alert awareness become-a-member bio calendar clock close community corporate cup email entrance facebook heart instagram international leaf make-a-donation mappin menu pawn person political-tribune proveg-icon quote refresh search spread-the-word taste-plate twitter waga worldmap youtube options-menu chevron-left chevron-right scroll-down

Meet the team: Tim-Daniel Schulz

Tim-Daniel Schulz is the Event and Office Manager at the ProVeg Incubator. Tim was born in Berlin, but grew up in the very north of Germany, in a small town in Schleswig-Holstein, by the Baltic Sea. He came back to Berlin in 2014 and joined ProVeg in 2019.

Tim-Daniel, what do you do at the ProVeg Incubator?

I am responsible for supporting most of the things that happen in the Incubator as a space. This includes, for example, special live events like our Startup Demo Day, webinars, tastings, meetups, and external events.

Lately, these events happen online mostly, so I’ve turned into an expert of sorts for anything Zoom or webinar-related. On top of that, I make sure that everything needed for the day-to-day business at the co-working space is there and working.

How did you land this position?

After I finished my B.A. Language & Communication I started an internship at an event and promotion agency in Berlin. That then turned into my first full-time job. Having been vegan for a couple of years, I decided I wanted to work in that area as well.

I first got in touch with ProVeg by helping to organise the Vegan Summerfest Berlin in 2018. I stayed in touch with some of the people working here and eventually, when the position at the Incubator opened, I had to apply!

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love the vibe at the Incubator. We have a small team with great chemistry, and being surrounded by these highly motivated startup founders and their exciting projects is super inspiring. Also, I love our open co-working space.

What are some of the challenges of your job?

The main challenge for me is to get events — online and offline — off the ground that get as many of our stakeholders interested as possible. Lately, of course, everything has to happen online and it’s getting more and more difficult to get people excited about webinars and online events in general.

What are the values that drive you?

I want to be part of the solution to many issues the world is facing these days. Helping people to change their lifestyle towards a more or completely plant-based one by presenting them great alternatives, not by being judgy or talking them into it (because that only works with very few people), seems like a good approach.

Tell us three interesting facts about yourself?

  1. As a child, I once had a main part in an episode of a German TV show about coastguards.
  2. My vegan journey started through sheer curiosity (leaving away meat for a month with my flatmate). Other aspects like health and ethics came into play later on, as I educated myself.
  3. I am able to stay calm in very stressful situations.

What are your top three podcast/book/documentary recommendations?

  1. Podcast: Wind of Change — great if you are into history and/or spy stories and find conspiracy theories and their origins fascinating.
  2. Book: Watchmen (a graphic novel, I hope that counts) — pro tip: after reading it, definitely watch the HBO series by the same name, too!
  3. Documentary: The Game Changers — had to sneak a little bit of vegan propaganda in here 😉 Seriously though, it’s pretty well-done (and, as far as I know, well-researched. Even if some people like to suggest the opposite). Definitely worth a watch.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

The most frequent thing would be Crossfit. I also love to watch movies (preferably in an actual cinema) and cooking.

If your flat was on fire and you could only save one item (assume family and pets are safe) what would it be?

The watch my father gave to me when I was 15.

If you enjoyed this blog about Tim-Daniel Schulz, check out our previous posts from Albrecht Wolfmeyer and Antje Räuscher.

Update Foods: the startup making milk from algae

Update Foods is a plant-based-dairy startup from France founded by CEO Clémence Landeau, together with Céline Bouvier, and Franck Manifacier. The team is part of the current cohort at the ProVeg Incubator. This is their story. 

What does your startup do and what is your mission? 

Clémence: Update Foods develops plant-based milk and dairy solutions that are based on microalgae and faba-bean protein. We focus on producing affordable products that aim to replicate the taste, appearance, texture, and nutritional benefits of conventional animal-based dairy products.

Transitioning to a more plant-based lifestyle should look and feel effortless, almost invisible. Our mission is to take an updated version of milk and other dairy staples mainstream. With our products, we aim to help the next generation to move towards a plant-based lifestyle without any regrets.

Where did the idea for your company come from? 

Clémence: Update Foods sounded like an obvious, exciting, and impactful project to us when we connected the dots between the following elements:

Firstly, plant-based living is gathering momentum. Flexitarianism is becoming more popular and there are a growing number of consumers looking for 100% plant-based options.

When you add to that the number of people who are lactose intolerant, you are looking at an attractive pool of potential customers. Adopting a plant-based lifestyle is also crucial if we are to cope with the world’s environmental, health, animal welfare, and social justice challenges.

Secondly, some people still struggle with going plant-based, even if they genuinely want to. For example, many consumers say that they “miss the taste” of cheese or milk.

The current alternatives available on the market are not (yet) convincing enough to seduce flexitarians or hardcore cheese-lovers. There is therefore still a need for accessible, affordable, and delicious plant-based dairy products to be developed.

Finally, the current plant-based sector still has a long way to go. For example, my father cannot make the switch to plant-based dairy alternatives because they are generally soya-based or inaccessible.

He cannot eat soya and he lives far out in the countryside. Our goal is to help people like him to replace conventional animal-based products with alternatives that suit 21st-century living.

Tell us about your team. Why are you the right people for the project? 

Céline: Clémence Landeau is our CEO and I would describe her as sincere and future-oriented. She has dedicated her professional life to easing the global transition to plant-based eating. Clémence has supported consumer choices as a V-Label account manager, lobbied for political changes in the plant-based space, and worked to change the image of veganism, with the SMMMILE Vegan & Pop Festival.

Clémence: Franck Manifacier is our Head of Sales. Franck is experienced in managing brands, having led Pepsico in establishing new premium brands in France. His background will help Update Foods to strengthen its position in different markets and build a strong and efficient commercial strategy. 

Céline Bouvier is our Chairwoman. She has developed sharp insights into effective marketing strategies in the food business, thanks to her former position as Managing Director for Coca Cola France, and her current position at Vojo.

Céline: Update Foods is also supported by Algama Foods as a founding partner. Algama is a french food tech startup developing microalgae-based foods (the Good Good and Nøko Foods) that has raised more than $10 million. This collaboration brings unique algae expertise to our team and a strong potential network of retailers and partners for us to work with.

