Kasra Saidi, Co-founder of Algae Cooking Club

Algae Cooking Club

In this Q&A, you’ll hear from Kasra Saidi, co-founder of Algae Cooking Club, creator of a better-for-you cooking oil. Kasra shares how concern over seed oils and culinary curiosity led to the creation of an algae-based product, and how aligning with top chefs will take algae to new heights.

Tell us about Algae Cooking Club.

Kasra Saidi: Algae Cooking Club (ACC) is, yes, a company that sells algae-based culinary ingredients, but equally, it’s a club that celebrates food curiosity and delicious bites.

We know algae today isn’t known as a culinary ingredient, but it should be. As the mother of all plants, it’s able to produce high-quality ingredients with a fraction of the time, resources, and emissions compared to more traditional farming practices.

Our debut product is what we call a “chef-grade algae cooking oil.” This oil shines in the kitchen as your extra-versatile, everyday cooking oil that amplifies tasty textures and flavors. The oil has the highest composition of monounsaturated omega-9 good fats (93%), the highest smoke point (535℉), and the lowest levels of omega-6 linoleic fats (3%) of any comparable.

What led you to pursue this opportunity?

KS: This was a more “stars aligned” process as opposed to an “aha moment.” We had a series of insights (and a deep passion for food) that came together while I was the Head of Incubation at Squared Circles — a venture studio that’s on a mission to redesign everyday products to be better for you and our planet.

We became obsessed with the potential of algae and its ability to produce high-quality outputs with a fraction of planetary needs. At the same time, there is an ongoing explosion in conversation around the bad fats found in seed oils, olive oil prices have doubled in 12 months, and consumer food curiosity is reaching all-time highs.

Algae cooking oil is a response to this, perfect for people seeking healthier, everyday oils. And we want to show people that algae deserves a seat at the culinary table.

How did you turn your idea into a company?

KS: Baby steps.

It starts with having the trust, conviction, and infrastructure from Squared Circles and carries through a multi-stage process that took about two years to go from the kernel of the idea to launching the business this past February.

One of the biggest points of conviction, though, was when we sent the oil to Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park. He and his team put the oil to the test in a variety of applications, and it performed with outstanding results across the board.

We also held a tasting in Los Angeles with a few of our extension products, and the data was eye-opening. People preferred our algae-based products by a vast majority — anywhere from 70–90% of the time.

Our traction at launch was a great signal. We tripled our week-one sales projection, sold out and blew past our February inventory, and were featured in the NYT, The Strategist, on The Drew Barrymore Show, and many others.

How big can this get?

KS: We are focused on algae oil as a better-fat platform at the moment, but algae can also produce many other culinary-based ingredients, ranging from proteins to carbs to nutritionally dense salts.

The algae-as-a-fat platform starts with an everyday cooking oil, our debut product. The cooking oil market alone is a multi-billion dollar industry in the US — and the oil can be used to replace oils in other products like dressings, dips, and sauces.

When you stack these together, it’s an eye-watering size of the prize, but we are very focused on not getting ahead of ourselves — proving algae is worthy of culinary excellence is no small undertaking.

How do you reach your core customer?

KS: We serve a group of people who mirror ourselves: folks who want food that is better for us and for the planet but doesn’t sacrifice taste and texture. We’re creating a community of people who share these interests—people like Daniel Humm—and you will see many more pioneers in food aligning with the brand in short order.

Central to our efforts, we focus on how well this oil performs in the kitchen first and foremost, making known the fact the oil can make your food tastier and unlock those delicious textures. This opens minds and sparks dialogue, and then we can get deeper into some of the health and planet benefits.

The brand is meant to be a playground for our audience to play in and create with. We can’t pay our way to educate everyone on why algae is a better ingredient, but we can build one of the most influential, deeply passionate communities within food to share the algae oil gospel.

How are you measuring success?

KS: We measure our success on ACC entering the food culture zeitgeist.

Are we getting picked up by thought leaders in food? Are food creators excited to work with us? Are we getting broadcast integrations? Are we creating products that make it on must-have lists?

Of course, we are tracking sales against ambitious targets, but this all stems from the point above. If we aren’t executing our primary strategy right, we won’t hit sales.

If you’re interested in having your company featured in our Q&A series, send an email to team@fitt.co.

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