Mrinali Kumar thinks animal-free food tastes better. She linked this belief to another, trying to reduce food waste. This summer, its Kinda cauliflower ice cream, made from vegetables meant to be thrown away, will go on sale. Mrinali is a finalist in the Momentum Student Entrepreneur category of the KiwiNet Research Commercialization Awards.
She transforms cauliflowers that could be left to rot in the fields into ice cream that has passed the taste and texture test during a blind tasting.
Palmerston North-based Kumar and his business partner Jenny Matheson are launching Kinda ice cream this summer.
Strawberry Ripple, Chocolate Ripple, and Chocolate Mint Cookie are the first three flavors with more to come.
Kumar told RNZ’s Lynn Freeman today that during the blind tasting, people couldn’t tell cauliflower was an ingredient in their range.
The food technologist worked alongside other technical experts on the all-important texture for two years.
“We’ve worked very hard to make sure it has the same smoothness, stability, texture as standard dairy ice cream.”
Kinda was chosen as the name to meet legal requirements as it does not contain dairy products.
The idea was born when she attended a data contest in Taranaki where she met co-founder Matheson, a vegan for 20 years.
During a cooking experiment, Matheson tried using cauliflower and pitched the concept to the competition where the duo worked together, then decided to develop it for a company.
Cauliflower was a great ingredient in part because of its color, which suited all the added flavors, and its fiber content, which helped with texture, Kumar said.
“So many benefits – very easy to use.”
The ice cream is not low in sugar or fat, but was intended to be “an indulgence” for those with food allergies or those wishing to make a sustainable choice.
Food waste remains huge in New Zealand, Kumar said, with examples such as unharvested cauliflower because it was deemed not good enough to sell in supermarkets.
Kumar and Matheson are working with growers and a social enterprise, Perfectly Imperfectly, to save these crops.
The couple’s main goal is “to show the world that New Zealand can produce clean green food”.
“We want to show that we can also become a leader in plant-based nutrition.”
While Aotearoa was known for its dairy and meat production, the planet could not sustain current methods of food production.
“We really want to show that New Zealand can use the other things that we grow, like cauliflower or any other vegetable or fruit, and we can add value to them and create other industries and we can actually lead because if we continue the way we are, it’s going to have massive long-term consequences.”
She acknowledged that 50,000 people work in the country’s meat and dairy industries, so it was important that further job opportunities were created in other forms of food production.
New Zealand was a bit behind in the plant-based food industry, however, there were signs of innovation.
“We’re just one of many, it’s so exciting to see what New Zealand can really do.”