Jan 15, 2021
You’ve heard the old adage: Humans plan, and God laughs.
That truism could nicely describe Irina Gerry’s life, which has been pretty remarkable so far. She started out growing up in communist Russia, but with fate helping to defy odds, Irina ended up coming to the US and attending Harvard Business School. She eventually worked at one of the biggest symbols of capitalism on the planet: Procter & Gamble. But soon, Irina was in the dairy industry, working at milk product behemoth Danone, or sometimes known as Dannon in the United States, managing their plant-based brands Silk and So Delicious.
After years of spending time advancing alt-dairy within the walls of one of the world’s biggest dairy companies, fate struck again in Irina’s life. Following a chance virtual meeting on Linkedin during the pandemic with the CEO of a brand new, pre-revenue, animal-free dairy start-up, Irina decided to leave the comfort and safety of a good job at a major company to try her hand at entrepreneurship.
So she left Danone to become the Chief Marketing Officer of Change Foods, a company recently started by Australian plant-based entrepreneur David Bucca that’s using microbes to brew real dairy proteins without the use of a single cow. So far they’ve raised nearly $1 million and are seeking an additional $5 million in 2021. Change Foods has already brought on other heavy hitters from major food brands, and their first product, they claim, will be cheese that melts and performs just like conventional cheese.
In this episode we discuss Irina’s journey from corporate Goliath to start-up David, just what makes Change Foods different from other precision fermentation start-ups, and what Irina thinks are examples of great—and not-so-great—marketing in the plant-based space.
We also get into why plant-based milk has become so much more successful than plant-based meat, at least so far. And we discuss the vexing question: is real dairy brewed from microbes vegan or not? After all, it’s real dairy protein, so if you’re allergic to cow’s milk, you’ll be allergic to this. But no animals were used, so how should marketers describe this kind of food?
So enjoy learning about the brave new world of sustainable protein and a remarkable life journey so far in this episode!
Discussed in this interview: