How 2 GWU alums are making meals cheaper for students — and bringing local restaurants business

Now they’re positioning their online marketplace to grow, to attack the food waste problem and help students who struggle to regularly afford meals. They recently got a shot in the arm from the New Venture Competition at GW, a pitch contest for resident startups to secure funding. And Last Call cleaned up.

Keurig Dr Pepper to distribute Runa Clean Energy drink

Runa hopes to build itself into the country’s top natural energy drink — and this partnership could help expedite that goal. Runa immediately gains access to Keurig Dr Pepper’s extensive distribution network. For AMI, working with Keurig Dr Pepper is a familiar one: the soda, water, tea and coffee giant already is a distributor of its Vita Coco coconut water beverage.

This Extreme Extrovert Started a Multimillion-Dollar Wellness Snack Company After Her Stint in the Peace Corps Was Cut Short

Lisa Curtis started her business, Kuli Kuli, on the basis of the benefits of the moringa plant, which is grown in parts of Asia and Africa. The plant also became her key selling point. But then she realized, after a friend’s suggestion, that her story should lead the way.

8 Mission-Driven Companies Reinventing The Packaged Food Industry

Founder and CEO Annie Ryu was inspired to create The Jackfruit Company in the summer of 2011. She was 21 years old and working in India to implement a maternal and child healthcare program that she and her brother had developed. Upon discovering jackfruit, Ryu saw an incredible opportunity to convert an underutilized crop into nutritious, delicious food, while also providing an income opportunity to local farming families. She established the company during her junior and senior years at Harvard, and simultaneously won Harvard’s Women in Business Competition, Harvard’s i3 Innovation Challenge, and the Resolution Project’s Social Venture Challenge, helping to kickstart the support needed to grow the business.

Soupergirl raising funds to fuel post-‘Shark Tank’ growth

After appearing on the program In October, Sara Polon, founder of Washington, D.C.-based soup company Soupergirl, is riding a wave and prepping to raise somewhere between $500,000 and $1.5 million in seed funding to sustain the momentum, the Washington Business Journal reports.

Three big ideas in food

Mohammad Modarres, founder and chief executive officer of New York-based Abe’s Meats, produced the first-of-its-kind “interfaith meat” in response to a wave of anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim incidents following the 2016 presidential election in the United States. He hosted a dinner uniting the Jewish and Muslim communities to tackle the rise in bigotry and learned quickly that serving halal and kosher foods in the same space was a “logistical nightmare and really expensive,” Mr. Modarres said.

Soupergirl aims to change lives

Sara Polon is a University of Pennsylvania graduate who started a food business, changed her life, enlisted help from her family, and swears she is on a mission to deliver happiness to the world and dollars to her bank account.She calls herself Soupergirl.

Should We Be Eating Bugs?

The watershed moment in the renewed interest in insect protein came in 2013 when the United Nations issued a 200-page report entitled Edible insects: future prospects for food and feed security. Greg Sewitz, a co-founder of Exo, a company that produces protein bars that are made with Cricket Flour, was directly inspired by the UN report. A senior at Brown University at the time, Sewitz “was stunned by the realization that the U.S. is one of the only countries with ‘no culture of eating insects.’

ArchPoint Group acquires Watusee Foods

US business Watusee Foods, which makes products based on chick peas, has been acquired by local products and professional services company ArchPoint Group for an undisclosed sum.

Meet the Woman Behind a $2 Million Superfood Business Helping Women Farmers in Africa

With the energy boost came the realization that raising moringa as a crop could not only improve local nutrition but also provide sustainable livelihoods. To fulfill that vision, Curtis and three colleagues started Kuli Kuli to sell moringa-based energy bars and shots, herbal tea, and powder supplements. “I knew that introducing moringa to the U.S. market was a venture that would be successful,” she says. “I just wanted to make sure it was done in a way that helps support women moringa farmers around the world.”

12 Under 35: Mohammad Modarres, founding director, Interfaith Ventures and founder, Abe’s Meats

Modarres now hosts a series of large Shabbat Salaam interfaith dinners in San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and New York City, all of which have sold out. An observant Jew oversees the kosher process, and there’s always a separate kosher kitchen. A Muslim certifier makes sure the animals have been sacrificed in a way that’s acceptable. Abe’s Meats is not a brick-and-mortar operation: It’s more about rigorous sourcing of poultry, goat, and even black-bellied ram.


