Snacking while vegan can be a challenge—just ask entrepreneur Matt Feldman (’15), founder and CEO of Moku Foods. After learning about the lack of sustainability in the meat industry and the health benefits of plant-based nutrition, he committed to a vegan diet. “It made me feel great, physically, mentally, spiritually,” says Mr. Feldman, who was then working in Silicon Valley tech sales but yearning to start his own business. He had only one problem: “What was I going to snack on?”
Craving something chewy, savory, delicious, and filling, Feldman set about doing some research. “I saw that beef jerky was a $4 billion business in the U.S., and vegan was…nothing,” he says, adding, “A lightbulb went on!” His kitchen was soon full of experiments as he attempted to make jerky with portobello mushrooms and other sustainably grown ingredients.
Feldman officially launched Moku Foods in 2019 with assistance from Thomas Bowman, former head of product development at Eat Just, who helped refine the jerky with meatier king oyster mushrooms. The two developed flavors like Hawaiian Teriyaki and Sweet & Spicy, with more on the way. Sales through Amazon and Thrive Market helped raise brand awareness, and Feldman was named to the 2021 Forbes “30 Under 30” list for Food and Drink.
Seeing opportunities is a constant for Feldman, who, while studying finance at Baruch and playing point guard for the men’s basketball team, launched two businesses: Cinco Terras Specialty Coffees and Undorm.com, a brokerage to help students find convenient, affordable housing.
Feldman knew the importance of sustainable living from growing up in Oahu, Hawaii. “Our small island imports more than 80 percent of our food,” he says. “You have to be very careful about your choices and the impact they have.”
In Hawaiian, moku means land division. “A name associated with the land and the island made a lot of sense for us,” says Feldman, who donates 1 percent of Moku’s profits to organizations that feed the hungry and teach kids to grow their own food. “We’re producing food that helps sustain the planet.”