Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

Join host Paul Shapiro as he talks with some of the leading start-up entrepreneurs and titans of industry alike using their businesses to help solve the world’s most pressing problems.

Sep 15, 2023

Nearly all startups fail. Often even founders with a successful exit under their belts have stories of entrepreneurial strikeouts prior to or after their home run. But every once in while there’s a founder who seems to have the Midas touch who just keeps winning.

No, I’m not talking here about Elon Musk. Rather, I’m talking about Yves Potvin. The classically trained chef pioneered the plant-based meat movement, founding Yves Veggie Cuisine in the 1980s, which was acquired for $35 million by natural foods giant Hain Celestial. One successful exit is rare, but Yves went on to then found Gardein, which brought alt-meat to even higher heights and was eventually acquired by Pinnacle Foods for $175 million.

Rather than resting on his laurels and retiring into the Alt-Meat Hall of Fame (which if it existed he’d certainly be in it!), today Yves is betting that entrepreneurial lightning will strike a third time. He’s just launched a new brand called Konscious Foods which aims to bring fish-free seafood to the masses, starting with sushi and other Japanese delights.

Rather than relying on extruded plant protein isolates—the core of Gardein’s products, along with most other alt-meats—Konscious is using whole vegetables like tomatoes, carrots, eggplant, and konjac as its core seafood replacers. But Konscious’ frozen sushi, poke bowls, and onigiri don’t taste like vegetable rolls. Rather, since Konscious acquired the IP of the defunct alt-seafood company Ocean Hugger Foods, the vegetables are prepared in such a way as to give the feel and taste of products like tuna, crab, and so on. 

Already they’re in Sprouts and Whole Foods (see their frozen sections), and you can even get sushi made at the Whole Foods sushi counter with their fish-free fish product. 

In this interview, Yves and I talk about his life, success, struggles along the way, and lessons he’s learned during his multi-decade career seeking to replace animals in the food system with healthier, more humane, and more sustainable options. 

Discussed in this episode

More about Yves Potvin

Yves Potvin has dedicated his culinary career to creating healthy, tasty, convenient foods that can now be found in institutions across North America. In 2017, Yves bought Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts in Vancouver, and he is excited about training the next generation of chefs while infusing nutrition studies, sustainable practices and new technologies into the curriculum.

Trained as a classical French chef, Yves successfully built two health-focused food companies. His first, Yves Veggie Cuisine, grew to become the largest refrigerated meat-alternative producer in North America. It was sold to the Hain Celestial Group in 2001. Yves then founded Garden Protein International in 2003 to create a meatless product line called Gardein, which redefined the plant protein category and became a game changer in this fast-growing segment. Gardein received many awards including Better Homes & Gardens’ Best New Product Award 2014, Canadian Grand Prix Award (four years in a row), and the National Restaurant Association’s 2014 Food and Beverage Innovation Award. Yves is now the founder and president of Konscious Foods, offering consumers with conscious and convenient plant-based seafood.

Yves has been recognized for his career achievements, receiving the BC Food Processors Innovation Award in 2014, Mercy for Animals Innovative Business Award 2014, BC Export Award 2014 for Sustainability, and Canada’s Top 40 under 40 Award from Financial Post magazine. Yves served on the UBC Faculty of Land and Food Systems Advisory Board from 2007-2018, and on the BC Ministry of Agriculture Board of Advisors.