10 start-ups to watch

This article was originally on Insider by Speciality Food. Click here for the original article.


It all started in a student bedroom in Edinburgh. “This haggis eatin’, whisky sippin’, beer drinkin’ culture needs a wonder grain to change their lives” mused Sydney Chasin of Lil’ Pop, in her final year at university. Diagnosed with coeliac disease at seven and growing up in a US farming town of 150 people, Chasin felt determined to do something where she could “truly love a Monday morning”. After entering a student startup competition, Chasin went on to be selected from a pool of 400 would-be entrepreneurs to win funding and mentoring from Scottish Institute for Enterprise, and in 2018 her healthy snack food brand Lil’ Pop was born.

Lil’ Pop is the first product in Europe to be shaking up the snack aisle with popped sorghum: a gluten-free, 8,000 year old ancient grain snack with a low water footprint. Sorghum is drought-resilient and grows where other crops can’t, needing only sunshine and nature’s own sprinkler system – rainwater – to flourish. As global water resources diminish, Chasin comments “it is important to innovate with ingredients that work with rather than against nature.” After smoking out her kitchen with the first test batch, Chasin spent months sourcing the ideal grain variety for the “perfect popping percentage” and creating a bulletproof supply chain before launching this year.

Chasin describes the snack as a “teeny-tiny, sustainably sourced alternative to popcorn that doesn’t get stuck in your teeth”. Way more than “tiny cuteness and health stats”, sorghum caters for the free-from aisle, is superbly crunchy and good for the planet, too. Her first variant – Pink Himalayan Salt – will soon be joined by a range of flavours which will be launched later this year.

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