Edward Hamod of Switch Foods - Plant-Based Meats, Future of Food, Sustainability, and More #005

Edward Hamod, CEO and founder of Switch Foods, discusses his journey in creating innovative plant-based meat alternatives. The Ethical Futurists podcast hosts, James Taylor and Alison Burns, explore topics of sustainability, ethical business practices, and future trends with Hamod. He emphasizes the importance of local sourcing, sustainability, and health in their product offerings. Hamod highlights the challenges and successes in launching Switch Foods and the importance of changing consumption habits for a sustainable future.

Sound Bites

  • “We’re not trying to make everyone vegan, just more conscious of their food choices.”
  • “With Switch Foods, we’re focusing on creating delicious, sustainable, and healthy alternatives.”
  • “Change is difficult, especially when it comes to deeply ingrained food consumption habits.”
Play Video about Edward Hamod


Edward Hamod is the CEO and founder of Switch Foods, a food tech startup dedicated to creating innovative plant-based meat alternatives. With extensive experience in the food manufacturing industry across the Middle East, Edward identified a need for nutritious, sustainable, and locally sourced food options. His commitment to sustainability and plant-based diets drives Switch Foods’ mission to enhance food security and cater to regional palates. Edward’s leadership focuses on health, sustainability, and culinary excellence, making Switch Foods a pioneer in the region’s food tech landscape.

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  1. Switch Foods Website: Switchfoods.com

  2. Instagram: @switch_foods

  3. LinkedIn: Switch Foods

  4. Personal LinkedIn: Edward Hamod


    1. MENA Speakers: mena-speakers.com

00:00 Introduction to The Ethical Futurists Podcast
01:47 Overview of Switch Foods and Its Mission
03:03 The Journey of Starting Switch Foods
05:24 Launching in the UAE and Expanding to Other Markets
07:38 Collaborations with Airlines, Hotels, and Restaurants
09:56 The Importance of Local Sourcing and Sustainability
12:08 Success Stories and Challenges in Product Development
14:31 The Impact of Food Choices on Health and Environment
18:38 Quickfire Questions with Edward Hamod
25:03 How to Learn More About Switch Foods

TEF005 Edward Hamod FINAL AUDIO_otter_ai.txt
James Taylor 0:00
Hi, I’m James Taylor. And I’m Alison Burns. And together we are The Ethical Futurists. Now, you’re listening to The Ethical Futurist podcast where we dive in to the world of sustainability, ethics, and why these ideas today are more important than ever, ever before. Now, join us as we engage with leading thinkers, with business leaders, with academics, with entrepreneurs with investors, and changemakers. To uncover the latest ideas shaping a more ethical and sustainable future. We’re going to be covering a lot of different things in this podcast as well.

Alison Burns 0:41
Indeed, from sustainability, innovation to future trends and ESG. Our conversations

James Taylor 0:48
span a wide array of topics, including renewable energy, we’re going to be looking at Clean Tech, ethical investing,

Alison Burns 0:56
food systems, and much more. Yep,

James Taylor 0:59
in each episode, we explore really crucial issues such as carbon emissions, the circular economy, we’re going to be talking about rewilding net zero carbon goals and the future of food and energy, something else and I are really passionate about.

Alison Burns 1:16
So whether you’re interested in lab grown meat, alternative proteins, sustainable finance, or climate related risk, we’ve got you covered. Or you’re looking to secure a keynote speaker who’s well versed in sustainability ESG, or any of the engaging topics featured on the ethical futures podcast. Well, look no further connect with the experts at many speakers. To book your ideal speaker today. Just go

James Taylor 1:47
to mena-speakers.com That’s mena-speakers.com Alternatively, you can drop them an email at [email protected] to book the perfect speaker for your next event. Edward Hamod is the CEO and founder of Switch Foods, a food tech startup revolutionising the culinary landscape with innovative plant based meat alternatives. With a wealth of experience and a successful track record in leading esteemed food manufacturing and production organizations across the Middle East. Edward identified a pressing need in the region for healthy, nutritious, sustainable and locally sourced food options. This realization fueled his passion for contributing to national food security, promoting source diversity and creating alternative meat varieties that cater specifically to the Middle Eastern palates. Edward was commitment to sustainability and his unwavering belief in the potential of nutritional plant based diets are not only driving forces behind switch foods, but also reflects a strong conviction that food tech plays a pivotal role in the region’s aspirations for enhance food security, Edward, welcome to The Ethical Futures podcast. Welcome.