With our collective professional and personal experience and educational backgrounds, we have a strong understanding of the way we need to think about our brand and our products. We know how to make them attractive to the different target markets we have in our sights. 

What are your favourite parts about building your business? 

Clémence: Building a business is a beautiful mess. We love the freedom to create, iterate, fail, and rebuild that it allows. We love the idea that, if well-executed, we can have a real, game-changing impact on the food industry. Our startup is a project that people and the planet really need. 

What is it that makes your company unique? 

Céline: Update Foods combines a unique production process with an innovative formula based on micro-algae and faba protein. We are following a modern direct-to-consumer business model and have established a thorough approach to our branding. Our team is also introducing the daring concept of a dehydrated DIY product called ‘M!LK it yourself’.

Why did you decide to join the ProVeg Incubator? 

Clémence: The ProVeg Incubator is the perfect place for Update Foods to scale. The accelerator programme provides a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem and a supportive but challenging environment, with input from experienced mentors and sharp analysts.

When we looked at the previous startups it has supported, the potential of the ProVeg Incubator was immediately clear to us. We are convinced that it is just what we need to reach for the sky and make waves on the European (and hopefully global) food market. 

What do you hope to achieve with your company in the next 12 months? 

Clémence: We plan to launch our first product, M!LK Update Original, in D2C in 2021, and raise awareness of M!LK it yourself (our DIY product) in the global plant-based and food-industry spaces. Additionally, we are striving to fund the startup and make new hires. We also want to strengthen the bonds between our team members and to become a certified B Corporation.

Top 10 tips for pitching your startup online

Whether you love it or hate it, pitching your startup is a big deal. Like most events nowadays, the majority of pitches are being hosted digitally. Here are our top ten tips for pitching your startup online.

Today (Friday 15 January) the startups in our current cohort will be pitching for investment at our Startup Demo Day. The event is the culmination of the latest round of our accelerator programme.

For the last three months, we have been working with these six exciting food startups to help them build, grow, and launch in the food industry. This afternoon, the founders will each have six minutes to pitch to a panel of investors, in front of a live audience, in the hopes of securing investment.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, we are hosting the event online. Pitching is often nerve-wracking and doing it remotely can add an extra layer of complexity. If done right, however, it can be very impactful.

If you nail your pitch, it could be just the catalyst to propel your startup to the next level. With that in mind, here are our top ten tips for pitching online.

Practice, practice, practice

Let’s start with an obvious but important one. You must practice your pitch – relentlessly. Practice in front of a mirror, practice online, practice in front of real people. The founders who are the best at pitching are the ones that have put in the time behind the scenes. The result is a pitch that’s as smooth as (plant-based) butter.

Alumni startup Greenwise pitching at a previous ProVeg Incubator Demo Day

Embrace the awkward pause

How you deliver your pitch is almost as crucial as what you say. Have the confidence to take your time. Speak slowly and clearly, be precise, and take a pause after key details. It might feel awkward to you, but it is effective. Pausing is the spoken word equivalent of an exclamation point – it emphasises that what you just said is important. 

Remember body language

Even though you will (likely) be sitting at a computer, body language is still important. Look into your webcam when you speak so that the audience can connect with your eyes, just as they would in real life. Think about your facial expressions and gestures too. You can use these to reinforce your points and bring your speech to life.

Put your best foot forward

Does your team have 50+ years of experience? Have you developed a patented technology? If your startup has a unique strength then put it at the beginning of your pitch. This will engage your audience from the start and demonstrate the capability of your company.

Write a script

Pitching is an unnatural situation, so you might as well be prepared for it. By scripting your pitch, you can ensure that you cover all the points you want to make. You can also cut down on filler and time your speech more accurately. Knowing what you’re going to say will give you confidence and the more you practice, the more natural your pitch will become.

Alumni startup Plantcraft pitching at a previous ProVeg Incubator Demo Day

Wifi is Queen

Technical hitches can mess up a pitch. This is particularly true of an online presentation. Make sure you have a stable internet connection and use a LAN cable if possible. You could have the best pitch in the world, but it won’t matter if your screen freezes and no-one can hear it.

Think of your setup

You also need to think about where you will be delivering the pitch since the stage won’t be set for you. Pick a well-lit room with no distractions or background noise. Sit in front of a neutral background and get yourself a headset so that your audience can hear you loud and clear.

Avoid buzzwords

Investors will likely have heard the buzzwords from your sector countless times before and they won’t land like you want them to. Holding someone’s attention can be tricky online, so don’t turn them off with overused language. If you do use a buzzword, use it sparingly and back up what you are saying.

Three products our startups will pitch today. Plant-based chorizo from Pow Foods, chocolate from Fellow Creatures, and chicken from Naka Foods.

What about samples?

An important part of a pitch is being able to handle, smell, and taste a startup’s product. When you are pitching online, that experience will be missing so think about how you can replicate it. Can you send samples to the investor in advance? If not, you could consider making a demo video of your product or product tastings to play during the pitch.

Have fun

Finally, let your positive energy shine through. This is your company and if you are passionate about it, then show it. At the end of the day, people connect with and invest in people. If you are enthusiastic about your company, others will be too. Who knows? Maybe they’ll even be interested enough to support or invest in you.

If you want to join our next cohort of startups and be one of the companies pitching at our next demo day, then apply now. We are accepting applications from innovative food and food tech companies until the deadline on 7 February.

The chocolate brand championing fair pay and body positivity

Fellow Creatures is a plant-based chocolate company from the UK developing milk-style and white chocolates. Zsolt Stefkovics founded the startup and Fraser Doherty later joined him as a co-founder. The pair are part of the current cohort at the ProVeg Incubator. This is their story. 

What does your startup do and what is your mission? 

Zsolt: I grew up in a very non-vegan environment; my granddad ran a dairy farm and my uncle is a livestock trader. However, as a kid, deep down, I always felt that the exploitation of animals just wasn’t right. Like all of us, I was conditioned to consume dairy and eat meat, and so I became numb to it, growing up. 

Times have now changed, thankfully. My little 8-year-old niece can’t bear the thought of consuming an egg ‘from which little chicks are born’. She also objects to eating meat. My family, like many others, accept that we should all be consuming fewer animal products, not only for our health but for the planet. 

