Know Your Food Entrepreneurs #6: Mint Pattanan + Naphat Chaiparinya from Rootastes

What do you do on your lunch break, besides eat? Socialize with colleagues, make a pharmacy run, eat chicken salad at your desk between emails? According to a study done by the hiring company OfficeTeam, Americans are increasingly falling into the latter category, with 29% saying they work through their breaks. New food startup Rootastes is hoping to bring a greater sense of community to the workplace through the oft-neglected lunch hour.

“Even for one hour, we try,” says co-founder Naphat Chaiparinya. She sighs, visibly frustrated. “You’re supposed to have a good time with your good lunch.”

This mission is heavily influenced by the founders’ Thai origins. Co-founder Mint Pattanan Ketthin chimes in, “we like going out together, in a big group. We enjoy eating out. In Thai culture, getting together makes good relations between employees.” With this philosophy, Rootastes targets corporate employers who want to create a sense of community in the workplace.

Another substantial part of the Rootastes mission is addressing the abstraction of mealtime food that’s intensified in the past decades. Both Chaiparinya and Pattanan have experience working in the corporate world, and talk passionately about bridging the gap between workers and the farmers that produce their food. Reflecting on her time WWOOFing on an organic farm in Japan, Chaiparinya says, “Why is life so complicated? You want money to buy food, but you can grow the food yourself! Whatever you want to eat, you just have to wait for it.” It’s this farm-to-table mentality that inspire the founders to maximize partnerships with local farms and curate a seasonal menu in order to accommodate fluctuating supply.

For similarly minded restauranteurs and caterers who don’t know how to start finding suppliers, Rootastes offers a surprisingly simple path: Chaiparinya and Pattanan went to major distributors Baldor Food’s and Russo’s to taste produce from various local farms, then visited the farms which seemed most promising. “It’s good to learn how they make their product,” says Pattanan. “I work in marketing, but the most important thing is that I work in corporate social responsibility. Besides making good food for people, we want to help local farms as well.”

This initiative to find local ingredients demonstrates the applied passion with which Rootastes’ founders conduct their business. Halfway through our interview, Chaiparinya says with a laugh, “you don’t need to ask us questions -- we really want to talk about this!” The two of them had been up since six in the morning to work on an event, but become instantly re-animated when asked about the new corporate lifestyle they hope to encourage. Pattanan’s attraction to the startup industry lies in this problem-solving mentality: “We find the problem, and the company’s product and service are the solution. I want to create something that benefits the community.”

As for building the Rootastes team, Pattanan explains it happened organically: she and Chaiparinya were friends from before, and their executive chef, Wachira Sittikong, was a friend of a friend. Coming from a long line of family-owned leading Thai restaurants in Boston and Massachusetts, Sittikong studied business and worked in the financial district before attending Le Cordon Bleu.

Instrumental in the creation of new dishes, Chef Sittikong helped design the Rootastes menu. Clients choose packages that consist of a carbohydrate base, like white rice or specialty grain, vegetables such as umami medley mushroom or sesame spinach, a protein, perhaps baked spinach or grilled shrimp, and lastly a sauce, be it ginger teriyaki or garlic basil aioli. The menu is extensive, and packages vary in number of servings and scope of choice. Since the spotlight is on the ingredients themselves, the actual cooking process is simple: a bit of seasoning, with house-made herb oil. And it seems to work -- Pattanan recalls one happy employee who told her it was the best lunch he’d had in two years.

I work in marketing, but the most important thing is that I work in corporate social responsibility. Besides making good food for people, we want to help local farms as well.

When it comes to scaling the business, Chaiparinya and Pattanan take a measured approach. In business for just two months, they are entirely self-funded and use a commercial kitchen to prepare food. “We just want to make this happen first,” says Chaiparinya. “We proved to ourselves already that we can make it, but we have to prove that to other people. We got a good answer from our customers, so for me it’s a good start. But for the next step, of course funding is the most important. We know that right now.” Pattanan agrees: “The most important thing is the food. We want to make sure we have a very good product before we jump into technology.”