Edward Hamod 2:58
Thank you for having me.

James Taylor 2:59
So share with us what’s going on your world just now what currently has your focus so

Edward Hamod 3:03
many things in addition to the last couple of days, arraign or outside of? No, actually, you know, we embarked on this journey with switch foods about a year and a half ago actually, the research started almost two years ago. And part of starting a new venture, you know, you have to deal with the not only with the with the cool or innovative part of the business, but the business as a whole. So today, obviously, we’ve launched in the UAE market last June. We just launched in Lebanon as well, in January, we’re now also on our way to Kuwait and Qatar. So there’s a lot of going on on that front. But we’re also focused on new product development. So we have a new product pipeline coming in with a new plant based chicken range, that’s going to hit the market very soon. And we’re also expanding our production facilities as well, to be able to cater to those plant based chicken lines. So there’s a lot going on. And in addition to all the collaborations and partnerships and strategic. Let’s call it alignment with a lot of hospitality groups, government agencies, airlines, caterers, the whole nine yards.

Alison Burns 4:24
You’ve just said the magic word for me airline caterers because the flights that we’ve been on and we have been so poorly served for plant based options. So if there’s a revolution there, I’m all up for it. I’m totally up for a seeing Switch Foods being available to us. But this has been a hugely innovative time for you. So throughout your career, what are the top three accomplishments that you would see are the ones that stand out?

Edward Hamod 4:56
I wouldn’t say they’re my accomplishments. I would say they’re the team’s accomplishments. So, so yeah, this is this this switch started as a as a thought that became an idea that became a reality along this journey. You know, the team, the team came along, people came in left as well came in for certain projects or expertise or technology or, you know, know how transfer. But I believe that where we are today is the accumulation of the efforts of the team that we’re building or the family that we’re that we’re part of at switch. So I’d say from day one, our focus was on innovating in that space, we thought that the space was lacking, especially in our region, or the product market fit right so we saw generic hamburgers, some sausages, some nuggets on the shelves, and we thought you know, that the consumers was ready for the next generation of of novel plant based foods. This is why we localized and differentiated are offerings to include foods that are familiar to the region that are actually enjoyed in the in the region, even by expats or visitors. So we have you know, the kabobs, the kaftans decidual. So, this is this is this was very innovative from from our products, we also always focus on you know, creating that that delicious and savory product while never compromising on the quality and health proposition of our product. So having a clean label product with a shortlist of ingredients, that’s all natural, GMO free vegan was very, very important for us. And finally, also overdoing in terms of you know, footprint is something that we keep an eye on. So it goes from the way we source our raw material to the way to the to the material used in packaging. So the whole value chain of our product and its its footprint is something we always keep an eye on.

James Taylor 6:57
Now the other day Alice and I in the because we believe in research on this show. And we went to the Al Safadi restaurant here in in Dubai, great restaurant, Lebanese restaurant. And we were delighted to see a whole range of switch meals and there was a whole different things. I would say that for me the kebab was the highlight, I thought it was an excellent, excellent job. Now, when you’re having to convince a retailer, or an airline, or hotel group, or even a customer, what are the main things that you’re talking to them about in order to meet them to make that switch from the traditional meeting food.

