What if you could eat a chocolate candy whopper but it was actually…healthy? This was the idea that motivated Jason Goodman grad ’21 in his pursuit of a healthy snack food model to disrupt the market. He says that the idea originally came out of a class in which he was pushed to think of a snack that had protein and fiber and that would appeal as a ready-to-eat snack food. The idea has since grown into a company called “Antithesis,” and its team now consists of six members, all former or current food science graduate students. Antithesis focuses on one product but is looking to layer on more products to what Goodman calls the “vanilla ice cream base.”
On the outside, Goodman’s product looks like a chocolate candy, and a bite into the chocolate morsel reveals a chalky green inside that has the consistency of a malt ball but a much more complex flavor from its chickpea composition. The inside contains a variety of other natural, tasty ingredients that make you feel better about eating chocolate. The candy is extremely addicting with a satisfying crunch; I found myself reaching in the empty sample bag searching for another one soon after I had quickly eaten five.
In the future, Antithesis may explore a variety of other flavors such as spicy Mexican chocolate-covered bites, as their current flavor is only a milk-chocolate covered chickpea bite. Goodman’s vision is to have people reaching into a bag of his product to stay energized while staying up studying in Mann Library rather than reaching into an unhealthy and often unsatisfying bag of potato chips. “The size makes it easy to consume bite by bite,” says Goodman, an aspect of the snack that makes it easy to nibble on.
Most recently, Antithesis has been admitted into eLab, which Goodman says will drastically help the company and product grow. Goodman says that so far eLab has been effective in helping him with customer discovery as well as solidifying a plan to get the product to market. In addition, he says the team has been in touch with the founders of Farther Farms to receive advice on how to utilize the Cornell network effectively as well as growing Antithesis. Gaining entry into eLab makes Antithesis the second start-up grown through food science graduate students within the eLab accelerator in recent years — an exciting and promising feat.
The name Antithesis comes from the idea of taking the opposite of the route typically taken, Goodman says, describing the method as “taking the best ingredients to solve the hardest problems in a sustainable format.” Goodman’s background provides insight into his perception of snack food. His undergraduate career focused on microbiology, and post-graduation Goodman worked within the pharmaceutical field. While he enjoyed his work, he became frustrated with the pace at which results would come about. At this point, he started cooking at home and became intrigued with the idea of combining his love of microbiology with food. Goodman believes you can help many more people at a much faster rate with food rather than developing a pharmaceutical drug over a long period of time. He cites obesity and Alzheimer’s as diseases that have been positively influenced by diet changes. “It’s something that cuts through every profession,” he said. The idea that food unites people is not a novel one, and Goodman’s professional and personal experiences can attest to this.
When asked about the snack market, and specifically the market for his product, Goodman says that the companies that are truly in touch with their customers are the ones being bought up. Rx bar, for example, was just recently bought by Kellogg. “We are seeing these legacy brands with namesake products looking for innovation,” says Goodman. Recent trends have proven this to be true, and it has become evident that the food startup market is increasingly catering to the needs of its consumers: fast, affordable and, most importantly, healthy. Through customer discovery and feedback, Goodman feels Antithesis fits into this narrative. People have enjoyed the texture, taste and the fact that they contain large amounts of protein and fiber. Competition is not a concern — there is no product like these bites currently on the market.
Goodman is a food entrepreneur from a distinct background with a vision for food production that differs from the entrepreneurs around him. He jokes that while his advice may be trite, it couldn’t be more true: “Don’t be afraid of failing upwards. There is no better education than just starting.” In other words, failure can only propel one forward instead of setting them back.
Antithesis aims to get their product to the local market within the next few months and their prototype and story can be seen online at their website: https://www.antithesisfoods.com/
Alex is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She is passionate about food entrepreneurship at Cornell. Each month, she highlights notable developments in the food entrepreneurship community including outstanding startups and revolutionary research, seeking to give a voice to the increasingly prominent food community in Ithaca. She can be reached at [email protected].
Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the given name of the founder of Antithesis. He is Jason, not James.