At the moment, Rootastes clients can order through a chat bot on the company Facebook page, as well as the company’s website. But Pattanan envisions, in the near future, incorporating slack, the inter-company messaging system. “People already know our product, they know our food,” she explains. “When we bring in technology so we can reach new markets, new customers.” Chaiparinya says that most of Rootastes’ clients are companies that employ Boston’s extensive millennial population, a demographic that’s both open to trying new things and interested in sustainable sourcing and transparency in where their food comes from.

Rootastes is just one company in a community of startups that take advantage of Branchfood’s numerous resources. Pattanan and Chaiparinya have met with Branchfood mentors several times to discuss business development, and appreciate the sense of like-minded community they share with other entrepreneurs they’ve met through the organization. “The Boston community is very supportive for entrepreneurs,” says Pattanan. Chaiparinya adds, “It’s been over our expectations. We’re looking forward to using more facilities here -- we should, but we’re so busy!”

You can read more about Rootastes here. If you’re interested in joining the Branchfood community, you can read more about membership options here. Interview conducted by Chloe Barran.

[Event] GAI AgTech Week hits Boston in June, bringing ag technology investment opportunities

We are excited to be a Media Partner for Global AgInvesting’s 3rd Annual AgTech Week in Boston! The event will be held at the Marriott Long Wharf from June 26-28. There will be 19 panels and presentations including “Accelerating the Speed of AgTech Innovation,” “Funding AgTech – Lessons Learned from Investor Veterans,” and “Examining a Global Opportunity – Delivering AgTech to Emerging Markets.” The Branchfood community will receive a 15% discount off tickets by using the code “ATW17-Branchfood”.

GAI’s decision to move AgTech Week from San Francisco to Boston reflects the rise of food and agriculture development in our city. For the fourth consecutive year Massachusetts ranked #1 in innovation according to the Massachusetts Innovation Economy Annual Index. Oset Babur of The Guardian recently wrote, “Boston’s strong entrepreneurial spirit, combined with progressive legislation like the passing of Article 89, has also turned Boston into one of the nation’s hubs for urban agriculture.”

Branchfood will be present at the event, and looks forward to learning about the future of agtech investment. Stay tuned, as we will be sharing information about up-and-coming agtech companies on social media. If you will be attending AgTech Week this year, reach out on social media so that we can connect!

Announcing Branchfood Community Membership

In our endless quest to provide the best resources and community connections for New England based food entrepreneurs, freelancers, startups, and established businesses, we're thrilled to share our latest offering, Branchfood Community Membership! 

Do you want to connect with the community of food creators, entrepreneurs, activists, investors, freelancers, mentors, techies, and more? Though our community members share the common interest of transforming our food system through innovation and the establishment of new businesses, their backgrounds and companies are very diverse. All are welcome and we foresee great connections and businesses to come. 

Community Membership is designed to provide greater access to the Branchfood network, workspace, events, classes, and educational resources. This offering is ideal for the person or company who needs access to our shared-space but not on a daily basis. We tailor classes/workshops, member events, and affiliate discounts specifically to our community’s wishes.

Description of Benefits:

  • A network of food-related entrepreneurs, mentors, advisors and startups to further business goals

  • Access to co-working space where you can host meetings and events, from casual conversations to formal meetings on Thursday afternoons from 2PM -7PM

  • Amenities (drinks, snacks, wifi)

  • Discounted access to Branchfood events

  • Member only events

  • Promotion of your business on Branchfood social media and weekly newsletter

Community Membership is a paid-for monthly subscription offering for $30 per person per month. Apply below and we'll be in touch with more information!

