RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Durham-based food technology startup Pairwise has launched a new brand, and a brand new product.

Conscious Foods announced its entry into the market at the Future Food-Tech show in San Francisco on March 24. Its first product is Conscious Greens – nutrient-dense, leafy packaged salads that will hit grocery shelves next year. The brand also is developing seedless blackberries, black raspberries and pitless cherries.

Parent brand Pairwise uses CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology to make genetic changes that improve the taste, convenience and shelf life of foods. In the field, the technology also can help increase yields, simplify harvesting and lengthen the seasonable availability of crops. The company says it is driven by the belief that healthy food should be consistently fresh, delicious and convenient.

Conscious Foods logo

Conscious Foods is dedicated to lowering the barriers that prevent people from consuming more fresh fruits and vegetables. “When my co-founders and I started the company (Pairwise) in 2017, we wanted to create a different kind of food+tech company, one that really focused on the end benefits of its products to consumers and customers,” said Haven Baker, chief business officer at Pairwise. “Now, in 2022, we believe that the best way to realize this vision is by launching a purpose-driven consumer brand – Conscious Foods.”

The brand also introduced its nutritionist advisory council, which will help develop new fresh produce that “is both convenient and easily integrated into familiar meals and snacks.”

Conscious Foods – which plans to grow Conscious Greens in Monterey County, California – said it also is partnering with the food bank there to provide better access to healthy foods and vegetables. The brand made a $10,000 donation to the Food Bank of Monterey County as part of its launch. It also donated $5,000 to the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina.

“Monterey County is one of the most productive agricultural production regions in the world, yet it is also one of the hungriest in California,” said Melissa Kendrick, CEO and executive director of that area’s food bank. A reported 34% of county residents don’t have consistent access to food.

Pairwise has raised $115 million in private funds to support the development of new products using CRISPR technology. And it has a five-year, $100 million collaboration with the crop science division of pharmaceutical and life science giant Bayer to apply its gene editing expertise to row crops – corn, soybeans, wheat, canola and cotton.

The company has about 130 employees and is located on the Golden Belt campus in Durham. It also operates a research site in Research Triangle Park.

Pairwise was founded by CEO Tom Adams and CBO Baker. Scientific co-founders include J. Keith Joung, M.D., Ph.D., professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School; David Liu, Ph.D., director of the Merkin Institute of Transformative Technologies in Healthcare and vice chair of the faculty at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT; and Feng Zhang, Ph.D., a McGovern Investigator and a professor at MIT.

The company’s crop trait development platform is based on gene-editing technologies that were originally licensed from Harvard University.

(C) N.C. Biotech Center