just IMAGINE if…, the exciting new enterprise competition launched by entrepreneur and founder of Ella’s Kitchen Paul Lindley OBE in partnership with the University of Reading, has announced its 2019 winner: Alexander Wankel, of Kai Pacha Foods.
The competition, launched for the first time this year, saw entrants from around the world submit an idea to tackle one of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which include ending poverty and hunger, creating gender equality or affordable and clean energy.
Winner Alexander Wankel faced nine other finalists in a head-to-head live pitching final, hosted yesterday at the University of Reading, and was announced the competition winner later that evening. Wankel will be gifted with £75,000 of bespoke research and support to be delivered by the University of Reading and Henley Business School designed to significantly move the idea forward.
After receiving the award at a Gala Dinner, Alexander Wankel said, “I am thrilled to have won the first ever just IMAGINE if… competition. The whole process has been very helpful for developing my business idea, particularly the coaching from counsellor, Piers Linney and Will Butler-Adams.
“The other nine finalists all have fabulous ideas with the potential to make a big difference in the world – that’s why I feel so honoured to have been selected as the winner and look forward to working with the University of Reading to help make my idea for a climate-smart alternative to dairy into a reality.”
Kai Pacha Foods has developed a socially and environmentally responsible brand of plant-based milks from climate-smart Andean grains. Sourcing rare and endangered native quinoa at fair prices, the company seeks to provide a sustainable answer to the booming global demand for plant-based alternatives to dairy in a way that minimises environmental impact, conserves genetic resources and promotes climate resiliency.
Working directly with organised conservationist farmer groups in Peru, Kai Pacha Foods aims to encourage the sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, to conserve biodiversity and prevent land degradation; while providing a better income to impoverished rural communities.
Sourced directly from smallholder farmers, the quinoa milk beverages, branded ‘MilQ’ are already available in organic supermarkets in Peru and have experienced strong sales thanks to their delicious flavour and high protein content.
The prize will allow Kai Pacha Foods to obtain the research expertise it needs to enable the company to scale to international markets. It will also provide vital research into quinoa diversity, allowing the organisation to focus on conservation of particularly climate resilient native varieties.
Competition founder, Paul Lindley OBE said, “I am so happy for Alexander in winning the opportunity to boost impact and scale his business and to build lasting change through world-class University research. Every one of our just IMAGINE if… finalists were truly outstanding and I don’t doubt each will go on to turn their ideas into reality. This is not the end of the journey for any of them, indeed it is just the beginning.”
University of Reading vice-chancellor, Professor Robert Van de Noort said, “Congratulations to Alexander for this innovative idea and for winning the award. I hope that through this prize, the University of Reading and our Henley Business School can now build on these ideas, with the help from our supporters and collaborators in social enterprise and business. I hope that by working together we can help Alexander to turn Kai Pacha Foods into a force for change.”