Although this all sounds very serious, Fellow Creatures is colourful and fun – it truly jumps out on the shelf.

The curvy characters on the wrappers are half-human, half-animal. They celebrate not only the fact that animals are our fellow creatures, but also that we should be positive about our bodies – whatever shape they are. Growing up as a flamboyant kid in the early 2000s in Eastern Europe, I was picked on, so this is something important for me. 

We set out on a mission to bring non-vegans closer to a plant-based diet by showing them what vegan food can be. As well as selling through our own D2C platform, we’re listed in all Planet Organic stores in London, as well as many independents, while we have our eyes set on premium supermarket chains in the UK and Europe.

Three of the flavours from the Fellow Creatures chocolate range

Where did the idea for your company come from? 

Zsolt: Fellow Creatures was born out of my (unsuccessful) search for creamy, indulgent plant-based chocolate, since becoming vegan. Having tried literally every plant-based chocolate in the UK and beyond, I found they were all missing the creaminess, sweetness, and fun factor that we all remember from childhood.

I found dark chocolates, which are naturally dairy-free, too bitter; and found the holier-than-thou raw chocolates too gritty to my taste. So, I set out to make my own. 

Thanks to my obsessive personality, I got into making my own chocolate at home. I invested in some basic equipment and started experimenting with different replacements for dairy in my recipes.

I found that creamed coconut and almond paste are the perfect replacements for dairy. Together, they give products a pleasantly nutty undertone. Having shared my countertop samples with my plant-based friends and family members, I realised I was onto something. 

One morning, I took a deep breath and went for it. I commissioned the fun and playful packaging and logo design, which are reminiscent of 90s packaging designs and started looking for a manufacturer who was happy to take on a then crazy-sounding project. 

Tell us about your team. Why are you the right people for the project? 

Zsolt: I had been working at a food-and-drink brand-development agency that consulted with many food startups. I always wanted to apply what I had learned in order to develop my own brand, and so I set out to launch Fellow Creatures. 

Fraser joined me as a co-founder when the product got to market. He had already founded the well-loved UK jam brand SuperJam when he was just 14. He also later co-founded the world’s most successful DTC beer subscription club Beer52.

Fellow Creatures Founder Zsolt Stefkovics

What are your favourite parts about building your business? 

Fraser: Every day brings something new. For us, building a business is a great way to embody our own values through our products. We are truly passionate about promoting a plant-based lifestyle and making it easier and more enjoyable for people to eat products that are made without animal agriculture. We think this is one of the most pressing issues of our generation, for so many reasons, and building a business that promotes these values is something we truly care about. 

 What have been the main challenges you’ve faced? 

Zsolt: What I soon had to realise is that things take so much longer than you’d expect, once other people are involved. It took me about eight months to identify potential manufacturers. Once we’d signed the agreement, it took a further six months to figure out how to upscale countertop recipes without losing their character. 

Fraser: It’s tough starting out as a new brand. Perhaps the biggest challenge, as with all new plant-based brands, had to do with perception. A lot of consumers assume that, because something is plant-based, it’s not going to taste good.

We do sampling at non-vegan events and, the people who taste our products are genuinely amazed. They can’t quite believe something ‘vegan’ could be so tasty and indulgent. We plan to do a lot of in-store sampling in order to educate consumers about how great vegan chocolate can taste and, perhaps, make plant-based eating a little more accessible. 

What is it that makes your company unique? 

Zsolt: It is easy to find plant-based chocolate that is either raw or dark but almost impossible to find premium-quality vegan milk chocolate that does not compromise on taste. I created ‘Milkless’ with a completely new angle in mind; to launch a product that has the exact taste and texture of milk chocolate, without any dairy.

I experimented with a variety of milk replacements and found that using creamed coconut results in a lovely mouthfeel without overpowering coconut notes. I’m also a huge fan of white chocolate. So, after Milkless, I created Raspberry White and Matcha White as well as a Salted Caramel variant. The latter is reminiscent of Caramac, which is a popular childhood favourite. 

Fraser: We have ethics at the core of our brand. We fight the exploitation of cocoa farmers by paying more than the fair-trade price for their produce, and save mother cows from exploitation for their milk. Our brand messaging promotes kindness to others and to ourselves. It may be just chocolate but it’s part of something bigger.

Chocolate from plant-based brand Fellow Creatures

Why did you decide to join the ProVeg Incubator? 

Zsolt: Fraser and I had been working on Fellow Creatures together and we wanted to expand our network to include other plant-based entrepreneurs going on similar journeys.

ProVeg offered us a fantastic chance to learn from mentors, share lessons with other entrepreneurs, and learn from the Incubator team – who have already supported so many great plant-based food and drink brands. We’re super excited to be a part of this programme! 

What do you hope to achieve with your company in the next 12 months? 

Fraser: Dairy is over – vegans have long seen it coming. Flexitarians are gradually realising that they feel much better after a no-meat Monday. Or that going dairy-free really clears your facial skin in the long term. Oatly has done loads to bring non-vegans closer to adopting plant-based milk. We want to achieve the same with chocolate. 

Zsolt: We set out to become a major plant-based chocolate brand in the UK and beyond. We are currently working on some seasonal, festive flavours, as well as some very exciting new product developments.

Our plan is for the brand to be a platform from which we can extend into other areas of snacking. The mainstream consumer is slowly realising that plant-based eating isn’t that hard. And when it comes to eating plant-based chocolate, it’s now incredibly easy. 

Startup advice from founder to founder

Some of the best advice in business comes from the people who have been there and done that. We asked the founders of the six latest startups to join the ProVeg Incubator for their advice to fellow entrepreneurs. Here’s what they told us.

There is no single right way to build a food company. In the end, you will always want to decide what is best for you and your startup. However, there are some tricks and tips that can help make your entrepreneurial journey less bumpy. And no-one is more familiar with those bumps than the people who have been there and done it themselves.

At the ProVeg Incubator, we’re delighted to be building a lifelong, collaborative community of startup founders. After successfully completing our accelerator programme, startups join our alumni, and we continue to support them for as long as they need us. What’s more, they also support one another by exchanging resources, sharing contacts, and offering advice.

