Q&A: Konscious Foods founder Yves Potvin thinks plant-based sushi is going to stick

We talked to the health food entrepreneur about his company's new Richmond facility.

Credit: Konscious Foods on LinkedIn/ Yves Potvin (far right) cuts the ribbon at Konscious Foods’ new facility

We talked to the health food entrepreneur about his company’s new Richmond facility

Konscious Foods‘ new facility is in Richmond. At least technically. Its product is sushi. At least technically.

A stone’s throw from Annacis Island, the plant-based sushi manufacturer’s 34,000 sq ft headquarters is closer to New Westminster or Burnaby than any of the numbered roads.

But when we visited in July, the company’s 86 staff and a variety of government officials and industry experts were celebrating the building’s grand opening and showcasing its product: frozen, made-from-plants sushi.

If it sounds like something of a stretch, you might want to consider the person behind the idea. Yves Potvin, founder and president of Konscious Foods, has already founded and sold two of Canada’s pioneering plant-based companies in Yves Veggie Cuisine (to Hain Celestial in 2001 for a reported $54.1 million) and Gardein Protein (to Pinnacle Foods in 2014 for $154 million).

After launching earlier this year, Konscious raised a funding round of $26 million. The brand is now in over 1,000 stores across North America, including the Whole Foods and Sprouts chains. We caught up with Potvin to get his take on why he believes he’s hit it big for the third time.

Why do you have faith in Konscious’ sushi?

Sushi rolls have become a ubiquitous cuisine in North America with nearly 20,000 sushi restaurants in the U.S. alone. It’s also available in every major grocery store as well so it’s not a novel concept. I believe in creating great tasting food that’s better for you and better for the world, and that has always been at the centre of my career.

In addition to this, the world now faces an overfishing problem: the World Bank reports nearly 90 percent of global marine stocks are exploited or overfished. More than one-third of the planet’s fish stocks are being caught at biologically unsustainable levels, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. Lastly, the population is expected to grow to 10 billion and global demand for food is expected to increase by 60 percent.

To keep up with the demand of our growing planet, we need a solution that also tastes good, is of nutritional value and sustainable all while maintaining price parity to traditional proteins.

Konscious has won a few awards for its sushi already. What has been the customer feedback?

We’ve had amazing feedback from the consumers that have tried our products so far. What consumers are looking for right now are options that taste great, are easy to prepare, and makes them feel better and do better for the planet. Everyone who’s had the chance to sample our products at trade shows, at home, or at demos tells us that it tastes amazing, and they’ve never tasted something like it before, whether they’re vegan, flexitarian or someone who appreciates great tasting food.

How long has it taken you to get the sushi from conception to market?

It’s been a journey of nearly two years. We’re fortunate enough to be up and running in our own manufacturing facility in a very short amount of time, and having this facility in our own backyard helps us improve and fine tune our products every day.

What will success look like for the sushi line?

Success for me is about a few things. First and foremost is amazing and unparalleled taste for the consumer—we want consumers to choose Konscious because it tastes like something they’ve never tasted before. Success also comes from an afterthought from the consumers, knowing that they’ve made a better choice in their contribution to a better planet. And lastly, we want Konscious products to set the bar and become a symbol of innovation and chef-led creativity and gain long-term consumer loyalty for everyone that tries the product. We’re also able to keep the costs down and offer price parity with traditional sushi rolls for all to enjoy.

What’s your favourite Konscious sushi product?

I would have to say the California Roll—it’s always been a classic favourite for me.

This interview has been edited and condensed.