Using Data Analysis to Improve Food | Riana Lynn from Journey Foods

Through most of human history, agriculture has remained largely unchanged, but in the last seventy years, it’s undergone a dramatic transformation. And we’re struggling to keep up with the transition.

“There has been quite a bit of degradation, not only to the environment, but to our bodies as we keep up with shifting needs to more convenient foods,” says Riana Lynn, founder and CEO of Journey Foods.

On this edition of UpTech Report, Riana explains how Journey Foods uses advanced data analysis to help food companies incorporate new ingredients into their products and improve supply chains in order to facilitate better nutrition and sustainability.

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DISCLAIMER: Below is an AI generated transcript. There could be a few typos but it should be at least 90% accurate. Watch video or listen to the podcast for the full experience!

Riana Lynn 0:01
Using artificial intelligence may impact you know, some jobs, but overall it may shift them to more managerial roles or have for maybe a better impact on cost or your consumers interest. So embracing a little bit of the impact that’s going to happen across the board globally, with with digitization and AI.

Alexander Ferguson 0:30
Welcome to UpTech Report. This is our applied tech series UpTech Report is sponsored by TeraLeap. Learn how to leverage the power video at Today, I’m excited to be joined by my guest, Riana Lynn, who’s based in Austin, Texas. She’s the founder and CEO at Journey Foods. Welcome, Riana. Good to have you on.

Riana Lynn 0:47
Hey, Alex, it’s so great to be here. And looking forward to speaking to you for quite some time here.

Alexander Ferguson 0:53
I’m excited for us. We’ll chat today, help me understand dirty foods is focused on it as a food science and supply chain software, where you guys really focused on serving, what industry and what problem Did you see in that industry that you then set out to solve?

Riana Lynn 1:09
Yes, absolutely. So I’ve been a serial entrepreneur in the food industry for about a decade now. through experiences that I would love to dive into, I really found that a lot of the lack of change within the industry is due to r&d, and supply chain management. And so we work directly within the middle of the value chain for food companies like after sourcing and sort of before they get to consumer. So really make sure that the processes that r&d, the innovation, the data that’s necessary to make better food products, which at derny foods, we focus on packaged and processed food products at 70% of what we consume every day. Most of what you see in the grocery aisles, we really dive in on helping not only r&d teams, but procurement teams, product managers, marketing managers collect the data that’s necessary to make products more nutritious, more sustainable, and more cost effective not only for the businesses, but for their end consumers.

Alexander Ferguson 2:15
You’d already given note there that you’re not new to this industry. You’ve been in food and beverage industry for a while one of the previous companies, the company’s food trace, you are already helping in that sphere. better food sourcing. Did I get that right?

Riana Lynn 2:29
Yeah, so So making sure that we had more transparent supply chains, going to our restaurants or going to our offices and many other places. noses, it was a problem that we faced, I went to my first food companies where I launched a chain of juice bars and production facilities with a family member. And we were right in the middle of Chicago. We wanted to bring more nutrient dense organic foods to the Chicago market. But our team had a lot of troubles with the transparency, understanding the management inventory. And that was like an internal project that I spun out for a few food companies, including my own, into turning into food trace. And I’ve gotten wonderful experience, both from investing, scaling, and even on the tech side at Google. I was in the food industry and super, super excited now to bring a lot of these learnings together into journey foods.

Alexander Ferguson 3:27
It’s almost like all the learnings are coming over time to say all right, this this is the next venture it naturally led to where you are here. So let’s dig a little bit further into the journey foods. What What does it look like then it for for them to be able to use it? What is the tech stack? And what’s the use case for it?

