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WhatIF Foods
Photograph: WhatIF Foods

Vegan, healthy, and sustainable – a look at the future of convenience food

A local start-up is making instant food that’s actually good for you and the environment

By
Fabian Loo
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What if you could consume instant noodles without feeling guilty? What if the highly processed food, typically laden with sodium, nourishes with lean protein instead? What if eating instant noodles could actually be healthy? 

A local start-up has the answers. 

WhatIF Foods, a brand created by Singapore company NamZ, has recently launched a range of convenient food products that’s good not just for the people eating it, but for the environment as well. Its debut offerings include shakes, soups, and quick-cooking noodles that boasts 130 percent more dietary fibre and 110 percent more protein than the usual instant noodle variant. 

“We wanted to fulfil the consumers’ needs for products that don’t sacrifice health goals, but fit into their busy schedules,” shares the founder of WhatIF Foods, Christoph Langwallner. 

“We started with instant noodles, Asia’s comfort food, because it’s so paradoxical,” he adds. “It’s meant to nourish you, yet it ends up being quite unhealthy with high levels of fat and calories, and no micronutrients.” 

WhatIF Foods
Photograph: WhatIF Foods

Christoph was first exposed to the “nutritional paradox” – the intertwining of malnutrition and obesity despite there being enough food in the world – when he was working as a food scientist, creating snacks for major brands. It led him to realise: that most food products available might be calorie-rich, but nutrient-poor – and often made using unsustainable farming practices. 

“We’re producing enough food, yet millions are going hungry, are overweight, or deficient of the right nutrients,” he shares. 

Christoph hopes to change that. WhatIf Foods was started to develop food that nourishes all the parties involved: the consumers, the environment, and even the farmers employed that tend to the crops. The company uses forgotten, “future-fit” crops that are nutritionally dense, climate-resistant, and resource-efficient as its base to create its line of products.  

One such crop is the Bambara groundnut that’s grown in Ghana. The pods are known to be hardy, and have the ability to grow in tough conditions of dry weather and poor soil conditions. “In Ghana, it is traditionally sown by women as an insurance crop,” says Christoph. “By improving the demand for Bambara groundnut, we are opening up more opportunities for women … as well as providing income opportunities from otherwise unproductive degraded land.” 

The company is also looking into growing crops in Malaysia and Indonesia. 

Christoph adds: “We are creating new ecosystems to impact all communities involved in the whole supply chain, to pivot the current food system and to make bold changes for the health of our people and planet – for today and future generations.”

WhatIF Foods
Photograph: WhatIF Foods

This is also a reason why the menu of WhatIF Foods focuses on quick-cooking items; it hopes to appeal to the busy city dwellers. Apart from powdered soup and shakes that need only the addition of water to prepare, instant noodles are another obvious choice for the company. “Globally, there are more than 100 billion portions of instant noodles being consumed yearly,” Christoph says. “Focusing on convenience food allows us to explore the potential of this scale in inspiring change.” 

It has two versions of instant noodles to date, one from Bambara groundnut and another from the moringa plant. Both are enjoyed without soup, and come with seasoning packets of spicy-sweet kecap manis or sesame garlic. The best part – each serving of noodles come packed with natural, plant-based protein, and is free of cholesterol and trans fat. 

“Food is more than just calories. Food is tasty, convenient, nurturing. Food is a source of well-being! It’s what you spend a large portion of your day thinking about,” says Christoph. “We want to show our community that food can be all of that, while also being nourishing for our planet and farming communities.” 

HOW TO ORDER Head over to whatif-foods.com to browse its range of products. Popular options include the moringa ($13.50) and Bambara groundnut ($15) noodles, as well as tomato soup (from $45 for 15 servings). There’s also the WhatIF Taster Box ($19.90) that offers a sampling of all the brand’s products. There’s no minimum order, and delivery costs $8. Enjoy free shipping with orders above $45.

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