When you’re trying to grow your food business, it’s common for startups to struggle with getting their product into the right person’s hands. 

No matter how innovative your product is – if you’re not talking to the right person, you won’t see the results you want.


When Aleh Manchuliantsau, Founder and CEO of Planetarians, found out about KitchenTown, he didn’t know that he would soon embark on a long-term collaboration with the world’s largest pasta maker or that he was one year away from closing a $750,000 Seed round of funding. In the fall of 2018, Aleh was in contact with folks at Barilla but nothing concrete had come to fruition. When KitchenTown met Aleh, we knew immediately that he would be an excellent fit for our Partnerships Program.  After meeting (and eating samples), we helped Aleh get connected to the right people at Barilla’s venture capital fund BLU1877, advocated for his ground-breaking upcycled ingredients, and paved the way for a mutually beneficial relationship between Planetarians and Barilla.


Planetarians is an ingredient company that upcycles waste from the vegetable oil production process into a superfood flour called SunMeal.  Founded in 2016, SunMeal is made from defatted sunflower seeds, the dry matter left after sunflower oil extraction. For every gallon of extracted oil, 20lbs of defatted seeds are created.  Though the defatted seeds are 35% pure protein, it was typically being thrown away or fed to cows.

Planetarians rescues this byproduct and mills it into SunMeal, which can then be used to make bread, chips, tortillas, cereals, pasta and more.  Planetarians mission is to upcycle 100% of the defatted sunflower seeds into food production by 2030 and they aren’t stopping at sunflower seeds. They are open to tackling byproducts from any vegetable oil production, palm, corn and more. 


After conversations with KitchenTown and Planetarians, Barilla identified SunMeal as a promising and innovative ingredient.  They tested samples of the SunMeal flour in their pilot plant in Parma, Italy and validated the scalability of SunMeal for industrial applications.  This means that all future products made with this flour can be manufactured at scale without the need for special equipment or extra effort from employees.  By collaborating with Barilla, Planetarians was able to test and validate their ingredients at an industrial scale and use the findings to market the functionality and scalability of their product to investors and customers.  Since then, Barilla invested in the SEED round of funding and continues to be a close, strategic partner of Planetarians.



Through our Partnerships Program, we accelerate the growth of innovative food startups by connecting them to corporate partners who can offer their expertise, guidance, opportunity, and occasional investment.  We advocate for founders to our corporate partners, make meaningful introductions, and open the door to possibility. 


Interested in learning more about our Partnerships Program?