Riana Lynn 3:45
Yeah, so we sort of combined product management software alongside a lot of data. That’s that’s really sort of funneled into this machine learning and artificial intelligence process, where we essentially take the decision pathways of food scientists, and look at the preferences of a company, let’s say for example, they want to make a bar with less, more nutrient dense have, but also at the same time, focus on the needs of consumers today, which is I want something with less toxic sugars. And I want products that have ingredients that are more sustainable, maybe even around the same price. We look at that product category, we sit down hundreds of 1000s ingredients and to filter. We then look and make sure I compare these alternatives to the preferences of the company and then find action plans for them so that they don’t have to go through multiple iterations and trials over many months. You know, the traditional process takes anywhere from 12 to 18 months, it’s getting a little bit faster in ways but still not fast enough. Also, there’s a tremendous amount of waste in the supply chain, when it comes to the types of ingredients we’re choosing now, because we just don’t have that much smarts here in the industry, if we think about it. Historically, we’re not that far away from families turning from self sustaining sort of gardening families, where they were growing their own fruits and vegetables, and, you know, maybe had local meat distributors to grocery stores sort of launching in the 1940s. And so we’ve tried to keep up as scientist as logistics companies, and now more recently with software and data with ever growing population needs, and you can imagine that we weren’t really able, in the past 70 years to sort of transition, you know, human evolution of agriculture over the past 10,000 years to what we do now. And there has been quite a bit of degradation not only to the environment, but to our bodies to keep up with shifting human needs to more convenience foods. And so attorney foods, we’re really supporting companies in finding those gaps, so that we can sort of reverse those effects.

Alexander Ferguson 6:22
So it’s, it’s a mix of multiple both seems like a personal mission of desire for for foods to get better ingredients are the the the right direction for us as humanity to go. But at building them faster and more efficiently and getting like all the knowledge and data in one place. You mentioned early on as a food scientist, and effectively you have all the inputs of your data of all the different ingredients or what you could build something with. And that’s kind of where your dashboard or your platform allows them to build both of what’s available. And also what is supply chain wise is that like, both of the components I

Riana Lynn 7:00
you know, so just like traditionally now, today, you know, many companies sort of get brokers or they find new ideas trending, and they try to turn that ingredient on social media into sort of a, a, you know, scalable option, whether it be a fast growing company on Shopify, or, you know, some of the world’s biggest food companies that you asked about our stack where Google Cloud GCP, Mongo, TensorFlow, Python, React j s, you know, sort of, you know, some of the more popular stacks with it, several solutions that help support our artificial intelligence. But we are also need to make sure that we find products and ingredients and alternatives at scale, right. So the reason why we’re not just a Food Innovation r&d platform is that lots of companies want to implement new ideas or changes really rapidly. But at the end of the day, the supply chain and end costs is really important to our decisions. And so we have to do the hard work of connecting software, whether it be Shopify or SAP or Microsoft Dynamics, or some of the other supply chain solution so that we can get the right data so that a decision to switch to a gluten free flour alternative won’t necessarily wipe out, you know, half of Canada’s a crop for the year. So this really affects not only sustainability, but also costs. And so looking forward and backward in the supply chain is really helpful to to the Sprint’s into making larger change.

Alexander Ferguson 8:45
How does this this data integration work? And sounds like you focus heavily on the integration side to be able to get this data in? How did you build that and how does that work?

Riana Lynn 8:54
Absolutely, you know, so we took really a lot of inspiration from FinTech, from a lot of FinTech growth and digitization. Over the past few years. You know, b2b growth has been quite strong with companies like plaid, you know, integrations are very key to adoption, and also consumer or customer acquisition and stickiness. And so we wanted to make sure that, you know, honestly, we could compete with the future of like, where the food industry and where software b2b software is going. But we saw a unique opportunity to one drive about 40% of our revenue from integrations, to bring on larger companies because of these integrations to their existing solutions. And then finally, there’s a lot of data that we have to crunch and this is a easier way for us to collect more data, you know, our goal as a company, you know, we’re a smart team of food scientists, data scientists and many other great anchors is to build one of those most actionable food databases in the world. And we cannot do that without connecting to real supply chains as well

Alexander Ferguson 10:11
is this if someone wants to be able to start using is it already exists, they’re like the data, you just you’ve already done all the hard work or they are needing to still make connections into the into your platform.

Riana Lynn 10:20
Yeah, so we have sort of three ways to go about it, you can use our database para, which is growing, living dynamic database that we’re adding to every single day. Para actually means guava. And, you know, several East African languages, and we were just really inspired by the the, the role of the tongue, but also, you know, inspired by the fact that for me, I really think that there’s an abundance of great learnings that we can bring from the continent of Africa, when it comes to our agriculture, and how come we infuse that a little bit more into our, you know, into the few the food industry. And then we have sort of our customers data that’s typically built upon some supply chain integrations. And finally, you can enter manually, which is a pain, but we do have Google Sheets and CSV integrations and other things that are pretty simple.

