The mission of Devon Garden is to put protein-packed dairy alternatives on the map. Yet the philosophy behind the brand is much wider than this. Each person who has been involved in our journey has left a mark on our product. Driving the overall vision, however, is a challenging task that has been performed by talented individuals. Behind each company are people and values: we believe that the story of our team is important to tell. So, without further ado, who are the people that drive Devon Garden?
Cesar Torres – Founder and CEO
Without Cesar there would be no Devon Garden. Cesar’s path changed when he quit a long career as geotechnical engineer in the offshore oil & gas and renewable energy industries, working all over the world in drilling operations to assess ground conditions and doing seabed surveys for some of the biggest energy companies in the world. After years working at the cutting edge of offshore engineering in the North Sea and beyond, Cesar was bent on finding a mission that felt personally meaningful and aligned with his realisation of the environmental realities we are facing, and the need to take drastic action.
After studying Buddhism and spending time in monasteries, as well as volunteering at Age UK, Cesar recognised the importance of compassion in how we live and interact with others. However, as a vegan he felt that this extended to the lives of all sentient beings and the health of the planet. Cesar completed an MBA at the University of Exeter, where there was a strong focus on ethics and sustainability, laying the foundations for creating a business with a sustainable impact. It was also during the Exeter MBA that Cesar learned about Permaculture, the philosophy of working together with nature to replicate forests or “gardens” for the purpose of human consumption in a sustainable way. This holistic philosophy would have a great influence in our view of the food system, and eventually define the name of our company.
It wasn’t until a motorbiking accident on a racing track in Spain that the idea for creating a brand focused on healthy and sustainable nutrition first bloomed. A keen health and fitness enthusiast that used to spend over 14 hours a week training body pump, kettlebells and spin, as well as playing tennis and cycling, Cesar was searching for healthy plant-based products with the right nutrients to help repair his badly broken leg, muscles and ligaments to become active again. To his dismay, many plant-based products on the market did not have nearly enough protein or fibre, and were full of sugar. Believing that no compromise should be made between a diet that is good for the planet and essential nutrition, and after completing his MBA, Cesar decided it was time to make a plant-powered milk!
This was not an easy task. From humble beginnings experimenting endless ways to make milk from pulses in his kitchen in Exeter, he was fixated with getting the product right. This led him to the long search for sharp scientists in the UK and as far as Canada who were experts in taste chemistry and pulses to create what was going to become one of most sustainable and nutritionally dense plant-based milk alternatives in the UK.
Alexandra Clark – Head of Partnerships
Alexandra is no stranger to the world of sustainability in the food system. She spent a number of years working with the European Parliament and an international animal protection organisation, focusing on policies to reduce the consumption and production of animal products. She has organised and spoken at a number of important climate events, including the UN Climate Conferences COP21 in Paris and COP24 in Katowice, amongst others.
Much of Alexandra’s work focused on levelling the regulatory playing field for bringing innovative animal product alternatives to market and lobbying for a farming transition away from animal agriculture to plant-based production.
Given that Devon Garden is about producing powerful and sustainable foods that we are hoping to make waves, Alexandra is an amazing addition to our team and the best person to head our partnerships efforts to engage with several organisations also looking to bring change in the food system.
Dr Vincenzo di Bari – Chief Scientist / Adviser
Where would we be without a product? That’s where Vincenzo comes in. For Vincenzo, advising Devon Garden how to make plant-based foods is truly a passion project. Vincenzo is a senior food science and technology Post-Doctoral researcher, investigating novel strategies in several topics ranging from saturated and trans fats replacement in foods to how to extract proteins and oils from pulses and seeds. After Devon Garden completed a research project developing the company’s own process for extracting proteins from yellow split peas together with some clever PhDs, Vincenzo was introduced to Devon Garden as the perfect fit to continue driving our scientific efforts.
Talking to Cesar about food sustainability and plant-based nutrition, sometimes until 2am, and realising they had much in common in other areas such as work ethics and a relentless drive for innovation and scientific experimentation, Vincenzo decided to collaborate with Devon Garden. It is his belief that we can truly change society with commercially available products which use land respectfully and don’t exploit animals.
The process of creating a wider range of pea-based drinks and foods as well as extracting not only proteins from pulses but also oils, fibre and starches, was an engaging challenge for him. Since being involved with Devon Garden, he has helped greatly with the development of the scientific aspects of the project, considering how best to extract everything from a pea and which technology to implement. Thanks to his science wizardry, Devon Garden has what is lacking in almost all plant-based start-ups, a true scientific genius and strong technical and R&D background, which when complemented with Cesar’s engineering mindset drives Devon Garden in a constant pursuit for scientific innovation to create the best plant-based dairy alternatives out there.
This has not been an easy task either. Like the rest of the team, there has been no financial remuneration but the pure joy and inspiration from Devon Garden’s mission to create healthier and more sustainable plant-based nutrition for all.