By Casey Verderosa
Most of us don’t equate chickpeas with the guilty pleasures of junk food. Jason Goodman Ph.D. ’20 and his superfood snack company, Antithesis, want to change that. Slightly. By designing a snack that satiates a yen for junk food but does so using nutrient-dense ingredients, Antithesis eliminates the guilt but keeps the pleasure.
As it joins Rev: Ithaca Startup Works, Antithesis brings with it the company’s flagship product, Grabanzos – a crunchy, chocolate-covered snack with chickpea dough as its base, the taste of which is most often compared to that of a KitKat. Goodman describes the snack as a superfood that tastes like junk food and abides by the mantra “you can’t get people to eat better until better-for-you food tastes better.”
Indeed, Grabanzos originated in a Cornell product development class in which Goodman and his classmates were assigned to invent a healthy snack. Their creation was so good that they found themselves munching on it all the time.
As food scientists, the Antithesis team’s goal has been to develop a formulation of ingredients that is tasty and packs a powerful nutritional punch, rather than one that follows any trendy diets. The company runs in the opposite direction from fads, says Goodman. That’s why it’s named Antithesis.
Before bringing Grabanzos to market, Goodman estimates the team developed 150 iterations of the snack, nixing some superfood ingredients that turned the product green or didn’t taste good enough. Finally, they got the product where they wanted it. “There are literally chocolate-covered chickpeas – that’s not what this is,” Goodman says. “If you taste chickpea, we’ve done something wrong. But it’s a great ingredient because of its nutritional profile.”
The team, also comprised of COO Ashton Yoon MS ’19, product development specialist Julie Camacho Flinois MS ’19, and food science technologist Philip Kim MPS ’18, all met in Cornell’s food science department. “The team has such a good core competency in food science,” says Goodman. “It’s a diverse discipline but it brings people who are generalists.”
In addition to the food science department, Antithesis took advantage of Cornell’s eLab program, where the company went through the invaluable process of customer discovery. Antithesis discovered that many people who have no problem eating healthy foods during the day often succumb to the forces of junk food at night. The deceptive healthfulness of Grabanzos solves that problem.
Goodman cites Cornell’s Entrepreneurship Law Clinic, whereby law students help startup founders achieve their legal work, as another helpful resource. As for becoming a Rev member company, he says, “We’ve taken advantage of a lot of Rev resources so it was just a matter of time.” It does make for an easy transition from eLab as well, since his mentors from the program also have office hours at Rev.
During its time at Rev, Antithesis plans to scale up production. Grabanzos are currently for sale at a number of local businesses, including Greenstar, Manndible Café, and Collegetown Bagels, as well as at Joe Coffee in New York City. Antithesis is expanding production through a new facility in Poughkeepsie, New York and is looking for a digital brand designer.