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[4-min read] Q&A with Charlotte Cruze, Food Scholar & Founder

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Charlotte Cruze cofounded a company that’s doing functional mushrooms differently. She wanted to make mushrooms indulgent, without skimping on potency.

We picked her foodie brain about the shady secrets of the supplements industry, folding psychedelic advocacy into her company mission, and how Alice Mushrooms is making moves to bring the first legal psilocybin chocolate to market.

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Charlotte Cruze Psychonaut POV

Q&A with Charlotte Cruze, Food Scholar & Founder

Give us the origin story of Alice Mushrooms. What inspired you and your co-founder to start this company?

Originally, Lindsay Goodstein, my co-founder, had the idea. She has a background in pharmaceutical sales and had been working in medical devices for a long time. But honestly, she got burnt out on the pharmaceutical industry and started exploring natural alternatives that could deliver similar results. That's when she dived deep into mushrooms. As she researched and explored various mushrooms, she realized that most functional mushroom supplements out there taste terrible and simply don't work. It became a frustrating cycle of taking something unpleasant every day and waiting for weeks to see any results.

That's when the concept for Alice, our mushroom chocolate brand, came to her. Through a mutual friend in the industry, I got connected to Lindsay. My background is in digital marketing, specifically in branded content for publishers. However, like Lindsay, I became disenchanted with that field. I then pursued a master's in food studies at NYU because I realized the immense impact food has on our lives.

We came together with a fusion of food and pharma. How could we create a food that not only acts as medicine but is also delicious and indulgent? We wanted to bring joy into people's lives and make them feel good with each bite.

This isn’t your first rodeo. You have a background in building food and wellness brands. So what are some of the new challenges that came up when you started Alice?

Formulating our products was the first challenge. In the food world, it's all about getting a recipe right, not necessarily capturing a feeling. But we firmly stand behind our products and the experience they promise. It took us a year and a half of relentless iteration to make that feeling a reality, while also ensuring they taste amazing. We approached it like Goldilocks, finding the perfect balance—more of this, less of that—while ensuring every chocolate square packs a medicinal dose of each supplement.

Sourcing posed another major hurdle. In traditional food businesses, like when I was working on an alternative to Nutella, it's pretty straightforward—hazelnuts, cocoa powder, common stuff. But functional mushrooms are trickier to source, and the whole sourcing environment can be shady. We could have launched our product much earlier, but we held off because we couldn't find a sourcing partner we truly trusted. The functional mushroom space is still full of unknowns. There’s the mycelium versus fruiting body debate, ambiguous certifications and labels, and other factors to consider. But here's the scariest part: many functional mushrooms are cut with dextrin, a starch. Growers dump dextrin powder on them during drying to speed up the process. Time is money, right? And even when the mushrooms are powdered, they add more dextrin to bulk it up.

The scary thing about dextrin is that it tests positive for polysaccharides, making the product appear more potent than it actually is. That really freaked us out. We put in immense effort and finally found a sourcing partner—a female-owned conglomerate of farms with a patented growing and extraction method that eliminates any starch contamination. That's why our little chocolate square packs such a punch. Our sourcing is potent and strong.

You're also founding members of the Microdosing Collective. Can you tell us a little about this organization and why you chose to align Alice with its mission?

Absolutely! Microdosing Collective is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to promoting research and education on microdosing psychedelics to support the legalization process. Our mission of accessibility is paramount to us. Currently, the path to legalization seems to prioritize inpatient treatment centers for high doses of psychedelics. While that's fantastic, it demands a significant investment of time and money. Unfortunately, many people lack both. We believe that these medicines can be incredibly beneficial in smaller, more accessible doses. Our advocacy focuses on making microdosing accessible to people and educating them about the various ways to experience the benefits of psychedelic mushrooms and other substances.

This mission holds special significance for us because we strive to be the first recreational chocolate brand on the market. By pushing the conversation forward and introducing this concept, we aim to build a trustworthy brand, cultivate trust with our consumers, and educate them. From the very beginning, we want to show our involvement in this space and the direction our company is headed. It's not just about changing perspectives on the future of psilocybin; it's also about being transparent with our community.

I assume you’re planning for the eventual legalization of psilocybin. Is there a secret SKU you’ve been working on at the Alice food lab?

We are working towards a future we believe in. Behind the scenes, we're actively preparing for a plug-and-play scenario. We chose a manufacturer in Colorado for a reason — things are evolving rapidly there. Our sourcing partner shares our commitment and is keen to be at the forefront of this movement. We already source high-quality functional mushrooms, and we hope to be able to add psilocybin mushrooms soon.

Additionally, we have an emerging medicine business attorney, Courtney Barnes, who’s also a member of the Microdosing Collective, serving on our advisory board. She's guiding us through every step of the process, ensuring that we operate legally and above board. We're ready to act as soon as the country and states are ready. This is why advocacy and education are of utmost importance right now.

Supplements aren’t regulated with much scrutiny. What advice can you offer to people to ensure they’re getting high-quality stuff that actually works?

You’re 100% right. The easiest way to navigate the supplement space is by checking the labels on your packaging. Look for multiple certifications that a brand has acquired. The more certifications they have, the more stringent the parameters they have to adhere to, reducing the likelihood of any shady practices. For example, we use only organic dark chocolate and USDA organic certified fruiting-body mushrooms. So, watch out for that organic label or note on the ingredients tab. We're also kosher, vegan, dairy-free, and gluten-free. These certifications place additional restrictions on fillers. For example, being vegan ensures that there are no animal-based fillers in our products. When it comes to mushrooms specifically, look for "fruiting body" mentioned on the packaging. That’s where the most bioavailable nutrients are.

Apart from ingredients and certifications, take the time to research the brands you're considering. Do they appear trustworthy? Are they making false promises? Check if they have an about section and an FAQ section on their website. Do they provide genuine answers to real questions? Be a curious consumer and invest some time into conducting your own research. A little diligence combined with your intuition will take you a long way.

Want to taste Charlotte’s mushroom chocolates? Try both varieties from Alice, and get 20% off with code TRICYCLE.

Proceeds support The Hope Project and Microdosing Collective, two non-profits advocating for access to psychedelic support and research.

That’s all for today. Before you head off, don’t forget to share, rate, and review Tricycle Day below. Catch ya next time, Cyclists! ✌️

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DISCLAIMER: This newsletter is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice. The use, possession, and distribution of psychedelic drugs are illegal in most countries and may result in criminal prosecution.

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