Edward Hamod 7:38
So Safadi is a great example. And every channel that you just talked about is has has a different proposition or a different let’s say objectives, right. So when you talk to the airlines, you’re talking more to their on the carbon footprint on the sustainability on the local sourcing on the dependability, reliability of having, you know, our production facilities in the country, you know, 3040 kilometers away from them. Airlines are concerned about you know, food diversity, being able to cater to a diverse list of clientele like yourself, some are vegans or vegetarians, people from all over the world with different tastes palates, right? So we talked to them about about the food, we presented them the opportunities, and we also talk about, you know, sustainability, their carbon footprint, which is a very big mandate for them. Large restaurant and hotel groups also have a very sophisticated sustainability mandate local sourcing. So we see some of the groups we work with, like, you know, the Millennium hotels or, or the first group, they they have a very strong sustainability mandate, and they focus on local sourcing that comes from the top, you know, their CEOs look at these KPIs. Their whole management teams are focused on expanding their local sourcing activities and supporting local businesses on making sure they elevate their sustainability measures within the group of companies. quick service restaurants are talking about, you know, product diversity, about price, about quality, about food, safety, all of that. And then you go to the let’s call it a specialized restaurant like Al Safadi or others that we work with, who are masters and pioneers of their own domain. You know, today I’ll suffer the I think has seven locations across the UAE and the owners. The management, it’s a family owned business at the end of the day, family owned and family ran and, and Mr. Fatty suffered he himself is is a is is a butcher by trade so he understands He, he understands meat, he understands quality, he understands ingredients. Right. So the first conversation, you know, when we first talked about this this idea, you know, obviously he wasn’t open to it, he was very protective of his brand. But I think he quickly realized with the help of his of his family is his sons that are in the business with him that they’re part of they’ve been part of Dubai and the progression of Dubai and the UAE. And they quickly understood that they needed to also progress in terms of their food offerings and to cater to their sustainable clientele, their vegan clientele, their, you know, health, conscious clientele, their, their climate conscious clientele, and they wanted to, to do what they can to reduce the footprint of the business and to improve its sustainability pillars. So obviously, without compromising on taste, because at the end of the day, no chef and no restaurant owner will accept to put a dish on their menu that they’re not convinced 100% That is great food. So we went with them with, you know, on a period of trials. They’ve got chef Omar was the head chef was an expert in culinary, tested the product, they were very impressed with the product. That’s that that was that was step one, right? They had experimented with other products before plant based products before they weren’t really convinced with switch. They were convinced and that was once you cross that hurdle, everything becomes easier. Right? So it’s no longer debatable on tastes. It’s debatable on how you want to position the brand, all of that, but I think the showed open mindedness, they showed progressiveness. They showed their, you know, responsibility of supporting players within the space. And it’s been a great collaboration. And I think they’ve done well in terms of positioning as well for themselves. And they got a lot of recognition.

James Taylor 12:16
Well, they absolutely knocked out of the park, especially the pairings that they had the campaign we had the kebab with tomato, there was a beautiful I think was a Kibbeh Muhammara they had as well. So there was there’s little kind of creative interests

Alison Burns 12:28
as well. They had the the men’s the actual I think it was unadulterated men’s on top of the houmas. Which you could taste that on its own. Yeah. And it was,

Edward Hamod 12:39
this is a traditional, you know, Arabic dish hummus black meh, which is hummus with meat. And they replaced, which is very difficult to do because you’re replacing it’s, it’s it’s standalone meat, it has no sauce on it, nothing. So it’s like naked meat, you can’t camouflage the taste, there’s nowhere to hide. That’s what it is. That’s what it is. And I think so they were adventures with that they replace one of the most, you know, difficult dishes to replicate with a plant based dish. And it’s been a great success. And they’ve done it well to their credit, and we just sell them the the meat, the men’s meat and they, they they cook it they they mince it, they spice it the way they want. It’s their dish. It’s not we play zero part. But I’ve had you know, comments from people that you know, you know, that order, they never told their guests that this is plant based ate it. People didn’t even know, on the opposite. They enjoyed it more. So they’ve done great, and I think the collaboration is there too, only to go bigger. We have four dishes on their menu today. Like you said, we have the cafe that hamburger gene, the Kabab khashkash, the hummus Black meh and hopefully some new dishes to come soon. That’s

Alison Burns 13:51
great. And then I suppose it’s it’s people joining the dots between health, sustainability, good food and, and and responsibility to the planet, but in relation to environmental sustainability, and as well reported that animal agriculture is one of if not the most destructive industries in terms of the environment. And it’s it’s that it’s that long established narrative that we’re fed as children growing up that good food equals meat, you know, animal meat, how do we change that narrative?

