“We’re obsessed with the idea of simplifying the consumption of organic fruits and vegetables,” Kencko’s website claims in big bold letters. The Lisbon- and NYC-based company aims to do that by offering said fruits and vegetables in a powdered form that retains the same nutrients you’d get by eating, say, a whole carrot or a handful of blueberries. And while Kencko may not be the only kid on the block selling powdered produce, their approach, which includes focusing on the individual consumer, does set them apart from their peers.
Kencko’s current product is simply fruits and vegetables in powdered form, which consumers then mix with water and drink. It’s not a meal replacement like Soylent, but rather, an alternative to whole fruits and veggies that manages to keep nutritional elements intact.
Portugal native Tomás Froes started the company in response to being diagnosed with acute gastritis, a painful condition caused by the swelling of the stomach lining. The proposed treatment was to take pills for the rest of his life. “I decided to change my eating habits before giving up to a lifetime of medicine,” writes Froes on the Kencko website. He claims to have cured himself by instead switching to a 90 percent plant-based diet.
While an inspiration, Froes is also an exception, particularly in the U.S., where only 1 in 10 adults get enough of their recommended fruits and vegetables. According to the CDC, barriers include limited access, high costs, and “perceived lack of cooking/preparation time.”
Of those problems, Kencko seems most intent on solving the last one; the company likes to underscore the convenience aspect of their products. Powders come in individual packets (one packet is roughly two daily servings of fruit or vegetable), which are bundled in shipments of 10, 30, or 60. Each shipment also comes with its own reusable (and BPA-free) bottle for mixing. At $29.90, $74.50, and $123.50, respectively, the powders certainly won’t solve the cost issue for the majority of folks lacking access to fruits and vegetables, though.
That major downfall aside, the process the company uses is worth noting. Kencko claims to use only organic fruits and vegetables sourced straight from farms. To keep the natural ingredients intact, Kencko freeze-drys the produce, which lets it retain elements like minerals, vitamins, and proteins. From there, Kencko uses a heating process that takes the water out of the produce before turning it to powder. It’s not unlike food made for astronauts. Meanwhile, there are no other additives (e.g., sugar), and packets can last up to six months.
Produce comes in all forms these days, from cold-pressed drinks to powdered supplements. However, much debate rages on about how healthy some of these options actually are. Many products include added sugar, or, because of the manufacturing process, strip the ingredients of things like fibers and proteins.
That said, more and more companies are surfacing who offer powdered and/or dehydrated fruits and veggies in ways a little more in line with what Kencko is doing. PowderPure has actually been around since the early 2000s, and uses a patented infrared drying technology to dehydrate fruit and vegetables without losing any of the nutrients. The company was acquired by IFF in 2017 and serves mostly food manufacturers. And Sensient Natural Ingredients specializes in dehydrated vegetables and herbs, and has a significant amount of science and agriculture tech behind it. Their products are geared more towards adding powders to existing food, rather than replacing them with a drink.
In fact, Kencko is a bit of a lone wolf right now in terms of offering a (relatively) affordable way to drink your veggies and still get the nutrients you need from them. Froes even notes that one of his inspirations behind starting the company was that he couldn’t find anything like it out there when he looked to alternative health for his condition.
Soon enough, I imagine, they’ll see more direct competition as consumer appetites for convenient produce grows and companies use tech to delivery healthy, affordable options. That’s one reason Kencko isn’t standing still in terms of company growth. According to TechCrunch, they’re already developing a new batch of snacks, and also creating an iOS app to help folks track their fruit and vegetable consumption. They also recently entered the TechStars accelerator program in London. All of which is to say, powdered veggies are just the start for this company.