Journey Foods is on a mission to transform our food system, one product at a time. Its database of over 17B data points on millions of food products and ingredients is helping companies optimize the complete lifecycle of products, from ideation to market.
What is perhaps most interesting about the way entrepreneur Riana Lynn is aiming to tackle the myriad problems within the food industry is her drive to solve it in tandem with technology and working within what already exists.
“It’s really unfortunate how much the juggernauts (of food) control the industry and how much agriculture has controlled food and taste over the last 150 years,” she recently told Sustainable Brands™.
The food technology innovator, speaker and growth designer founded Journey Foods — a portfolio intelligence and lifecycle-management software for food development and innovation — in 2019 with a goal of transforming food through a multi-pronged approach, including AI and logistics. The Austin-based startup helps food companies optimize the complete lifecycle of a product from ideation to the marketplace. It includes features that help companies of all sizes understand everything from the environmental impact of ingredients to the cost inefficiencies and waste in their production process, and opportunities to improve on all.
Lynn notes direct links between the ways we now grow, produce and consume food — particularly, the many new types of foods we weren’t eating 100 years ago — and major drivers of climate change, diabetes and mental health issues (among other problems). She says those factors, rather than addressing the ongoing issues with global supply chains (a secondary benefit of the platform), were the impetus for creating an actionable database for helping the biggest names in food make impactful decisions about food products.
“The focus on actionability was around the fact that you won’t get a $3 trillion industry to turn over if you don't make it easy,” she says. “The focus is on the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of these products. Supply chain and cost is the next step.”
The nuts and bolts
With big data powering so many other aspects of modern life, it makes sense that there’s a major opportunity in food, ripe for the picking. Lynn says that since its launch, Journey Foods has scanned more than two million food products, recipes and ingredients — totaling more than 17 billion data points. For companies using the platform, each data point informs a path to streamlining product development.
The platform combines AI, machine learning and its ever-growing data pool to not only solve food science and supply chain inefficiencies, but also inform new ways for food companies to make their products more cost-efficient and planet-positive from start to finish — often saving the customer many months and trials in the process.
For example, the company helped Unilever reduce costs 9 percent on a less impactful, more health-focused product and deliver the improved product in 47 percent less time than the operating standard market launch. Other examples include:
An international chocolate company wanted to improve on the unnatural additives and oils in its products. The company sought three alternative ingredients with the same cost margin or lower; Journey used its platform to locate and source pilot ingredients that fit the bill in terms of cost and texture functionality.
A leading cookie company looked to launch a national line of gluten-free cookies with a low-water-use flour alternative. After first filtering by taste and texture parameters, Journey then recommended the best available, low-water-use alternatives.
A major Japanese company with global product lines planned to launch new coffee lines with new packaging, and lower water and sugar in their products while meeting regulatory markers. Journey helped them identify updated nutrition formulations by country.
A startup looking to make a plant-based coffee creamer used Journey’s data to match ingredients based on glycemic index and cost.
Lynn’s team then transforms all of this data into viable use cases for the biggest names in food, while integrating it into existing technology platforms to help inform new product developments and improvements.
Empowering the food workers of the future
Journey Foods’ JourneyLabs initiative is giving students across the country opportunities to not only work with food data but find their niche within the field — which ideally will lead to the necessary jobs of tomorrow.
“The underlying skillset (needed) across the board is coding data and analysis,” Lynn says. “The natural demands of foods, consumer behavioral changes and data have to be a core part of how we train future food workers. We’re going to have to feed eight billion people very soon and that’s very confusing.”
The initiative connects students at a range of universities — including historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and legacy schools such as Columbia University and Cornell — with specific, data-driven opportunities to help define the future of food.
Lynn notes that building a diverse and driven workforce is key to the success and sustainability of the next frontier of food; and programs such as JourneyLabs put those opportunities front and center. For example, the partnership with Columbia will lead to the production of new 3D-printed food products. JourneyLabs will also offer early-stage companies and founders access to critical data tools to help them grow.