Until recently, there was no overlap: Meats were either kosher, halal, or neither. A new brand seeks to change that. Abe’s Meats, from Interfaith Ventures, reports that it is producing “the first-ever Interfaith Meat products that are both Halal and Kosher.” Founder Mohammad Modarres says, “Brands that offer dual Kosher and Halal food products do exist. However, meat is one of the most complicated and expensive products to produce as ‘Interfaith’ because of the production process, cost, and need to collaborate.

Vita Coco’s parent company acquires natural energy drink Runa

All Market Inc (AMI), the parent company of Vita Coco, purchased natural energy drink Runa, according to FoodBev Media. The brand’s organic beverages are made from guayusa leaves, which are found in the Amazon rainforest.

Runa Steers Towards Natural Energy, Away from Tea

Nothing drives impact like dollars. It’s a simple idea, but, for Runa, it represents the seed of an entirely new business-focused outlook.The Brooklyn-based company, founded in 2009 by college roommates Tyler Gage and Dan MacCombie, produces ready-to-drink iced teas and energy drinks made with guayusa, a plant traditionally used as a natural source of caffeine by indigenous groups in South America. Through its vertically aligned supply chain— in which it sources organic crops from Fair Trade Certified partner farms in Ecuador— Runa has made ethical business practices and sustainable farming a key part of its identity.

Kuli Kuli: A superstar of superfoods

Nestled in downtown Oakland, California, sustainable food and agriculture startup Kuli Kuli has roots more than 7,000 miles away. Founder Lisa Curtis was introduced to the moringa tree while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in a small town in Niger. A vegetarian whose local diet consisted mainly of millet and rice, Curtis was able to curb her malnourishment, a lack of protein and key vitamins by adding moringa to her daily regime. Her health turnaround sparked an interest in introducing the benefit of the moringa plant to North American eaters.

Juice Different

Established in 2014, Misfit is a product range of cold-pressed juice made from scraps of vegetables and fruits that otherwise go to waste because they are not the right size, shape, or color that, as Misfit says, don’t fit the “high aesthetic standards for produce that is retailed in the US.”

Yumbutter is nuts for change

Imagine it’s 10 years into the future. Food corporations are still concerned with making a profit, but it is no longer the only concern. Companies are blazing trails for better environmental standards, practicing ethical sourcing and engaging with the community in a positive way. Employees are valued and love showing up to work. Consumers enjoy trips to the supermarket because they know what they’re throwing into the cart isn’t causing harm. And best of all, food is more than just a product: It’s healthy, fun and meaningful.

Meet Moringa, The Most Nutrient-dense Plant on The Planet

Kuli Kuli’s founder, Lisa Curtis, got her first taste of moringa as a Peace Corps volunteer in a small village in Niger. As a vegetarian, she was eating mostly rice and millet — a diet that left her feeling sluggish. When she mentioned her fatigue to women at the community health center, they suggested she try moringa. After buying the leaves from a neighbor’s tree, she mixed them with a popular peanut snack, called kuli-kuli, and noticed her health improve.

A Startup Backed By Kellogg’s VC Arm, Kuli Kuli, Introduces Americans To A New Superfood, Moringa

When Lisa Curtis was a Peace Corps volunteer in Niger, she discovered moringa, a green with high nutritional content that’s popular in Africa and elsewhere. When she returned to the United States, she decided to start a company that would introduce it to U.S. consumers – and provide better incomes to farmers in Africa.

This D.C. juicing startup is now eyeing food

D.C.-based Misfit Juicery, an anti-food waste company that uses misshapen or bruised produce to make bottled juices, has rebranded as the business grows its profile in the food space and lands deals with high-profile retailers. The move also positions the startup to expand beyond juice.


Grown on trees in regions of Africa, South America, and India, the super green is typically ground up and used in powder form, and it’s becoming an increasingly popular ingredient in bottled juices and bars. “Interest has been growing around greens in general, such as with smoothies or kale, and I think moringa is becoming a trending ingredient because people are looking for ways to get the most nutrient-dense [green] they can,” says Lisa Curtis, founder of Kuli Kuli, America’s leading moringa supplier.

Three Organic, Fair-Trade Alternatives to Coffee

Kuli Kuli sources its moringa from Ghana, Haiti, and Nicaragua. In many nations, those included, the green-leafed plant is considered a weed, only eaten by those occupying the poorest societal rung.

We need more innovation to repurpose and reclaim natural resources

Until premium priced, slow, organic, food fast casual chains are located in communities representative of a larger demographic range, I will continue to fight this good fight. These establishments’ business models are incredibly successful but their impact is limited if they are claiming to be a benefactor in increasing the accessibility of nutritious food.