Edward Hamod 14:31
So it’s not an easy task, especially that change is difficult, right? Change in anything you do is difficult, let alone you know, your food consumption habits, which is a big part of your day, your social setting. It’s not just it’s not just fuel, you’re adding to the core, there is a savory element to it. There’s a social element to it, there’s a cultural element to it. That being said, if you look at younger generations and future generations they are aware Are you aware of what’s happening in the world? I think we’re doing a mistake by not preserving what our fathers and grandfathers gave to us, right in terms of climate and nature, I think us humans are becoming more and more selfish looking at the short term. And we’re not passing this, these values or this treasure that was handed to us, which is, you know, Earth to our children’s or grandchildren’s, the way we should, like you. Very well said today, the food system, globally is the second largest emitter, right after the energy sector. Now the energy sector we all know that faces challenges yet. With that, the energy sector, especially in the region, if we look at like what ADNOC is doing, they’re investing billions into you know, renewable energy, green energy, all of that. And I believe with the kind of investment they’re doing, and with the focus that they’re putting on, becoming greener and more sustainable, very soon that our food system will be will become the largest emitter globally, the most the most destructive sector globally. On top of all the ways that it’s a status today. So we have been taught throughout the years with, you know, marketing and advertising all that to become a highly consuming species, right. So we eat more than we need, we consume more than we need. Correct. And this has been commercially driven for years. So you cannot change it and just a flick of a finger it needs. It needs. Policymakers, it needs regulators, it needs governments, it needs taxations, it needs removal of subsidies. The meat industry is a $1.4 trillion. Industry, if I’m not mistaken, the meat lobby in the US is one of the biggest lobbies and more powerful, more active. And we see its effect on plant based today. They’re trying to attack our industry left and right. Which is fine, it shows that, you know, they’re feeling a bit of heat. And we see some numbers in Europe that meat consumption is declining, per capita plant basis is increasing. In our region, we still lack that. Right. And this was this was where, you know, the role of education and government policy, government programs, government communication plans come because governments in our region, what I learned over the last few years is that they’re very credible. So when they stand behind the program, people believe it and follow through. So yeah, I think I think our food choices as human beings are very important, which is what we try to communicate at switch we’re not trying to at switch sustainability is a core pillar of what we do right now other than health and delicacy. But what we try our messaging is we don’t want you to become vegan, we don’t want to intrude into people’s lives or lifestyles. We just want you to reduce your your meat intake, we want you to just be more conscious of your food choices. Don’t stop meat, but you don’t have to eat it every day. Right? It doesn’t do you good. Doesn’t do your kids good. It doesn’t do the world good. So we’re just giving you a solution to be able to reduce your meat intake.

James Taylor 18:38
And on this journey that you’ve had with Switch Foods, was there a key aha moment? key realization or or you suddenly just thought about things a little bit differently?

Edward Hamod 18:52
The aha moments were like on a daily basis. Look at our journey. It’s not like we’ve existed for 10 years from the time we started. Till the time we launched in the market, it was less than 18 months. I mean, even investors did not but I mean, we when I was raising capital, and I was saying, you know, we’re gonna be live and in 12 month investors telling me, you know, take 36 months, it’s fine, you know, you don’t don’t they thought it wasn’t realistic. But so we had always, we were always very aggressive in terms and we’re very committed by aggressive I mean, committed, like we worked around the clock, we we accelerated our r&d path, because we knew time to market was very important. And we knew that the quality of the product was our top priority because if you launch with a product that’s, you know, just okay or barely above average, which is the mistake of many other companies, we have a lot of plant based meat companies in the world that have launched and failed. So there was learning every day right? And sometimes you know, your your You’re working on texture and you do something the way you process it or the way you hydrator that just oh my god, okay, now I understand. And we still get those don’t get me wrong every time we coordinate or we collaborate with, with, with a top level scientist with a with a with a chef we collaborate with a lot of chefs because we’re focused on the culinary aspect of the product, not just the technology, we get new aha moments, and different so there are many you know, first time we’re able to you know, incorporate you know, the fresh parsley and tomato into the kafka to or onion tomato, to the kaftan we got it do we did was was was was was insane. We were trying to do something else and we came up with a sigil that was a different product, adapting the casings to it so so very proud of the journey and very proud of the team.

James Taylor 20:55
Lots of innovation going on wonderful. As we start to finish up here quickfire, a few quickfire questions for you, is there is there a book that you’d maybe recommend too old, it’s gonna be on somebody’s food sustainability, or just a book the person who inspires you as a as an entrepreneur?

Edward Hamod 21:18
The Omnivore’s Dilemma is a book I can think of, by Michael Pollan. It’s a great book that talks about consumption society, how, how we’ve been so programmed to consume and all of that the poor of our food choices, I would recommend the audience to read it. I

James Taylor 21:40
remember that book, one of his rules was, don’t buy anything, you don’t recognize all the things on the label. And your label was very clear. I know all these there’s not lots of E numbers, and there’s things out there 100%

Alison Burns 21:52
Is that a film or a podcast that you’d like to listen to your film that you would recommend to watch?