In October, we launched the fifth cohort of startups to join the ProVeg Incubator. We asked the founders of each of the six companies the same question: “In your opinion, what does it take for a startup to be successful?”. Here is what they told us.

Stéphanie from The Fast Good Company:

To begin with, a product that the market needs, a good story that people believe in, and a mission that others can get behind. Once you have established that, you need the right margins and the capacity to be able to scale your products.

Dylan Duinmaijer and Stéphanie de Jong, founders of the Fast Good Company

Dylan from The Fast Good Company:

You need to be prepared, learn to adapt from your mistakes, and make sure that your product is market-ready. Then you need the right network to help take you to market and create some noise around your products. They say that getting in is the easy part – staying around is when the hard work really starts. That’s why we believe that branding, marketing, and collaboration are crucial to a business becoming and staying successful.  

Zsolt from Fellow Creatures:

The food and drink market is extremely competitive and there are many new plant-based brands launching all the time. The best way to stand out and to create a product that has longevity is to focus on branding, building a community, and creating a strong and unique company culture.

It isn’t really enough to have a great product anymore. Brands these days need to be living and breathing organisms that join the conversation, tell a joke, and create a community. At Fellow Creatures, we use Instagram to actively engage with our customers. Our page is a social club of chocolate lovers, a place to get inspired and banter with fellow choco-fiends. We actively listen to them and take on their feedback to continuously reiterate our products, messaging, and online experience.

Chocolate from Fellow Creatures

Kushal from Naka Foods:

Persistence: building a business takes a lot of time and you will face challenges along the way. You need persistence and determination to be able to jump those hurdles and keep going. Focus: startups have a lot of moving parts. You need to be able to focus and dedicate your attention to the most worthwhile tasks, the ones that will take you closer to achieving your mission. Finally, timing. Connecting a good product to a gap in the market at the time that consumers are looking for it is key.

Eyleen from Pow! Foods:

Startups have the advantage of being close to their consumers and building a meaningful relationship with them. It is worth taking the time to research and truly understand what your customers are looking for in a product and why they might choose your brand over others.

As companies get bigger, it’s common for them to move further and further away from the people who are buying their products. They become strangers to one another and the company loses this competitive advantage. At POW! Foods, we co-create with our consumers. They are at the centre of the majority of our strategies that focus on what we create and it’s important for us to have a deep understanding of what they want. For us, that’s the key to success.

Two of the founders of Update Foods, Clémence Landeau and Céline Bouvier

Clemence from Update Foods:

Belief, determination, modesty, and resilience. For us, the success of a startup starts with the attitudes of its founders and extends to a range of elements aligning with each other. For example, both the product you are offering and the price have to be correct and your branding should resonate with your audience.

At Update Foods, our definition of success is managing to seduce consumers who are not currently following a plant-based lifestyle to enjoy our alternative dairy products. This will maximise our positive impact as a company, offer our team a fulfilling working environment, and assure that our startup continues to grow and reach its full potential.

Astrid from Haofood:

Put your customer first. Do consumers want your product and does it meet their expectations? Listen to their feedback and incorporate it wherever possible. Aim for excellent quality. From your startup brand to your team to the final product, what you are sharing with the world needs to be worthwhile. To that list, we would also add trust, innovation, and synergy. For Haofood, it’s important for us to know that we are contributing to a global mission that extends beyond what any one company can do alone.

If you enjoyed this blog post, you might like to read more about the startups featured in it. Check out this feature from when the cohort launched, introducing all six companies and the projects they are working on.

Naka Foods: the future of meat in India

Naka Foods is a plant-based food company from India that is developing a range of chicken alternatives for the Indian and Asian markets. The startup was founded by Kushal Aradhya, who is part of the current cohort at the ProVeg Incubator. This is the Naka Foods story.

What does your startup do and what is your mission? 

Kushal: Naka Food is developing superfood-based products, mostly to replace products that currently exist, but with more sustainable, healthier alternatives. We use high-quality, naturally derived ingredients in order to create food products that are nutritious and tasty. 

The first product developed by Naka Foods was an algae-derived snack bar, which provides a healthier alternative to other options on the market. For our second product, we are developing plant-based chicken. The main ingredients we are using are jackfruit, chickpeas, and spirulina. 

Our mission is to help solve inefficiencies in the global food system by introducing more plant-based and sustainable options.

Where did the idea for your company come from? 

Kushal: I was involved in a project that focused on between-meal hunger. That’s when I came face-to-face with disturbing data that suggests more than 70% of corporate employees in India are prone to heart disease and lifestyle diseases.

The main cause of these illnesses is unhealthy eating habits. That’s why I decided to dedicate my work to helping to solve this issue. Alternative food products are the answer.

Tell us about your team. Why are you the right people for the project? 

Kushal: We are a small team of dedicated people, who have substantial knowledge of the food and biochemistry spaces. We all love food. However, what we can’t stand is the current level of animal cruelty and inefficiencies that exist in the global food system.

We believe that with our previous experience in creating a food product – the algae-based snack bar – all the way from initial idea to lab prototype to commercial launch, we are the right people for bringing a new plant-based meat product to market.

What are your favourite parts about building your business?

Kushal: Acting on an idea that could potentially revolutionise the food system and have a positive impact on millions of lives.

What are the main challenges you’ve faced? 

Kushal: Getting appropriate lab access for creating our prototypes was an initial challenge. Distribution was another key challenge for us.

Founder Kushal Aradhya and the Naka Foods team

What is it that makes your company unique? 

Kushal: Our past experience in creating a richly nutritious product, together with our approach of minimal processing and using abundantly available jackfruit, makes us stand out. Additionally, we are also reducing our raw-materials usage and improving the lives of farmers in India.

Why did you decide to join the ProVeg Incubator? 

Kushal: Because of the ProVeg Incubator’s focus on accelerating plant-based startups. Several friends, who had previously taken part in the accelerator programme, recommended the experience to me.

What do you hope to achieve with your company in the next 12 months?

Kushal: We would like to develop strategies for the execution and launch of our plant-based-meat product, as well as developing business and investor connections.

If you enjoyed this blog post, check out this interview with Hafood – the startup making the world’s happiest chicken. Haofood is based in Shanghai, China, and develops plant-based alternatives to fried chicken.

