Learn the science behind:
Have you ever dreamed of developing and selling your own kitchen tools? Have you never been fully satisfied with the tools that are already out there? Do you see plenty of opportunities to tweak and improve existing designs?
If so, you will definitely resonate with the developers of the LoafNest! They saw a way to improve baking bread at home and decided to forge ahead and develop their own tool. The result of their subsequent is the LoafNest, a smart, but simple tool that makes baking your own bread at home super easy (we tested it :-)).
We spoke to the founders behind LoafNest when they just got started, back in 2018. We had a chance to catch up in early 2021 to see how they’re doing! It’s an inspiring journey for any aspiring kitchen appliance developer.
Please note, we have not received any financial compensation for writing about or testing the LoafNest.
Meeting the Inventor(s)
As soon as I entered Shrivalli’s home back in early 2018, I was presented with a slice of freshly baked bread, made in a LoafNest, of course. The flavor of the day: a delicious carrot cumin bread. She, of course, was experimenting with a lot of different recipes and ideas at the time, to test just how well the LoafNest would perform.
At the time, Shrivalli was still fully submerged in the testing and launching phase of the LoafNest. It wasn’t yet commercially available, but they were very close to launching a Kickstarter campaign! However, they’d already gone through an extensive product development phase, long before I came to visit.
Shrivally and bread baking
Being scientists ourselves, it is always great to meet other scientists. Shrivalli, the brains behind the LoafNest, is definitely a scientist by heart as well. After studying Physics at university, she decided to continue learning and also get a PhD in physics, which she got at the University of Cambridge. Later she moved to the Netherlands, where she still lives with her family.
Shrivalli isn’t just interested in physics though. She also happens to have a passion for bread baking. Eating a freshly baked slice of bread is a true joy and she regularly made her own bread. However, being a scientist, she saw plenty of ways to improve the process and especially shorten it. All the kneading, proofing and shaping, make bread baking time-consuming and hard to fit into a busy daily life.
Ever trying out new ways to make bread she ran into no-knead bread recipes online. These breads are already a lot easier to make, trading off effort for time. It was a good fit for her and she soon started testing new pans and kits to bake her no-knead bread in. However, none really worked that great. Some didn’t heat the bread evenly. Others didn’t give as crusty a crust as she might have wanted. Yet others were just inconvenient.
That’s where the seed for LoafNest got planted. Over time the idea started to grow and she continued to tinker and test in their home kitchen.
What is the LoafNest?
The LoafNest is a simple, but effective, tool to bake bread at home without a lot of effort. The LoafNest consists of an enameled cast-iron Dutch oven with a perforated silicone liner. The Dutch oven has been designed in such a way that it is perfect for making crusty breads by trapping steam inside. But, it’s convenient to move around and handle while hot!
The LoafNest has been designed to make no-knead bread baking even easier. To make bread in the LoafNest weigh & mix your ingredients (no need for kneading) and proof it. Then simply pour the dough into the LoafNest liner and bake. Read more here.
Developing the LoafNest
Not happy with their own pans and kits she started looking elsewhere, by now also taking her partner Narasimha on the journey. They looked into other non-bread-specific tools they had lying around. Also, they looked at other equipment available in stores.
None of these were ideal either though but they did slowly learn what aspects they did like. For instance, enameled cast iron seemed a good material to work with, the design of the available pans just didn’t work great.
Also, inspired by the professional baking industry, they saw value in using silicone liners. These liners, combined with the enameled cast iron would help with the release of the bread and made the whole system more user friendly.
Their first sample of professional silicone liner wasn’t the shape or size they needed, that wasn’t available yet. But, it proved to be good enough to prove their concept. They immediately saw the benefit of using the silicone liner.
Finalizing the design
By now they’d realized that their ideal bread baking pan would involve an enameled cast iron pan with a lid. This would help simulate the effect of steam in the oven, making for a crusty crust! Also, they know proper air circulation was essential and that their silicone liner would make all the difference in user friendliness.
Towards the end of their initial development journey they had a few shapes of cast iron pans, and still just that one silicone liner to test with. However, it was enough to prove the concept. Up next: finding a manufacturer.
Finding a manufacturer
And this wasn’t easy. Being a small, family owned business with no prior experience in making food production tools, it was hard to find and work with manufacturers. Most manufacturers within both the cast iron as well as silicone liner space are large. They aren’t necessarily interested in smaller orders, especially if they can’t even guarantee to order them yet (remember, they yet have to launch their Kickstarter campaign and are funding all of these developments themselves!)!
Identifying manufacturers and creating good long-term working relationships involved a steep learning curve. They didn’t yet know any manufacturers, luckily, Google was there to help. In the end, they found suitable manufacturing partners with whom they’ve created a good working relationship.
Sign up to our weekly newsletter to be updated on new food science articles.
Time to Sell! – Kickstarter
Once they had refined and tweaked their LoafNest to their specifications and found manufacturers to actually make the LoafNest, it was time to sell it! Of course, they were enthusiastic about their product. It solved a real problem they had, but would others be just as enthusiastic?
Having funded their whole journey themselves so far, they decided to launch the LoafNest through a Kickstarter campaign. It would be a great way to see whether people would be interested while also funding the manufacturing of their first real batch of products.
Marketing is a wholly different business though and since both Shrivally and Narasimha aren’t marketeers, but an engineer and physicist, this was another learning journey. A few months after I visited them in their home in the Netherlands, they had successfully funded their Kickstarter campaign! Production and sales of LoafNest could officially start!
Growing the business – 2021
In early 2021 I reconnected with Narasimha to hear how the business had progressed in the years since their initial launch. In short: very well! After having shipped their first actual products in late 2018, they have steadily grown since. What’s especially been great is the positive feedback from customers who’ve been enthusiastically using the LoafNest to bake their bread.
They’ve continued to re-invest in their business and have a range of ideas they’d like to work on. Their most recent product launch: the Panache. Again, it solves a problem they had themselves. They couldn’t find the ‘perfect’ pan for making roti, dosas, and pancakes. So, they developed one themselves. It’s also made of enameled cast iron, and is (hopefully) just the first of a range of products they’d like to produce moving forward!
Buy a LoafNest
Want to buy a LoafNest (or panache)? You can find it on Amazon, but Shrivalli & Narasimha have also recently launched an online web store where you can order it as well! Yet another step in their product development journey!
Wekigai, link ; the main website of the developers of the LoafNest.