Canada-based Komo Foods (CSE: YUM) had its IPO in June of 2021 during an explosive growth period for plant-based food companies. We caught up with CEO and founder, Jeffrey Ma, to learn more about this momentous step in the company’s story.
What was your inspiration for starting Komo?
Komo was born out of the idea that plant-based eating should be easy, consisting of food made with real wholesome ingredients and ultimately satisfying. I think there’s a perception and experience that one of these points need to be compromised when incorporating a more plant-forward diet. As a vegan, I face the same challenges many consumers have around convenience, clean eating, and food satisfaction. Being a food scientist myself and having developed a wide range of plant-based products, I worked with our vegan chef (Chef Fred) to create plant-based comfort foods that give the same experience as traditional ‘meaty’ or ‘cheesy’ versions, while being meticulous about the ingredients we use. We also saw a lack of shareable plant-based options in the marketplace. If a family or group of people want an easy plant-based meal, their options are limited to frozen pizza or takeout. Our products are offered in multi-serve format because ultimately food is best enjoyed together.
We want our delicious meals to be able to spark a conversation at the dinner table about how easy and possible plant-based eating can be. We know consumers are looking to incorporate more plant-based meals into their every day for a multitude of reasons: health, planet, or animals. Our plant-based familiar favourites make it easy to enjoy for all.
What was your main motivation for taking the company public?
Going public gives us access to capital to be able to grow our business and brand to reach more people and share the love of plant-based foods. We also know investors and consumers are increasingly looking to support brands and businesses that align with their values. Going public provides our consumers the opportunity to join us on this journey. Our mission at Komo is to make plant-based meals a staple on every dinner table by sharing our love for feel-good food that connects the people to the planet. We truly believe plant-based eating is the future and change can start with a single bite.
For entrepreneurs looking to take their companies public, what advice do you have?
Taking a company public takes significant effort and resources. I think it’s important to remember to ensure you continue focusing on building a strong core business. It’s important to have short-term wins along the way to ensure investors stay interested, but also planning for the long term. Align yourself with people who have experience in the capital markets and ensure your management team is ready to devote their time to issues like financial accounting and corporate communications. In order to go public, you need to have your financial statements audited and pass legal due diligence. Consult with a securities lawyer who is experienced in taking companies public early so you don’t take any steps that prevent you from becoming a public company. Also, meditate daily, you could be in for a wild ride.
What is next for Komo? Are you working on anything exciting that you can share with us?
We always have exciting things in the works, especially as a new start-up. We launched with our Ready-to-Bake Classics including our Lasagna, Shepherd’s Pie, and Chick’n Pot Pie back in March. Recently we added our Plant-Based Meal Helpers including our Bolognese Sauce and BBQ Taco Filling. Product innovation is at the core of our brand and business so consumers and investors can expect a steady stream of new products being introduced throughout the year. We’re also in the process of building out our distribution to share our products nationally across Canada and eventually to the US.
What is your prediction for the plant-based food space?
I think the focus on natural, whole-food ingredients will be increasingly important. With the explosion of plant-based alternatives, especially in alt meat and dairy, we see many options with ingredients lists that are less than desirable. There will always be an initial hype around these products, but as consumers learn more and delve further into plant-based eating, there will be an increasing demand for more wholesome ingredients and food. I think plant-based foods will eventually shift away from focusing on highlighting the animal counterpart that it is mimicking (i.e. plant-based beef, vegan chicken) and move towards highlighting the plant-based ingredients in the food.
How is the plant-based economy developing in Canada? Any thoughts?
Similar to the US, the plant-based food industry is growing in Canada. In many cases, we are slower to see new innovative products in the Canadian marketplace due to the smaller market size here. Regardless, we have seen companies innovating and leading in the space and especially on the West Coast, with companies like Gardein, Daiya Foods, and Vega all born out of BC. In the capital markets, we have definitely seen an influx of plant-based Canadian companies going public in the last year or two. I think it’s great to see this as more vegan companies have access to capital for growth and bring their plant-based products to more people.
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