“Food is all about pleasure and we’re all into food and cooking at Ambronite,” Ambronite co-founder Simo Suoheimo tells FoodNavigator-USA.
“But there are so many different kinds of eating occasions, and sometimes people that really care about food and nutrition are busy and just want to eat something that will give them all the nutrients they need.
“Our customers are doctors doing late shifts, people working in start-ups, busy Moms, athletes, software engineers, all kinds of ambitious, busy people that are knowledgeable about health and nutrition.”
Ambronite has been developed to provide an optimal balance of macro- and micro-nutrients such that you could technically eat it all day, every day, 365 days a year, adds Suoheimo, who first came up with the concept five years ago with some university friends, did extensive beta testing, launched his product in 2014, opened a warehouse in Chicago in 2015, and now sells it in more than 40 countries.
In reality, he says, most users aren’t going to ditch food as they know it, but instead, tend to consume such products while traveling, at busy times, or for breakfast or lunch when they are busy, and alone (according to Hartman Group 46% of adult eating occasions are now solitary).
Our community is very engaged with food and nutrition
But just because he’s selling something in a sachet that you mix with water doesn’t mean Ambronite’s fans aren’t ‘foodies’, stresses Suoheimo.
“Our community is very engaged with food and nutrition, and people are always coming up with creative ways to use Ambronite in their recipes and for cooking as it's full of organic oats, nuts, herbs, berries and flaxseed. We’re also looking at other formats such as bars and ready to drink products.
“Another great thing about the product is that there’s no waste, whereas a big percentage of food that is produced currently is wasted.”
Ambronite is not a sugar-glazed chocolate drink
The formulation is in a state of constant evolution, says Suoheimo, who divides his time between the company’s San Francisco HQ and his native Finland (where Ambronite is currently manufactured, although he is now exploring setting up a US manufacturing base in California in 2016).
“We’re officially on version 3, but we’ve had at least 50 iterations and we’re still working on it, incorporating feedback from our online community (like Soylent, Ambronite is exclusively available online and has built a loyal online fanbase, although it is now having conversations with potential partners about introducing the product at retail).
“Protein is a challenge. We tried whey, hemp, pea, and so on but in the latest version we have organic brown rice protein, which work well with Brazil nuts and almonds and some spirulina and chlorella.
“The main palate consists of oats and nuts, with a hint of herbs and berries - the taste is quite earthy and mixes well with juices and fruit,” adds Suoheimo, who includes a “disclaimer for sugar addicts” on the website: “Ambronite is not a sugar-glazed chocolate drink; we haven't added any additional sugar, artificial additives or flavorings.”
Indeed, the ingredients panel on Ambronite reads like a foodie wish-list, but that’s precisely because Ambronite customers are the kind of people that read labels, and take nutrition pretty seriously, as opposed to people that see food purely as fuel and regard cooking and feeding themselves as a chore, he says.
“Maybe not today, but in a few years’ time I can also see us having products tailored to people’s genetic profile. We have a medical researcher on the team who is really interested in nutrigenomics [the interplay between diet and genes], for example. I can see you submitting your [genetic] data and ordering products that meet your specific needs; it opens a whole new world of possibilities.”
Organic oats, organic rice protein, organic almond, organic coconut flour, organic hazelnut, organic walnut, organic lucuma, organic stinging nettle, organic apple, organic maca, organic wheatgrass, organic rice bran flour, mineral salt, organic chlorella, nutritional yeast, organic brazil nut, wild bilberry, organic spinach, organic blackcurrant, wild sea-buckthorn, organic spirulina.
Double digit growth
As for financing the business, Ambronite set a new record for crowdfunding for food products on Indiegogo, reaching its goal of $50,000 within a week and going on to raise $102,824 in two months, he says.
Price-wise, Ambronite contains premium organic ingredients, and has a premium price tag, but this will come down as production scales up to some degree, he adds. “Costs also vary depending on the mode of usage. If you order monthly you can save money for example [less than $10 per meal – or $8.40 per meal with an offer currently on the website].”
And fans, it seems, are prepared to pay, he says: “We’re seeing double-digit growth every month; the growth is very rapid.”
So what does he make of the inevitable comparisons with Soylent, probably the best-known player in the drinkable meal space?
The products are quite different, both in terms of price and positioning, he says (Ambronite is three times as expensive, but is organic, and made with very different ingredients; click HERE for Soylent’s ingredient list and click HERE for Ambronite’s ingredient list).
However, the challenges they face are similar: “We’ve got great appreciation for what Rob [Soylent founder Rob Rhinehart] is doing, and we’ve learned a lot from them about scaling, which is always a challenge for a young company, and also finding a way of distributing the product in a way that cost-effective and makes sense.”