Episode - 10 Dylan Jones

 

  

 

In this episode, we talk to Dylan Jones, founder of Coast Protein Inc.

Coast Protein Inc. is a company that sells sustainable cricket protein powders and energy bars. The company uses crickets as a high-quality protein source that tastes great and can be harvested sustainably.

 

In this episode we cover:

  • Dylan’s journey from being a business analyst to being the founder of Coast Protein
  • The story of how and why Coast Protein was created
  • How they came across using crickets as their ingredient and source of protein and the acceptance of the market for the product
  • Growth and changes that the business has gone through
  • Scalability of the business
  • Athletes using Coast Protein
  • How the values of the business - sustainability, healthy living, adventurous spirit and transparency - tie in with their holistic approach
  • 5-year plan for the business
  • Products of Coast Protein and where people can purchase them

 

Links:

 

Transcript:

 

FELICITY:

I have here today, Dylan Jones, who is the founder and CEO of Coast Protein Inc. which was founded in 2015. Your background started as a business solutions analyst, then a business development advisor, with another role as a business consultant and a CEO of Terra CO2 Technologies in the Cleantech space developing a proprietary CO2 technology with the University of British Columbia.   And now you are the founder and CEO of Coast Protein which is Canada’s first cricket protein based bars and nutritional protein shakes. This is a more sustainable protein that also enables a secure future to local food systems.

Welcome Dylan.   

DYLAN:

Hey, how’s it going? Thanks for having me.

FELICITY:

Yeah, you’re welcome. Tell us about your story, we’d love to hear how you transitioned from being a business analyst to the founder and CEO of Coast Protein that you now are the CEO of?

DYLAN:

Yeah, for sure. I went to university specifically for Sustainability, well it was Environmental Sciences but I kind of transferred into Sustainability Studies and Sustainability programming. And, my background has always been really focused on doing business in a green way or at least with a green lense on, in whatever business we’re doing. I was actually in the mining industry in Canada since I graduated, 2010, and worked in all sorts of places over northern Canada, up in Yukon in north-west territories around British Columbia where it’s pretty cold all year and pretty focused on primary resources.

And when I was up there, actually I did a Business degree as well and really started focusing on more implementation of sustainability as a whole in different business processes and different mining operations and things like that. And that’s how I transitioned into running Terra CO2 Technologies, which was a really cool, well still is a really cool technology. It’s actually changed quite a bit since I stepped down, I’m still on the Board of that company. We went back to general research and found some pretty interesting new avenues but I’ve always, as I’ve said, I’ve always looked at business as a, with a green lense. And rather than the grass roots implementation of sustainability, I’ve always looked at if businesses just can work out being more sustainable in their general business operations or as their goal as a business, I think we can enact change a lot faster and that’s the Coles notes, I guess.

But for Coast Protein specifically, when I was in school one of the things you learn in any sustainability program whether it’s just a course or a four year program, or whatever, is that agriculture is pretty much across the board. Other than energy production, the most environmentally taxing system humans ever created in terms of like either C02 creation or any greenhouse gas creation. But also, you’re pouring artificial chemical fertilisers into the ground, overusing land etcetera etcetera. And I really found just an interest in researching that on my own and learning more about food systems and how we use food and how, there’s always.

Actually, I remember one specific stat was how 40% of our food we throw out and I actually found that, out, it’s not food that is produced and put on someone’s plate like in a restaurant or in a home. It’s actually the food that never reaches the grocery store, never reaches the restaurant because of poor production..    

FELICITY:

Oh absolutely.

DYLAN:

.. stuff like that, right? That’s when I started learning more about eating insects as an agricultural process rather than just like a cultural need or a geographic need for different cultural and groups around the world. And really kind of learned and said, “You know, I think we could, I think with the right branding and the right messaging, there’s no reason.” Like Americans, specifically, that’s our mission is North Americans but I guess the western world in general, can’t eat insects without, but they just need to know more, right?  That’s why we’ve taken the approach of creating post protein and creating a brand and with a focus that people can trust and products that taste good, it’s always a big part of food, right?

