CNA Interview: Behind the Scenes of WhatIF Foods

The story behind WhatIF Foods

Last December, WhatIF Foods CEO and Founder Christoph Langwallner, and Senior Innovation Manager, Amelia Tan, had the pleasure to speak live on CNA938 – Singapore’s national radio station. Hospitably hosted by Stanley Leong and Chew Wui Lynn, Chris and Amelia walked through our journey from ideation to what is now known as WhatIF Foods.

Then, WhatIF Foods had yet a name, but in its formation, had already embraced the mission it now is known for.  In the show, Chris -  a veteran in the seasoning and snacks industries with 25+ years’ experience - explained his point of no return: from being a man whose daily life is to make snacks more palatable and addictive to drive sales; to coming home having to convince his kids not to consume the very same products he would spend days perfecting. Disillusioned by the reality of the food industry, he was determined to make a difference.

Driven by his reckoning, Chris left behind his corporate world to step into the unknown. Choosing Singapore as his base, he assembled a team of like-minded colleagues to pursue his dream of one day challenging, and perhaps changing the status-quo of the food industry. An ideal food company, as Chris envisioned, should design and promote food products that are nourishing to human health, supportive of the livelihoods of smallholder farmers, and diminutive in its environmental footprints.

Instant noodle, Asia's favourite comfort food, was the first challenge that Chris and his newly incorporated team decided to take on. The sheer size of the instant noodle industry motivated Chris.

"Instant noodle is a massive business and is a stable food with more than 100 billions of portions being consumed yearly. In order to drive real impacts in both the environmental facet and human health, we have to go after a food product that is found in every household. Therefore, instant noodle became the fitting choice for our mission."

Chris explained his decision when asked why he and the team chose to innovate with instant noodle.

Instant noodle is also a very "paradoxical" food item. Packed with calories and flavours, instant noodle is perfect to satisfy hunger. Coupling this with affordability and convenience, instant noodle has become Asia’s favourite quick meal.

However, calories from instant noodles are typical of what we call "empty calories". Calories from instant noodles mostly come from simple carbohydrates and "bad" fats. This gives instant noodle an unbalanced macro-nutrient composition with high concentration of saturated fat. Meanwhile, their micronutrient profile is absent. The industry is also known for the notoriously high amount of sodium and MSG. Instant noodle, despite being consumed widely, was never a nutritious option.

This "paradox" is where Chris, Amelia, and the team saw opportunities. With a proprietary dehydration technology and food science expertise, the team was able to incorporate and harness the potential of Future Fit crops - crops that are nutritious and climate resilient, into instant noodles. The results are colourful, non-fried noodles with low fat, high protein content and packed with dietary fibres.

Chris left the December show with a hint for the brand name of our noodle innovation: "to find question marks to come" – The question mark that is what is now known for the WhatIF Foods logo. Our association with question marks go beyond our logo. WhatIF Foods hope to inspire people to question the status quo of the current food system. In doing so, we hope to create dialogues and to catalyse the transition towards a system filled with food options which are nourishing for both the people and the planet.

8 months later, and approximately 2 months since our products are listed our webshop, the support has been overwhelming. We have already sold almost 5000 portions. We are deeply grateful for the platform that CNA938 had given us to allow our message to be heard. We are even more grateful to those who have so readily embraced our mission at WhatIF Foods.

Here's to changing the world, one meal at a time.

CNA Interview: Behind the Scenes of WhatIF Foods