What was the inspiration for Back to the Roots? What inspires you daily?
We were inspired to start Back to the Roots during our last semester of college. We were both undergraduate business majors with job offers to go into investment banking and consulting when we came across a random fact in class: gourmet mushrooms can grow entirely on recycled coffee grounds!
Our professor introduced the two of us, we hit it off, and after watching hours of how-to videos and turning our fraternity kitchen into a science experiment, we eventually decided to give up our corporate job offers to instead become full-time mushroom farmers. What started as curiosity about urban farming turned into a passion for “undoing food” and bringing families closer to their food again.
We want to teach families and especially kids that you don’t need a green thumb or a big backyard to grow your own food and know where it comes from! It’s been incredibly inspiring receiving thousands of photos from customers showing them growing mushrooms, harvesting herbs from the AquaFarm and connecting to food. We see the impact this can make, and it inspires us to work harder!
Where are you going? What's the vision for Back to the Roots?
We see a divergence occurring in the natural food space between the "new doing" and the "undoing of food," both of which will grow rapidly.
The "new doing" includes extracts, soy protein isolates, fake meats, fake eggs and Soylent-type concoctions. It's humans "inventing" new food in labs that are deemed healthier for us, and it's getting significant funding from lots of noteworthy technology investors.
The flip side in the future of food, the one that gets us excited and that we're putting every ounce of our energy into, is the "undoing of food." This is how you take food back to what it was 100 years ago by simplifying its ingredients and making the least processed versions. How do we create and promote food that is "made in a kitchen" and not a lab?
Our R&D team isn’t made up of biochemists and food scientists. Instead, it’s our grandparents! We think there's a powerful movement that's just starting around simplicity and undoing. It started in the restaurant space (Chipotle and Sweetgreen, where people wanted to see their food being made) and is now transitioning to the packaged food space. What "organic brands" were for baby-boomers, "transparent/simple" brands will be for millennials and our kids.
Our vision for 5-10 years is to become the “Kraft Foods" for millennials, but done right and with a focus on pure, simple ingredients. When families are looking to connect with real food, whether growing or eating it, we want Back to the Roots to come to mind. We’re betting that of all trends (gluten free, paleo, sugar free, fat free, vegan), what’s going to really stick is just simple food with fewer ingredients.
Food is the most personal thing there is. It’s what we put into our bodies three times a day, and yet we’re disconnected from it and have more trust around “new invented foods.” In comparison, we know what works and that's simple, real food and ingredients. We want to inspire a whole new generation to get excited about this.
What’s a guilty pleasure of yours?
Alex: Falling in love too fast.
Nikhil: Watching way too many rap music videos.
Please share an inside scoop on yourself.
We carpool to work together, drive home together, work 7 a.m. -9 p.m. together, and still want to vacation together (with both of our families too!) We’ve been to Europe, Colombia, India and Brazil together.