Alexander Ferguson 11:18
So you still have the standard ways one could could get that data and but your your, you’ve got your base data that they’re welcome that they can use, then you have the ability for some integrations or to bring it in. But I coming back to your sounds like your your personal mission of just kind of revolutionizing the food industry of how food you created, made. Have you just always been this passionate about the food industry?

Riana Lynn 11:44
You know, honestly, I was really passionate. I’ve always been passionate about food. Like if you look at the background of my family, sort of farmers gardeners that migrate in the 60s from the south to just outside of Chicago, I grew up around urban gardening, every single year. It’s just gardening with my grandmother a few days ago. My dad’s mother is a well known Yogi and activists, and natural and plant based foods. So I got a lot of inspiration from my family of entrepreneurs and just, you know, food heads. But also early on, my mom instilled in me just like this interest in science and research. And so I can I came through through a health lens. Honestly, when I was going into grad school, I was thinking that I was going to do more research on community based health practices and finding ways to use entrepreneurship to influence community health. And I kept finding that there was just an underlying theme of food access food uptake, which is probably, you know, we talked about this the statistics of death when it comes to hunger across the world. Many more people billions of people are suffering from, from malnutrition when it comes to poor diet on health, chronic disease, 80% of chronic disease across the world is related to poor foods doesn’t help that a lot of environments degradation from factory farming, especially factory meat farming, I it affects us in other ways as well. And it’s not just like a race or socio economic thing is literally the foods that we eat. And some of the biggest food companies in the world Nestle recently, the biggest food company in the world said that 60% of their foods are unhealthy. And these, this affects every single one of us. And so when we think about community health, we cannot talk about it without thinking of our food uptake.

Alexander Ferguson 13:50
Using technology and science, with that background, applying it to the food industry. What do you kind of see as the future? Are you particularly like focused on more than the small startups be able to come in and building these products? Or is it the larger companies that are gonna come in and use this and make the change? Where’s the balance? And how do you see this this happening?

Riana Lynn 14:10
Well, today, they’re both our customers. While we are focused a little bit more on on larger and fast growing companies, we are implementing some more automations that help with just the undertaking of small startups when it comes to this because this is a really slow process for them as well. It’s not for everyone, it’s quite complex. But for us, it’s you know, we just have a big goal of how we can help 1000s of companies reformulate and manage millions of product lines better to feed 2 billion eaters to improve the outcome of tubing eaters in the next five years. That’s sort of our nearish term goal. And, you know, for us, it’s like how can we collect them at the right data and continue to expand on our Customer distribution in the way that makes most sense. And so, you know, we will be launching new products that really help accelerate, you know, not only our customer acquisition, but our accelerate our goal of those product lines. You know, I think, with the first part of that question, when we discuss what’s the future of food, I think, honestly, what’s most exciting is that food has become so I mean, of course, it’s something that we eat three times a day, but it’s become so mainstream and interest, from food culture to food technology. And so what’s great is that we’re getting some of the world’s top scientists that want to work in food, right, and that work in sort of government funded labs with so projects that like, don’t have fast commercialization. And so talent is really great now in food and food tech, and I, I can see this every year with my my team improving and the types of applications that we get. And so that’s exciting, I think we’ll be able to accelerate a lot of change, and especially as a sustainability impact of food over the next five to 10 years, by a lot. Especially when we think about the growth of flexitarians across the world. And that’s really just folks that used to say they’re like hardcore carnivores, and now are very interested in you know, plant based alternatives as they taste.

Alexander Ferguson 16:33
What did you call it? Like? flexitarians? Yes. Okay. That’s basically you both? Is that what it is?

Riana Lynn 16:39
Yeah. So it’s, it’s, you know, you have sort of the standard, like American diet, but they’re seeing like, replacing a few meals a week or a few meals a month with more plant based options, because it feels lighter, because you you’re thinking you’re making less impact on the world when, and also people are want to, and this is going to come become more and more apparent. And, and more more consumers are going to pay attention to this, but especially post COVID, we have a lot more impact of or at least understanding of how I think like antibiotics affect our health, and people are going to be paying a lot more attention to that. And a lot of the antibiotic resistance, and most of the human population is related to the antibiotics and meats that we consume. And so as that research becomes more broadly available and digestible, you’ll see more people that are switching over not just because it’s better to eat these foods to curve the the risk of chronic disease, or to impact the environment, but also because we want our antibiotics to work. So these are three huge reasons that you’ll see a lot more consumers going flexitarian and the next few years, and that gives a great sort of pathway into recruiting awesome talent, getting in the right investments, getting the right public private partnerships, and really accelerating industry transition.

