Botanic Bites met Doreen Westphal

We are becoming more aware of the negative impacts of the meat industry and with that the supermarket isles are slowly filling up with more sustainable, plantbased alternatives. A very necessary and welcome change that is, since recent research showed that meat accounts for a shocking 57 percent of all greenhouse gases from food production. But during the production of non-meat products another issue is rising: food waste. What do we do with all of the residual streams? How can we still make use of the leftovers? Food innovator Doreen Westphal decided to take matters into her own hands and took the topic under the microscope. Soon after that, the birth of Botanic Bites was announced: meat replacements made out of oyster mushrooms that are grown on coffee waste. We spoke with Doreen about her project.

Type Update
Published on 15 October 2021
Part of Embassy of Food
Botanic Bites met Doreen Westphal
Part of Embassy of Food

In 2016 she started to experiment and grow oyster mushrooms on coffee waste, right under the former city archive of Eindhoven. Doreen noticed that at first people didn’t seem to be that appealed to consuming different kinds of exotic fungi. “If you want to tempt people to eat differently, you need to make it easy, accessible and tasty.” She organized a successful crowdfunding campaign for the realisation of her first vegan ‘kroket’ and ‘bitterbal’ made out of shiitake mushroom. These typical Dutch snacks made out of battered ragout seemed to be an easy introduction to mushrooms for her mostly Dutch audience. “The people will recognize this.” By offering a tasty snack that wasn’t too much out of the comfort zone of the people, Doreen managed to shorten the distance between product and customer. And with this formula the foundation of Botanic Bites was created.

Over the years Doreen and her Botanic Bites have been in the picture quite a lot. In 2018 she showcased ‘the world’s longest plantbased sausage’ at the Dutch Design Week to make a statement about the nutritional value of plantbased food. And next to that she won several prices as well, such as the Amsterdam Food Pitch – Most delicious & sustainable product 2019.

Botanic Bites now produces food out of several residual food streams such as black carrots and the stems of various mushrooms. These stems usually not used for consumption: The Netherlands produces 300 tons of oyster mushroom stems a year that usually end up in the thrash, even though they are perfectly edible. From this enormous heap of stems, Doreen and her team can make hundreds of tons of plantbased products.

All by all great results were made with a trustworthy customer base and growing range of products. But when Covid-19 hit last year Doreen had to put her adaptability to the test. The catering industry had been forced to close down and supermarkets were dealing with their own range of problems: this made it extremely difficult to get in touch with the right person in order to get her products onto the supermarket shelves. With the growing interest in plantbased products, bigger brands with more access to funds and contacts also anticipated on this. “Most big meat producers currently have a vegan version of their products as well” Doreen explains. This makes the competition between producers stronger and enlarges the gap between small businesses and big organizations.

Botanic Bites - credits:

Doreen decided to shift her focus onto something else, a range of products that beforehand were still untouched and unveganized: convenient meals. There were no vegan ready-to-eat meals in stores yet so Doreen assured to cater to that need. Presently, Doreen is occupied with looking for possible stakeholders and salespoints. Easy Vegan Gourmet is currently only available online with a same-day delivery system. But in order to offer the products to a wider audience, the collaboration with physical supermarkets and convenient stores is needed. “Supermarkets all have a variety of goals regarding food waste and sustainability. It is now time for them to take responsibility and to give us, smaller businesses a chance. Not only our products, also products from others that share a similar vision.”

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