You will mostly hear people saying that you won’t succeed. To this day we’ve pitched over 100 VCs, absolutely 100% of them have told us NO. They’ve given us many excuses but all we hear is fuel to work harder and prove them even more wrong. We pitch to VCs for fuel, not for money.
It has been estimated that each year, more than 100 billion pounds of food is wasted in the United States. That equates to more than 160 billion dollars worth of food thrown away each year. At the same time, in many parts of the United States, there is a crisis caused by people having limited access to healthy & affordable food options. The waste of food is not only a waste of money and bad for the environment, but it is also making vulnerable populations even more vulnerable.
Authority Magazine started a new series called “How Restaurants, Grocery Stores, Supermarkets, Hospitality Companies and Food Companies Are Helping To Eliminate Food Waste.” In this interview series, we are talking to leaders and principals of Restaurants, Grocery Stores, Supermarkets, Hospitality Companies, Food Companies, and any business or nonprofit that is helping to eliminate food waste, about the initiatives they are taking to eliminate or reduce food waste.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tony Jimenez.
Tony Jimenez is the Co-Founder and Chief of Finance at JOI. He is a three-time founder with over 15 years of experience in entrepreneurship and venture capital, including Medina Capital and Richmond Global Ventures. Tony is also a full-time vegan and dad of five.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My “why” for starting this career path started with a journey to improve my health. I was faced with a death sentence. After an alarming Doctor’s visit in my mid 30’s that told me I needed to get on cholesterol medication and that I was pre-diabetic and with hypertension, I decided I needed to do something about it. 100% of my direct family predecessors have been affected by cardiovascular disease. I was always told that this disease is a reality of my heritage and that it would eventually be something I need to deal with — but I refused to settle for that. Over ten years ago, I began making my own almond milk at home, after realizing that the boxed almond milks sold in stores were filled with preservatives, additives, gums, stabilizers, and a myriad of other chemicals. In 2015, my co-founders and I decided we wanted to build a company that would improve not only our health, but the planet as well. JOI is an acronym for “Just One Ingredient,” clean, better for you, whole food plant-based products that empower you to achieve your best health. I started JOI because I want to build a better future for my family, my kids, and their kids…we shouldn’t settle for anything less.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company or organization?
We originally started JOI to make it easier for everyone to make plant milks, but what happened once we started selling our product to customers was a complete surprise! We quickly learned that although we had created a product to produce milks, we had also created something that, although it was just one ingredient, had endless possibilities! Chefs started making food creations with our product that we had never dreamed were possible! And so we quickly realized we had created a “Swiss Army knife” for any plant-based recipe. Our product can be used as a foundation or base ingredient for quite literally anything. We like to say that it’s arming chefs with a white canvas and new colors they have never had access to before — we’re here to empower them and unlock their full potential.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When we were first starting out, we paid engineers in India to develop a small kitchen countertop friendly “Keurig” type machine, so that everyone at home could make plant-based milks in seconds by simply inserting a pod and pressing a button. We hoped that the result would have been homemade almond milk in seconds, without all of the related inconvenience of making it at home in the traditional process. After a few months of engaging with this engineering team they alerted us that they had “figured it out” and were eager to show us their creation. We hopped on a Zoom call and soon saw a tour of a very large refrigerator-like machine, that stood 4 feet tall, was made out of steel, and probably weighed 750lbs!! We immediately realized that we had just lost a bunch of money, time, and learned a few lessons with it!
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
For us, “Leadership” is a focus on how we can impact positive change on the world, and lead others to follow that same mission. Brands have the power to take bold action and support larger issues in the world, not only with monetary support, but also by sharing their story. At JOI, we lead consumers towards a healthier, more eco-friendly world every day with our plant based products and always striving to be the most sustainable plant based milk company on Earth.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
If you believe in something, never give up until you achieve it. Persistence pays off. This is what sets you apart from everyone else. Most people aren’t willing to put in the hard work and face the hardship required to go down the road-less traveled. You have to believe in yourself and have a relentless pursuit of that goal, because everyone will tell you that it can’t be achieved until you prove them wrong. It’s been relevant to us because every single VC we have ever pitched, which is well over 100, have turned us down and have always had a reason why they don’t think our business is good enough. Three years later, we’ve grown exponentially each year, and are more bullish than ever on the potential of our team, brand, and market opportunity!