Alexander Ferguson 18:08
I coming back to your vision, your five year vision to help 2 billion people over the next five years to be able to eat healthier. And this future you See also flexitarians I’m What’s so funny is the way you phrased it, my wife and I had just had a similar conversation like, Well, you know, I guess we could eat more plant. We do Love me. So it’s this is this, it, I think it’s an each of our minds, we’re thinking about it more. It’s a growing trend. So it sounds like you, you love this movie, you see the movement happening and you’re wanting to help it you’re wanting to grow it by creating the right technology, like platforms, that food scientists and CPG companies and other portfolios can create the right products that are feeding us better and captivating this this correctly.

Riana Lynn 18:53
Yeah, you’re, you’re capturing your captivating meeting members. And also capturing is right. But you know, you know, for us, it’s like what types of data can we so so when we count that number to billions, like how did we how are we a part of the process from farm to table. And so like if we work with a company that feeds 100,000 people every year, and we’re part of the process of that skew? That’s sort of how we count count that as like a co manufacturer in a way, right with our, with our journey AI. And we we definitely believe that we can achieve that with some of our current customers and ones that will be coming on. I think, you know, the way we look at it is if like we can if we can find like three major metrics for the like, what better is, you know, these 2 million meters and the metric that’s this, the metrics that we’re looking at are over cost savings for these food companies and how they dial down to to customers, to their consumers. The overall impact and water use and greenhouse gas emissions in the foods that we eat, and the overall impact and nutrient density as well. And then sort of the then transition into cleaner ingredients.

Alexander Ferguson 20:25
Those those three components one, like it started with, with the money in the business, hey, let’s reduce costs, I want that but doesn’t mean needs to be at the expense of the environment, or the nutrition of what’s actually being ingested and put into our bodies.

Riana Lynn 20:40
Absolutely, I mean, it’s just that we’ve Time is money and money has transitioned into a very big impact with our health and how food affects that. And so we have to make sure that we’re thinking about that, you know, holistically in this approach, and oftentimes, those two areas within especially larger food companies are very siloed. You know, like the CFO and the Chief r&d officer, Chief Innovation officers are not really working together in ways with the with an aligned mission. And we want to build software that can empower those teams collaboratively.

Alexander Ferguson 21:18
Oh, sure. Looking ahead, from here, you’ve set your vision for five years, but I’m curious what what predictions you would make technology wise in the food industry? What do you think we’ll see in 510 years from now, when it comes to technology in the use for food?

Riana Lynn 21:35
You know, I think there’s going to be a lot of innovation in cell based meats and seafoods. So taking it away from the farm, and, you know, I have yet to try it. I think I’ll try some later this year. But some good innovation until based chicken, steak and, and shrimp. And so what’s going to be interesting are sort of these manufacturing kits, if you will, that out, go allow you to create cell based meats, like in your home, so we’ll see where that goes. But definitely, we’ll be able to make them in smaller offices.

Alexander Ferguson 22:12
This way, this literally just creating meats from from nothing, right?

Riana Lynn 22:17
So yeah, you’ll get a small kit of, you know, sales based on the meat that you choose, and you get the full, the full hardware and software stack to be able to use go from a petri dish to something that you can put on a grill. Wow. That’s a very exciting innovation. I think, you know, what’s interesting is you see consumer bases like in Singapore that are a lot more open to it. So we’ll see how open consumers are to that, because there have been some drives that have failed slightly, or they’re just delayed like North American interests in and insect proteins and other things. But I still think that that could be hot later in the 20s. You’ll also see on the Food Innovation side, a lot more alternatives or like byproducts used in ingredients and, and and you know, all of the more popular products that we bring to our grocery store. So for example, using like waste from beer products, and turning them into milks and to flowers and things. You’ll see different forms of fermentation take place for flavors and proteins. So really using either traditional cultural practices to make new foods and making sure that we’re inclusive of the stories and history of this items are also using a lot of food waste upcycled ingredients that we were traditionally sending to landfills or feeding to meat farms, and turning them into alternative products that are natural.