Alternative seafood: it’s more than a trend

Compared to alternative meat and dairy, seafood is a category that is still in its infancy. However, it is a sector that is developing at an impressive pace. It also has the potential to have a huge impact on the food industry. We’ve been speaking to some of the experts in this field. Read on to learn what they have to say about the future of alternative seafood.

Alternative seafood is a hot topic in the food space. Consumers want more options and as a lesser tapped market than meat or dairy, there is huge innovation potential in this sector. 

Plant-based giant Impossible Foods has already announced it has started working on fish products. Meanwhile, Good Catch secured $32 million earlier this year in financing for its plant-based seafood. 

It’s not just big players that are jumping on the seafood train though, entrepreneurs around the world are setting up startups focusing on developing seafood, and with good reason. Take Hooked, Shiok Meats, Avant Meats, Finless Foods, Kuleana, and New Wave Foods for example.

Emil Wasteson and Tom Johansson, the founders of Hooked Seafood

Currently, plant-based seafood makes up just 1% ($9.5 million) of total plant-based meat sales in the US. Approximately 91% of those sales come from the frozen section.

A consumer survey by ProVeg shows that it is one of the key areas for innovation in the food space and also what consumers are interested in. In short, plant-based seafood is the white space on the market.

An innovative solution to a global problem

Alternative seafood is much more than a good business idea or the latest food trend; it’s a solution to a real, global problem. Nearly 90% of the world’s marine fish stocks are fully exploited, overexploited, or depleted.

From 1990 to 2018, there was a 122% increase in the amount of fish being eaten by people globally. In 2016, 150-million tonnes of seafood was produced for human consumption.

Each year, up to 2.7 trillion fish are caught from the wild for human consumption.

We are hosting a webinar this week, in partnership with NX-Food, to dive deeper into the topic of alternative seafood. Experts from Shiok Meats, Avant Meats, Hooked, and Hatch will speak about what the future holds for this industry.

You can sign up here. In the meantime, here is a little teaser from each of our speakers.

Sandhya Sriram, CEO and Co-founder of Shiok Meats:

“Cell-based seafood is the future. I am not talking about the distant future, but the next three to five years! The seafood in the ocean is depleting at an alarming rate and with the tremendous growth in population, we need huge amounts of sustainable, nutritious, and delicious protein to feed us all in the coming years. Cell-based seafood is the answer to that. Shiok Meats and I are extremely happy to bring cell-based crustaceans soon to your tables.”

Shrimp dumplings from Shiok Meats. Photo credit: Shiok Meats

Emil Wasteson, Co-founder of Hooked Seafood: 

“Plant-based seafood is still a white-space in comparison to plant-based meat and dairy. However, with increasing awareness of the environmental and health issues within the seafood industry and multiple innovative startups emerging in this space, we believe this is about to change. The market is just waiting for the right brands and products that will unlock its full potential, just like Impossible Foods has achieved in the meat sector and Oatly in the dairy.

“It’s very exciting to be in a space where the technical advancements are progressing extremely quickly. In the next few years, we will witness tastier, cheaper, and more nutritious plant-based seafood options coming to market.”

Georg Baunach, Managing Partner and Co-founder of Hatch:

“I expect the alternative seafood market to become highly competitive over the next years and to see real growth opportunities beyond the flexitarian consumer.

“For startups, the challenge will be for them to find their place among the ‘big guys’ with strong brands or a ‘hard’ defendable IP. I am most excited about the potential environmental benefits the adoption of alternative seafood can bring, but I am also cautious of unintended consequences.”

Fish maw from Avant Meats. Photo credit: Avant Meats

Carrie Chan, Co-Founder and CEO of Avant Meats:

“Each year, up to 2.7 trillion fish are caught from the wild. Meanwhile, 37-120 billion fish are killed on commercial farms. Aquaculture solves part of the supply problem, however, the number of species that can be commercially farmed is limited.

“The need for an alternative supply of seafood is imminent. Avant Meats is a cultivated meat biotechnology company. We offer patent-pending solutions that enable businesses to produce animal proteins without raising, catching, or slaughtering animals.

“The company’s pilot products are cultivated fish and marine proteins. Thanks to our technology, we customise the nutritional profile of our product while keeping them free from heavy metals, microplastics, radioactive contaminants, parasites, and antibiotics.”

To hear more from all of these speakers, and from ProVeg and NX-Food, on the topic of seafood alternatives, sign up for our free webinar. It is on Wednesday 9 December between 2 and 3 pm CEST. We look forward to welcoming you then!

Haofood: the startup making chicken from peanuts

Haofood is a Chinese food company that is developing peanut-based chicken alternatives. The startup was founded in Shanghai by Astrid Prajogo, Shaowei Liu, Jenny Zhu, and Kasih Che, who are all part of the current cohort at the ProVeg Incubator. This is their story. 

What does your startup do and what is your mission?  

Astrid: We started with the aspiration of helping foodies reduce their meat consumption without losing the pleasure of eating the familiar dishes that they love. That’s why we are developing a plant-based chicken that is specifically designed to be cooked as Asian fried chicken. Our mission is to ensure that eating good, plant-based food is possible.

Our definition of good food is tasty and nutritious products that are healthy, safe to eat, environmentally friendly, and free from animal cruelty.  We are committed to giving consumers the foods that they crave, particularly comfort foods, but delivered in a way that’s good for people and the planet.

Where did the idea for your company come from?  

Astrid: I love to eat good-tasting food so much. And to be honest, meat dishes, for me, usually taste way more delicious than vegetable dishes. Yet, at the same time, I am fully aware that eating meat, especially from large-scale industrial farms, is dangerous for ourselves and the planet.

Damaging our planet is equal to damaging my own home. Putting our health at unnecessary risk is equal to hurting myself. Although I am fully aware of this issue, it was too difficult for me to give up meat. So, I contemplated deeply as to how I should tackle this conflict within myself.

Then I found out about plant-based meat – a perfect solution for my never-ending dilemma. And so, I decided to go with developing plant-based meat. From there, I met my co-founders and we decided to go along this path together. 

Tell us about your team. Why are you the right people for the project?

