Carissa Campeotto is the definition of resilience. Her curiosity, passionate and driven mindset has been a fundamental asset in paving the way for innovation in her career from hospitality, to marketing, to food tech. Her sense of urgency to tackle the food waste issue inspired the birth of Trendi and the core values of its mission – stop food waste and end hunger. But where did her drive and determination come from?

The History

Carissa’s story starts on a cold January day in 2016. At the time, she was running a juice and smoothie shop. She was trying to place a produce order but the price of fruits and vegetables was constantly fluctuating and she needed to figure out a solution to keep her business going. A few months later, Carissa met Christine Couvelier (now President of Trendi) who suggested that she make her juices with ugly fruits and vegetables and that is exactly what she did. Within a year, she was able to save 40,000 kilos of misfit fruits and vegetables and reduce costs by 40%. 

While Carissa loved upcycling, she wasn’t sure where she could take it beyond her juice bar. She soon realized that the juice world just wasn’t for her – as a creative, being in an operational position wasn’t the right fit, so she pivoted and worked in marketing agencies managing over ten brands. Oftentimes, she was working sixteen hour days, six days per week, with a screentime of twelve plus hours per day. The workload became too much and as she says it, “her brain had enough and it broke”.

The Turning Point

Carissa awoke one day to find herself in the hospital and found out she had been diagnosed with Bi-Polar Disorder. She had a manic episode and needed to take a year off of work to heal her mind and her body. The first six months were tough, as she adjusted to medication, new routines and new challenges. But Carissa says that this experience was her “second chance on a silver platter”.

In September of 2018, Carissa met Craig McIntosh, her future partner. As they walked along the Vancouver seawall one day, Craig turned to Carissa and said “Did you know that there’s 1.2 billion tonnes of edible food waste on this planet and the 800 million people every year are hungry for every day of that year?”. Carissa stopped walking and said “You understand food waste and upcycling too?”. Trendi was born that day.

Trendi is Born

Over the course of many long walks and conversations, Trendi developed from an idea to a company. The starting point was the idea of The Smoothie Machine: the world’s first fully automated, made to order smoothie bar designed to serve an affordable alternative to traditional junk-packed vending options. This was their first foray into the world of automated food processing, with a goal of bringing highly nutritious food to the world in an accessible way. The Smoothie Machine was projected to launch in February of 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic stopped them. But they didn’t let this setback stop them from trying to change the world.

They recognised that the central issue of food insecurity in the world isn’t food production, but food distribution. Getting fresh food throughout the food chain was difficult, especially when so much is wasted due to aesthetic reasons. So Carissa and Craig decided to tackle the broader problem of food waste and loss through another avenue: BioTrim, a shipping container turned processing unit that uses various drying techniques to repurpose misfit produce into food commodities. Getting food distributed while it’s still fresh and has a high percentage of its nutritional value present is difficult but if that food can be powdered at the source, up to 97% nutritional value can be captured. This system allows for less food waste, an additional income for farmers, accessible healthy food and less environmental impact.

Confident that their dream would become reality, Carissa and Craig invested their last $10,000 into finding an investor, and a month later, they did. By March of 2021, Trendi was named a semi-finalist in the Government of Canada’s Food Waste Reduction Challenge. Then, in June of 2021, Trendi raised $2.25 million in seed funding that would go towards the creation of the BioTrim modular processing unit. The only challenge was that it was only the two of them doing this. As our team of misfits grew, so did the dream to save the world from food waste. 

Where is She Now?

Trendi has grown from two people and an idea on a napkin, to a team of 50+ employees. Under Carissa’s expertise in marketing and leadership, Trendi has gotten some attention. From 2021 until now, Carissa has delivered a TEDx Talk, spoke at the Food for Future Summit in Dubai, been mentioned in many Women in Tech awards and has driven Trendi to win a number of innovation awards (see the full list here). 

In 2022, she stepped foot onto a farm in Ecuador and it became immediately clear how small our world is and the impact we could make if we worked together. She looked out onto the field to see women picking, packing, and behind the scenes running this farm. It was only 10 years before that this farm in the Province of Esmeraldas saw an opportunity to create jobs for women, in a market where it was nearly impossible to find work. Their smiles, passion and enthusiasm moved Carissa to find a way to get Trendi involved. Now, we partner with them to rescue misfit and unsold produce – providing us with delicious powders and purees. These ingredients are used in the re-launched Smoothie Machines, delivering healthy, sustainable and delicious smoothies to consumers. 

What’s Next?

Although she has accomplished so much, Carissa continues to work hard as a global food reduction strategist. She has recently taken a step back from the day-to-day operations of Trendi to focus on the behind-the-scenes of some bigger projects to feed those in need. With her drive, passion and resilience, Trendi is on a path to real change. Stay tuned to follow Carissa on her journey of stopping food waste and feeding the world!

Article written by:

Chloe Almeida, Marketing Coordinator

Chloe has always been interested in the “how” and “why” that create our social, cultural, and physical environment. With a background in health sciences, she is committed to spreading awareness and solving issues that affect public health and wellness.