Edward Hamod 21:58
The Changemakers on Netflix talks about plant base, and, you know, demystifies, it shows, you know, clearly the benefits of plant based versus versus conventional meat. Great.

Alison Burns 22:13
And the final question from me is, obviously, the word sustainability is used a lot today, and it’s used often, but it’s almost like off the cuff now or is it’s, it’s kind of throw away, but it’s not given the, the due weight and responsibility that actually should encompass what that word actually means for the, for the planet environment and for the future of the humans and all living sentient beings on the planet. So with that in mind, what does an ethical and sustainable future look like for you so that a future that we feel proud to leave to future generations.

Edward Hamod 22:53
So it’s simple, it’s, you know, you just have to embed for me today, we make, it’s all about choices of the masses, right? We make choices every day. These choices, a lot of those choices that we make, we make them as a as a as a you know, I don’t know if it’s, I’m using the right word, but as as part of the herd, right, we don’t think about them, they come natural to us. You stop you pick up your coffee in the morning, you go down to the canteen, you have your lunch in the in the in the afternoon, you eat whatever is given to you, or you go buy the food that you’re used to buy, we don’t these are automatic reflexes without thinking of the impact of these choices. I think what we owe ourselves first, and then our kids and the world is to give our food choices, the same level of thoughts, and to project our values to the foods as food choices that we make on a daily basis. Because if we look today, our biggest impact, the biggest impact we have on the planet, and on ourselves is what we people always are talking about their health, the amount of diseases, the amount of pandemics, natural disasters, the hospitals are always full, we’ll take a step backwards and reflect why are you in the hospital? Why do you have diabetes? Why do you have cardiovascular disease? Why do you have cancer? Right? It’s all about the intake. It’s all about what we put out in our bodies that is causing, you know these certain unfortunate events in our lives, whether it’s being on the on the on the climate side, which is you know, we see a progression and an increase in the in the amount of natural disasters or in the frequency of the natural disasters or in our bodies. We look at our numbers we do we all do blood tests. And you know, every time we go to the doctor and we see our numbers, is it stay off red meat or stay off meat in general, right. So we just need to put a little bit more thoughts into our food choice. And project our values through through what we do.

Alison Burns 25:03
Great, be more mindful. And

James Taylor 25:05
if people want to learn more about Switch Foods want to try some of the switch foods Well, where’s the best place for them to go to learn more about the company and what the what you’re working on

Edward Hamod 25:16
so we’re you can visit our website Switchfoods.com they can call us they’re welcome to visit us. We’re very open to bringing you know we bring sometimes as school students, we work with the Ministry of Environment, climate change on some, you know, when kids are interested in their programs, sustainability programs. We have our Instagram, which is switch _foods. We have our LinkedIn there is my personal LinkedIn. I mean, and we’re accessible modest people so they can they can they can call me they can call the office they can there’s you know they can they can reach out to anyone at the team.

James Taylor 25:59
Well, we’ll put all these links on the show notes here on the ethicalfuturists.com. Edward Hamod, thank you so much for being a guest today on The Ethical Futurists podcast. Thank you

Edward Hamod 26:08
very much for having enjoyed the conversation.

James Taylor 26:12
If you’re considering making sustainability or ESG, one of the themes for your next conference, your event, or perhaps a company retreat, then why not invite Alison and myself to be your keynote speakers or event MCs. We’ve delivered really inspiring keynote programs for some of the world’s largest organizations from all different kinds of industries. Now, the Ethical Futurist keynote will take your audience on a journey to discover how the world’s most ethical and sustainable companies are really innovating in their industries. So if you’d like to learn more about booking arsenite as the ethical futures for your next event, then simply head to theethicalfuturist.com/speaking, that’s theethicalfuturists.com/speaking To schedule a call to discuss with us your next event. We’re delighted that you listen to this podcast and we’d really thank you if you could just take a moment now to subscribe to this podcast on your favorite podcast platform. Also, while you’re there, why don’t give us a five star rating and leave us a review. It would really mean a lot to Alison and I so for me, James Taylor and me Alison Burns. Thanks for listening to The Ethical Futurists podcast.