NamZ: An Answer to the Global Food Crisis

“If deep-frying was the only option, toilet paper would be deep-fried.”

After two decades of working for some of the most renowned names in the agriculture and food industry, Christoph Langwallner set off to redesign everyday comfort foods. 

In a recent interview with CleanTech News, Mr. Langwallner shares his motivations, challenges and milestones in his pursuit of NamZ.  

NamZ is a food science company based in Singapore that uses proprietary technologies to create healthier food options to everyday foods. Its consumer brand, WhatIF Foods, has just recently launched and was met with considerable demand. 

After two decades of working for some of the most renowned names in the agriculture and food industry, Christoph Langwallner co-founded NamZ in 2014. 

What was the motivation behind the founding of NamZ? 

“For two decades, I built businesses in Europe and Asia that focused on tasty, but unhealthy foods through the use of seasonings and artificial flavours. Through my time in the industry, I gained a lot of weight, and I felt disgusted with that. 

On one hand, I was driving sales through tasty, calorie-dense but nutrient-deficient foods. But when I got home, I would advise my family on healthier food options. 

Eventually, that mismatch became too apparent and I had enough. I started NamZ and initiated the Nutritional Paradox. I hope to get the benefits of NamZ technologies through the consumer brand WhatIF Foods.”

What is Nutritional Paradox? 

The Nutritional Paradox describes the multiple ways in which food systems are broken. 

For example, while humans could potentially eat more than 300,000 different types of plants, only a dozen of these plants and a handful of animals are used to produce 75% of all food. 

Almost 60% of calories are obtained only from three crops namely rice, wheat, and maize, which are usually refined before consumption. Heavy processing renders the food calorie-rich but nutrient-deficient.

The over-dependence on these crops also take a toll on the planet’s ecological systems and a compromised a great deal of biodiversity. The Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures estimated that 33% of the world’s arable land is already lost.  

To compensate, an area of the Amazon forest the size of a football pitch is being converted into agricultural land every minute. Evidently, this is unsustainable practise and “we need to find new ways to maximise existing agricultural land without tapping into new forests.” 

NamZ launched its consumer brand, WhatIF Foods during COVID-19 

Just like most parts of the world, Singapore has been on partial lockdown since March and telecommuting became the new default. But that did not stop NamZ from launching WhatIF Foods which was met with considerable demand. 

“When we launched WhatIF Foods, we received great feedback and encouragement from first customers. People were talking to us in a language we never dreamt of. We are grateful and will continue to work hard to keep up with the demand.

Mr. Langwallner said.

COVID-19 presented NamZ with logistical difficulties due to global supply chain disruptions. A great deal of WhatIF Foods incorporates common materials which we call Future-Fit crops. They are less commonly produced that commodity crops and are not available to the mass market.”

Future-Fit crops like moringa and lupin refer to undertilised crops that are nutritionally dense, climate-resilient, and economically viable. They are considered to be the bridge to a sustainable global food system by the United Nations and other experts. 

“But we are blessed with the best partners. We started to think about how we were going to develop the packaging without an existing supplier. It was through hours and hours of Zoom calls that we developed a carton that required no lamination between aluminum so that consumers can recycle the material properly.”  

Indeed, distance makes the heart grow fonder 

Mr. Langwallner told CleanTech News that “As telecommuting became the new default, it seems that we have come together more intensely than before. You’re no longer just communicating with the team that you’d typically see in the office, but everybody who is involved regardless of physical proximity. 

It helps with communication, execution and empathy. People became much more empathetic to what others are going through.

NamZ's Answer to the Global Food Crisis - CleanTech News
The NamZ Team 

For example, the lockdown meant that our R&D team no longer had access to their labs, so we encouraged them to transform their kitchens to conduct application work and create recipes from our products. 

Hundreds of recipes and applications were developed. For example, we found that we could use our soup and shake products to replace flour in cookies. The aroma was amazing too, we consumed them all.

I am extremely proud of how the team made the best out of the situation. We are still optimising remote work, but it has been a journey.”

Fanny Perdu, the marketing and public relations executive of NamZ, told CleanTech News that “I think we’ve gotten a much better idea of what the end-consumer experiences. I also realised that the mission of trying to change the food system is not that distant from end-consumers. 

I was personally very humbled to see how ready the market is to embrace and embody the mission.”

The magic was done by asking “What IF”
NamZ's Answer to the Global Food Crisis - CleanTech News
Mr. Christoph Langwallner

Mr. Langwallner said “It all started with knowing that there must be a better way than deep-frying instant noodles. That just makes people fat, period.”

Conventionally, instant noodles are made using a deep-frying process due to its industrial efficiency. Deep-frying also increases the porosity of noodles, cooking them faster. 

“But deep-frying is very efficient. It takes only three minutes to dehydrate the product. If you air-dry a product, it takes up to 35 minutes and it translates to the need for bigger factories or lower production efficiency. 

We then asked – what if we could replace deep-frying without compromising production efficiency? 

“If deep-frying was the only option, toilet paper would be deep-fried.”

“We recognised that we didn’t want to develop a new technology for the sake of scientific development. It needed to be commercially viable. For years we have struggled to come up with something as efficient as deep-frying – until I was inspired by the manufacturing process of toilet paper. 

Toilet paper is a dehydrated product but it’s cheap. Years later, we finally have a commercially viable process that can replace deep-frying with the same production capacity. 

By eliminating the deep-frying process, 20% more Future-Fit ingredients can be included that would otherwise be taken up by palm oil. Micro-nutrients also survive the proprietary process, which are otherwise degraded during deep-frying.” 

Esther Chan

Esther is a Senior Writer at CleanTech News. Esther first discovered cleantech when in Italy, she worked with companies to integrate existing business practises with new sustainability initiatives. Her passion for environmental protection has grown much since. Through her writing, she aims to shine a light on how corporations, start-ups, and individuals alike can champion sustainability through clean technology. With her grounding in science, she looks to bridge the gap between academia and industry practise in clean technology with her focus on tech innovation and has even founded a startup herself.