Austin Allan is the founder of Tio Gazpacho, an innovative Spanish inspired cold soup start-up. He was born in NJ. School at Washington University in St. Louis. Studied Spanish Lit and Marketing. Studied in Madrid. Moved to Barcelona after college. Then DC and NYC for four years each.
Our City Thoughts: Why have you decided to build your startup in Miami?
Austin Allan: It actually happened by accident. I was living in New York City and working a corporate job that I didn’t love. I had become somewhat disillusioned watching everyone else doing creative, interesting things with their lives, but I didn’t feel like that was possible for me. Then in August 2012 I had a chance encounter with a friend of my partner who was the field director for the Obama campaign down here [Miami]. He inspired me to take a risk and do something radically different with my life. Two weeks later I quit my job and a month later moved down to Miami.
I spent the first two months working as a field organizer on the campaign, and that’s when my love affair with this city began. My impression of Miami had always been parties, drinks, beach and sunshine. That all changed in those two months. I met some really wonderful people who were working on incredible projects, and I experienced the real Miami for the first time.
OCT: What is Tio Gazpacho all about?
AA: On the surface, we make a line of drinkable gazpachos. However what we are really aim to do is transform the eating habits of Americans. Too much of the “convenient” food that is out there is highly processed garbage that is literally killing people, ruining the environment and causing the suffering of millions of animals. We offer a line of products that are convenient, taste great, are food for your health, contain no animal products, and are as environmentally friendly as possible.
OCT: What did you have to overcome to get here?
AA: I knew absolutely nothing about the food industry when I started this company. And to make matters worse I had never undertaken a project of this size. It’s amazing though what you can achieve when you have a vision.While working on this project I have gotten to know an entire community of people that share the same vision and ideals that I do. I have been able to create a network of likeminded people that I can rely on (and that can rely on me) whenever I come to a dead end.
Without this support I would not be where I am today.
OCT: How has Miami impacted who you now are?
AA: I have tapped into the local food “scene” and the local vegan/vegetarian food movement here. I feel connected to both and I feel like a part of something greater than myself.
I never felt this in NYC or Washington.
OCT: What do you love the most about Miami that is unusual?
AA: The feeling that, despite the sometimes chaotic things happening here – anything is possible.
AA: Our biggest and most important goal is to get this product into retailers across South Florida. Right now we are on track for a retail launch in July of this year. Every free moment of my time is dedicated to making this a reality.
OCT: Do you have any innovative changes in the works?
AA: We are about to begin using HPP technology to extend the shelf life of our products. Currently our products have a shelf life of seven days and soon that will be extended to six weeks with this process.
HPP or High Pressure Processing is a somewhat new method to treat food products that uses pressure instead of heat to kill bacteria. The advantage of HPP is that the finished product retains most of the nutrients of the raw product, and all of the taste.
OCT: Why are you passionate about your start-up?
AA: A few weeks ago I was at our booth at a Farmers’ Market talking to a woman who was interested in our products. The conversation wasn’t a typical one because she wasn’t grilling me on our ingredients list, the type of plastic we use for our bottles, or the nutrition facts of our recipes. She ended up sampling all three flavors, liking them all and by buying one bottle of each.
The next day I get a ninety second voicemail and two separate emails from her, asking where she could buy more because she had already drank all three and didn’t think she could wait a week to buy more. In none of her communication did she use the words “organic” “vegan” “gluten-free” “healthy” or “nutritious” nor did she care that our products were any of those things. She was ecstatic because she had found a product that she loved.
That is all the proof that I need that we really are changing people’s eating habits.
OCT: What’s the most gratifying aspect of what you do? And the most grating?
AA: Gratifying – when people from New York and LA tell me that there is nothing like Tio Gazpacho in their cities.
Grating – when people won’t even try my product because they tell me it sounds “too healthy”
OCT: What wisdom would you share with your younger self?
AA: Dream bigger
OCT: What community issues keep you up at night?
AA: Lack of information about the link between health and food.
OCT: Which major challenges do you think our city will face in the next year?
AA: Traffic and spotty public transportation. Neither seem to be getting any better.
OCT: When do you feel a sense of pride for Miami?
OCT: Describe your ideal Miami. Why are those qualities important to you?
AA: The Miami of today with better roads & infrastructure, more public transportation, more sustainable initiatives like better recycling and composting, better quality foods and even more cultural events.