There’s a common belief that snacks and nutrition do not go hand in hand — that the two live as polar opposites in the spectrum of food. However, that is not the case for NC State alumni Will Kornegay and Laura Hearn. The brother and sister team set out to create Ripe Revival, a startup company focused on upcycling excess food to provide nutritional snacks and combat food waste.
Ripe Revival started as a collaboration between the Kornegay siblings called Glean, a project with roots in the Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences at NC State. The team won support from Kroger’s “Zero Hunger | Zero Waste” initiative, one of the seven out of 400 applicants who won grants for the startup. Kornegay and Hearn, CEO and CMO of Ripe Revival, respectively, founded the company to eliminate food waste.
Josip Simunovic is a research professor in the Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences, helped to develop a technology called VITERO for extracting and coalescing various nutrients into food products. Simunovic spoke about how VITERO uses a complex makeup of proteins, antioxidants and polyphenols in its creations.
“We extract products out of the byproducts of the food industry, such as blueberry pomace, sweet potato, pumpkins that don’t necessarily get as used in the food chain,” Simunovic said. “That is where the bioactive antioxidant component comes from, which is very underrepresented in the American diet. The required is 10 times higher than the average consumed, so this is a vehicle to deliver that.”
The gummies produced by the process are not only environmentally friendly, but also extremely efficient. Aside from the green approach to produce sourcing, Kornegay said Ripe Revival focuses on getting the most out of said produce.
“Every gummy has 11 ½ ounces of fresh produce used in the process of manufacturing,” Kornegay said. “That comes from natural produce excess that would otherwise go to waste. All of our produce is used to manufacture the gummies, so that counts in how we utilize excess to reduce waste. We also donate a pound of produce for every pound of sales so that we stimulate a community of giving back and not letting food go to waste.”
Nathalie Plundrich, an NC State alum and food technologist at Ripe Revival, said the company’s production method differs from industry standards by taking waste reduction to the next level.
“There are a lot of nutrients in seeds, fruit skins and other parts that generally go to waste,” Plundrich said. “The VITERO method uses a lot of optimizing of the fruit, which is something that, for example, the juicing industry does not use. We use microwave technology to bring down polyphenols and proteins and produce them to combine into gummies.”
There’s a commitment to transparency and community interaction that Kornegay and Hearn stressed. Besides being mindful of how they produce food, they also keep in mind their hometown roots in North Carolina.
“We started out with fruits and vegetables that are main crops here in North Carolina,” Hearn said. “For example, our grape-flavored gummies use muscadine grapes, which are native and dominant here in North Carolina.”
Aside from the products being available online through their website and Amazon, Hearn said Ripe Revival’s gummies are also being sold at the Butcher’s Market in Raleigh. The team plans to bring their work to nearby stores around NC State.
“As we start our company, our mission is to build a community around food production, hence why we are excited for having a partnership with NC State,” Kornegay said.
Kornegay, Hearn, Plundrich and Simunovic all believe the gummy is an accessible snack that can provide nutrients to various audiences.
“When compared to products such as protein bars, our products are lower priced and have higher nutritional values,” Kornegay said.
Whether it's a college student munching before class or parents giving their small children snacks for school, all parties believe the gummy is a good starting point for both healthy and accessible snacks.
“These snacks are honestly really easy for anyone to grab also, and we don’t want nutrition and health to be exclusionary to accessibility,” Hearn said.
Ripe Revival has created the 20% off code GOPACK to reflect their Wolfpack origins and involvement with the NC State community.