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Pulp Pantry

Pulp Pantry Upcycles Juice Pulp into Nutritious Snacks

Pulp Pantry is a L.A. based social enterprise that turns neglected fruit and vegetable pulp from juiceries into delicious snacks. The startup’s innovative products – grain-free granola and veggie chips – are steps towards making fruits and vegetables as ubiquitous as grains and sugar. I caught up with founder and USC graduate, Kaitlin Mogentale, to learn more about Pulp Pantry’s story and mission to make nutritious foods accessible to all.

Juice and Pulp 

Carrots for juicing

Walk into any grocery store, convenience store, or cafe and shoppers are bound to find a selection of juice. Some Whole Foods stores dedicate nearly 40 feet of shelf space to cold-pressed or fresh-squeezed juices. Consumers rarely give a second thought to where that bottle or carton sitting on the shelf comes from, but what is the process from farm to juice?

Kaitlin Mogentale found the answer when she watched her friend juice a carrot. Afterwards, her friend had no idea what to do with the large pile of left-behind pulp. As an advocate for food justice, health and wellness, and sustainability, Kaitlin could not simply let the pulp go to waste—she found herself taking the pulp home to whip up her first batch of pulp-based snacks: carrot pulp cookies.

That event piqued Kaitlin’s interest in how pulp was handled in prolific Los Angeles commercial juiceries. After calling up a dozen juiceries, Kaitlin found that much of the juice pulp was trashed or thrown out as compost. For every pound of juice, an average of three or four pounds of juice pulp is produced—a single juicery may send thousands of pounds of organic pulp to the landfill in just one week.

“On the other side of the bottle is a trail of nutrient-rich and discarded fruit and vegetable pulp.”

– Kaitlin Mogentale, CEO and Founder of Pulp Pantry

Pulp Pantry’s grain-free granola, Cacao Crunch ($8.99)

Seeking a solution to the food waste problem, Kaitlin created Pulp Pantry in January 2016. She drove across Los Angeles, collected juice pulp from small to mid-sized commercial juiceries, found a kitchen, made flour from the pulp, and brought fresh pulp-based muffins, brownies, and granola to sell in her local farmer’s market. Since then, Kaitlin has found equally ambitious teammates and together they cooked up Pulp Pantry’s grain-free granola (priced at $8.99) and savory veggie chips (to-be-released in January 2019). They plan on creating many more innovative, shelf-stable, fruit and veggie-based snacks to become – as Kaitlin calls it – the next sustainable General Mills.

A Growing Demand for Healthy Food

Pulp Pantry’s grain-free granola nutrition facts

With health consciousness on the rise, there is an increased demand for better-for-you foods and concern as to where those products are coming from. Millennials are especially attuned to the importance of a balanced diet and exercise – they are also the demographic that spends the most on dining out and contributes most to changing consumption trends. Pulp Pantry comes in to offer an affordable and delicious way to eat fruits and vegetables.

“Pulp Pantry exists in that opportunity area where it can create shelf-stable versions of fruit and vegetable snacks made from a meaningful amount of fruits and veggies at a price point that is accessible and flavor profile that is approachable.”

– Kaitlin Mogentale, CEO and Founder of Pulp Pantry

For example, juicing has become a popular lifestyle choice in recent years, driving strong growth in the global juice market. According to Persistence Market Research, cold-pressed juices are forecasted to grow at 7% CAGR into a $311 million per year business in North America by 2024 while the global fruit and vegetable juices market is expected to reach $257.17 billion by 2025. More juice equals more pulp, which means a greater need to find a sustainable alternative to trashing pulp. Enter Pulp Pantry.

Pulp Pantry’s Grain-Free Granola and Savory Chips

Pulp is a superfood; it contains 95% of the fiber of fruits and vegetables, half the nutrients, and 1/3 of the sugar. Pulp Pantry’s flagship product – grain-free granola – retailed in September 2016 on their online store and Amazon and later expanded to 40 retailers in the Los Angeles area. According to Kaitlin, selling online allows Pulp Pantry to connect directly with their customers, get feedback, and have a conversation. Its products are being implemented into their daily lives as people resonate with the story.

The snack is 50% fruit, vegetable, and nut pulp and comes in three flavors: Vanilla Sea Salt – a classic – Cinnamon Toast, and Cacao Crunch.

“Cinnamon Toast is a nod to Cinnamon Toast Crunch with a sweet and savory taste and Cacao Crunch is a nod to Cocoa Krispies—us Millennials loved these cereals growing up, so there is nostalgic element to it.”

– Kaitlin Mogentale, CEO and Founder of Pulp Pantry

Kaitlin highlights Project Juice, the 1988 organic clean food and healthy beverage company, as a key sourcing partner. “Project Juice is not only working with Pulp Pantry on the supply chain side but helping us bring our products to market.”