FELICITY:

Yep.

DYLAN:

And, what was it, late 2000? This is mid-2015, I actually started doing the laying the ground work of a business model. It was late 2015, about November when we got into a local accelerator program in Vancouver and started building the actual business and building a network around what we were trying to do. And it’s, what is it? Halfway through 2018 now, so we’ve been generating revenue and growing the business for about two years. I went full time into this business last September, late September, October and yeah, we’ve been growing pretty quickly since then.

FELICITY:

Yeah, that’s fantastic. Who would’ve thought that insects would be a source of protein? I mean, that never would have dawned on me, I have to confess. (Laughs)

DYLAN:

Yeah, I know and it’s the same as us. As we build the business and built the idea, we did about a year in 2016 of product testing and I guess market research, market development. Just really pounding the pavement, being out on the street talking to people about different types of insect products and we were surprised as well, we figured it would be a lot less people, we figured a lot less people than we thought would be interested in eating different types of insects and a lot of people were pretty game. That was why I wanted the catalyst for us getting onboard and really pushing the business forward was how much, how popular it became and how much interest we had from people and how many fans we got so quickly.

Sorry, can you ask that question again?

FELICITY:

Yeah sure, how did you come across crickets? Out of all the other insects, how did that develop for you?

DYLAN:

I mean, a couple of reasons. One was around the regulatory standpoint of crickets, for quite some time crickets had been regulated as a food in Canada and US and that actually comes from the pet food industry. In North America, I’m not sure about Australia but if you can have pet food, that whatever’s in that pet food is basically allowed for human food.

That was a great starting point, is we didn’t have to go through like a stringent regulatory process to get our products onto the market, like some other insects would have to. And that can be like a multi-year process and many, pretty expensive but it also came down to the fact that a lot of North Americans do our market research and testing realised, we realised sorry that people have a really positive attitude toward eating crickets. They have a positive attitude towards the insect itself, they have a positive attitude, they realise that a lot of cultures around the world eat insects and specifically crickets. There’s that much smaller barrier to entry for the crickets, comparatively to say, scorpions or tarantulas or whatever, different types of grubs may be more common.

Those are the two biggest points is people were open to it and it was easy to go to market with it.  

FELICITY:

Yeah, we do have very strict regulations in Australia. For instance, hemp seeds aren’t, they’re sold as, I don’t know if it’s pet food but not for human use, if you know what I mean. I get those in the health food stores, there definitely is a, you have to, it depends on how you sell it and people have to be aware so it is coded differently over here. In that instance.

How has the business changed, as it has grown?

DYLAN:

It’s a lot. (laughs) It’s, when we first started we boot strapped, we handmade our bars in the back of a little juicery, real bare bones. We hand built the forms that we made the bars in, rolled them up with a big steel, chunk of steel and in the last nine months, we’re now making tens of thousands of bars a month at a contract manufacturer in Canada. They have a commercial process they produce the bars and then pack them, we have the protein powders in the same system right now as well, they’re being produced on a big production line. We are no longer in the back of a juicery, over 2300 square foot office, test kitchen and little warehouse space as well as a couple other warehouses that we do fulfilment from, as well as store our finished goods in.

We’re now in over, we have national distribution throughout Canada as well as on Amazon.ca and going on Amazon.com and just really growing, quite quickly throughout mostly the western part of Canada but we’re really, we’re starting to lean more into eastern, the Toronto, Ontario area. As well as starting to crack into the US market but not really substantially yet.

FELICITY:

Is it a business that you can scale easily? Obviously you need to grow the crickets or source the crickets. (laughs)

DYLAN:

Yeah. Absolutely, I mean, at the end of the day take the crickets out and we’re a pretty conventional consumer packaged good product, right? We’re creating protein bars or energy bars as well as protein powder.