Boston's Newest Restaurant Website: The Food Lens

Boston's Newest Restaurant Website: The Food Lens

If you’re a Boston local, or planning a visit to the city, you know that you have no shortage of options when it comes to dining out. But paring down an extensive list of hotspots can be overwhelming, and there aren’t many resources available to find out where to go directly from the mouth of a local. A new website aims to solve this dilemma. If you know the vibe you’re after, or the cuisine, or the neighborhood, or even just the price point, The Food Lens offers to solve your dining dilemma with a few clicks.  

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Every 3 minutes, a food allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency room– that is more than 200,000 emergency department visits per year. The number of people who have a food allergy is growing, but there is no clear answer as to why. As millions of Americans are diagnosed with food allergies, there is an increasing concern that research has not been keeping up.

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Snacking is trending. Everywhere you look, people are forgoing the “three square meals” regimen to incorporate more snacks and light meals into their day. But finding the coolest and newest products in the snacking world isn’t easy. Grocery shelves are overflowing with options, and it’s hard to know what to choose, especially, as Joyce Lee would argue, from a taste standpoint. Lee,

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Know Your Food Entrepreneurs #5: Julia Paino of Swoffle

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What pairs well with coffee? Julia Paino, the founder of Swoffle, would tell you it’s the stroopwafel. A stroopwafel, for those who may not be familiar with traditional Dutch snacks, is a cookie made up of two ultra-thin "waffles" sandwiched around a layer of oozy caramel. The cookie softens when placed over (or dunked into) a warm beverage. Julia, who launched Swoffle

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Know Your Food Entrepreneurs #4: Danilo Leao of BovControl

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BovControl, the fast-growing mobile livestock analytics platform, was founded in 2013. But, as co-founder Danilo Leao informed me, its roots go way back. When Danilo was a child on his father’s farm in Brazil, he was already experimenting with the way that data could be used to affect livestock productivity. At 12, he had taken on the duties of “tracking and tracing animals, understanding their activity, and understanding nature.”

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Announcing: Local Food Demos at Branchfood!

Announcing: Local Food Demos at Branchfood!

What’s better than free food? Free food that helps promote a message of buying local! Read on to find out how you can enjoy some delicious snacks and beverages from your favorite local brands -- as well as some that may be new to you.

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6 Need-To-Know Social Media Tactics for Food Startups

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Across all cultures, food carries a significant social element. It’s meant to be seen, shared, and discussed. This makes food startups and social media a particularly strong pairing, as all of the major social networks lend themselves to doing those very things...

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Upcoming Food & Food Tech Summits & Events!

Upcoming Food & Food Tech Summits & Events!

Building innovative solutions to food system challenges requires diligent networking and a constant exchange of ideas, and a good summit does both. So, we here at Branchfood have done a bit of the heavy lifting for you and compiled this list of upcoming summits and other events -- all the way up until June!

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The Future of Restaurants

The Future of Restaurants

The restaurant industry has been adapting to new technology at a rapid pace -- but we hardly notice, and that’s a good thing. New technology is a risky proposition. Sudden shifts can alienate consumers who are not interested in adapting to new ways of doing things. Over time, however, we’ve seen restaurants adapt to technologies that now seem commonplace -- online ordering, crowdsourced reviews, tablet-based POS systems (ToastSquare), and so on.

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Innovations in Food Tech for Health

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Here at Branchfood we often think about the future of food and food technology. What will the world look like 10, 15, 20 years from now and how will our food system evolve? From robots making your food to ultra-personalized meal plans based on DNA, it seems as if the future -- that far off, nebulous idea -- will be unrecognizable to the people of today. This topic is of such importance to us that last week, we held a panel at the Boston offices of architectural firm Perkins + Will in order to investigate what the future of food tech for health looks like.

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Know Your Food Entrepreneurs #2: Tania Green of PMS Bites

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Tania Green would always get “horrible PMS symptoms.” Living in the North End, she often turned to the various neighborhood bakeries to satisfy her cravings for “thick, dense, moist baked goods like a brownie or a rich indulgent chocolate cake.” She found, however, that during the time that she experienced PMS symptoms, that she “was not making the right food decisions.”

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