The organic food giant makes Pulp Panty’s grain-free granola available in their physical stores in San Francisco, San Diego, and Los Angeles.

Nevertheless, the team’s biggest challenge that remains is “finding the right partners, brand ambassadors, etc who are aligned in mission and vision and want to support [their] growth.”

Pulp Pantry’s latest product, the savory veggie chip, is reminiscent of Baked Lays in nostalgic and creative flavor profiles such as Barbecue Beet and Sour Cream and Dill with Greens and is slated to hit retail stores across Southern California in January 2019. Kaitlin’s strategic decision to release a vegetable chip following their grain-free granola comes from the idea that consumers are much more likely to grab a bag of chips on the way to check out than a bag of granola cluster.

A 2017 online survey found that about 86 percent of American consumers regularly purchase salty snacks. It is the top selling snack category with sales amounting to $27 billion in 2017. Revenues have benefited from the emergence of more expensive, artisanal goods as cheaper snacks are out and quality and nutrition are in. Pulp Pantry blends the familiar taste of a potato chip with the nutritious benefit of fruits and vegetables.

As Pulp Pantry prepares for its launch, the team is fundraising to fuel their retail expansion and fully commercialize their product, which comes with its own material and manufacturing costs. “We’re excited to take that leap and invest in packaging, marketing and in-store merchandising and promotion. Digital will still be a big piece of our brand, creating content that we hope will inspire our customers and spread more awareness about waste, nutrition, and sustainability,” said Kaitlin.

Food Upcycling Warriors Fight Together

When asked about her competitors, Kaitlin sees her fellow food upcycling companies as comrades rather than competitors working towards their common goal of zero-waste and bringing nutritious foods to all communities. Upcycling brands educate people together in a way that is constructive for business, and Pulp Pantry remains one of the first shelf-stable, packaged food items made from 50% fresh vegetables.

“We’re growing with a rising tide of people who are looking at supply chain and the food industry with fresh eyes – there are a ton of unexplored opportunities here.”

– Kaitlin Mogentale, CEO and Founder of Pulp Pantry

She considers her competitors the traditional “veggie” chip companies already in the aisle, branded as a veggie chip when vegetables are the last ingredient. “At that point, we have to ask ourselves: is it a veggie chip or potato chip?”

In the food upcycling space, there are a few other companies making their way to the pantry: ¡Yappah!, ReGrained, and Forager Project. ¡Yappah! is a line of protein crisps made of chicken breast scraps, juicing puree, and malted brewing barley—if consumers are looking to add fruits and vegetables rather than protein to their diets, Pulp Pantry’s snacks are the way to go.

Similarly, ReGrained rescues processed grain from beer brewing to make healthy bars for energy, immunity, and antioxidants. Pulp Pantry’s granola and chips offer lighter, sharing-friendly snacks. Forager Project, founded in 2012, offers pulp-based smoothies and vegetable chips along with juices and a dairy-free yogurt. Pulp Pantry, founded in 2016, has likewise quickly gained traction with delicious products, a focused vision, and hungry team.

Team Bonding: Cooking Up Pulp-Based Snacks and Success

Ashley Miyasaki and Kaitlin Mogentale

After Kaitlin founded Pulp Pantry, she teamed up with her USC classmate, Ashley Miyasaki, who shared her passion for social entrepreneurship. With her experience at Thrive Market – a Costco meets Amazon e-commerce business for health foods – and various tech startups in the L.A. area, Ashley brought a fresh perspective to the strategy and operation of Pulp Pantry.

Just two months ago, Alex Calish, having previously served as the director of operations at Barnana, rounded out the team as Pulp Pantry’s director of operations. The team is also comprised of two food scientists from Cal Poly Pomona for R&D and a pastry chef from L.A. restaurant Sawyer.

The startup collaborates and sources pulp from five juiceries around California and is in conversations with larger national supplies. The team is piloting a model of sourcing that has the capacity to process thousands of pounds of pulp a week. They then develop their products in a test kitchen space in Kitchen United and work with a co-packer in south L.A. to manufacture and package their snacks.

Replacing Sugar and Grain Snacks with Fruit and Veggie Alternatives

Pulp Pantry’s grain-free granola, Cacao Crunch

Pulp Pantry is a values-aligned brand that encourages conscious consumption and accessible health foods for all. It first went through the USC incubator, Village Capital accelerator, and most recently, the Burt’s Bees Natural Launchpad. The startup has its sights set on retail expansion and fully commercializing their product.

Ultimately, they are working to make fruits and vegetables as ubiquitous as grains and sugar by transforming neglected juice pulp into delicious and healthy snacks in all communities, regardless of income.

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