FELICITY:

Yeah.

DYLAN:

And that’s kind of our biggest challenge, people always think the biggest challenge is getting people onto crickets but it’s really not it’s just scaling that consumer packaging company looking forward. It’s another brand on the shelf right and we’re navigating that type of market and those type of sales is, it’s challenging but very doable and extremely scaleable, for our company and we can do it, right?  

FELICITY:

Fantastic, do you have any athletes using your protein Dylan?

DYLAN:

Yeah we do, probably not any athletes that anyone in Melbourne has heard of.

FELICITY:

Yeah.

DYLAN:

But we have, we sponsor, well we don’t sponsor we support I guess and we use athletes as ambassadors. But we have kind of a specific mandate, as we’re a small company and one of the things that we really believe in is people making the changes that we need to see in the world, rather than the one percent of athletes at the top. We work with a lot of people who are, I guess you could call them, they’re pretty extraordinary people but they’re kind of everyday people, like a normal person. What I mean by that is, we have a girl on our ambassador squad, her name is Jessie and she does like ultra-walking.

Which is insane, it doesn’t sound crazy but it really is insane, for instance she walked in the middle of January, she walked the Iditarod Trail in Alaska. It’s a couple of hundred miles and she walked it in January in Alaska..

FELICITY:

Wow.

DYLAN:

.. That’s like these thousand kilometre walks and five hundred kilometre walks and used our bars, we supply her with bars and but she works in the mining and forestry industry and then we have a couple of guys that are paramedics in Vancouver and they’re mountaineers, they’re nationally recognised mountaineers so they climb like Denali and gone to Everest. I think they’ve climbed Everest, several of the seven summits but at the end of the day, they’re paramedics right?

We’re working with people in the mountain biking industry, Derek Juno is a guy who runs a company in Vancouver called Mealshare, he also does triathlons. We have a couple of interesting people who do marathons, rock climbers, onboard downhill racing. Again, I guess a little more obscure, more adventure and endurance sports where our energy bar really fits in well and the protein powder really fits in well with the onramp training process. But then highlighting that these people, they do have a day job at the end of the day and that’s why we hope that people become inspired by our ambassadors, by doing their day job and then doing something extraordinary on the weekend or on the evening after work, or whatever it is, right?

We’ve had a really, really good success with that and we’ll maybe move into some more mainstream, larger athletes as we grow as a company but we’re not quite there yet.   

FELICITY:

Yeah and all those people are in alignment, it seems to me, with your values.

DYLAN:

Absolutely.

FELICITY:

About sustainability yeah, let’s talk about that. Your values are based on sustainability, healthy living, adventurous spirit and transparency, let’s ‘torque’ about that, that foundation of how that all ties in for you as the whole holistic approach.

DYLAN:

Absolutely, the sustainability is, it’s not even a core part of our business it’s why we do business.  

FELICITY:

Yeah.

DYLAN:

It’s actually built into everything we do, I mean we’re using crickets because they’re more sustainable for the listeners that don’t know much about crickets, they’re a highly efficient little source of protein. They’re what, 65% protein by weight and by volume, as well double that of beef, they have, they’re very nutritious they have a lot of iron, a lot of magnesium, a lot of B12, calcium very naturally as well as they use a one to one feed ratio, if you have like a cow or pig or something it’s worth 20 to 30 to one feed ratio, sorry one kilogram of grass gets you one kilogram of beef whereas crickets is one kilogram of grass gives you one kilogram of protein of crickets.

FELICITY:

Right.

DYLAN:

And then they don’t really need liquid water, it’s a great way to have a protein source that you’re not pumping water, they can get their water from the food they eat depending on the food, things like grass mulch or chaff, wheat chaff, buck wheat chaff they get a lot of water but if you use more dry food they have to get a little bit of liquid water. They also create about 100 to 200 times again based on the situation and less greenhouse gases, that’s why we use the crickets in our products. Sustainability and nutrition but then also our products we don’t use things like dates, we don’t use things like almonds for the reasons of how water intensive they are and they’re commonly grown in aired or semi-aired environments in northern California and the Middle East where water is very hard to come by, as of late.

