Alpha Food Labs and the Future of Food

At its core, Alpha Food Labs has a simple mission: research, invest in, and create innovative foods that are more sustainable, healthy, and tasteful than what currently exists today. And co-founder and co-CEO Mike Lee is committed to bringing the conversation around the future of food and its current problems to the community.

“The future of food is everything,” says Lee. “We want to inspire and educate the food industry on where the future of food might go. We’re not dictating what the future of food will be—we’re offering opportunities for conversation and inspiration.”

While growing up in Detroit, Lee loved to go to The North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) every year. He most loved to see the cars that were not going to be for sale: the concept cars. Lee eventually began to ask himself: “Who is doing concept car level stuff in food?” Concept cars are designed to inspire other automakers; he wanted a food company that did the same for the industry.

And consumers are asking for it. “People have woken up to the fact that food impacts your body and the environment in very profound ways,” says Lee. Plant-based has become a billion dollar industry, and what started as a niche market is becoming a key investment for companies like Tyson Foods.

Alpha Food Labs also includes companies Food+Tech Connect and The Future Market. Food+Tech Connect specializes in providing the most up-to-date research on what is currently happening in food technology, while The Future Market offers concept food products and experiences largely based on that research.

Lee and his company have been involved in flavor development for a number of products, including plant-based yogurt Lavva. The yogurt uses plant-based ingredients—including Pili nuts, young plantains, coconut, and cassava—that together create a creamy, delicious taste eerily similar to that of animal-based yogurt.

Lee does not advocate for any particular diet, and is determined to maintain a critical eye on all types of products—whether animal-based or plant-based. “There is no such thing as one optimal diet,” adds Lee. “At the end of the day, it’s not about the right diet. It’s the diet that’s right for you.”

Listen to the above episode of Food Out Loud to learn more about the future of Alpha Food Labs and the ever-evolving problem of sustainability.

Produced by:

Nathan Mikita


Kuli Kuli Brings Nutrient-Dense Superfood to the US Market

Moringa is known by many names throughout the world: drumstick tree, mother’s milk, the tree of life. But the plant is relatively unknown in the United States, and its extensive nutritional and medicinal benefits are only beginning to be studied.

In this episode of Food Out Loud, host Nathan Mikita chats with Lisa Curtis, the founder and CEO of Kuli Kuli. A former Peace Corps volunteer, Curtis began researching the moringa plant after personally discovering its exceptional nutritional benefits while living in a mud house with no electricity in Niger, West Africa. Before adding moringa to her diet, she almost exclusively ate rice and millet and often felt tired and faint. The name “Kuli Kuli” comes from a traditional African peanut snack called kuli-kuli, with which Curtis began mixing moringa leaves.

With help from an Indiegogo campaign, Curtis officially launched Kuli Kuli five years ago. Kuli Kuli has since partnered with over 1300 women’s cooperatives and small family farms in eleven countries. Together, the company has raised over 4.4 million dollars in revenue and is now sold in more than 7000 stores. Curtis hopes the work will provide continuous financial and nutritional security for those communities and family farms. She quickly found that the best way to ensure farmers ate more of the plant was to have them grow it themselves.

Moringa may be the most nutrient-dense superfood in the world—though, as Curtis notes, that designation depends upon how you are measuring nutrient value. “Most plants are 90% water. Moringa is 80% water,” says Curtis. “It’s a complete plant protein. Very few greens like that have fiber, vitamin A, calcium, and vitamin C. It’s more nutritious than kale.”

According to recent studies, moringa is better than turmeric at reducing inflammation within the body. The plant is also proven to help regulate blood sugar levels, thus providing natural relief for those who suffer from diabetes. Some swear by the plant for soothing arthritis, and new mothers often take it to promote lactation.

Energy bars, shakes, shots, and powder are the main products Kuli Kuli currently offers in such grocery stores as Whole Foods, Safeway, CVS, and Costco. When breaking down the plant, Curtis and the rest of her team endeavor to avoid losing any valuable nutrients. “We’re very careful in the process. We work with farmers to harvest leaves in the morning when the leaves are fresh, and wash, dry, and mill them into a powder within 30 minutes of harvesting.” Vitamin C is the only nutrient lost during the harvesting and delivery process.

Listen to the above episode of Food Out Loud and learn more about the next steps for Kuli Kuli and the medicinal benefits of moringa.

Produced by:

Nathan Mikita