Chobani CEO Hamdi Ulukaya chose six innovative food startups this week to be mentored in the yogurt company's new incubator. One of the companies taking part in the inaugural half-year program may be very familiar to Inc. readers.
MISFIT Juicery, a brand that uses "ugly" and leftover produce in its juices to combat food waste, will join the program in October. Earlier this year MISFIT was honored as one of Inc.'s 2016 Coolest College Startups.
"Together we are going to fuel the food revolution," Chobani CEO Hamdi Ulukaya explained in the program's video, referencing the business and consumer shift to natural, additive-free food that is shaking up the industry.
The startups were chosen for the incubator based on their business idea, shared values, and commitment to Chobani's mission of providing "better food for more people." Ulukaya said he wanted to increase competition with the giants of the natural food industry and challenge what he called a "broken system."
"You can make a difference as a business through the operational choices you make, in terms of labor and sourcing ingredients," MISFIT founder Ann Yang tells Inc.
Ulukaya has continually made business choices that benefit the community, Yang adds. The Chobani CEO not only famously gave employees a stake in his business, but also frequently hires refugees and encourages other companies to do so. In a similar vein, MISFIT worked with D.C. Jubilee Jobs and D.C. Central Kitchen to hire its five-person team. Both nonprofits work with job seekers who usually face obstacles to finding employment.
"So much of the startup world is thinking about financial return, and sometimes that can be suffocating," Yang says. "But there is a group of businesses, Chobani included, that are thinking about a triple bottom line--what's better for people, the planet, and for profit."
Starting out of co-founder Phil Wong's college apartment while undergraduates at Georgetown University in 2015, the MISFIT team set out to create a following in Washington, D.C. before expanding the following spring. The juice startup now boasts a partnership with the largest food distributor in the Northeast, Baldor Specialty Foods, to use its produce scraps for juices. MISFIT can be found at trendy spots such as Blue Hill at Stone Barns cafe outside of New York City, in addition to almost 50 locations in D.C. Yang says the company is in talks with offices and co-working spaces for potential partnerships, and currently is raising a $500,000 seed round.
Among the five other companies chosen for the Banza, a maker of chickpea-based pasta products that was chosen as one of Inc.'s 2016 30 under 30 honorees. The startups will be able to get advice from Ulukaya and key members of his team, and have access to Chobani's suppliers and many industry thought leaders. They also receive a $25,000 grant.Chobani Food Incubator was
Yang says the incubator will help MISFIT's business and enable the team to grow as leaders. "The learning curve in any startup, and particularly in food, is totally vertical," she says.