We use that lense of sustainability to make sure that we’re always thinking about how is our next batch of products going to be more sustainable than the last? And how can we get and educate people and how people thinking more sustainably, even about their food, even if they’re not eating ours, is a big part of what we do. And then healthy living and adventurous spirit are kind of one, they’re kind of two sides of the same coin right? We want people to be less screen time, more outside.

That’s kind of the quickest way of saying adventurous spirit, we’re very lucky where our company started in Vancouver, all of the people in the company so far are from the Vancouver area.  We’re very lucky where we live that we have the ocean and a big river and mountains and great summers and great winters and Vancouver is a very outdoorsy town. It’s very famous for it, that’s something that we all embody, everyone has their own sport. I’m a big back country skier, we have people that are runners and soccer players, fly fisherman, motor cyclists, things like that but we embody that being outside, using our products outside or even not using our products outside just being more adventurous at whatever you do. And that ties back into what I was talking a little bit about with the athletes right, everyday people doing extraordinary things.

And then that’s healthy living, that’s being outside and active and moving and eating food and that‘s something that we built into our energy bars specifically as being real food products. No processed ingredients, no artificial sweeteners, no artificial preservatives, no artificial flavours that you have in a real food bar. And becoming a little more popular and a little more prevalent now but when we first started in 2015, there weren’t, a real food bar that was actually real food and not just marketed as real food, was pretty hard to come by.    

FELICITY:

Wow.

DYLAN:

And since starting in 2015 and going through the process of product development we understand why they’re not all that common, is they’re very hard to make.

FELICITY:

Yep

DYLAN:

Whereas like a fruit bar or a power bar has like five, six years of shelf life ours is only a year. So not only hard to make but then they’re harder to sell in the long term to farther away places that they might take that shelf life up.

And finally transparency for us, me coming from the mining industry, transparency is not inherently something that is accepted or allowed in that industry. Usually things are done behind closed doors and I never really liked that, I didn’t, it felt it was pretty disingenuous to people who either followed the company or worked with the company that we could be more open, if we just did better business. That‘s something we built into our business, we’re very open with our customers, we’re open with our shareholders, there’s, and really we focus on being as good as a company as possible.

And then when we can’t do something that maybe we want to, we tell people why and that’s, a great example is compostable packaging. Originally we wanted to have compostable recyclable packaging but in the food industry, like in consumer packaged goods, specifically in convenient focused foods it’s really, really hard to have a compostable recyclable package.

They’re typically thrown, if you eat it on the trail, or if you eat in town as a quick snack you’re going to throw it in a municipal garbage can. They’re not set up for compostable, that type or recyclable of that type, nobody’s picking through that trash.

FELICITY:

No.

DYLAN:

To take that wrapper out, right? We had to look at a bunch of different factors and then kind of announce that we weren’t going to go down that route until the technology had caught up. And that was just an example of how we try to be transparent but it’s also in the products that we use and the places that we get them from and do our best to let people know that we’re doing our best to run the company based on the other values, as much as possible.

FELICITY:

And our food regulations here in Australia are so strict they probably, that packaging wouldn’t pass regulation would it? That’s another reason why I’d imagine you would be confined into doing what you do, it’s not just about the sustainability it’s also about the regulations that you have to follow.

DYLAN:

Yeah, absolutely. The compostable packaging that exists now, on the market, is basically it’s not very good. You lose maybe half of the shelf life because your products will dry out or get affected by high moisture content.

FELICITY:

Right.

DYLAN:

Or potentially even be affected by sunlight and things like that because they’re not as strong. Again, there’s a lot of decisions in as you kind of get into that consumer packaged good and you’re no longer just a cricket protein bar company now there’s a bunch of real decisions you have to make based on regulations and whether you knew the regulations or not, you still have to run by them.

