From a restaurant in Victoria to operating in the big smoke of New York, Grounded simply cannot believe how fast their business has grown worldwide. In 2019, the company was chosen as one of six Australian-based start-ups in the Seeds of Change Accelerator, a partnership with Food Innovation Australia Limited (FIAL) and MARS Food Australia, to fast-track the growth of innovative food-focused businesses.
Veronica Fil and partner Shaun Quade, are the duo behind Grounded who produce plant-based cheeses that look, taste and feel just like the real thing. The impressive product is made from cauliflower and hemp seeds. They have found already that supply and demand is unbalanced, and consumers are frustrated because Grounded isn’t able to supply them immediately. A challenge most manufacturers dream of, especially in the start-up stage.
The duo first owned a fine dining restaurant in Melbourne and looked to take the concept overseas. While they were in this process, they discovered that their house-made vegan cheese was always the star of the show. After creating the product, they were quickly approached by heavy hitters in the hospitality and supermarket industries looking for supply, as well as large investors. Knowing they were on the right track, Fil and Quade decided to grow the business themselves. “I’ve had no shortage of investment offers however, it was the skills and understanding of what we needed to get the business going that we were really looking for,” said Fil.
“After receiving interest from investors, we decided we didn’t want to make a terrible mistake of losing equity. As a result, it was suggested we apply for the Seeds of Change Accelerator. We weren’t looking for investors but rather the specialist knowledge and mentors in manufacturing, scale-up and IP management. Going into the Accelerator was an absolute game-changer for us. If we hadn’t been in that we would have been left with barely anything. It’s changed our entire lives and we’ve had a fantastic time from it.”
“Five weeks into the Accelerator program, I met a Venture Capitalist from New York who runs a plant-based food fund. He said ‘call me tomorrow, I think we can help’. Two weeks later, we were in New York with a $300,000 investment behind us, preparing to commercialise our products,” said Fil.
FIAL’s Dr. Barry McGookin said, “Grounded were selected to undertake a tailored four-month program to help tackle their challenges and were supported with a grant. The Accelerator program included face-to-face workshops and access to a panel of expert mentors.”
“At FIAL, one of our main objectives is to help firms build their capabilities so they can grow the share of Australian food in the global marketplace. This expanded capacity is evident with Grounded, who are looking to manufacture in California and Victoria.”
Grounded are still reeling from the speed of the success of the program. Fil said, “It struck me partway through the program we had landed the biggest opportunity of our lives. For us, money had nothing to do with it. It was the brain’s trust and having that knowledge and backing.”