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just IMAGINE if... winner announced

Alexander Wankel

(From left to right): University Chancellor Lord Waldegrave, Paul Lindley OBE, Alexander Wankel and Professor Robert Van de Noort

Alexander Wankel of Kai Pacha Foods has won the 2019 edition of just IMAGINE if... competition. The competition was launched by entrepreneur and founder of Ella’s Kitchen Paul Lindley OBE in partnership with the University.

just IMAGINE if... is part of the University’s IMAGINE fundraising and volunteering campaign. The competition saw entrants from around the world submit an idea to tackle one of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which include ending poverty and hunger, creating gender equality or affordable and clean energy.

Alexander faced nine other finalists in head-to-head live pitching final hosted at the University. He will be gifted with £75,000 of bespoke research and support to be delivered by the University of Reading and Henley Business School designed to significantly move the idea forward.

The event celebrated the power of ideas – pulling together the cream of the UK’s social enterprise leaders including Sarah Wood OBE, Iqbal Wahhab OBE, Tristram Stuart, Sacha Romanovitch and many more, who provided mentoring to each of the finalists and attending on the day.

Alexander Wankel said, "I am thrilled to have won the first ever just IMAGINE if… competition. The whole process has been very helpful for developing my business idea, particularly the coaching from the counsellors, Piers Linney and Will Butler-Adams.

“The other nine finalists all have fabulous ideas with the potential to make a big difference in the world – that's why I feel so honoured to have been selected as the winner and look forward to working with the University of Reading to help make my idea for a climate-smart alternative to dairy into a reality.”

Vice-Chancellor Professor Robert Van de Noort said, "Congratulations to Alexander for this innovative idea and for winning the award.  I hope that through this prize, the University of Reading and our Henley Business School can now build on these ideas, with the help from our supporters and collaborators in social enterprise and business. I hope that by working together we can help Alexander to turn Kai Pacha Foods into a force for change."

Competition founder, Paul Lindley OBE said, "I am so happy for Alexander in winning the opportunity to boost impact and scale his business and to build lasting change through world-class University research. Every one of our just IMAGINE if… finalists were truly outstanding and I don’t doubt each will go on to turn their ideas into reality. This is not the end of the journey for any of them, indeed it is just the beginning."

Sustainable solutions

Kai Pacha Foods has developed a socially and environmentally responsible brand of plant-based milks from climate-smart Andean grains. Sourcing rare and endangered native quinoa at fair prices, the company seeks to provide a sustainable answer to the booming global demand for plant-based alternatives to dairy in a way that minimises environmental impact, conserves genetic resources and promotes climate resiliency. 

Working directly with organised conservationist farmer groups in Peru, Kai Pacha Foods aims to encourage the sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, to conserve biodiversity and prevent land degradation; while providing a better income to impoverished rural communities.

Sourced directly from smallholder farmers, the quinoa milk beverages, branded ‘MilQ’ are already available in organic supermarkets in Peru and have experienced strong sales thanks to their delicious flavour and high protein content. 

The prize will allow Kai Pacha Foods to obtain the research expertise it needs to enable the company to scale to international markets. It will also provide vital research into quinoa diversity, allowing the organisation to focus on conservation of particularly climate resilient native varieties.

For more information and to view Alexander entry video, click here.

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