Ingredients For Food Innovators organizes a dinner meeting on the subject of Future Proof Food on Thursday, the 20th of September. One of the keynotes that evening is Mark Kulsdom, CEO and one of the founders of The Dutch Weed Burger, a vegan burger made of seaweeds. “Being outsiders gives us fresh eyes on food production.”
With a background in animal activism, journalism and film production, Mark Kulsdom is one of the driving forces behind this unique vegan product, that is available in more and more restaurants.
Where did the idea for a seaweed burger come from?
“I was having a chat with Lisette Kreischer, who was writing vegan cookbooks at the time. She had just finished a book in which she used flavors of the sea without using fish. She used a lot of seaweed for that project. Together with Lisette, I made our first vega burgers. Very soon after that, we thought: if we want to do this, we need to do it right. We came up with the idea to make a movie. We went to New York, where restaurants with a plant-based menu were emerging rapidly. Their customers are not only vegetarians. People visit those restaurants because their food is unique and tastes good. The movie was a prelude to our product and the concept.”
On your website, you call the burger ‘The new paradigm’. What, according to you, is this new paradigm?
“The awareness that today’s meat and dairy industry is not an efficient way to provide the growing global population of the necessary nutrients. You start with high-protein vegetable products, that you’ll feed to animals, then you will kill them after a period of time, in order to market high-protein products. We say: those high-protein vegetables we start with, can be used to make delicious products that meet all human needs.”
When you speak of a new paradigm, then you expect a ‘paradigm shift’. What will have to happen before this new way of thinking will become commonly accepted?
“We are right in the middle of it. Almost everybody acknowledges now that mankind has a big contribution towards the changing climate. We already feel the consequences. This summer we had a big drought, that caused a lower production of animal feed by our farmers. I think people like being a part of a solution. I’ve spoken to so many unrepentant meat eaters, who 10 years ago would have been mad when you gave them a vegetarian product, who nowadays will understand it. One day a man approached me and said to me:’This is the new food, this burger.’ He worked in a slaughterhouse. Well, when they get it, you know something big is happening.”
Why is it important to develop vegetarian products with new ingredients, in addition to the existing varieties?
“Especially in Holland, vegan products have had a very negative image up until recently. That has two reasons. One was the often fingerpointing approach of the activists. Activist groups more than once gave people a feeling of guilt and that caused resistance. Additionally the taste, quality, and diversity of the general offer of vegan products are rather mediocre. We try to sell our product in a positive way by showing the possibilities and by making it as scrumptious and tempting as possible.
What can participants of the IFFI dinner meeting expect from your keynote?
“The story of the weed burger is very interesting, actually because our roots lie not in the food industry. We are outsiders who managed to get their product on the shelves, and we have a fresh set of eyes on the business of producing food. Secondly, impact-driven entrepreneurship and purposeful economics are very important subjects within the food industry, I think a lot of companies are looking for their purpose and their story, and we are co-boosters of that drive. I hope to inspire people from the food industry, but mainly confront, engage and activate them.
More on this next IFFI Dinner Meeting you can find here.
The original text of this article (Dutch) can be found here: