“What if we can take the processed food we already eat and turn it into a super nutritious meal?” Enrique Gonzalez, co-founder and CEO of Eat Limmo, first posed this question to himself at age 15 when he learned he was pre-diabetic.
Mexico-based startup, Eat Limmo, unlocks the power of nature to reinvent food production. According to a study by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, Mexico has the highest rate of obesity in the northern hemisphere. The detrimental health issues, such as heart disease and Type 2 Diabetes, associated with obesity are causing a public health crisis. Conventional wisdom tells us that nutrition is the result of healthy-food choices when in reality it’s a matter of healthy-food access.
In response to obesity reports, the government passed a tax on sugary drinks and select processed foods. But Eat Limmo revolutionizes food production in Mexico by changing the source. In 2013, along with Flavio Siller, Gonzalez entered a national business plan competition called Nanotech-Biotech in the city of Monterrey. Their winning proposal leveraged a key waste point in the food production chain. Each year in Mexico, 40 million tons of peels and seeds from harvested fruits and vegetables are discarded. Those wasted parts can feed up to 28 million people—if they are converted into a consumable ingredient. So Eat Limmo takes the seeds and peels, the most nutritious part of the fruit, and—under a patent-pending process—transforms those normally discarded parts to functional, affordable ingredients.
Bakeries, hotels and restaurants throughout Mexico incorporate Limmo into their traditional recipes. “You can lower up to 80 percent fat trans, 60 percent less calories and have more than twice the nutrients in breads, snacks and tortillas,” says Gonzalez. “Keeping the same delicious flavor at a lower cost.” In some recipes, it is possible to add dietary fibers, proteins and antioxidants that do not ordinarily contain them. It also extends the shelf life of the product.
“The a-ha moments come for manufacturers when we test a product, “ says Gonzalez. “We test say a formulation for say cookie dough: this is great, more shelf live, lower production costs without eggs, more nutrients and great taste. These are incentives to adopt our product and to use products for new developments.”
“We go business to business and say here is our product,” explains Gonzalez. “You can improve nutrition with no extra cost to you or the consumer.” Food specialists buy the ingredient to offer their products at a lower cost with higher nutritional value and quality. Manufacturers save eight to twelve percent on production costs by replacing costly eggs and oils and by extending the shelf life of their product.
Gozalez’s own passion for cooking fuels him to find ways to improve it. He says he experiments with Limmo in his own kitchen. “From everything from steaks, soups and salads, I try to level my food to be more healthy. I’ve learned a lot about the science of cooking. As an economist, I try to understand, why processes are happening—you have to understand the science when you are substituting an ingredient.” He brings this intimate understanding of the product to the table along with a background in management, commercial and financial expertise.
Eat Limmo plans to expand by raising funds for a second and larger manufacturing plant to produce more of their crucial ingredient. Once their production rate increases, the duo can continue to increase awareness and health at the level of the source. And they don’t want to be limited to changing diets in Mexico. Their plan includes eventually scaling to Africa and Latin America to build plants to source raw materials to offer to local manufacturers.
The speed at which Mexicans have switched from a diet dominated by maize and beans to one overflowing with processed fats and sugars presents a unique challenge. Eat Limmo leverages the tools of the biotech industry and award winning ingenuity to make the difficult task of accessing healthy food easier. This is a crucial turning point for food production.
“Nutrition doesn’t have to be expensive,” says Gonzalez. “It really is possible.”