Q&A with Hernando Ruiz-Jimenez, General Manager of UN(THINK) Foods

For anyone who isn’t familiar, can you tell us about UN(THINK) Foods?

As an integrated AgTech company, AgriFORCE develops IP-driven breakthroughs to provide consumers and food companies with new products and ingredients that redefine nutrition and taste. Our Brands division, which UN(THINK) Foods is part of, is focused on commercializing plant-based products and ingredients and provides our first step into the consumer and wholesale ingredient markets.

As a consumer brand, UN(THINK) stands for changing the obvious. We want consumers to UN(THINK) what it means to eat nutritious food. We want to shift the perception about great tasting food products that are often avoided because they might impact our health — we aim to provide products that are good for you and that don’t compromise on the taste consumers love. For example, why should people perceive that wheat is not good for you if you want to have a healthy diet? What if wheat could give you all the good nutrition without the elements that are perceived as not healthy?

At a high level, what is UN(THINK) Awakened Flour?

AgriFORCE’s UN(THINK) Awakened Flour is produced in the first phase of our 100% natural patented process. Similar to regular sprouted grains, our very carefully and controlled process allows us to create a “gold standard” for sprouted grains. The result is wholesome flour that is nutritious, easier to digest, and has all the benefits of sprouted grains but distinguishes itself by its better taste. To be clear, there are no genetics or modifications being used here. Our flour contains only one ingredient: wheat. The launch of Awakened Flour is our first step in bringing to the market a series of products under the UN(THINK) Food brand, with pancake mixes, breads, pastas, and more currently under consideration and development.

How is Awakened Grains different from Sprouted Grains?

At AgriFORCE, we decided to UN(THINK) the way we process grains, which no one else has done before. We take the time to awaken the goodness of the grains by capturing what has always been there. We don’t add anything or take anything away – it is 100 percent natural grain. Our Awakened Grains maximizes all the benefits of sprouting grains, by not over sprouting the wheat. What differentiates our product from others in the market is the specific process that AgriFORCE has behind its patent, which allows for reduced starch and carbohydrates in the final product, while optimizing enzymatic activity.

Tell us more about the Awakened Grains process – what makes it so ground-breaking for food, and wheat-based products in particular?

AgriFORCE’s Awakened Grains process allows for a precise way to germinate wheat by utilizing carefully monitored humidity and temperature to activate the product’s enzymes at the ideal time – to maximize the nutritional elements of sprouted grains.

Once milled, the Awakened Grains turn into Awakened Flour, an ideal competitor in the sprouted wheat market sector, which is very popular with health-conscious consumers. Because the wheat isn’t sprouted completely in AgriFORCE’s proprietary process, it can be used, like sprouted wheat, in bread, but it can also be used in other products like pasta and pastry. Awakened Flour has the rich taste and performance similar to whole wheat products, while reducing the baking challenges of sprouted grain.

How is Awakened Flour different from Power Flour which is also in your product pipeline?

Power Flour is the next stage of Awakened Grains. It goes through the full process of converting more carbohydrates, making it even less calorically dense and keeping all the fiber and protein density that is already present in the wheat berry. Power Flour is best for soft-baked goods, such as muffins. For other things like pasta, bread and snacks, it can be blended with other products, such as Awakened Flour, or even regular all-purpose flour, providing improved nutrition without compromising taste and texture.

So, with Awakened Flour, are you targeting food manufacturers, consumers, or both?

We are operating on dual tracks with both a B2C and B2B commercial approach: We are a) developing UN(THINK) as a brand for consumers to establish the visibility and its benefits and b) extending our reach as a premium branded ingredient for bakery, snacks and bread/dough manufacturers (essentially anyone that makes flour-based goods). Awakened Flour is planned to be made available directly to consumers, bakeries, and other B2B customers in the U.S. and Canada in late 2022.

Why should people care? What are the benefits in terms of nutrition and health?

UN(THINK) Foods is bringing a much-desired product to a market eager for healthier, natural alternatives to traditional flours. With standards in the sprouted grains market still largely undefined, UN(THINK)’s Awakened Flour maximizes what a sprouted grain can and should provide to consumers, bakeries, and more.

Our highly precise sprouting process increases the bioavailability of vitamins and minerals, allowing them to be absorbed by the body, while providing the goodness of fiber in whole grains, and helping to improve digestion and gut health.

Do you have any research that shows that consumers are interested in flour alternatives?

Yes, we do. AgriFORCE recently conducted a consumer survey with 1,000 respondents from across the United States representing all key consumer demographics. The survey confirmed a strong interest to purchase a flour alternative that delivers enhanced nutrition, especially among millennials who commonly adopt high protein, high fiber, low carb foods to improve health and wellness. Findings indicate that they are willing to pay a premium for it, as well.

The findings also revealed that the majority of millennials are already cooking with and consuming products with flour, with 56% of millennials using flour regularly at home, and 88% consuming flour-based products at least twice per week. However, the study also found that consumers are unhappy with current alternatives and wish they didn’t have to compromise taste and texture to achieve health and diet goals.

Where is the Awakened Flour produced? Have suppliers and partners already been identified?

AgriFORCE is setting up initial operations in Saskatchewan, Canada. The province, considered one of the world’s “breadbasket” regions, leads globally as the number one exporter of durum wheat, oats, canola and pulses such as peas and lentils, among others. We have secured strategic partnerships with local suppliers and specialty milling partners, ensuring the provenance and quality of our Non-GMO wheat supply.

What’s next for UN(THINK) Awakened Flour?

AgriFORCE will be unveiling its next-generation product, with the more advanced Power Flour which benefits from our full patented process, in 2023. By 2024, our goal is to continue to scale and expand geographically.