Specialty Food Magazine

Spring 2020

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

Issue link: https://www.e-digitaleditions.com/i/1220124

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Page 51 of 75

Dinesh Tadepalli Age: 33 Years in specialty food: 1 Favorite food: Cinnamon rolls Least favorite food: Anything with sesame seeds Last thing I ate and loved: Vegan turmeric pistachio ice cream If I weren't in the food business I'd be: A hardware engineer One piece of advice I'd give to a new food business: Be visible, show the passion, put your heart out there and new opportunities will open up, given time. PHOTOS: MAX MILLA Tadepalli is from Southern India, descended from a family of business people, and had always wanted to be an entrepreneur. He arrived in the U.S. in 2007 to get a master's degree in electrical engineering at the University of Southern California and then worked in Silicon Valley. Over the years, he invested in a couple of startups. He made money on one of them and lost money on another. "I took the loss as a learning experience," he says. "Why should I just be following the group? Why can't I do something myself?" In January 2018, Vuppala gave birth again, this time to a daughter. The company Tadepalli worked for granted him six weeks of paternity leave, four more weeks than he'd gotten at his previous job when his son was born. The idea of leaving the planet a better place for his children became even more urgent. Tadepalli wanted to use the time off to travel, to see what kind of an environmentally friendly food business he could drum up. "Why are you leaving me?" Vuppala asked him, realizing she'd have to cope alone with their newborn daughter and young son. "It might be hard for you now, but you'll thank me later when there's less plastic in the ocean," Tadepalli told her. "She was supportive," he confirms. They had both been horrified by a 2016 World Economic Forum study predicting that plastic will outweigh marine life by the year 2050. Texas-size, floating garbage patches in the Pacific Ocean were buffeted by waves, washing up on shores and found in the stomachs of sperm whales, sea turtles, and marine birds. Reportedly, about 8 million tons of plastic end up annually in the ocean. Many organisms can't tell the difference between plastic and food and starve to death because the indigestible plastic fills their stomachs. Tadepalli knew that something had to change to avert this environmental catastrophe. He thought of making zero-waste cloth shopping bags with 10 pouches to separate produce purchases instead of using plastic, disposable bags, but it didn't really go anywhere. He also looked into compostable dinnerware and biodegradable spoons made from corn starch. On paper, it sounded good, but the truth wasn't so pretty. "Ninety percent end up in landfills, not sent to composting facilities," he says, so they didn't break down the way people assumed. Nor were these items edible. On his journey to India and Malaysia he visited six cities and learned that the manufacturer of edible spoons he'd originally read about had had trouble scaling the business and could not fulfill orders. In Gujarat, India, he met Kruvil Patel, who was already in the process of designing a machine to make edible cutlery. Tadepalli, with his engineering background, thought he could figure out a way to make it work. They agreed to team up and build a manufacturing facility. Tadepalli and Vuppala sold their house in San Jose, Calif. to finance it and moved into an apartment. It took 80 trials to get it right. SPRING 2020 49

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