More Nutrition, Less Waste: Kencko's Path to a Better Smoothie

Inside its freeze-dried, powdered innovation

Adults should eat a minimum of five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, according to the WHO and CDC. Hardly any of us do. The reasons range from taste to perishability, cost and accessibility.

Kencko hopes to help people meet and exceed the minimum amount of daily servings with a line of smoothies, gumdrops and newly launched lunch bowls.

The company freeze-dries produce shortly after it's picked and grinds it to a powder that's then added to water or plant-based milk to make a smoothie. No blender required.

The product is shelf-stable and lighter to ship, and one smoothie packet is 80 calories and gives users two and a half servings of fruits and vegetables.

We spoke with Lucy Greeves, kencko's VP of brand, for our On Brand series about the messaging surrounding the brand, being certified B Corp, and going carbon neutral by mid-2022.

Kencko was created by Tomas Froes, following an acute gastritis diagnosis. He sought alternative options to taking medication for life and found himself returning to a plant-rich diet, something he was exposed to by his grandparents, who were farmers. He started eating 5-10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day and essentially healed himself. But eating that much fresh produce daily was not easy. Froes struggled to eat everything before it went bad. His background in food tech helped him devise an answer.

"His solution was these freeze-dried fruit and vegetable smoothies," says Greeves. "They solve most of those problems at once. The fruits and vegetables are freeze-dried very soon after they're harvested, which gives them a shelf life of up to two years, rather than a matter of weeks. It's the most wasted category of food because it's so perishable and so fragile. It makes them 10 times lighter and much more portable. It becomes much less environmentally damaging to ship them long distances. They're also stable in transit so you're cutting out all that waste in the food chain. When you get them to the consumer, they can have 50 different fruits and vegetables in their fruit bowl without worrying about them going bad. Maximum nutrition and minimum waste." 

Kencko aims to change the messaging seen in many nutrition brands, namely that less is more. Instead, the company focuses on adding more to a person's daily lifestyle—fruits and vegetables.

"The reason 9 in 10 Americans aren't eating five servings of fruits and vegetables a day isn't necessarily that they don't know that it's good for them," Greeves tells Muse. "It's not always because they can't afford them, although often it is. Genuinely, people are just too busy to do what their grandmother told them to do, which is eat your fruits and vegetables. So we're trying to take away some of the friction there."

Kencko offers a customizable membership plan that includes smoothies as part of a breakfast, gumdrops for a midday snack and recently launched bowls as an easy-to-prepare lunch option.

A monthly box of 30 smoothies costs $80, or $2.69 a smoothie. Increasing the box to 60 smoothies drops the cost to $2.49 each. Gumdrops are $2.99 per pack, and are available as a box of 16 ($47.90), or as an add-on to a smoothie order (4 for $12.90). Bowls just launched in February with options like beetroot soup and lentil dahl, and come in a box of 12 for $82.80, or $6.90 a meal. It takes close to half a pound of organic produce to make one smoothie packet and one pound to make each lunch bowl.

"Part of the reason for [the subscription] is we see ourselves as selling a habit," notes Greeves. "You can, in effect, just get one box and then cancel your subscription. But it's about creating an anchor habit that's going to have a halo effect. If you start the day with a smoothie, you are going to have a smoothie kind of day. We also offer free nutrition coaching to members, so the membership is more than a box of smoothies, gumdrops and bowls every month.

"The price stacks up pretty well when it comes to buying fresh produce and blending it yourself or the frozen smoothie alternatives on the market. Cost is not our primary market. We're trying to make a quality product with extremely high-quality ingredients, rather than making the cheapest product that we can.  As we grow, we want to keep the price accessible to as many people as possible."

The company is working to expand its presence by dipping its toe into retail, holding experiential events in New York City this year where consumers can try the products. Kencko advertises predominantly on social media and launched its first TV campaign after Christmas. 

One ad shows a woman wanting to eat smoothies regularly without a never-ending pile of dirty blenders to clean. Kencko keeps dishwashing to a minimum with packets to add to a shaker bottle. 

kencko | A Fresh Start Made Smoother

A second ad highlights the vibrant colors of fruits and vegetables and easy accessibility to them via kencko.

kencko | A New Shortcut To Healthy Eating

Produce is freeze-dried shortly after it's harvested and done on a local level. Kencko handles the mixing, blending and packing.

"All of our suppliers are USDA organic certified, but they are all over the world," says Greeves. "We rely on our carefully vetted supply chain to actually acquire the ingredients we need. We don't buy directly from the farmers but as a B Corp we have strict vetting procedures in place to make sure that it's a corruption-free, fair supply chain."

Kencko was certified B Corp in December 2020 and is slated to be carbon neutral by the mid-2022. The company is elevating its packaging material to a more rigorous standard, making it certified home compostable.

"All of our packaging is compostable, and we give you a reusable bottle," adds Greeves. "We're cutting down on single-use packaging. Later this year, we're going to be rolling out 100 percent home compostable packaging across our product range. At the moment it is compostable, but we can't guarantee how long it will take unless you send it off to a composting facility. It's a much tougher certification for things to break down within 180 days in a home compost environment. We've developed food-safe films for our smoothies and all our products, which will meet that stricter compositing criteria. It means that people, if they wish to, can dispose of all the packaging at home and it will break down safely in their compost."

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