US-Australian food tech startup, Change Foods, continues to build a team of industry veterans; following the hiring of CMO Irina Gerry, from Danone last month, Luis Espinoza, formerly VP of Manufacturing at Eat Just Inc., joins as COO. Espinoza also held key positions at Amy’s Kitchen, Marquez Brothers, and Kraft.
Co-Founder of Change Foods, Junior Te’o, also transitions from an academic career in microbial biotechnology of over two decades to take on the pivotal role as CTO.
The company is creating cheese and other dairy products that deliver an authentic taste, nutrition, and texture using cutting-edge fermentation biotechnology, which involves taking micro-organisms, such as yeast, and instructing them to create compounds identical to those found in traditional animal-derived dairy when fermented.
Founder and CEO David Bucca explains that building an experienced core team as early as possible was paramount to achieving the company’s goals and to reach market with a lazer focus.
“Having worked as an aerospace engineer at Boeing for many years instils a systems engineering mentality, where highly-complex systems are dictated by many requirements, processes, and inter-dependencies. To develop a deep-technology consumer product in a newly emerging industry, get it to market as soon as possible, and navigate the associated technological, regulatory, and manufacturing challenges, warrants a well, thought-out plan.
In my experience, a complex, multi-disciplinary system cannot be built in isolation or executed in a linear manner without inefficiencies and costly errors. The conventional start-up model of tech pushing to ops, to marketing, to sales, is too rudimentary for this endeavour – it is disintegrated, slow, and will most-likely result in a sub-optimal product the market doesn’t really want.
This is why we’ve built a team of world-class scientists coupled with food industry experts early on. Creating a well-balanced, multi-functional eco-system enables for parallel processing and a higher-integrated mode of operating, de-risks the operational execution, and results in better product-market fit.”
As new COO, Espinoza’s comments on how his background in food manufacturing and engineering will be key to the role. “It was during my time at Marquez Brothers that I fell in love with the art of cheese making, which is real science that when combined with traditional methods, becomes a form of expression, a form of art for the cheesemaker. I spent some time in Wisconsin, Italy, Bulgaria and Greece learning the old traditional methods of producing the best Mozzarella, Parmigiano Reggiano, Feta, Graviera and Kasseri cheese and yogurt.”
Co-Founder Junior Te’o leaves his long-standing academic career to join the Change Foods leadership team as CTO. Junior provides vast experience in microbial fermentation and biotechnology, having specialized in this area for over 20 years, including past scale-up of fermentation technologies to industrial volumes in the U.S. This expertise extends to strain development, yield optimization, downstream processing, as well as strong understanding of the challenges often encountered when translating technologies from the lab to industry.
“I am excited to bring my translational skillset in cellular and molecular biology, and microbial fermentation technologies to the company. Change Foods has an amazing team that embodies forward-thinking innovation and sustainability mindset. I am thrilled to be part the team that genuinely seeks to make a real-world positive change.”