Husband-Wife Team of Christianto Putra ’16, ’21 and Raissa Yona ’15 Launches Proven Provisions

A man in glasses and a gray T-shirt holds two bags of waffle mix Image by Ed Brennen
Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences alum Christianto Putra '16, '21 and his wife Raissa Yona '15 recently introduced Wise Waffle Mix, the first gluten-free, high-protein product from their Proven Provisions business.

By Ed Brennen

Imagine eating waffles almost every night for a year and a half.

That’s what the husband-wife team of Christianto Putra ’16, ’21 and Raissa Yona ’15 did to fine-tune the recipe for their gluten-free, high-protein Wise Waffle Mix, the first product from their new business, Proven Provisions.

“The first few months of trial and error, those waffles didn’t taste good at all,” laughs Putra, a Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences alum who launched the mix in January after striking a satisfactory balance between health and taste. “Turns out developing a gluten-free product is quite challenging.”

It can also be quite lucrative. With the rising prevalence of celiac disease, a chronic digestive and immune disorder that damages the small intestine, the global market for gluten-free foods is projected to nearly double to $13.7 billion by 2030.

The global market for pancake and waffle mix, meanwhile, is expected to hit $723.9 million by the end of the decade.

“If you can penetrate just a small fraction of that market, that’s a lot of money,” says Putra, a native of Jakarta, Indonesia, who earned an M.S. in clinical laboratory science and a Ph.D. in pharmaceutical sciences from UML.
A man in a gray T-shirt mixes waffle batter in a silver bowl in a kitchen. Image by Ed Brennen
Christianto Putra spent 18 months tinkering with the chemistry of his gluten-free waffle mix in his kitchen in Lowell.

A self-described “foodie,” Putra has been interested in nutrition for as long as he can remember. His family has a history of type 2 diabetes, and his “dream” was to find a cure for the disease. For his dissertation, he researched the exposure of a common food additive called titanium dioxide — the basis for an article that was published in the Journal of Nutrition. 

Since completing his Ph.D., Putra has worked as an R&D scientist at seqWell, a biotech company in Beverly, Massachusetts. While he “can’t think of a better place to work,” he realized he wasn’t putting his nutrition know-how to use. So he decided to start Proven Provisions on the side.

“UMass Lowell’s motto is ‘learning with purpose,’ and I wanted to use my education for a purpose,” says Putra, who got a taste of entrepreneurship and business as a grad student by participating in the Rist DifferenceMaker program and Mill City Consulting student organization. 

When a friend’s mom who is highly sensitive to gluten told Putra how difficult it was to find gluten-free products that actually taste good, he began taking stock of grocery store shelves. He saw an opportunity in gluten-free waffles, a “fun” breakfast item that could also deliver a healthy dose of protein.
A husband and wife hold their young daughter and a dog while sitting on a couch. Image by courtesy
Alumni Raissa Yona and Christianto Putra, who were married during the pandemic in 2020, have a 1-year-old daughter, Eleanor.

The key ingredient, Putra discovered, is casein, a protein found in milk and other dairy products.

“It digests slowly, so you feel full longer. And it releases amino acid into your bloodstream more consistently,” says Putra, who tinkered with formulas in his kitchen for months, adding oat and corn flour to help with the waffle batter’s consistency.

For his first taste test, he invited his former Ph.D. adviser, Assoc. Prof. of Biomedical and Nutritional Sciences Kelsey Mangano; his former lab mate, Lindsay McGrail ’18, ’22; and Ph.D. student Lisa Merrill.

“The hardest part of a taste test is getting them to tell you the honest truth. I told them, ‘If it’s not good, you must tell me!’” says Putra, who heard that his mix was “tasty” but “a little bit on the chewier side.”
A man in glasses and a grey T-shirt holds a plate with two waffles. Image by Ed Brennen
Christianto Putra's gluten-free Wise Waffle Mix has 14 grams of protein and 11 grams of carbs per serving

Once he was happy with the formulation, Putra contracted with a branding agency to develop a company name and logo, as well as packaging and a website. He also rented space from a commercial kitchen in Woburn, Massachusetts, where he now spends Saturdays mixing ingredients and filling 6.3-ounce packages with Wise Waffle Mix.

Putra is growing the business while starting a family. He and Yona, a plastics engineering alumna who works at energy storage company A123 Systems, were married during the pandemic in 2020 and live in Lowell. They have a 1-year-old daughter, Eleanor.

“We’ve got a lot of things cooking,” says Putra, who works on the business for three hours each weeknight after getting home from seqWell. On Sundays, he and Yona produce social media content for the company.

While the waffle mix is available from the Proven Provisions website and on Amazon, Putra hopes to one day get into stores such as Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe’s and Costco. Until then, he plans to bootstrap the business by cooking up samples at farmers markets and gluten-free food expos. He also plans to add cinnamon and chocolate varieties and eventually to expand into cupcake mixes.

“Developing the business is even more challenging than I thought, because it’s a very crowded space and nobody knows who you are,” says Putra, who has received guidance and investor funding from an uncle in Indonesia.

“The pressure is high, but UMass Lowell taught me that if you’re under pressure, just keep your head down and keep doing the right thing,” Putra says. “Whatever life throws at you, you can always persevere.”