FELICITY:

Yeah, that’s right and it’s a business landscape so you have to follow the rules basically.

DYLAN:

Absolutely.

FELICITY:

What are you doing as your next step, Dylan? Where do you see it going from here?

DYLAN:

We have a pretty big road map drawn up for the next say five years, really establishing ourselves as a predominant West Coast brand, working within the Canadian nationalist distribution that we already have, building that out. And then moving into the West Coast United States is our big target, a lot of people maybe. Australia is actually quite similar to Canada in that as a land mass, it’s a big country but have a small population concentrated pretty sure, just mostly on the East Coast and a little bit on the West Coast.

FELICITY:

That’s right.

DYLAN:

And Canada is very similar, very large land mass, very small population about 36 million and that’s concentrated mostly, I think 90% actually on the, within about 100 kilometres of the US border.

FELICITY:

Right.

DYLAN:

As a growing company, eventually hit saturation within Canada and you have to look to the States as your marketplace. California itself has more people than all of Canada in it, we look to those markets, Washington State, Oregon State, California as a natural expansion market especially for innovative new food as well as for something that’s more sustainable and something that’s branded the way we branded it. We see a lot of interest coming from the West Coast.

It’s kind of funny, back in Canada, some of the US, I think Yukon, British Columbia and Vancouver are a lot closer culturally to West Coast Americans than we are to East Coast Canadians. And I think the Americans experience the same thing and so that’s why we’re, the Coles notes of the plan is that, to expand like that. Overseas, we don’t at this point have really many plans to expand heavily. We have talked to Amazon Australia, Amazon Europe as well as looked at some options in East Asia as expansion markets but nothing to report from that way yet.

FELICITY:

Well fair enough but if people wanted to perhaps purchase it, they can purchase it perhaps from Amazon when you actually get on there. Your current products are cricket vanilla, peanut and chocolate protein powder and the energy bars come in packs of 12, in flavours peanut butter, cranberry and dark chocolate. Yum!

DYLAN:

(laughs)

FELICITY:

(laughs) If people wish to purchase your product they can go to your website, couldn’t they?

DYLAN:

Yep.

FELICITY:

That’s www.coastprotein.com and they can also follow you on Facebook and Instagram and see the developments there as they happen.

DYLAN:

Absolutely, yeah we make lots of announcements on our social channels as they come.

FELICITY:

Fantastic. Well, it’s, I find it an amazing product and I’m going to get online and check it out myself because as a cyclist, and our audience being cyclists, we’re always into protein and fuel and how we can. Well most of us love food, it’s pretty high on the agenda, I look forward to testing it and also hearing more about your developments and congratulations for coming up with a solution that’s very sustainable, such an amazingly sustainable product. When you give the stats about the cows and what their intake is, the impact that has on our land and water and the whole package, it’s quite massive actually and I didn’t really realise when you compare it to a cricket what the difference was.

DYLAN:

Yeah, it’s almost unbelievable. I definitely did a lot of fact checking when we first started using it, I didn’t really believe the numbers myself but they’re true.

FELICITY:

Yeah, that’s right. It is what it is.

DYLAN:

Yep, absolutely.

FELICITY:

Well thank you very much for joining us today, that’s been an insightful topic and I wish you all the best and we look forward to hearing more about Coast Protein.

DYLAN:

Thank you so much for your time, I appreciate it.

FELICITY:

Thanks Dylan, you’re welcome.

FELICITY:

Thanks for listening to the ‘All Torque’ podcast, we’d love it if you would leave us a rating and review on iTunes. This helps us to deliver content you want to hear about.  Please take a moment to share it with your friends and family on Instagram and Facebook. I'm Felicity Dales. See you next episode for another story of inspiration and motivation on the ‘All Torque’ podcast.

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