Executive Perspective

Ingenious Cashew Meat: An Exclusive Interview with Alana Lima

Caju Love co-founder Alana Lima shares insights into upcycled and sustainable food as an alternative to meat. The innovation enables grocers to offer vegan meat to eco-conscious consumers and help reduce agricultural waste in the cashew industry.
Neha Ghai
April 12, 2023

Alana Lima

Co-founder CajuLove

Food waste is a critical issue that affects the environment, society, and the economy. According to the United Nations’ “Food Loss and Waste,” one-third of the food produced globally for human consumption is lost or wasted annually and could feed up to 1.26 billion hungry people each year.

Food supply chain waste significantly affects grocers as it impacts their bottom line and has negative environmental consequences. Upcycling wasted fruits is an alternative revenue option that promotes sustainable consumption and a healthy ecosystem.

CajuLove is a pioneer in developing nutritious plant-based cashew meat alternatives to appeal to eco-conscious shoppers craving  a sustainable diet. CajuLove is committed to sustainability in its vertically integrated supply chain operations. Their products are available at Orchard Grocer, BESTIES Vegan Paradise, and at Food Fight! Grocery.

In this exclusive interview, Grocery Doppio and Alana Lima discuss CajuLove's mission and proprietary upcycling, the impact on the industry, and the challenges grocers face adopting upcycled products.

Grocery Doppio: Tell us about your background and what inspired you to start CajuLove.

Lima: I have been working in the CPG industry for nine years. I grew up watching my dad grow an international fresh fruit business and launch a CPG company. I remember him taking me around grocery stores to look at products and packaging. I developed a passion for consumer goods and was always fascinated by the stories and missions behind brands. I love food, cooking, eating, and trying new recipes and dishes, and I'm also passionate about health and sustainability. When I saw discarded cashew fruit in the kitchen, I realized it's a clean ingredient usable in plant-based meals. I knew I wanted to do something about it.

Grocery Doppio: How does your company positively impact the retail grocery industry?

Lima: We are pushing forward for a new way to experience food. Our goal in this age of scientific modification of food is to show that food doesn't have to be complex. We can look to the earth for our food solutions, and this awareness and approach will bring more mindfulness to the retail grocery industry, where consumers can feel more connected to what they are consuming.

Grocery Doppio: Can you give examples of how your company has helped traditional grocers with food management and composting?

Lima: We are currently growing and getting into retail stores. For the few stores we are in, it's been great to have demos at the location so that we can educate them and their customers about our product and the food waste associated with the cashew industry. In our retail journey, we've started in small stores, which has been great because it's less likely to have an abundance of waste since these businesses purchase intentionally with space and customers in mind.

Grocery Doppio: How does upcycling cashew fruit meat help the ongoing food waste crisis?

Lima: A third of our food supply goes to waste. What we're doing is trying to minimize that number and bring awareness that there are a lot of delicious food options that can be sourced from supply chains that aren't fully perfected yet and still generate a lot of "waste," and transformed into high-quality ingredients.

Grocery Doppio: Considering the fierce competition in the industry, how would you highlight your company's competitive advantage? What makes it stand out from others?

Lima: The industry is growing, and it's impressive to see what's out there. The fact that we built our supply chain and are the first and only company doing what we're doing helps us stand out as pioneers of the cashew fruit industry.

Grocery Doppio: How do you measure your company's impact on food waste, any specific metrics you follow?

Lima: We know that for every box of 200g of cashew fruit meat bought, we upcycle five fruits. We tally that up as we grow to how much our customers have helped us upcycle. Right now, we're over 100,000.

Grocery Doppio: How do you ensure your products meet the needs of your target audience?

Lima: We always talk to our community, primarily via e-mail surveys and ask them for feedback. It is the best way to keep improving.

Grocery Doppio: How did you raise capital for your company?

Lima: A round of investment from family is how we got off the ground. We're growing organically and will look to onboarding the right partners soon.

Grocery Doppio: What is the company's marketing strategy, and how do you plan to expand your customer base?

Lima: Educational marketing is enormous; we try to create educational content on social media, do demos at locations we have yet launched, and offer pop ups at events. Our key clients are people looking for cleaner alternatives in the plant-based food space. When we first launched, we had more than 100+ news articles publish our story, which was amazing to help us get the word out there.

Grocery Doppio: What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced in this space, and how has your company met them?

Lima: Cashew fruit meat is a beautiful product because it closes the waste gap for the cashew industry. One thing we are always paying attention to in our marketing is the fiber of the cashew apple previously being tossed into the landfill. Consumers don't want to eat something that's associated with trash. We are working hard to use wording that attracts customers, such as "Upcycled," "Regenerative," and "Repurposed".

Grocery Doppio: Who are some of your key clients? Can you share any success stories?

Lima: Besides the customers who shop directly from us online, we work with small independent grocery stores and restaurants. Our repeat customers include Besties Vegan Paradise in LA and FoodFight! in Portland. One of our favorite success stories with bringing our cashew fruit meat onto a menu was with Dawg'On Vegans in Charlotte, North Carolina. Chef Mal instantly fell in love with our product and made a smoked brisket sandwich using the cashew fruit meat. She calls it the Shawty Red. This was the first time anybody had taken the time to smoke the cashew fruit meat, so we were very impressed and excited. Better yet, they sold out of the Shawty Red the first two weekends they offered it. Watching other businesses successfully use and sell cashew fruit meat validates the need for plant-based meat like this.

Grocery Doppio: What is the most critical challenge in the food waste industry today?

Lima: Not knowing what to do with the byproducts of familiar foods is a big challenge in the food waste industry. So much waste is still consumable by humans, and I'm grateful to be a part of the upcycled foods industry. All of us involved are creating innovative ways to use good food that would have otherwise gone to waste.

Grocery Doppio: How do you see the retail grocery industry evolving in the next five to 10 years, and how does the company's vision fit into this? What does the future hold for your company?

Lima: I see the industry moving in a cleaner direction where consumers are more mindful of what they eat and how it impacts their health. I also see upcycled foods growing in the retail space. Our company will remain true to our standards and only provide natural, clean, and sustainable options for our community and clients.

This interview is part of Grocery Doppio's ongoing coverage of food waste management solutions. Click here for more insight into food waste management and sustainability efforts across the grocery industry. If you would like to be featured in an upcoming executive insight, please reach out to Neha Ghai at neha.ghai@incisiv.com