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"MeliBio is a story of evolution. It started with my thoughts and beliefs revolving around the vision of building a future food industry that is not relied on animal farming," Mandich tells Luxiders. Being vegan himself, Mandich decided to move from Serbia to California with the goal of helping the industry become kinder and more sustainable. He later met Dr Aaron Schaller and when they realised they shared the same passion towards honey and bees, they decided to launch MeliBio. "The industry has been part, of solely relied on the breeding of honey bees - this has a negative impact not only on honey bees but more importantly on 20,000 wild and native bee species that are endangered by honey production," he reasons.
Mandich points out that there is a need for a mindset shift to happen across generations to save the planet, including to understand the consequences of the food choices: “Our choice is important. We need to eat smartly.” He believes that technology will help to create a more sustainable food system. "Tech is there to help us scale efficiently and sustainably once the desired taste is achieved. Therefore, we need to treat food consumption as a ritual of its kind and make sure the tech we rely on can stand up to this moment and satisfy a human being while delivering delightful experiences," he adds.
MeliBio, a California-based startup, uses synthetic biology to replicate the composition of honey. Mandich claims that bee-less honey is no different from conventional honey: "There are many alternatives to honey, but none come close to the superiority of taste, colour, texture, and nutritional value as honey. That's why we decided not to compromise and make the same product as honey bees do, only without the use of honey bees. We proudly say that we make real honey with the help of science. Our honey tastes delicious while providing high nutritional value." To achieve the taste, MeliBio uses a variety of flowers that bees normally visit. The future of food is about the experience of its taste and the nutritional value it brings as Mandich believes.
"There are many alternatives to honey, but none is even close to the superiority of taste, colour, texture and nutritional value as honey. That is why we decided not to compromise and make the same product as honey bees do, just without the use of honey bees."
The future of honey without bees looks promising, considering the growing market for vegan foods; by 2026, the market is expected to reach $31 billion. The company itself plans to focus on selling not only to food companies but also to the beauty industry. "Our first product launch is planned for the end of this year," Mandich says. They have completed the pre-seed round and expanded R&D with some experts and consultants.
He admits that building a business isn't easy, but the purpose will tackle the challenges along the way. "Every morning when I wake up, there is an urgent and important reason to get out of bed promptly and work hard to change my industry for the better. For the better for the people who will have access to the most superior sweetener and for the better for the bees whose biodiversity will be saved," Mandich says with optimism.
+ All Images: © MeliBio
+ Words: Alvia Zuhadmono, Luxiders Magazine
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