As founder of YOGUT ME and Synbiotic Kitchen, microbiologist Aline de Santa Izabel brings personalized functional foods into consumers’ life to help people access better, nutritious and healthy foods. With YOGUT ME Aline developed the first smart device in the world that enables on-demand production of personalized functional foods such as yogurts at home, focusing on plant-based alternatives. Aline is convinced that bringing science into the kitchen contributes to a better world.
Aline, you are a microbiologist and bioengineer, and the founder of two start-ups: YOGUT ME and Synbiotic Kitchen. How did you get there?
I have been working with R&D and product development for most of my career, leading research projects in different areas of biotechnology, from waste management to food supplements. My first contact with microbiome science was back in 2014 when I started working at a Swedish start-up developing synbiotic supplements. At that time, I had the chance to lead the publication of a cookbook, The Synbiotic Lifestyle Cookbook, which was one of the first cookbooks for optimal gut health in the Swedish market. And I was fascinated by the power of food and nutrition not only to promote optimal gut health but also to improve overall health and wellbeing. After that, I started exploring personalized nutrition. In 2018, I started Synbiotic Kitchen, promoting the health and balance of the gut microbiome through nutrition. We have been providing workshops and lectures in fermentation, synbiotic nutrition, gut health, and related subjects for individuals and corporations, both in Sweden and abroad. In 2019, after identifying a lack of 'gut-friendly foods' in the market and the potential of developing personalized functional foods on demand, I kickstarted the development of YOGUT ME.
What is YOGUT ME doing differently to other products?
YOGUT ME is like a "smarter Nespresso for yogurt", allowing the creation of fresh, healthy, and delicious yogurt ready for consumption and designed based on your personal preferences and needs. Many store-bought yogurts contain an excess of unhealthy ingredients like sugar and other food additives as well as lacking beneficial ingredients, like probiotic bacteria. Besides, there are very few tasty plant-based alternatives available in the marketplace. So, our goal is to fill this gap by creating an innovative way to deliver functional ingredients providing healthy, fresh, delicious, and clean "gut foods" with functional ingredients (high-quality pro- and prebiotics) and without unhealthy and unnecessary additives and preservatives.
You want people to stop eating foods that make them sick. Is this making our future better?
By eating healthy and nutritious foods we can prevent many diseases and negative aspects that this brings to the lives of many people, such as personal disabilities and social ailments. Unhealthy diets are one of the dominant risk factors of chronic and noncommunicable diseases. To create a brighter future we need to raise awareness and help people access better, nutritious and healthy foods. This is one of the goals of YOGUT ME.
What is nutrition?
Nutrition is an essential element of a healthy and happy life - and it should be a right for all.
You are passionate about "bringing science to the kitchen" - how will this contribute to a better world?
Today, we are too disconnected from the food that we eat, knowing way too little about it: where it comes from? What it is made of? There is a big gap between science in academia and what is applied in our society, especially in relation to microbiome science and the importance of health and nutrition. By applying microbiome science in food production we aim to power the creation of sustainable food culture and a better future powered by food. I believe that by educating consumers about microbiome science and the importance that our “fellow microbes” have in our overall health and wellbeing, we can help them to make better-informed choices regarding their own food and nutrition.
Do you have a role model? Who is inspiring you?
I feel very inspired by all the changemakers in different fields that are currently pushing the boundaries of innovation and creating considerable changes for the better in our society. It’s great to see so many entrepreneurs creating impact by new ventures powered by science, especially in food & nutrition. To name a few, the team behind Solar Foods (Finland) who are creating proteins out of thin air, and Perfect Day (USA) who create lab-grown dairy.
This interview was carried out by Simone K. Frey.