Business & Tech, Features

Food entrepreneurs discuss benefits, processes of food industry

The Consumer Goods Meetup hosts “Launching a Food Start-Up” panel discussion Wednesday night at CIC Boston, featuring food businesses such as Eat Your Coffee, Swoffle and CommonWealth Kitchen. PHOTO BY JINGYI LIN/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Entrepreneurs are always hungry for the next big thing — most of the time figuratively, and as shown by a recent panel discussion at CIC Boston, sometimes literally.

Several entrepreneurs and food enthusiasts gathered on Wednesday for “Launching a Food Start-Up,” a panel discussion that focused on industry trends and local founders.

The panel featured Johnny Fayad, the co-founder and CEO of Eat Your Coffee, a company that had developed an energy bar that is “infused with a full cup of real coffee,” according to Eat Your Coffee’s website.

The senior at Northeastern University formulated the idea for the energy bar after he and his friend, Ali Kothari, saw a need of it in their lives, he said.

“So we started the business a couple of years ago, we were students at Northeastern, still are students at Northeastern in fact, but we were running late for our morning classes with no time for breakfast or coffee,” Fayad said. “So my friend and I had a joke where we used to ask, ‘Why can’t we eat our coffee?’ So we just started making these bars in my dorm room.”

He said that after students began to show significant interest, he and his friend started selling the bars around campus to pick up traction.  

Julia Paino, the co-founder and CEO of Swoffle, a company that sells waffle cookies that are inspired by the “stroopwafel,” was also on the panel.

“At our core, our belief was … creating a healthier snack option that was competitive in pricing to almost any snack that you could find on a shelf or somewhere in a coffee break room,” Paino said. “We wanted to make sure that it was organic and gluten-free and really had a brand around it that communicated this type of accessibility … that it was higher quality but it wasn’t necessarily more expensive.”

Paino said the brand placed an important emphasis on giving back to the community.

“We also wanted to have a component to our brand that involved giving back, so for every Swoffle purchased, we help provide a free meal to someone in need in partnership with local food banks,” Paino said.

Roz Freeman, the entrepreneurship program manager at CommonWealth Kitchen, an organization that supports food startups and entrepreneurs, was another member of the panel.

Freeman mentioned how the communal aspect of a food entrepreneurship program adds to a company’s success.

“Being in a community really allows for a shared learning and shared growth,” she said. “Having all those resources and connections in the same space really allows the company to accelerate to the next level.”

Additionally, Vice Cream’s founder Daniel Schorr, joined the panel as a fourth member.

“At Vice Cream, we’re all about unapologetic indulgence and we just believe that if you’re a college kid, why eat low-fat, high-protein grossness, eat real ice cream,” Schorr said, while talking about the brand’s “unapologetically indulgent” ideology.

He further elaborated on how he believed the food industry was really picking up now.

“It’s really interesting [because] the food industry is really hot now, which is especially interesting for Boston [because] Boston is a tech town,” Schorr said. “I think it comes from a combination of television shows like ‘Top Chef,’ and eating healthy and the rise of whole food.”

Saravanapriah Nadarajan, 37, of Somerville, talked about her love for food and her desire to be involved in the industry.

“I’m a scientist who loves to cook food, and I’ve always seen people involved in different ways in the food industry … I figured that this would be the best place to see how I could get involved as well,” she said.

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