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Let’s begin with a basic definition of terms so that all of us are on the same page. What exactly are we talking about when we refer to food waste?
In the most basic sense, food waste refers to food that was not used, manufactured, or consumed appropriately, thus allowing for spoilage, and the disposal of food that would otherwise be fit for human consumption. Before co-founding JOI, I witnessed this often with boxed almond milk and other similar products. The typical mass almond milk brand processes almonds by crushing them and then running water through the crushed almonds — much like coffee. Similarly to coffee, those crushed almonds are discarded and thrown away. In addition, other brands add gums, binders, preservatives, and “natural flavors,” so their product can live longer on a grocery store shelf. What you are left with is essentially a nutritionally void and water-flavored beverage that only actually contains about 2% almonds. At JOI, on the other hand, we quite literally use 100% of the almonds, with absolutely zero waste, and we don’t add water to our product that traditionally depletes local water sources. So in other words, one truckload of our product is the equivalent of 9 truckloads of our competitor’s product! When you purchase our product, you only make what you need, when you need it, eliminating further waste.
Can you help articulate a few of the main causes of food waste?
There are 2 big causes for food waste. One is a broken food supply chain in the USA, and the other is consumer behavior. The USA’s broken food supply chain was brought to light during the COVID-19 pandemic. We all saw the images of farmers discarding perfectly good produce, while news outlets covered the heart wrenching images of millions of Americans lined up at food stores because they couldn’t access food supplies. Additionally, the immediacy of the fast food culture and proliferation of super grocers throughout the country has shaped an instant gratification behavior among consumers. Because of this, large brands are now being required to supply for speed over efficiency and accessibility. Thankfully though, more often than ever, consumers are reaching for plant based alternatives in the store — a trend we believe will make a difference. JOI’s mission is to empower everyone to eliminate waste with shelf stable products that allow you to access them only when needed, and not over produce. JOI empowers consumers to enjoy plant based products at their own pace, thus eliminating excess food waste.
What are a few of the obstacles that companies and organizations face when it comes to distributing extra or excess food? What can be done to overcome those barriers?
There are 2 main obstacles that prevent most food companies from distributing excess food that will ultimately be wasted. One is the shelf life of the products and the other is inventory forecasting. When you are a producer or seller of food products that have short shelf lives, such as vegetables and fruits, it is extremely difficult to account for all potential obstacles in order to deliver the product in a timely manner that will create ample opportunity for end users to purchase and consume before it goes bad. Similarly, you cannot grow produce quicker because of demand. Fruits and vegetables require time, sun, soil, and water, and sometimes there are extraneous circumstances that either increase or decrease crop yields, ultimately resulting in either over producing or under delivering. There is a significant problem with soil erosion and depletion. The biggest culprits are meat manufacturers that rely on the cultivation of plant-based feed to drive the production of cows, chicken, pork, etc. A solution to overcome this would be to eliminate the production of mass meat cultivation so that we can continue to produce healthy fruits and vegetables for years to come. We are on the brink of facing non-arable lands that will not only prevent us from growing produce, but even less so feeding the meat production supply chains that are devastating our lands and accelerating climate change to a degree humankind has never faced before.
Can you describe a few of the ways that you or your organization are helping to reduce food waste?
JOI is a game-changing, first of its kind plant milk base made with Just One Ingredient. Offering clean, nutritious, shelf-stable, homemade quality plant milk in 30 seconds or less, JOI is the most sustainable plant milk on the market, with radically better taste and exponentially higher nutritional content (more protein, healthy fats & fiber). JOI ELIMINATES food waste by offering a wide range of plant based products that can replace their quick-perishing predecessor. With a 12 to 18-month shelf life, consumers are sure to use every last drop of their JOI products with plenty of time to spare. By creating concentrates, the brand also significantly reduces the need to ship heavy water weight across the country, exponentially cutting down on carbon emissions and avoiding depletion of precious water resources.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help address the root of this problem?