Kasih: Astrid is a seasoned entrepreneur with over 17 years’ experience in the gastronomy, nutrition, and healthcare sectors. She was also in charge of international gastronomic diplomacy for the marketing campaign Wonderful Indonesia.

Jenny: Professor Shaowei Liu has over 25 years of experience in food sciences and technology. His key focus is on extrusion technology and food safety. During the course of his career, Professor Liu has been published in over two hundred scientific journals.

Shaowei: Jenny has over 20 years of experience in finance, accounting, and taxation. She has created business systems that have improved the efficiency of some of China’s top 50  food companies. 

Astrid: Kasih has over seven years of experience in food services and plant-based food marketing and has greatly increased the popularity of products such as tempeh in Shanghai. We are all foodies and all have a strong background and experience in the food industry. The core skills that each one of us brings to the table also complement one another. This makes us the right team to bring our company and our mission to life.

Haofood founder Astrid Prajogo

What are your favourite parts about building your business? 

Astrid: I really love making our Tao (business principles and strategy), designing our brand and our products, actually putting our product out there in the culinary world, and being able to engage with so many interesting people from different backgrounds. 

What are the main challenges you’ve faced? 

Astrid: For me personally, the Chinese language is a challenge, as I am still learning. I am originally from Indonesia but our business is based in Shanghai, so I have been working hard to improve my Chinese vocabulary and accent. Chinese is a tonal language and it works completely differently from any of the Latin-based languages.

I deliberately took on this challenge from the beginning, both because I know it will be worthwhile for building Haofood and also for my own personal development. The moment I am able to speak Chinese fluently, I know, there will be much positive transformation within myself, too.

What makes your company unique?  

Kasih: Haofood is a melting pot of science and art. The inspiration for and application of our products are very much grounded in the culinary arts. However, we believe strongly in the ability of science to help people overcome social challenges such as food security.

Our chicken alternatives have been developed during a rigorous, scientific R&D process in order to ensure that the taste and texture meet the expectations of meat-eaters. We’re also one of the first startups in the world to be using peanut protein as the key ingredient in plant-based meat products.

Why did you decide to join the ProVeg Incubator?  

Jenny: Our vision is to be a well-known and respected international food company with great longevity. To implement this strategy effectively, we know that we need to collaborate with partners that share our mission. Proveg is definitely an ideal organisation for us to work with.

We hope that joining the Proveg Incubator will help us to accelerate our growth by opening opportunities for acquiring new knowledge, networking, and meeting potential investors. We will also benefit from being a part of a supportive, collaborative startup community with shared goals. 

What do you hope to achieve with your company in the next 12 months? 

Shaowei: We are going to be focusing on four key topics: product development, commercialisation, funding, and infrastructure. We plan to submit three patents on our product and we’ll also be running market testing, where we are aiming for five-star feedback from our customers.

In terms of commercialisation, we’d like Haofood products to be present in 100 restaurants in China and to be generating $350,000 USD in revenue from those products in a year’s time. Finally, we’ll be looking at raising funding, in two rounds, and we want to be in a position to head up our own R&D facility.

Did you enjoy this blog post about Haofood? Check out this previous Q+A that we did with the founders of Pow! Foods – the Chilean startup making chorizo from peas, corn, and rice.

Pow! Foods: the startup making chorizo from plants

Pow! Foods is an alt-protein company from Chile, that is developing plant-based meat alternatives scientifically designed to contain more protein and less fat than animal-based options. Pow! Foods was founded by Bárbara (Amy) León and Eyleen Obidic, who are both part of the current cohort at the ProVeg Incubator. This is their story.

What does your startup do and what is your mission? 

Eyleen: Pow! Foods was founded with the belief that anyone can enjoy and celebrate animal-free food. Our company focuses on improving human health with nutritious products. At the same time, we are helping to reduce an individual’s impact on the environment – one bite at a time.

Amy: We understand that the key factor in reducing global meat consumption is to develop tasty products that people are familiar with – just made with plant-based ingredients instead of the conventional ones. Also, our technology allows us to create food not just to be tasty but also highly nutritious. Our products contain up to three times more protein and 70% less fat than conventional animal ones. Using our approach, we can replicate any product that you consume on a daily basis, but made from plants.

Where did the idea for your company come from? 

Amy: For ethical reasons, Eyleen and I have not eaten meat for many years. However, for the majority of our lives, we both loved eating animal-based products because of their delicious taste and texture. We have known each other for a long time. We share the same mission of creating protein alternatives that offer an identical experience, in terms of taste and texture, to eating conventional meat products. 

Around the world, there are plenty of people like us, who enjoy animal-based meat but who want to be more respectful with regard to their food choices. Many of those people would like to give up meat completely, but it’s difficult for them to change their habits. Delicious, affordable, available alternatives will help enormously with that.

Eyleen: Amy started the research upon which Pow! Foods is based while at university, which is where she created our first product: a chorizo alternative. Chorizo is one of the most commonly purchased and consumed foods in Latin America. Our chorizo has been developed to reproduce the flavour and texture of animal-based versions. In this way, it will appeal to all consumers, not just those who nourish themselves through a plant-based lifestyle. Pow! Foods’ chorizo also supports human health by providing up to three times more protein and 70% less fat than conventional meat products.

Pow! Foods was founded by Bárbara (Amy) León and Eyleen Obidic

Tell us about your team. Why are you the right people for the project? 

Eyleen: Amy studied food technology with an international specialisation in food development, innovation, and entrepreneurship, and has more than five years’ experience in the food industry. Amy always wanted to create a food tech company with the purpose of encouraging people to reduce or eliminate their consumption of animal-based meat products.

Amy: Eyleen is the CMO – she studied Marketing at Duoc UC in Chile and has more than three years’ experience in marketing and sales. Eyleen previously held positions at marketing agencies working with food companies, including Danone and Carozzi. She is in charge of Pow! Foods’ marketing and sales strategy and her work has brought us 30 active clients in less than a year.

Eyleen: We also work with Rubén Bustos, our Head of R&D. Rubén has a PhD in chemical engineering and more than 28 years’ experience working in research and academia, as well assessing companies in the areas of R&D and biotechnology.

