By Agatha Wong
Technological advancements have made dairy alternatives possible and aplenty. Ranging from the microbial to the mycelial, companies are coming up with unique, plant-based replacements for traditional dairy products. One of such exciting ventures into this industry is FairFlavor, which utilises the Kenari nut as the basis for their dairy alternative products.
Kenari nuts are native to Eastern Indonesia, and are derived from the Kenari trees, and harvested by the locals. The nut itself is rich with vitamins and minerals, being a great source of magnesium, phosphorous, manganese, copper, zinc, iron, and B vitamins, in addition to protein, fibre, and good fats such as oleic acid. Furthermore, its high antioxidant content also makes it less prone to rancidity and spoilage.
The team at FairFlavor realised that the Kenari nuts’ neutral flavour and buttery texture made it a perfect candidate for a plant-based dairy alternative. This was discovered initially by one of FairFlavor’s co-founders, Gabriele Castagnetti, who was living in Indonesia. Together with childhood friend Marcello Giannuzzi, who comes from the Italian Food Valley of the Emilia Romagna region, FairFlavor was formed.
A novel solution
With Castagnetti and Giannuzzi, both food scientists, having specialised in food processing and microbiology, the team was able to develop a proprietary fermentation process, replicating the mouthfeel of cheese, gelato and desserts whilst maintaining the diverse nutritional properties contained in the nut. The technology utilised in the process could also be used to create a wide range of products, making it a highly scalable and novel solution for many markets.
“We realised that the neutral taste and buttery texture could make it a perfect candidate for non-dairy alternatives. The nut is the solution for people that love cheese, gelato and desserts but are concerned about their health, the environment and are looking for something new. The nutritional profile is outstanding, it is sustainable because it grows naturally in the forest It ticked all the boxes. This is why we decided to develop a proprietary technology to make creamy, delicious and nutritious vegan dairy products,” said Giannuzzi.
Furthermore, FairFlavor’s products are also great for baking purposes – their vegan spreadable cream cheese, in particular, is perfect for cheese cakes. The vegan gelato, on the other hand, can serve as a delicious dessert option for restaurants.
“We are expanding our product lines to spreadable, stretchable, semi-hard and hard cheese, creams and desserts, so I believe we are well positioned to service business to business and direct to customers products,” remarked Giannuzzi.
A collaborative, sustainable effort with local communities
In working with local farming communities in Indonesia, FairFlavor have also created a sustainable business. On its own, the manufacturing of the Kenari nut dairy alternative does not require further use of water nor clearing of forests, as the nuts are collected naturally as they are grown in the forest.
In addition, the team has also cultivated a symbiotic relation with the local communities. As the kenari tree is native to forests in Indoneisa, the team realise the potential in improving the livelihood of the rural communities. The communities are able to flourish through the aid of local cooperatives that source directly from the local villages. In helping the team garner the nuts necessary to create the dairy alternative, the locals similarly benefit from optimised production scales. Though there are difficulties from other crops with established markets and faster returns to farmers, FairFlavor believes with opening up market opportunities through products such as theirs could change things. Moreover, the team has an ambitious sustainability plan that promotes not only healthy eating, but also gender equality, reduction of carbon emissions and biodiversity.
“We are at the beginning of our journey and there is definitely more to come,” stated Giannuzzi.
A promising road ahead
With the release of their gelato this October in Indonesia under the name Nth Wonder, FairFlavor is well on track to fulfilling their mission: working with Mother Nature to heal her. That means, according to Giannuzzi, finding new ways to protect the trees, land, air, and water; and walking the walk on sustainability while using all natural ingredients to nurture a healthy body and mind.
Indeed, the future for FairFlavor’s seems bright – the company recently joined Brinc’s Accelerator programme. With this, in addition to completing the MassChallenge accelerator programme, they have the support of two first class ecologies in the food technology space. The team has also raised initial capital from the investment fund that can allow them to proceed swiftly with the development of their R&D process.
Having signed non-disclosure agreements with some of the industry’s leading companies, and having their products tested for application by another multimillion-dollar company within the span of six months, they are optimistic about their road ahead. Currently, the plan to complete product development and the market cycle of their products by the end of 2021.
“We are excited about what we can do in the next two years,” affirmed Giannuzzi.
This article was first published in the December 2021/January 2022 issue of Food & Beverage Asia.