In this candid interview, PlantBased Solutions CEO, Daniel Karsevar, shares the origins of his passion for the success of your plant-based enterprise, and why the PlantBased Master Class Series is so important to him.
When did you first discover your passion for food?
I always had a passion for food and my mother taught me to cook from Molly Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook. As a child of the late 70’s eating mostly vegetarian was not exciting and not always very good, but just look how far we have come! At the time, I was obsessed with the PBS cooking shows like The Great Chef’s Series, Jaques Pepin and later yes even the more “entertaining” cooking shows like Yan Can Cook and The Frugal Gourmet. As a kid, I was mostly a science geek, but I dreamed of becoming a chef. After focusing on biology and chemistry at University, I finally bit the bullet and to my family’s dismay, trained to be a Chef. I began my career as a trained Chef and Restauranteur and later after spending a year cooking in Europe, I returned to the United States where I ran operations for independent and later national restaurant groups, was head of operations for Compass Group culture institution dining accounts, and ran Food & Beverage Develop Concepting for Starwood Hotels & Resorts global family of brands. I learned that running a food business of any size isn’t easy, and I loved it!
When did you decide to make a change in your diet?
In 2006, as a newly recovered cancer survivor, and with a very young daughter at the time, I began to change my diet and lifestyle going back to my roots looking for a healthy way to eat and live. Serendipitously, a few years later I became President & COO of a vegan food company. Chloe’s, started as a a small start-up vegan alternative to frozen yogurt retail store-front and I helped turn it into a national food-service and packaged goods retail brand.
Once in the world of plant-based foods, I realized that this is where I belong…
…along with great people trying to help save the planet, by removing animals from the food system and starting what is anticipated to be a booming plant-based economy where regenerative farming, sustainability, water reduction and animal welfare are all part of the path of healing. Healing both the health of us all and the health of the planet.
What is it about start-ups that gets you going?
After I looked into the WHY of what I wanted to stand for, I realized that all start-ups need the same help and go through very similar steps in developing, launching and scaling their plant-based packaged food products. With a strong foundational WHY to my work, I also found a new level of pride related to my work, knowing that I was helping to provide healthy food to children and believed I could be a better role-model to my daughter.
I formed the business services firm Solutiontopia working with many start up brands and moved into a vegetarian diet working towards optimal help. I know what it takes to focus a brand, develop it and optimize it for the consumer base, scale it in manufacturing, while dealing with the day-to-day needs of supply chain and distribution. Innovation became my hallmark early in my career, developing new hotel food and beverage concepts around the world, re-inventing what it means to have a healthy dessert, and working with Fortune 500 brands such as Unilever in reinventing healthy vegetable forward, clean label spreads for consumers who have a passion for food and want a healthy lifestyle. Having an eye for the unique and new aligned with knowing the consumer industry has helped and I continue to focus on innovation for brands today.
How did you decide to make the change from vegetarian to vegan?
When I joined PlantBased Solutions in the summer of 2018, I realized that it was time to commit to my community and I fully embraced a plant-based lifestyle diet. Now at the young age of 50, I feel better than I have in my entire adult life. Entrepreneurs must take care of themselves both physically and mentally. For me that means a whole-foods plant-based diet, exercise, yoga and a mindfulness meditation practice.
For the last five years I have helped develop client brands, their products, and won NEXTY Awards at Natural Products Expo for product and packaging innovation. I have been an advisor and Mentor for many companies over the years and have always made it a priority to give my time to numerous Food Incubators & Accelerators, such as Chobani Food Incubator, Food-X, ProVeg, and most recently WeWork Food Labs. Trust me, I know that there’s a lot that goes into building a food brand that succeeds.
What lies ahead in the Master Class series?
It takes more than a passion for food, although that helps… Now that you know more than you wanted to know about me, one thing needs to be clear, this is not the Daniel show! PlantBased Solutions has curated a select group of innovative industry experts and thought leaders to join me in sharing what it really takes to grow a successful plant-based foods company that stands out, sells more and turns customers into a fanbase.
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