Mrinali Kumar’s sweet revolution 

Milli Kumar“Our mission at Kinda is to mainstream conscious eating. We are doing this by creating delicious alternatives with kindness in mind – starting with ice cream. Every decision we make is while keeping what’s best for our people, our planet, and our animals in mind. We are trying to be the change we want to see in the world.”  

An ethos of exploration and invention. An enthusiasm for plant-based living. A commitment to making a positive impact. These are all qualities that alumna and current postgraduate student Mrinali Kumar embodies. The co-founder of Kinda, Milli is setting out to revolutionize what we eat.  

Milli, who graduated in 2021 with a Bachelor of Food Technology (Hons) in Product Development, comes from a foodie family. “My dad is a chef,” Milli says. “He migrated to New Zealand over twenty-five years ago and brought with him the Indian flavors New Zealand now knows and loves. He worked in one of the first Indian restaurants in New Zealand, which led on to running his own. I grew up in the restaurant, surrounded by food and an entrepreneurial spirit.” 

This dedication to food found its way into Milli’s high-school studies. “I was very lucky to be surrounded by passionate Food Tech teachers at Wellington High School, Marietjie van Schalkwyk and Natalie Randall.” Milli participated in CREST, the Year 11 product development challenge. Through the process, Milli and a teammate developed a healthier buttercream using New Zealand ingredients. This is where Milli’s Massey connection was formed. “As part of the competition, we had the opportunity to come to Massey and present to a panel of judges. We placed in the competition.”  

Later at Massey, Milli had many opportunities to learn about the food development process. One highlight was a fourth-year project, in which Milli had the support from her lecturers to conduct R&D on a product she had conceptualized. “I enjoyed this a lot, and saw commercial potential so decided to take the development further into a Master’s study in 2021 as this was a novel and innovative product.”  

In another course, Food Innovation and Design, Milli says learning about the whole product lifecycle made for a dynamic learning opportunity. “This group project taught me all the steps needed from conceptualizing to getting a product market ready. We had to conduct market research, identify a need/opportunity and develop a product that satisfies the need for a specific market. We had multiple product iterations based on consumer sensory results and then had to manufacture the product in the pilot plant for sale. The end result was delicious!” 

Milli’s studies also developed technical expertise. “Food Technology is an engineering degree – even though this was frustrating at the start (I really hated physics), in later years and especially now I understand the importance of learning fundamental science.” She emphasizes, “Technical knowledge allows us to solve the problems that we face when trying to commercialize innovative foods, safely.” 

This exciting landscape of food creation continued with the founding of the company Kinda and its first product, a plant-based ice cream. The day after Milli’s last undergraduate exam, she travelled to Hāwera to participate in a start-up weekend. There she met Jenni Matheson, who presented an innovative plant-based ice cream idea. “This caught my attention and together with four others, we developed a business plan, product samples, and an amazing pitch all in fifty-four hours. We ended up placing third in the competition, which was an added bonus.” A few months later, Milli and Jenni applied for the Power Up competition. They placed in the top five of over one hundred applicants. This helped them accelerate the business. 

Milli says that Massey’s support has played a key role in her success. “I have been hugely supported by the Food Technology department and my lecturers at Massey University with providing me with access to resources and knowledge. Professors Matt Golding, Steve Flint, and Richard Archer are only a few of many that have been part of Kinda’s journey.” Two Massey students are also part of the journey, Food Technologist Jacob Jibi Peter, and Chem and Bio Engineer Chalita Tapsuri, who are working on the commercialization of the product at different stages.  

Kinda Ice Cream is poised for launch in summer 2022. “We have multiple customers interested in ranging our products and we have a place to commercialize the ice cream.”  

For budding food technologists and home creators, Milli offers the following advice. “The degree you choose does not determine which job or career you will end up in. So even if you have your doubts, or just a genuine interest in food and creating new things, just give Food Tech a go. A degree like Food Technology has various elements that will open many doors. My key learning from the degree that I can apply anywhere I go, is how to solve problems, and soft skills like communication, presenting, leadership, perseverance, and teamwork.”  

For the next generation of food technologists, there’s a new way of being and creating. “They bring energy, passion, and drive to do things differently,” Milli says. “We are more informed about global issues than ever before and hold the courage to voice our opinions on them. The world is changing rapidly, with very real problems impacting our food supply such as climate change and an increasing population.” These pressing issues are united around one core focus – “The constant through all of this is the need to eat to stay alive. Our current food system needs to change to accommodate for the consequences of these problems.”   

In this regard, plant-based products are closely aligned with Milli’s values – she’s always been vegetarian, “mainly for animal welfare, but now it’s hard to ignore the environmental impact animal-based farming has on our planet as well.” After the start-up competition, Milli says that she saw real potential from an innovation perspective, “as well as a massive global opportunity as the plant-based market is growing rapidly.” 

What’s one of Kinda Ice Cream’s fascinating ingredients? “Cauliflower – as weird as it sounds it tastes bloody good, super creamy, and delicious. We’re utilizing cauliflower that is not pretty enough for the supermarkets or otherwise wouldn’t be harvested at the farm level. We’re creating a delicious product from waste and creating another income stream for farmers. Overall, our research has also shown us that cauliflower has significantly lower carbon emissions, land, water usage, and causes less eutrophication than dairy production. An ice cream made without farming animals, with a lower environmental impact... Kinda sounds good to me.”  


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