Have you heard of I Am Grounded? They’ve been around for more than five years now, and are really turning heads for not only the quality of their products, but because they, like us, care a great deal about food waste and want to be part of the solution.
We’re thrilled to be stocking the I Am Grounded Coffee Fruit Bars, as part of our Good & Fugly Extras. If you’ve ever needed something that is both a pick-me-up, and an awesome, flavourful and nutritious snack, then these fruit bars will more than satisfy the craving.
We sat down with the founders, Lachlan and Vanessa, to dig into what inspired them to start I Am Grounded, and explore their passion for good coffee and great fruit.
What inspired you to start the company?
Vanessa: Our business story is deeply rooted in our history as a couple and my personal story as an immigrant to two Colombian coffee importers. My family immigrated from Colombia to Australia in 1996 when I was really young. My parents brought with them the knowledge and expertise they had in the coffee industry. They began by opening a barista training school and training entrepreneurs to start their own coffee shops. At that time, Australians were drinking instant coffee and specialty coffee wave was only just beginning.
I was lucky enough to grow up fully immersed in the coffee industry, from becoming a barista trainer myself, accompanying my parents on origin-buying trips where they would buy from farmers, helping to open and run coffee shops and even setting up coffee carts on Saturdays at the humble farmer's markets, all before the age of 25.
It wasn’t until 2012, that I was introduced to the power of coffee fruit by my father, a food scientist, natural food byproduct expert and innovator in the agri-tech space. He also explained the huge waste issue in coffee farming. I was amazed at its characteristics; berry-like in flavour, but honey in consistency. In the traditional wet processing of coffee, the coffee fruit is picked, washed, processed, sorted, and de-pulped to retrieve its small seeds. The seeds will eventually make their way down the coffee chain ending up in your home country either roasted or as green beans, and eventually brewed. The discarded fruit amasses into large piles on the coffee farm, where it decomposes and rots, leeching acidic toxins into the surrounding river systems and soil, harming flora and fauna and further releasing CO2 into the atmosphere.
Having seen the power that upcycling the coffee fruit can have on coffee-growing communities and a significant lack of functional snacks in the Australian market, I Am Grounded was founded. Our first range of naturally caffeinated snack bars launched into the market in 2020 and brings to light the growing significance of the upcycling mission whilst also being mindful of the 21st-century consumer. Our five bars are an all-natural healthy energy snack that is gluten-free and vegan but will also provide a functional uplift for your day.
What do you like about coffee as an ingredient?
Lachlan: Firstly, we both love coffee, but as Vanessa said, there is a huge waste problem in coffee. We consume roughly three billion cups of coffee a day worldwide and waste 60%-80% of the overall fruit before it even leaves the farm. Coffee has an incredible array of byproducts, from the fruit that encompasses the beans, the husk, the leaves and the flowers. There is a use for all of these parts in the value chain.
Furthermore, coffee as you may know is known for having a lot of antioxidants, including Polyphenols, Flavanoids (that give it the red colour) chlorogenic acid as well as catechins. Our coffee fruit has a high polyphenol count at just over (1,700mg polyphenols in 100g of our coffee fruit concentrate) which is about 80-90 per cent more antioxidant capacity than you find in grapes. So basically, it’s really good for you!
Lastly, we love the idea of eating the coffee fruit. Eating caffeine in your food rather than having it in your drinks can be beneficial in several ways. As our bars are not highly caffeinated at (20-60mg) per bar depending on the flavour, when mixed with nuts and whole ingredients it can help to regulate the absorption of caffeine in the body. When caffeine is consumed in a drink, it can be absorbed quickly, leading to a rapid spike in energy levels, followed by a potential crash. However, when caffeine is consumed with food, it is absorbed more slowly, resulting in a more sustained release of energy over a longer period. This can help to improve focus, performance and productivity, without the crash associated with caffeine consumption in drinks.
How did you arrive at the particular flavours that you’ve got in your five bars?
Lachlan: Coffee fruit is a versatile ingredient. We first started by thinking outside the box with flavours people know and also slightly different that would pair well with coffee fruit. We also crafted these flavours to fit with a suggested time of day to consume the product. the fruity-light flavours are a great morning bar and we call these THE SUNRISE & THE 9 AM; the chocolate and espresso flavours hit better in the midmorning we call these the PICK-ME-UP & THE 3 PM and the salted caramel in the afternoon, we call this THE ARVO.
What made you want to work with Good & Fugly?
Vanessa: Good & Fugly is a great business that helps to shed light on the waste produced in our food industry, by working with farmers on adding value to the often-forgotten foods. This ethos is everything we are about at I Am Grounded, too. We’re proud to be working direct-to-farm in Colombia to source our upcycled coffee fruit. A byproduct in the coffee harvest and one that provides additional economic value to our partners in Colombia and empowers a change in the area to begin commercialising an unused superfruit. Since inception, we’ve upcycled just over 15 tonnes of coffee fruit, and we know that Good & Fugly has done its bit to save so many more tonnes of fruit themselves.
What's your favourite coffee fact or piece of trivia?
Vanessa: When we’ve said “coffee fruit” above, it hasn’t been a typo! Did you know that coffee is a fruit and it actually tastes nothing like coffee!?! Instead, it has a berry-like taste, compared closer to a plum! But of course, each varietal produces a slightly different coffee fruit taste so you may get plum, honey, hibiscus, acai or even blueberry taste!