Exclusive interview with Ben Kelly, Co-Founder and Managing Director at Algarithm in Canada

June 10, 2019
Interview

What drives the founders of Algarithm to run a seafood-substitute business in Canada?

Not just the founders, but the whole company is driven by two core ‘whys’.

  1. Our belief in the nutritional benefits of omega 3’s (especially DHA), especially for children (I generally include a photo of my two girls in every presentation).
  2. We believe that a plant-based diet will be a component of a sustainable world for future generations.  

What kind of framework have you adopted or developed to help build a purpose-driven organisation?

This has really been about building a culture that we all buy into. The team has to understand the purpose, believe in it, and work towards it. For instance, two of our team members spontaneously organised a riverside garbage clean up recently, followed by a team meal.

We have also budgeted for and intend to return anywhere from 0.5 per cent to 1 per cent of our revenues back into local and international initiatives.

We do plan to pursue certifications that help us enshrine purpose into our corporate governance.

How do you see the seafood-substitute industry changing in the near future? And what are some of the big changes to look out for?

Our ingredients are largely consumed in the dietary supplement space first, but early on we recognised the potential of our ingredients in plant-based applications.

Our hope is that by providing high-quality ingredients, we can help the plant-based industry better balance the fats they are using. Algal oil is a high PUFA oil that is much healthier than some of the saturated oils being used in plant-based applications. Traditionally, there have been challenges with stability, flavour, and price for PUFA oils. But we believe that we have addressed a number of those challenges, making our oil a great way to balance omega 6 and omega 3 intake.

What would you say is the biggest lesson that you have learnt from running your business so far?

Well, we have been fortunate enough to be a spin-off from a larger company. So we have had the luxury of a lot of built-in support services that a lot of start-up companies might not usually have.

I think one of the big things I have come to recognise is how important culture is to the organisation, and how implementing the right culture is the foundation from which all future growth will come from.

What short-term plans and/or long-term goals do you have in store for Algarithm?

We have lots! We added a formulation team a while back and have been working with customers to help them utilise our ingredients successfully. We believe there are a few categories where refreshment could take place, and while we won’t be the ones to take it to market (to the consumer), we have some interesting concepts we think some of our partners will find interesting.

Does Algarithm have any ambitions to expand outside of Canada?

Big time! We already sell in the US, Europe, and Asia. We also run production in the US as well. But we are not done! We are looking to find the right partners to establish business units in most regions that will allow us to work closely with our clients on the ground.

Algarithm is a member of GOED's Executive Council on Education and Outreach. What can you share about the results of the educational programmes thus far?

We are, and making a commitment to GOED was one of our first big investments. We did this because we really respect the work GOED has been doing for our industry and we fundamentally believe in the life-changing benefits of omega 3 consumption (preferably from algae!).

GOED has a new industry tool coming out that will support companies’ efforts to dig through the tens of thousands of omega 3 studies that have been completed. We think this tool will help us digest and pull out findings that we can translate for consumers to help them really understand the impact of omega 3 consumption.

GOED has also been making a significant effort to educate health care practitioners (HCP) about the benefits of omega 3s. This effort to highlight the physiological benefits of omega 3s for HCP, we believe, has and will continue to contribute to building an educated and informed group of providers who can help the average person understand the benefits of omega 3s - at all life stages.

Good Catch chose Algarithm’s plant-based DHA oil (derived from microalgae) to nutritionally enhance its frozen seafood substitutes. For your next product, service or project, who else would you like to collaborate with and why?

This is a really tough one because there are so many really neat companies today in this space. To be honest, we are not picky. We think we have made some improvements to algal omega 3 ingredients that make it more versatile, and will make a broader range of applications possible (especially in the plant-based space).

We also look at a lot of the plant-based foods we see at retail in North America and think there are opportunities to better balance the lipid profile to provide a healthier product. We hope brands that are looking at how to improve the nutritional profile of their foods will think about us and consider incorporating our ingredients to improve the omega 3 to omega 6 ratio.

Which people, leaders, thinkers, or entrepreneurs are an inspiration to you?

Firstly, the people I always have to give credit to and who inspire me each day is my family. My mom and dad, my wife and my kids – they are all great!

My co-founder and mentor at Algarithm - Dr. Udaya Wanasundara - has been a life-changing teacher.

Almost any entrepreneur who is mission-driven, who takes a leap of faith and goes for their dreams. The numerous stories I have read about inspire me daily.

What brands do you admire and why?

I could list a lot here too! In the plant-based space:

Good Catch is obviously one. Not just because they use our ingredients, but because their product is nutritious and delicious.

Sol Cuisine – who in full disclosure use our ingredients as well, but Dror is a great guy to interact with. His burgers are my go-to veggie burgers in Canada!

Virun – I get along really well with Philip, their CEO. They are authentic, creative, love to have fun, but still put out some serious science and products.

Thank you for sharing your insights with us, Ben!

If your company is also looking to find the right seafood-substitute business partner, contact Co-Founder & Managing Director Ben Kelly at ben@algarithm.ca. You can also follow the developments of Algarithm on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Algarithm specialises in plant-based DHA oil, derived from a strain of microalgae. We recently had the opportunity to conduct an exclusive interview with the Co-Founder and Managing Director of Algarithm, Ben Kelly.

