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Coffee without beans. Seattle’s fledgling company is making a new cup of Joe

On a busy block of Seattle’s busy West Avenue from Starbucks, a woman leans over a coffee grinder and sits on a hot plate with a kettle full of sparkling water. The air is thick with the smell of freshly cooked java. The scene would be completely unnoticeable, except for a few notable details. One, the woman was wearing a lab coat. Instead of two glasses, there is a steaming glass. And three, no coffee beans participated in its preparation.

This is the office of the food technology startup Atomo Coffee, where a team of food scientists and chemists, led by fellow co-founders Andy Kleich Jarrett Stofffort, are working on what they hope will become meatless meat, eggless fruit. Milk Atomo coffee without coffee is made from upcycled ingredients, such as sunflower seeds, watermelon seeds, which undergo a patented chemical process to obtain molecules that mimic the real taste and mouth. The resulting bases are brewed just like a regular cup of coffee. Yes, it has caffeine.

The $ 100 billion coffee industry is one of the most vulnerable to climate change in the world. Arabian cereal plants, the most popular in the world, which like both coffee snobs and Starbucks-like chains, thrive in cool regions in clear, rainy, dry seasons. But global warming is causing those regions to shrink. Over the next seven decades, the Arabian Peninsula is likely to lose at least 50% of its habitat, according to a 2019 study by Kew scientists at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Britain. In the report: As temperatures continue to rise, growers are moving to their farms in search of cooler temperatures, and deforestation rates are rising.

This is where they hope to inspire Kleitsch և Stopforth. After more than two years of development, they will finally get out of their coffee this year by selling a cold blend. Eventually, they plan to expand the home-grown fruit և into whole beans. Dissemination strategy followed by one of the company’s role models.

“We like to think of ourselves as Tesla coffee,” said Stofffort, who has spent the past two decades developing food science and nutrition. At the same time, Claych is a serial entrepreneur and former product manager at Amazon.com. “Before you came to Tesla, if you wanted a luxury, powerful vehicle that was disconnected from diesel, you had no choice,” Stofffort said. “In the same way, before Atomo, if you wanted coffee that had nothing to do with deforestation, you would have no other choice. Do it now. ”

Although there are many certifications that show that the product is a stable source, the lack of a common standard with transparent standards leaves the door wide open for manufacturers to commit fraud and distrust of consumers.

Investors who are experienced in supporting vegetarian food technology are betting that Atomo can fill that gap. The company has raised about $ 11.5 million in two rounds of financing since 2019, when it launched a $ 25,000 Kickstarter campaign. His current backers are Hong Kong-based Horizons Ventures, which has invested in Impossible Foods, and S2G Ventures, which includes Beyond Meat.

Plant-based foods are a high-growth category, not just for start-ups. For example, Nestle is rolling out vegan chocolates to sausage substitutes. Fast food giant McDonald’s tests its first meatless McPlant burger in Europe, developed in collaboration with Beyond Meat; և Even the largest American meat company, Tyson Foods, launched a range of 100% vegetable meats in May, including a variety of minced beef and sausages.

That said, coffee is a particularly challenging market. For one, many are more closely associated with coffee than other food items, even iconic items such as ice cream and hamburgers. For one, the coffee culture fluctuates sharply in each of the regions. The name Atomo, Italian for “atom”, means a tribute to the country’s espresso bars.

Even plant-based alternatives, which have already gained a large share of the market, face a potential regulatory challenge from traditional producers who are reluctant to give up their unique requirements for “meat” or “milk” so easily. Vegan food producers say the meat and dairy industry is developing scientists and lobbyists to protect their grassroots by demanding that “milk” and “meat” be strictly labeled as animal products.

One of the advantages of these Atomo companies is that, unlike meat and dairy products, coffee does not have an identity standard regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. This means that coffee does not have to come from a certain place or even from a certain plant, said Kleich. “We anticipate that there will be legal challenges to naming our coffee,” he said, “but that will not stop Atomo from labeling it as such.” “We are challenging the norms, hindering the great giants.”

Kleitsch և Stopforth seeks to partner with high-end coffee shops, especially those interested in reducing their carbon footprint. Will they come together, depending on how fast the food industry returns from COVID-19? Atomo is also considering selling its coffee online through its website.

Any level of success, of course, depends on the answer to one question. Does Atomo coffee without coffee taste good? Although the cold drink lacks some of the bitterness that one would expect from a cup of traditional coffee, it is refreshingly smooth with a sweetness on the palate.

Danny Cohn, the fourth-generation owner of Seattle-based Cone and Steiner grocery chain, is in talks to become one of Atomo’s first retail partners. Having spent three decades in the coffee industry, spending the last fifteen years in a Seattle cafe, he admits that he is skeptical of Atomo Molecular Coffee at first. “But when he tasted it, he was convinced,” said Cohn, who met Claych while they were in business school mentoring.

“As with any new product, there will be a consumer education curve, as it was for me,” said Conn. But he is confident that Atomo will reach the market for its busy, environmentally friendly people who are looking for ready-made beverages like coffee.

“Just as a bottle of Frappucino opened up a new category of coffee,” said Cohn, “it also outperforms the superheated category.”

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