Alexander Ferguson 24:06
What do you think it’ll take for our culture, particularly the Western culture, as individuals as well as the companies to to really want to move in this direction? overall.

Riana Lynn 24:20
You know, there are some leaders in the industry that are taking taking the initiative, and they don’t want to be left behind food is really complex now is really competitive, especially with Amazon and Shopify and more decentralized logistics chains. So you’ll see companies needing to take a step back when it comes to nutrition and sustainability. And then if you compare those all with affordability, then you have a winner right so the companies that are making this strides to up their game today are definitely going to be winners over the next few years. The companies that are not scared embracing change. So digitizing faster, you know, that may mean, just like many other industries that using artificial intelligence may impact, you know, some jobs, but overall, it may shift them to more managerial roles or have for maybe a better impact on cost or your consumers interest. So embracing a little bit of the impact that’s going to happen across the board globally, with with digitization and AI. But I think I think we’re ready. And there are a lot of consumers that are smarter than ever. And there’s a lot of tools, you know, social media and documentaries that are helping accelerate that as well. So I’m pretty optimistic and you know, obviously, you can’t change things without that optimism, or, or some of that creativity. So I hope, I hope to continue to recruit great teammates and continue building

Alexander Ferguson 26:03
this, you guys have been around for four years, right? 333 years now. Yeah. Where are you at now? And it’s like, you’re bringing all the pieces together? There’s so much opportunity as as the growth going this direction? And how big is the team now?

Riana Lynn 26:19
We’re 16, we should be 24. By the end of the year, we’re growing quite rapidly. And a lot of folks are moving down to Austin as well. To have a great fun team down hill, we’ll be going back to the office more in the coming months. But no, it’s it’s a great team. And we also have investors from three different continents. And no, most of our team is from North America, mostly Canada and the US. But we definitely have team members that are growing from Asia, West Africa, Europe. And, you know, hopefully, we’ll get some some more south. South, I’m sorry, South American, our growth in the coming months into next year. Yeah,

Alexander Ferguson 27:03
serving. Also the companies knows our ability to participate globally as well.

Riana Lynn 27:09
Absolutely, you know, so like, finding ways to, you know, a lot of these companies that are based in the US are based in Asia, they have global arms, and many, many continents. So, we we know that, like, we may start with one division of a company and, and then we’ll do some hyperlocal translation services and mapping some of the local supply chains there, but, and regulatory needs and retailer needs, and in some of these countries, but we have more of a toolkit and game plan now for spinning up two new regions. And so we absolutely see that

Alexander Ferguson 27:47
on the I know you’re mainly focused at the moment on some of the larger brands that have the portfolio in need. festac have vast data that and platform you use it, but you’re wanting to eventually open up for more startups, foodies that want to build new products.

Riana Lynn 28:03
Yeah, I mean, we have startups now I was just more of a curated process food we will be opening up by the end of the year for a lot more startups but for now, it’s it’s sort of, we have monthly selections.

Alexander Ferguson 28:15
Gotcha. For for those hosts. It’s funny I, I feel like there’s more and more opportunity for him for consumers to want to buy things from from new startups, every day, my wife saw on Instagram and bought this energy bar. That was like had green tea. And then it’s like she bought it just right from Instagram. And then we grabbed it. Any advice that you would give to to new food startup that is trying to reinvent the way it has been done, and you just give any advice to to one of these startups.

Riana Lynn 28:48
Yeah, reach out to us. But honestly, think bold, and, you know, really tried to dive in to your differentiating factor and really study the supply chain. Like today, it’s easier than ever to launch an e commerce company to launch you know, a startup. More and more folks are getting excited about CPG in many regions across the world. And some of the biggest opportunities are like mastering your own supply chain, and not running into bottlenecks. But also continually diving into your differentiating factor that’s going to make your customers happy.

Alexander Ferguson 29:33
Awesome. Thank you so much for sharing the journey that you’ve been on to, honestly the big shift that’s happening in the world and where we are headed your vision for five years from now. And for those that can be able to join and use your platform. Those like to learn more, you can head over to journey and you can be able to explore and start like actually the button on your website to start your journey. They are right there. Have thank you so much for your time. Rianna all right Thank you. Absolutely. And we’ll see you all on the next episode of UpTech Report. Have you seen a company using AI machine learning or other technology to transform the way we live, work and do business? Go to UpTech and let us know


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