Amy: We are confident that we are the right team to lead this project because of everything we have achieved so far. In less than a year, we have designed a unique process that allows us to replicate the texture and flavour of meat products with plants – specifically peas, corn, and rice. We have built our company from nothing and have already moved from a laboratory prototype of our products to a pilot project. Our pilot products are available at more than 30 locations around Chile.

What are your favourite parts about building your business?

Eyleen: At Pow! Foods, we believe we can help to create change in the world, one bite at a time. Every time someone buys our products, they are making a powerful and conscious statement about choosing more sustainable foods. It is very moving for us to have the opportunity to create a business with tremendous purpose. We have the ability to impact positively on the lives of many people by helping them to change what they eat.

What have been the main challenges you’ve faced? 

Amy: When we moved from creating prototypes in laboratories to producing products on a larger scale, we faced challenges. We managed to scale our production capacity to match consumer demand in less than a year. However, this took months of investigation and testing, as well as improving and optimising our processes. After this, we have continued increasing the production capacity in order to supply more B2B clients.

What makes your company unique? 

Eyleen: We understand that there are many people looking for new, tasty animal-free alternatives to incorporate into their meals. Not all of the products currently available on the market are satisfying to consumers. They are still searching for that combination of taste and nutrition coming together in alternative products. That is what we are going to give them –  the food of the future.

Why did you decide to join the ProVeg Incubator? 

Amy: Proveg is a unique organisation that is focused on boosting plant-based startups from all over the world. We know that startups in the food industry face challenges in R&D, production, marketing, and market penetration. The Proveg Incubator can support us in those areas with a great network of mentors, entrepreneurs, and R&D experts that would be difficult or even impossible to access otherwise. It’s an honor to be part of this intensive programme that will help us to improve our business with the input of experts and to have the opportunity to find investors that share our mission. 

What do you hope to achieve with your company in the next 12 months?

Amy: We aim to be one of the plant-based market leaders in Latin America, with a strong portfolio of meat-alternative products. Within the next year, we want the Pow! Foods brand to be recognised as a pioneer with regard to the quality, flavour, and texture of our products. We also want those products to be widely available across Chile, Brasil, Colombia, and México.

Did you enjoy this blog post? Check out this previous Q+A that we did with the Fast Good Company – the startup turning fast food into fast good.

The Fast Good Company: turning fast food into fast good

The Fast Good Company is a plant-based ready-meal startup from the Netherlands. The company was founded by Dylan Duinmaijer and Stéphanie de Jong, who are both part of the current cohort at the ProVeg Incubator. This is their story.  

What does your startup do and what is your mission?  

Dylan: Our mission is to turn fast food into fast good, with the power of frozen plant-based ready-meals. We produce products that are good for you and great for the planet. By freezing our ready-meals when they are fresh, we not only lock in the health benefits of the ingredients, but we’re also helping to reduce food waste. Consumers can keep our products for up to 12 months, without losing any of the nutritional goodness inside.  

Stéphanie: A third of all food produced for human consumption is discarded as waste, amounting to around 1.3 billion tonnes every year! We believe that it’s time for this to change. With our mission of supporting the planet, we strive towards waste-free operations. We plan on setting an example for the entire food industry. Together, we can drive positive change – for people and the planet – while having some fun along the way.

Where did the idea for your company come from?

Dylan: While running a catering company, I started looking for a more sustainable way to give people easy access to healthy, plant-based food. I did some research and discovered that a third of all of food produced for human consumption is wasted! That’s when I came up with the idea to start producing frozen plant-based meals.   

I really believe that food needs to taste great and fuel your body in a positive way. That’s what inspired the idea of creating fast food which is good for you. To ensure that our meals are healthy, we focus on protein content and high nutritional values, without the need to add preservatives or refined sugars.

Tell us about your team. Why are you the right people for the project?   

Stéphanie: Dylan is the original founder of the business. He previously owned and ran a catering company and has a great passion for food that provides healthy fuel for the body. He is the one with the product-development knowledge, who comes up with tasty new products. This, in combination with a qualification in International Business, makes him the right person for R&D, sales, and directing the company.  

Dylan: Once Stéphanie heard about the idea, she decided to join forces with me since the company matches her beliefs and personal mission. With her academic background in creative business, Stephanie has built a solid portfolio in marketing, communications, and branding for several companies This makes her the right person to build the Fast Good Company’s brand and to get the story of our products to consumers.

The Fast Good Company taste test. Photo credit: Eduardus Lee

What are your favourite parts about building your business? 

Dylan: That moment when everything works out. You have been building and working on your concept for an extended period of time before people actually see your product. This teaches you to appreciate the process – and have fun along the way.

Stéphanie: The fact that while your business grows, you, personally, are also growing. And once you can show off your product, share your mission, and get people to support you –  that is priceless. 

What are the main challenges you’ve faced?  

Dylan: Convincing the Dutch market that frozen food is cool and can be good for you. Compared with some other countries, the Netherlands’ frozen-food sector needs to update its image. Luckily, the image of frozen food is slowly starting to change as the plant-based sector grows.

Stéphanie: A further challenge we’ve faced is being able to scale a product. We need to make sure that the quality of our products remains the same when they are being produced on a large scale.  

What makes your company unique?   

Dylan: Our business is unique because we believe that fast food can actually be good food. Our plant-based dishes retain their high nutritional values because they are frozen while fresh. As our ready-meals have a shelf-life of up to 12 months, consumers will always have the option of a comforting, healthy meal that’s also convenient and perfectly portioned. You won’t have to cook or feel like a jerk for throwing away food that you forgot about!

Stéphanie: Of course we want to stay unique, but we also hope to inspire others to create more products in the plant-based and frozen sectors. We believe we are stronger together and would love to see more brands enter this space and collaborate.

Why did you decide to join the ProVeg Incubator?  

Stéphanie: The ProVeg Incubator programme is giving us the opportunity to learn and to get advice directly from experts in the food industry. As a startup, it sometimes feels like we are chartering unknown waters. Especially on the retail side, we don’t have much experience, and getting this type of support really helps us. In addition, by joining the Incubator, we are getting the valuable opportunity of building a network and getting investors on board.  

What do you hope to achieve with your company in the next 12 months? 

