We talked to Eleana Casado Corvalan of Cerealthy about a plant-based milk and here is what she said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Eleana Casado Corvalan: Thanks for asking. We’re healthy and safe. None of our family and friends have been diagnosed with COVID-19, so we’re very lucky about it. However, we keep respecting all measures to avoid it.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Cerealthy.
Eleana Casado Corvalan: I’m Spanish and Argentinian. I’m graduated from the University of Laws in Argentina, and I’m also a mediator. I’m the CEO of the startup.
As it’s been a long time since I have stopped drinking cow milk, almost 4 years ago, I have decided to create a non-dairy product line that would include plant-based drinks made from whole grains and nuts. I’ve also been motivated to make a great impact on every person in the world that would like to / would need to (lactose intolerant people) switch to dairy-free milk alternatives.
This is how Cerealthy was born. It came from inspiration and a will to change the world for the better, for People, for our Planet, and for the Animals.
The team is also composed of Micaël Varnewyck.
Micaël is French, and he is an industrial engineer. He’s the COO of the company.
14 years ago, he founded the first online renewable energy company in France (Solar Kit). Since then, he’s been looking to develop sustainable and affordable products that will improve our daily life without undermining ecology.
Our team is best placed to deliver this solution as we’re really motivated about creating a healthy solution for the People and a “green” impact on the Planet.
How does Cerealthy innovate?
Eleana Casado Corvalan: We have created the World’s First Plant-based Milk Single-serve Capsules for Coffee Machines, using biodegradable and compostable pods in soil.
Our solution is a sustainable, healthy, affordable, and convenient (urban-friendly) food product made from green sources that are less polluting for the Planet, such as oats.
Why feeding cows with plants to obtain milk instead of obtaining milk directly from plants? Our product also reduces food waste and contamination (compostable packaging).
We have developed intellectual property, and it has been a huge challenge. When your goal is to obtain milk from a coffee machine, it’s really difficult to mimic dairy milk and Oat milk (tetrapak format) of the market in their texture, mouthfeel, appearance, cream, and thickness.
Our solution is an innovation because:
1) It’s the first dairy-free milk alternative in capsules for coffee machine users. There is no other product in the market that provides this kind of convenience to consumers.
Our product is handy, affordable, but healthy: we’re using natural ingredients and real proportions of nuts and cereals.
Unlike liquid plant-based milk available in tetrapak format, which is 90% water and just 10% nutrition, our product is way ahead in nutritional value. For example, there is only one almond in a glass of a carton of almond milk, and the rest is water with sugar. Some brands have to add an almond flavor and an ingredient to make it feel thicker.
2) We can provide this nutritionally balanced product because we’re using a unique milling method to obtain our plant-based milk and combining them with other extraction methods. These processes are also eco-friendly.
3) Our goal is to mimic dairy milk in the texture, mouthfeel, appearance. These objectives are real challenges for our company as we’re creating a product that does not exist in the market.
4) We’re considering the different mechanical processes of the coffee machines available in the market (such as water pressure and temperature) in order to adapt our capsules to all of them. During this first launch, we’ve been working to make our plant-based milk pods compatible with Nespresso machines. Later, we’ll keep working to provide this solution to the entire coffee maker capsule market (Dolce Gusto, Senseo, Keurig, Tassimo).
5) Regarding the packaging, we’re using biodegradable pods. These are compostable within 12 weeks as they are made of corn.
We’re concerned about providing urban access to healthy and sustainable food for every citizen without sacrificing the environment for this convenience.
In the coffee capsules market, people consume 50 million pods every day. Made from a combination of plastics and aluminum with organic matter inside, the coffee pods are not biodegradable. It takes 150 to 500 years for these capsules to breakdown in landfills.
6) With our eco-friendly solution, we’ll also be motivated to reduce the carbon footprint of the product:
a) Regarding the convenient packaging (small portion-sizes), we will reduce transportation’s costs and polluting effects.
b) Regarding the product’s long shelf life (1 year), we will reduce food waste.
c) Regarding industry sustainability, it’s known that cow’s milk requires so much land, so much water. Switching to plant-based milk can help fight climate change.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Eleana Casado Corvalan: It has affected our business as we could not launch the product as we had it scheduled.
A pandemic is not the best scenario when you’re talking about launching a brand new product. People need time to know the brand, to know the product. This awareness stage is required if you want to build a « long term relationship » with your customer.
Consumers are looking for cheaper solutions as money it’s a big issue these days. People lost their jobs and their companies. We must adapt our offer to this reality.
Right now, we’re working to reduce our manufacturing costs even lower to have an affordable price. Also, logistics becomes more important than ever: shipping costs must also be improved.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Eleana Casado Corvalan: Yes, we had to postpone the launching of our product as it was not the right time.
As a result, we’ve decided to re-think how to be more efficient with our resources. We’ve learned that no matter all the plans you might have, life changes in seconds…..And you have to adapt to it.
We’ve also confirmed that the plant-based milk market and the coffee pod market will continue to grow exponentially in the following years.
People are looking for healthy, sustainable, and cruelty-free alternatives to dairy, but they are also buying more coffee makers as convenience + comfort are the smart purchase drivers.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are helping you navigate the crisis?
Eleana Casado Corvalan: We had to make a diagnostic to our startup and assume that we were not at the right time to launch our product. It was difficult: we’ve been working in these plant-based milk pods for years. As you can imagine, it’s our mission.
Last year, we took this difficult decision. Later, we started working on reducing costs regarding the recipe’s ingredient list, the packaging, the shipping costs.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
We do not have direct competitors as we’re the first company in the world to create natural and healthy plant-based milk pods for coffee makers. We have a first-in and a significant market-share advantage as right now, coffee/tea pods (e.g., Nespresso) and plant-based milk companies (e.g., Oatly) are concerned about escalating their businesses.
Regarding the plant-based milk market, this is saturated with a lot of companies producing dairy-free alternatives in tetrapak/carton format.
We plan to stay in the game by selling a unique product at an affordable price and with a smart packaging presentation.
Your final thoughts?
Eleana Casado Corvalan: These are difficult times but are also opportunities to explore new ways to achieve our goals.
‘A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.’ So I believe we’re working harder to be even more expert in our domain.
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