In February, the National Science Foundation awarded Antithesis Foods —a Cornell startup that began in 2017 with the purpose of improving the nutrition factor of snacks— one million dollars in grant funding. The company was founded by Cornell graduates Ashton Yoon MPS ’17 MS ’19, COO of Antithesis Foods, and Jason Goodman, Ph.D. ’21, CEO of Antithesis Foods.
Antithesis Foods began with a classroom assignment in Food Science 4010 “Concepts of Food Product Development,” then taught by Prof. Ali Abbaspourrad, food science. Yoon and Goodman took the course together, both with hopes of improving the quality of available food products.
Though Goodman’s background is originally in pharmaceuticals and biochemistry, he wished to get more involved in nutritional health.
“Instead of making drugs to make the world better, what if you could just change the food environment,” Goodman said.
Goodman said he believed that the only setback in balancing a healthy eating lifestyle was taste.
“People aren’t going to eat stuff that’s better for you unless it tastes better,” Goodman said.
In his final project in the course, Goodman tackled that exact challenge with chocolate covered chickpeas. This product was later patented as Garbanzos, the company’s first marketed product.
With their initial success, the two joined Cornell eLab, a student business accelerator that helps develop a number of companies begun by Cornell students. Goodman and Yoon planned to capitalize on their product design, the most impressive of which has been their textures.
“We’re really good at understanding how to create crunchy and crispy textures from proteins and fibers, and I think other companies haven’t gotten there yet,” Yoon said.
Transitioning out of the classroom and into the real world, the grant guarantees Antithesis Foods continued product development.
“Now, we’ll have a stable source of funding to keep a bunch of people around, which is always the difficult thing,” Goodman said.
After earning the NSF Small Business Innovation Research Phase I award, the team primarily focused on product development research. This led Antithesis Foods to produce their second product, Protos, a crunchy chip sporting a high protein and fiber and low carbohydrate nutritional value. The Phase II award grants continued product development with even more flexibility.
“People haven’t really put together this particular matrix of food together before. So, when you’re trying to scale that from lab to mass market, you’re going to make some mistakes,” Yoon said. “In addition to having hands to help and having good team members, this funding gives us the [necessary] chance to fail a little bit.”
The team’s priority continues to be delivering nutrition in as pleasant a form as possible. With just five percent of Americans meeting their daily fiber recommendations, the popularity of these high fiber-rich products could mean big changes in health.
“If you eat more fiber, you generally will live longer,” Goodman said.
With the funding from the new grant, the company is now seeking additional members to continue their innovation, specifically a research and development associate scientist.