Jeremiah Chapman has always been conscious of his environmental decisions. While studying chemical engineering at the University of Louisville, he spent his time finding solutions for brands to increase sustainability efforts.
One of those efforts was turning old frying oil from on-campus restaurants into biodiesel that fueled the campus shuttle.
“By the time it got to me, it was extremely dirty,” Chapman tells Hypepotamus. “I looked for a way to clean the old oil. That’s when I learned that the exact same things I was removing to make biodiesel, I could remove in the kitchen to make the oil last longer.”
That’s how FreshFry came to fruition. The Kentucky startup offers a safe way to extend the life of frying oil in commercial kitchens, using only plant-based components.
“We wanted to make sure that the product was repeatable, trainable, and it actually saved on oil itself,” says Chapman.
“This way it made sense not only today, but as labor pressure increases, it makes sense for tomorrow as well.”
FreshFry’s rectangular-shaped pod is built using recycled plant-based materials with no allergens.
The one-time-use pod is placed in a fryer’s hot oil right after what would normally be its last use. The heat activates the materials inside the pod to start the suctioning out of impurities. The restaurant staff leaves it in the fryer overnight and in the morning, squeeze the pod to remove the impurities, let it cool and toss it in the trash.
“You’re not allowed to throw away large quantities of oil, but by using the pod, you’re disposing of it in a responsible way,” says Chapman.
FreshFry’s solution can extend the life of frying oil by up to four days, removing any darkening or bitterness.
For Chapman, the journey to a successful product started with a big hiccup in 2015. After making a local restaurant connection, Chapman was excited to demo his prototype — but it promptly failed.
At that moment, he made a decision — rather than ensconcing himself in the lab to continue working, he chose to “stay in the back of house with restaurants and learn from the chefs themselves what’s important.”
That restaurant’s chef took him under his wing and the initial FreshFry prototype evolved from multiple small pods that would get lost in the fryer to one large one that can be place in the fry basket.
Since 2016, FreshFry has gone from three initial customers — including that first chef — to a nationally-distributed product.
Customers include Hattie B’s, Cardinal Stadium, Home Run Burgers & Fries, and more.
“We love the idea that we’re attacking a big problem in the market that isn’t going away, which is oil spend,” says Chapman. “People spend a lot of money on cooking oil, upwards of $80 billion in the United States.”
FreshFry raised a seed funding round from angel investors in 2016 and are now looking toward a growth-focused bridge round to expand their team.
Chapman himself has earned accolades like Forbes Magazine’s 30 under 30 (2015) for his innovation.
“For our future, we’re really interested in understanding the best ways to allocate labor in the back of the house,” says Chapman. “We see that as a huge problem and we want to take that on to make those tasks easier on the restauranteur.”