Three things the community/society/politicians can do to help reduce food waste are to increase education and awareness, support and invest in sustainable systems, and put a larger focus on composting and implementing composting programs. Education and awareness is the first step in the process. Organizations such as “Common Threads” are currently helping by teaching children in underserved neighborhoods, and living in food deserts, the value of food and how to harness it through cooking education. Many of these children get exposed to fruits and vegetables they have never seen before and in turn educate their own parents on what is healthy for the family. Additionally, both public and private industries need to partner on eliminating food waste and re-channeling excess food to those that are below the poverty line and struggling to access 3 basic meals a day. There are more food deserts in the USA than anyone could imagine. Lack of food access to Americans is one of the biggest problems we face as a nation, but few dare to bring it to light. Finally, implementing composting programs in all cities across the country would be extremely effective in strengthening the food supply chain and stabilizing the health of our quickly eroding soil.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1) Its going to take a lot more time than you think! We spent 3 years alone on R&D before we could contemplate launching our product. Now, I always triple my time expectations.
2) Its going to take a lot more money than you think! Similarly to time, you’re going to need more money than you expect and budget. Conservatively, draw up a budget and multiply by it three, now you’re in the ballpark.
3) Where you start is going to be very different from where you end up! We set out to develop a home hardware solution, we ended up making a food product with no hardware. The entrepreneurial journey is full of surprises and opportunities!
4) You will mostly hear people saying that you won’t succeed. To this day we’ve pitched over 100 VCs, absolutely 100% of them have told us NO. They’ve given us many excuses but all we hear is fuel to work harder and prove them even more wrong. We pitch to VCs for fuel, not for money.
5) Its going to be way harder than you think. You’re excited at first because you’ve created something you think is so special there’s no way that you’ll fail. What you should be expecting and thinking about is all the ways you can fail, because whether it’s competition, lost sales pitches, lost investors, lost supply chain vendors, and maybe even your own team, you have to believe so passionately in what you’re doing because that passion is what will help you overcome those tough days when it all seems impossible and wasted. Yes it’s going to be hard, but success will taste all the better when you achieve it. Don’t give up, don’t stop!
Are there other leaders or organizations who have done good work to address food waste? Can you tell us what they have done? What specifically impresses you about their work? Perhaps we can reach out to them to include them in this series.
Kaitlin Mogentale is the founder and CEO of Pulp Pantry. Kaitlin identified that all cold pressed juice manufacturers have a process that results in a significant amount of waste, specifically called pulp that is then discarded at the end of the juice making process. This pulp is rich in nutrients, fibers, and taste! When she realized that this valuable resource was being hauled away to dumpsters, she also realized that there was an incredible opportunity. Kailtin decided she would turn waste into gold! Kaitlin founded Pulp Pantry and is now making chips from pulp discarded by cold pressed juice manufacturers — an incredible innovation that eliminates valuable food waste.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
If you care about your health and the health of our Planet, you should try a plant-based lifestyle. I never thought of myself as someone who would be 100% plant-based, but my health took me in that direction and forced me to make a change. People always ask me if I “regret embracing a plant-based lifestyle?” The only regret I have is that I didn’t do this many years ago, not only for my personal health, but for the exponential impact we can all have on the health of our planet. Every movement starts with one person. Get going!
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Billie Eilish. Despite being so young, she has leveraged her talent as a platform for good and it’s been inspiring to watch her raise her voice in favor of veganism and mercy for animals! Today’s younger generations, more than ever, are deeply impacted by their role models — aka “social media influencers”- and there are few people that have done so much in so little time like Billie. She is an inspiration and I am sure she’s only getting warmed up. Keep it up Billie and thank you!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Readers can keep up with JOI on our website, addJOI.com, or follow myself and Hector Gutierrez (CEO) on Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, Tiktok and Instagram.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much, and we wish you only continued success.