Los Angeles / Chicago
Industry: Food & Beverage
Products: Snacks and food development software platform
Founder and CEO Riana Lynn is bringing data-driven product development to food manufacturers.
"I've been in food for over a decade now," says Lynn, who previously worked in venture financing. "With the lack of data insights and approach to manufacturing and optimization of consumer packaged food products that exists on the market today, it seems many manufacturers and product managers and entrepreneurs have a hard time meeting the ever-changing needs of consumers in the marketplace, especially around nutrition and sustainability."
That problem was the catalyst for her startup. "I decided to launch Journey Foods and at first focus on taking an unprecedented approach to a product called Journey Bites, which are smoothie cubes."
The product was a means to hone a software platform that debuted in 2019. "Our focus is on Journey Foods IO," says Lynn. "We really think of it as a cloud-based digital twin of the manufacturing process and R&D process so companies can optimize and accelerate from ideation to product and products to consumers in a much faster time."
"If a company needs to understand or improve a product, we like to do that with a digital focus."
She notes that food manufacturers have data in the form of supply chain management and market insights, "but less so in the middle part of the value chain when it comes to manufacturing products -- optimization in product improvement and formulation."
That's a big void for the packaged foods industry, says Lynn, noting that there are 38,000 people for every food scientist. "Packaged foods is a $3 trillion industry globally. Packaged foods are 70 percent of the calories we eat and largely associated with chronic disease and environmental degradation, so we really need to find as many solutions as possible," she adds.
Journey Bites have provided a vehicle to hone the IO platform. Ingredients are sourced from California and New Mexico for pilot-scale manufacturing in the Midwest, but the products are largely used as a testing ground for Journey Foods IO. "Test products and small-batch runs help us optimize the data," says Lynn, noting that filler sugars were replaced with natural ingredients, and the platform was also used to set prices. "We were able to think through ways to lower the glycemic index and boost flavor."
Customers have also used Journey Foods IO to find more sustainable oil suppliers for a cookie recipe and guide a "foray into adaptogens."
The platform is available by monthly or annual subscriptions, with fees starting at less than $500 a month.
Clients range from small and medium-sized businesses like Almēda Labs to multinationals like Unilever. "Today we have over 80 food scientists and team leads using our Journey Foods IO product," says Lynn. "You can integrate with additional supply-chain tools you might already be using."
It all goes back to leveraging good data. "We're adding data sources every single day," says Lynn, labeling it a mix of private and public sources. "We're so bullish on data. We're just finding the best ways to collect them and clean them and analyze them."
Challenges: "For any company that's under three years old, it's always viability and capital," says Lynn. "I think that's pretty standard."
Another challenge: "Food companies tend to not go into cloud solutions as quickly because of the competitive marketplace and the proprietary nature of the industry. For the companies that really are serious about competition and growth, they're taking on software and data solutions much quicker."
Opportunities: Lynn points to a worldwide R&D budget of $288 billion for the food industry. "It's pretty large. It's approaching $50 billion in the U.S. alone."
She says companies looking to improve product nutrition and navigate regulation are primary targets.
Needs: Capital and partners. Journey Foods recently closed on investments from Colorado-based SpringTime Ventures and Capital Factory of Austin, Texas, while cementing partnerships with Danone and M12, Microsoft's venture arm.
"We're always looking for great talent," adds Lynn. "We are a part-remote team, so we're just looking for great people, no matter where they live, that believe in the opportunity and want to solve the problems we're looking to solve. They can be in Colorado, they can be in Canada, they can be in Australia."
"We're definitely looking for more customers," she adds. Another Journey Foods need involves "great people," no matter their location -- especially food scientists "with some affinity to data."