Chobani’s Secret Ingredient for Backing New Food Companies

Nearly everything about Edesia Nutrition is different than the stereotypical consumer packaged food companies that draw investment. For one thing, it’s not located in New York or the Bay Area but rather Rhode Island. For another, founder Navyn Salem is a woman in typically male-heavy industry. Edesia isn’t even a for-profit company: It’s a nonprofit manufacturer of the fortified, peanut butter-based, ready-to-use-therapeutic food called Plumpy’Nut, which international aid groups like UNICEF, World Food Programme, and USAID distribute to counter malnutrition in the developing world.

Not surprisingly, Salem thinks differently too: For instance, while many nonprofits rely on grants, she recently launched MeWe, a commercial line of squeezable, easy-to-swallow nut butters aimed at introducing U.S. infants to those ingredients at an earlier age. That may reduce their risk of allergic reactions later on. On factory side, Salem employs immigrants and refugees from at least 25 countries who might otherwise have trouble finding work.

It’s exactly those sorts of differences that helped Edesia become one of eight groups just invited to join Chobani’s semi-annual business incubator program, which focuses on helping CPG and beverage companies grow their often healthier, more transparent, and socially minded concepts into a larger market force. Starting in April, Chobani’s Spring 2019 program will offers three representatives from each company four weeks of master classes and brand auditing at Chobani’s SoHo office in New York City, along with $25,000 in equity-free funding.

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