If there’s a category of superfoods that has the potential to surpass super, Mikuna’s line of chocho protein products aspires to claim that title. The competition is intense, but the uses for a clean, gluten-free, low-glycemic, multipurpose powder-like food go well beyond juices and smoothies.
“Chocho is the future of plant-based proteins, and as we look ahead to the brand’s product and innovation pipeline, Mikuna is poised to lead the plant-based industry back to its clean, whole food roots,” company CEO Tara Kriese said in a company statement.
Chocho is a lupine that, once milled, becomes a protein-rich powder. It is indigenous to South America in the Andes Region, particularly in Ecuador and Peru (where it is known as Tarwi). Mikuna’s founder, Ricky Echanique, is a fifth-generation farmer from Ecuador who suffered from digestive issues. He found the answer in his backyard, discovering that this plant provided solutions to his ailments. After discovering the power of this superfood, it became Echanique’s mission to bring chocho to the world.
Kriese, a former SVP for plant-based meat company Impossible Foods, brings her market knowledge and personal passion to the company. In an interview with The Spoon, the CEO spoke about her daughter, whose multiple life-threatening childhood allergies took her to the plant-based, clean food world long before it was fashionable.
After being introduced to Echanique in 2020 and learning of Mikuna and chocho, Kriese knew she was on to something big. “I couldn’t believe that no one was using this amazing crop,” she said. And it’s no one-trick pony, something borne out by the company’s relationship with Erewhon, which features the protein in juices that it features in its in-house Tonic Bar and in juices it sells in the store.
The well-known Los Angeles-area gourmet supermarket’s use of chocho is part of Mikuna’s current multipronged strategy, which will evolve with its new investment dollars. The company sells its original or pure product along with vanilla and cacao varieties direct to consumers via its website. They also are available at Amazon and in retailers and foodservice locations across Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Michigan, Ohio, Texas, and California.
Mikuna’s seed round investors include Olympians and World Champion athletes like Leticia Bufoni, professional skateboarder and six-time X Games gold medalist, professional surfer, and three-time world champion Mick Fanning; and professional snowboarder and Olympic gold medalist Sage Kotsenburg.
“I’ve always wanted a protein powder that’s clean, and Mikuna is as clean as it gets with just one simple ingredient, chocho,” says Professional Surfer Mick Fanning. “With Mikuna, I’m investing in both the future of nutrition and our planet, and to join such an impressive community of individuals to support Mikuna’s growth was a natural fit for me.”
Backed by more than hype, Kriese senses that, like her, when consumers learn of the power and versatility of this Andrean superfood, they will have a “choco moment” just as she did.