Palo Alto, January 4, 2021 – U.S.-Australian food tech start-up, Change Foods, is continuing to build a world-class leadership team of technology and food industry veterans. Following the onboarding of their CMO, Irina Gerry, from Danone last month, their latest recruit is COO, Luis Espinoza, who was formerly VP of Manufacturing at Eat Just Inc. and held key manufacturing positions at Amy’s Kitchen, Marquez Brothers, and Kraft. Concurrently, Co-Founder of Change Foods and Associate Professor from Queensland University of Technology in Australia, Junior Te’o, has transitioned from over 20 years of an academic career in microbial biotechnology to take on the pivotal role as CTO.
For Founder and CEO, David Bucca, building an experienced core team as early as possible was paramount to achieving the company’s goals and go-to-market strategy at warp speed. Execution and founder discord are where most start-ups fail, so building a strong foundation of diverse, expert leaders in the most relevant business functions early is critical for success.
“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.”
New COO Luis’ strong background in food manufacturing and engineering fits perfectly into David’s multi-disciplinary vision. His roles have included commercial strategy, project management, product development, food safety management, and establishment of supply chains.
“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.”
Learning about the impact of food on health and sustainability, Luis made a personal transition to a predominantly plant-based diet, which made it difficult for him to continue working in the dairy industry. During his time at Eat Just, Luis saw the breadth of possibilities to improve our broken food system through emerging tech.
Following a 3-year period founding and growing a successful cannabis cultivation company, POSIBL, which raised over $17M and became a top five B2B supplier in California today, Luis jumped at the chance to join Change Foods and realize some of the required improvements to the food system he had identified in years prior.
“I think my professional experience is extremely relevant to what we are doing at Change Foods, now and in the years to come. We will be building a team, making strategic decisions, starting up new operations, building a company with a real mission, scaling up new technologies and I will get to make cheese again with a very different approach.”
Similarly, Co-Founder Junior Te’o shares David’s vision and has left 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.
“Over the last 21 years, I have spent most of my career as an academic, with industry experience. Today, with the world facing immense challenges from climate change, population growth, foreseeable shortage of foods and pandemics, ‘normal’ life will never be the same. Along came Change Foods, with the opportunity for me to contribute and make a real difference towards a sustainable food future. 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.”
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About Change Foods
Change Foods is creating cheese and other dairy products that deliver the authentic taste, nutrition, and texture that dairy consumers expect, and that current alternatives struggle to achieve. They do this 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.
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