiani. Either way, it is all snackable and, dare we say, Krave-worthy.