SAN FRANCISCO — A food technology startup has developed a sustainable spin on coffee, a daily staple for more than half of American adults, according to a YouGov poll.
Slated to debut next year, Minus Coffee contains no coffee beans, a contributor to and casualty of climate change, said Maricel Saenz, founder and chief executive officer of parent company Compound Foods.
“Instead of beans, we roast upcycled roots, seeds and legumes, which we then grind and brew in a gorgeous fermentation batch with caffeine,” said Ms. Saenz, a Costa Rican-born entrepreneur with a background in biotechnology. “I am proud to say that we have successfully recreated the flavors, aromas and effects of coffee while eliminating the crop itself from the chain, a crop that is the sixth most pollutive agricultural process concentrated in regions around the equator.”
The brand’s initial offering is a canned cold brew formulated with date seeds, chicory, sunflower seeds, carob, lentils, grape seeds and millet malt. Production involves significantly less water, fewer carbon emissions and a shorter supply chain than conventional coffee, Ms. Saenz said.
“Rising temperatures and erratic rains are leading to a dramatic decrease in the yield and quality of coffee,” she said.
Compound Foods, founded in 2020, raised $4.5 million in a seed round last year to improve its formulation and develop and scale the fermentation technology. Backers include Supply Change Capital, Lowercarbon Capital, SVLC, Humboldt Fund, Collaborative Fund, Maple VC, Petri Bio, One Way Ventures, Ulu Ventures, and angel investors.
“The first focus area is coffee, and the first product is cold brew, but for us this is just the beginning,” Ms. Saenz said.
The startup is targeting a rollout in specialty retail and foodservice outlets in the coming months. Future product launches may include additional ready-to-drink options as well as a ground coffee alternative.
“One of the cool things about our approach is it allows us to modulate to develop many different flavor profiles,” Ms. Saenz said. “Coffee farmers are really at the mercy of sun and rain, then roasters can play a little around with the flavor profile.”
Compound Foods is partnering with an organization to help coffee growers transition to more sustainable agricultural and land-use practices, including intercropping climate-resistant crops, which will provide a higher income per pound of product, according to the company.The development of Minus Coffee followsthe raising of $40 million in Series A funding by Atomo Coffee, Inc., Seattle, earlier this year. Founded in 2019, Atomo aims to reverse engineer coffee utilizing upcycled ingredients, according to the company. The first products launched by Atomo include two ready-to-drink cold brews in black and ultra-smooth varieties.