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HomeEntrepreneurKorean-American Entrepreneur Builds Her Second Firm Round This Regenerative Snack

Korean-American Entrepreneur Builds Her Second Firm Round This Regenerative Snack

Annie Chun, who grew up in South Korea, already has one profitable enterprise below her belt. Now, she’s constructing her second one with only one ingredient: seaweed.

When Chun got here to San Francisco within the late Seventies, she ended up within the meals enterprise, beginning like so many different meals entrepreneurs—on the farmer’s market. Within the early 90s, she hit the native markets together with her Asian-inspired sauces. In 2009, she and husband Steve Broad, who can also be her trusty enterprise associate, bought that first enterprise, Annie’s Chun’s meals to CJ’s, a South Korean firm, after reportedly reaching $15 million in annual gross sales.

In 2012, Chun needed to do a distinct enterprise that reminded her of the seaweed snacks she grew up having in South Korea. GimMe was born. “There was nothing prefer it in the marketplace. And definitely not natural.”

Chun and Broad had a tall activity forward. Not solely had been they reworking the best way seaweed was harvested from off the coast of South Korea, however they needed to introduce a comparatively new idea to American shoppers: a snack with a chip-like texture, however an earthy, salty style of the ocean.

The duo had benefited from the success of their earlier firm; in order that they put among the positive factors from that enterprise to start out this new firm. “With the sauces, there have been too many particular person substances to make it natural. It was exhausting to get copackers to additionally undergo that additional effort. However with seaweed, it’s only one principal ingredient,” Chun notes.

The Bay Space resident who had been a proponent of natural meals, now had an opportunity to herald a wholly natural product line, whereas working carefully together with her provide chain.

Seaweed, a staple in Japanese and Korean diets, had been restricted to the ethnic meals aisles within the US. Plus, Chun needed to make it extra palatable for American tastes. So, she developed a crispier, chip-like model that is available in quite a lot of flavors: teriyaki, wasabi, sesame, avocado oil, chili lime, and extra.

Plus, seaweed is a nutrient dense meals, Chun explains. “In case you don’t have anything so as to add to rice, simply crush some seaweed and put it on high.” Seaweed comprises iodine, omega 3, iron, calcium, fiber, protein — amongst different vitamins. “For its weight, it’s a really nutrient dense meals,” explains Broad. “And if we have to search for extra vegetarian choices, it’s an incredible selection, on condition that we’ve overfished our seas.”

It’s additionally change into a preferred ingredient for its environmental attributes. Seaweed could be grown in regenerative natural farms, in line with the Ellen MacArthur Basis. Not like land-based farms that want massive quantities of exterior inputs for his or her crops, seaweed is usually a extra low-maintenance crop. Seaweed may help regenerate the marine ecosystem by decreasing ocean acidification and making a habitat for numerous marine species. It’s estimated {that a} 20-acre farm can sequester 9,000 kilograms of CO2 and 300 kilograms of nitrogen yearly.

GimMe states that one ton of seaweed can sequester about one to 4 tons of CO2 per yr, and usually can sequester two to 5 instances the quantity of CO2 of tropical forests just like the Amazon.

Rising it organically provides one other layer to this environmental story. Broad explains that their course of differs from typical growers. GimMe’s seaweed is grown in deeper waters in Jangheung Bay, he says. “They use buoys. When the seaweed is immersed within the water, it grows. Then they rotate it and expose it to the solar above water. That kills any species that may hurt the seaweed and make it flip brown.”

This pure strategy to farming seaweed avoids the usage of any chemical compounds or components that might probably hurt marine life.

When Chun first pitched the natural seaweed to some nationwide retail grocers, she didn’t actually obtain an enthusiastic response. It was when she went to Complete Meals, she says, “The client acquired it instantly and understood the worth of natural. After which launched us nationally.”

For Chun, rising GimMe has been a mixture of sharing her Korean heritage and creating snacks which are wholesome and inexpensive. “For me, this can be a firm about sharing, sharing my roots but in addition sharing one thing that’s good for our well being.”

Packing it, although, hasn’t been simple. The seaweed crisps have to saved recent; the packaging subsequently has to have a excessive oxygen barrier. Thus for years, they had been housed in plastic trays, wrapped in a movie. Broad explains that they’ve now gotten rid of the plastic trays and are continuously searching for higher options. GimMe works with OSC, One Step Nearer Packaging Collaborative, within the Bay space, which consists of comparable sustainability-minded firms who’re searching for extra eco-friendly options to packaging.

As an organization of about 20 employees, Broad says, “We’re nonetheless small, and it’s exhausting to alter a packaging trade on our personal. However we’re continuously looking for higher choices.”

Through the pandemic as sushi eating places closed, GimMe’s nori grew to become a staple for DIY sushi makers at dwelling, he provides. That’s helped the enterprise get a brand new demographic on board. “However what’s superb is we have now youngsters sharing the snacks at faculties with one another, and that’s exposing youngsters to seaweed. Plus, we’ve seen just a few large hits with TikTok.”

So might the youth be useful in making seaweed extra well-liked in America? Broad hopes so. “Our information tells us that seaweed is at about 4% penetration in American homes. So it’s nonetheless early days.”

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