What drives the founders of Algarithm to run a seafood-substitute business in Canada?

Not just the founders, but the whole company is driven by two core ‘whys’.

  1. Our belief in the nutritional benefits of omega 3’s (especially DHA), especially for children (I generally include a photo of my two girls in every presentation).
  1. We believe that a plant-based diet will be a component of a sustainable world for future generations.  

What kind of framework have you adopted or developed to help build a purpose-driven organisation?

This has really been about building a culture that we all buy into. The team has to understand the purpose, believe in it, and work towards it. For instance, two of our team members spontaneously organised a riverside garbage clean up recently, followed by a team meal.

We have also budgeted for and intend to return anywhere from 0.5 per cent to 1 per cent of our revenues back into local and international initiatives.

We do plan to pursue certifications that help us enshrine purpose into our corporate governance.

How do you see the seafood-substitute industry changing in the near future? And what are some of the big changes to look out for?

Our ingredients are largely consumed in the dietary supplement space first, but early on we recognised the potential of our ingredients in plant-based applications.

Our hope is that by providing high-quality ingredients, we can help the plant-based industry better balance the fats they are using. Algal oil is a high PUFA (polyunsaturated fatty acid) oil that is much healthier than some of the saturated oils being used in plant-based applications. Traditionally, there have been challenges with stability, flavour, and price for PUFA oils. But we believe that we have addressed a number of those challenges, making our oil a great way to balance omega 6 and omega 3 intake.

What would you say is the biggest lesson that you have learnt from running your business so far?

Well, we have been fortunate enough to be a spin-off from a larger company. So we have had the luxury of a lot of built-in support services that a lot of start-up companies might not usually have.

I think one of the big things I have come to recognise is how important culture is to the organisation, and how implementing the right culture is the foundation from which all future growth will come from.

What short-term plans and/or long-term goals do you have in store for Algarithm?

We have lots! We added a formulation team a while back and have been working with customers to help them utilise our ingredients successfully. We believe there are a few categories where refreshment could take place, and while we won’t be the ones to take it to market (to the consumer), we have some interesting concepts we think some of our partners will find interesting.

Does Algarithm have any ambitions to expand outside of Canada?

Big time! We already sell in the US, Europe, and Asia. We also run production in the US as well. But we are not done! We are looking to find the right partners to establish business units in most regions that will allow us to work closely with our clients on the ground.

Algarithm is a member of GOED's Executive Council on Education and Outreach. What can you share about the results of the educational programmes thus far?

We are, and making a commitment to GOED was one of our first big investments. We did this because we really respect the work GOED has been doing for our industry and we fundamentally believe in the life-changing benefits of omega 3 consumption (preferably from algae!).

GOED has a new industry tool coming out that will support companies’ efforts to dig through the tens of thousands of omega 3 studies that have been completed. We think this tool will help us digest and pull out findings that we can translate for consumers to help them really understand the impact of omega 3 consumption.

GOED has also been making a significant effort to educate health care practitioners (HCP) about the benefits of omega 3s. This effort to highlight the physiological benefits of omega 3s for HCP, we believe, has and will continue to contribute to building an educated and informed group of providers who can help the average person understand the benefits of omega 3s - at all life stages.

Good Catch chose Algarithm’s plant-based DHA oil (derived from microalgae) to nutritionally enhance its frozen seafood substitutes. For your next product, service or project, who else would you like to collaborate with and why?

This is a really tough one because there are so many really neat companies today in this space. To be honest, we are not picky. We think we have made some improvements to algal omega 3 ingredients that make it more versatile, and will make a broader range of applications possible (especially in the plant-based space).

We also look at a lot of the plant-based foods we see at retail in North America and think there are opportunities to better balance the lipid profile to provide a healthier product. We hope brands that are looking at how to improve the nutritional profile of their foods will think about us and consider incorporating our ingredients to improve the omega 3 to omega 6 ratio.

Which people, leaders, thinkers, or entrepreneurs are an inspiration to you?

Firstly, the people I always have to give credit to and who inspire me each day is my family. My mom and dad, my wife and my kids – they are all great!

My co-founder and mentor at Algarithm - Dr. Udaya Wanasundara - has been a life-changing teacher.

Almost any entrepreneur who is mission-driven, who takes a leap of faith and goes for their dreams. The numerous stories I have read about inspire me daily.

What brands do you admire and why?

I could list a lot here too! In the plant-based space:

Good Catch is obviously one. Not just because they use our ingredients, but because their product is nutritious and delicious.

Sol Cuisine – who in full disclosure use our ingredients as well, but Dror is a great guy to interact with. His burgers are my go-to veggie burgers in Canada!

Virun – I get along really well with Philip, their CEO. They are authentic, creative, love to have fun, but still put out some serious science and products.

Thank you for sharing your insights with us, Ben!

If your company is also looking to find the right seafood-substitute business partner, contact Co-Founder & Managing Director Ben Kelly at ben@algarithm.ca. You can also follow the developments of Algarithm on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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