The next round of beer innovations

A pilot program partnership with Boom Algae takes carbon dioxide and other waste byproducts of fermentation and feeds them to the algae. The algae is harvested and sold to Living Ink Technologies, which uses it to make a 100-percent biodegradable green ink. “It sounded wacky at first,” says Upslope’s founder Matt Cutter. “But we’re hoping this is successful and leads Boom Algae to the next step, where eventually it becomes something that can handle more or all of the CO2 from our brewery.”

Baldor Specialty Foods and Misfit Juicery divert organic waste from fandfills

Through McQuillan’s prevention strategy, Baldor is partnering with companies such as Washington DC’s MISFIT Juicery, who recovers unsellable and blemished produce for its cold-pressed juices. Baldor will now be sending its food trim to MISFIT to be made into juices.

Food of the Future

When Gabi Lewis was studying at Brown University, he enjoyed powerlifting alongside his formal study of philosophy and economics. He was dabbling in different proteins when his roommate Greg Sewitz sent him a U.N. report about the many social and nutritional benefits of an insect diet. In that report from 2013, when Greg and Gabi were seniors, it said that “It is widely accepted that by 2050 the world will host 9 billion people. To accommodate this number, current food production will need to almost double.” It also reported that insects are a likely way of meeting the intense demand.

Local Orbit Out to Boost Food Supply Chain for Farmers, Institutions

It was through a series of conversations with customers that Local Orbit realized it was perhaps missing a bigger supply chain opportunity. The kinds of institutional buyers purchasing food from local farmers through Local Orbit include schools, hospitals, jails, and universities—a market worth up to $82 billion annually, Block says. And even though these large institutions aren’t typically known for boutique food choices, they also aren’t immune to the national locavore trend. These days, people want to know the story behind the food they eat, she points out.

Why ‘Ugly’ and Scrap Produce Actually Makes the Best Juice

Once the fresh-faced darling of the beverage industry, cold-pressed juice has arguably lost a bit of novelty. Gone are the days of the elusive It green juice, available only at boutique juice bars (and sipped as part of an alkalizing cleanse); today’s juice drinker has seemingly limitless options, several of which are available at her local Target store—and possibly backed by her favorite soda company, too. This isn’t a knock on cold-pressed juice inasmuch as it is to politely point out that the market is pretty saturated.Perhaps pre-empting such skepticism, Misfit Juicery—ostensibly just another cold-pressed juice enterprise—bluntly states on its website, “

Exo, protein bar made from crickets, raises $4M

Exo, a protein bar company founded by two 20something entrepreneurs, today announced it has raised a $4 million Series A for a packaged food concept whose key ingredient would give most Americans pause: crickets. Or more specifically, cricket powder.

Fruit and Second Chances Never Tasted So Good

Our products provide second chances in two ways. One would be employing and training women who need a second chance because they are homeless, formerly incarcerated, or otherwise disadvantaged. The second would be the fruit we pick was originally not the right size/shape to be sold commercially. The model address is the paradox that in this country we waste 40% of food while 1/6 americans are currently living in hunger.

Local catering entrepreneur Josephine Chu chats with Start DC about building Zenful Bites.

Josephine Chu and Yolanda Hawthorne founded Zenful Bites in May 2012 on the principle that everyone should have access to fresh food, the means to buy it, and the knowledge to prepare it. To that end, Zenful Bites partners with local nonprofits to run food education programs for children in underserved areas of DC. The programs teach children where their food comes from and engages them in healthy cooking, building the foundation for more wholesome eating throughout their lives. Children learn to prepare dishes that include vegetables and fruit that perhaps they are unaccustomed to eating. Many of these classes are provided pro-bono, so Zenful Bites sustains and expands this work, in part, by offering catering services for local businesses and events.

An Anti-Waste Kitchen Takes Root in Alameda

Dana Frasz deals in the currency of imperfect produce: crooked carrots, oranges with peels dotted with black spots, and potatoes shaped like snowmen.

PITAYA Plus outlines mission to turn America’s smoothies hot pink

It’s flaming pink, packed with fiber and magnesium, fruity, but not too sweet, and growing like crazy in the frozen smoothie pack market, says Chuck Casano, who is on a mission to do for Pitaya what Sambazon did for açai berries and KonaRed is doing for coffee fruit: turn something many Americans have never heard of into a household name.


Interview: Runa

“We built a supply chain entirely from scratch in the middle of the Amazon so we had to go through all the heavy lifting of immense amounts of R&D, bureaucracy, …