Fast-casual restaurant chain Chipotle recently selected California-based vegan seafood startup Sophie’s Kitchen for its Chipotle Cultivate Foundation mentorship program, which works with companies it believes are promoting sustainable change in the food industry. Chipotle CEO Brian Niccol said the eight selected companies “represent the best and brightest of what’s next in the food industry.” The partnership begins in March with a five-day boot camp, followed by a seven-month-long accelerator program. Sophie’s Kitchen will receive coaching from industry leaders such as tech entrepreneur Kimbal Musk and Top Chef celebrity Richard Blais, as well as Chipotle executive Caitlin Leibert. “Since our founding, Chipotle has been committed to cultivating a better world, and we believe the best way to lead the future of food is to inspire others to come along with us on the journey and be a force for good in our industry,” Niccol said. Sophie’s Kitchen produces soy-free and non-GMO products using pea protein and Konjac root—a high-fiber Asian superfood— through a specialized technology that employs high pressure and temperature to transform protein flours into convincingly textured vegan products, including shrimp, scallops, and smoked salmon.

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