Dylan: First, we hope to raise investments to successfully launch in retail, both in the Netherlands and Germany, with our main focus on Germany. In addition, for the Dutch market, we want more people to understand the positive power of frozen food and become familiar with our products. We want to go out and speak publicly about the benefits of frozen food and why it’s important in terms of decreasing food waste.   

Additionally, we would like to get more people on board the plant-based train. We hope to inspire more people to eat plant-based, including non-vegans. With fast, good food, we hope that more people will choose a sustainable alternative.

Meet the team: Antje Räuscher

Antje Räuscher is the Programme & Innovation Manager at the ProVeg Incubator. Antje is originally from the north sea but grew up in Halle an der Saale. Before joining ProVeg in March 2019, she had lived in Shanghai, Seoul, and Denmark. 

Antje, what do you do at the ProVeg Incubator?

As a Programme and Innovation Manager I am leading the programming side of our operations. That means that I design and organise the tailormade accelerator programme that we deliver to our startups. I also work closely with the founders of those startups on their strategies and keep them aligned with their goals.

In addition, I am responsible for scouting new startups to join the ProVeg Incubator and lead the selection process that decides the companies we’ll work with. I also work to expand our strategic partner network in key areas.

How did you end up working in this position?

Food was always something I wanted to work in, especially because it cuts across so many different disciplines and has such an impact on people’s lives.

I completed a stint in international development cooperation, working on topics such as food security and sustainable supply chains. I was with the German Development Agency in Sri Lanka where I worked with and consulted startups before I joined the Proveg Incubator.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

My job at the ProVeg Incubator allows me to meet and work alongside so many inspiring, driven, and genuinely nice people which is truly gratifying. I think this is very special to the alternative protein industry. It’s a very exciting space but it’s also just full of people who are keen to contribute towards a better food system. 

What are some of the challenges of your job?

For me personally, the biggest challenge is to say no to certain startups who apply for our programme. There are so many hard-working and mission-driven founders out there, that it would be impossible for us to work with them all. However, sometimes it is just really difficult to have to turn startups down.

What are the values that drive you?

Integrity, making a difference, and having fun along the way.

Tell us three interesting facts about yourself?

  1. I worked in Tanzanian villages for three months
  2. My sense of smell is very good
  3. I know where to find the best spicy food in Berlin

What are your top three podcast/book/documentary recommendations?

The Sympathizer (book), Verbrechen Podcast, Home of the Brave (Podcast), My Octopus Teacher (documentary)

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Eating, hiking, mushroom foraging, spending time with friends, and playing games.

If your flat was on fire, what items would you save? (assume family and pets are safe)

This is impossible to answer, I have so much stuff. 

Stand up for Startups: Meet Jack part 2

In our latest Stand up for Startups webinar, we sat down with the founders of Meet Jack, Kaline van Halder and Marjolein Pleune. This female-led company is a pioneering food startup that is taking jackfruit mainstream. We’ve summarised all of the best bits from our interview across two blog posts. This is part 2.

If you haven’t read the first post in this two-part blog series, we suggest you start there. In that one, we covered how Meet Jack got started, how the company is coping with the coronavirus pandemic, and why jackfruit is a plant-based star.

In this part, we’re focusing on female entrepreneurship, advice for fellow founders, and why people thought Marjolein and Kaline were crazy for launching a startup with no previous experience in the food industry. Let’s dive back into the interview…

Meet Jack on female entrepreneurship

In terms of gender diversity, the food industry is improving, albeit slowly. In 2020, it remains the case that the majority of companies are founded by men and that an extremely small amount of VC funding (1-2%) is invested in businesses led by women. We were interested to get Meet Jack’s take on female entrepreneurship.

Kaline: The industry that we work in is male orientated. Production companies, catering companies, packaging companies, chefs – nearly everyone we meet is male. We are an exception in the industry and this has led to advantages for us. People are curious about what we do and how we are doing it, and I think we can stand up very well in comparison to other startups.

Personally, I haven’t experienced many closed doors – I’ve seen more doors opening. We are very passionate about what we do and I think that draws people in. We are excited about our products and that energy can be infectious.

“Let’s make sure that in 10 years, at least half of the people in this space are female. Let’s change the industry together.”

Marjolein: Kaline and I are both very partnership-driven. We are not from the food industry, except for some time spent waitressing in our university days, and that meant that we needed to speak to as many people as possible. The feedback that we mostly got in our first year was that we were rookies and didn’t know anything, rather than the focus being on us being female entrepreneurs. They just thought we were crazy to start a food business with no background in this area at all!

That said, the industry does continue to be male-dominated and everyone seems to know one another. I can understand how that could be intimidating. However, I would say to other female entrepreneurs, just go in there, and don’t be scared. Let’s make sure that in 10 years, at least half of the people in this space are female. Let’s change the industry together.

Meet Jack on advice

Marjolein and Kaline may have been food industry rookies when they started Meet Jack. However, after speaking with them during the webinar, it’s clear that they’ve learned a lot and are really carving out a meaningful nook for themselves in the food space. We asked them what advice they’d give to other entrepreneurs.

Meet Jack founders, Kaline van Halder and Marjolein Pleune

Kaline: Find a business partner. I could not have done this if I started this company by myself. Meet Jack is successful because of Marjolein and Marjolein always says the same about me. Of course, you can ask others for advice but even then it would be really difficult to do this alone. We are very lucky to have each other as co-founders and also to have a great team.

Marjolein: Never be too proud to ask for help when you need it. Everyone in the food industry is willing to lend a hand. We’re both really good at asking for help and, up until now, no one has ever said ‘no’. We give a lot to others and people give a lot to us in return.

“You’re always on it. A company is a commitment that’s 24/7”

Kaline: It’s also important not to be naive about having a company and the glamour that comes with it. Firstly it’s not really glamorous at all. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s also hard work. You’re always on it. You wake up with it and go to bed with it, and then you wake up with it again. A company is a commitment that’s 24/7. 

We started Meet Jack in our 40s, so we had many years of working experience already. That, combined with the network that we had built around us, were key factors for success. You can really count on that community. We have such a big network and we can easily ask them, “hey I did so many things for you, can you do me a favour here?”. We really use our network wisely and, if you’re straight out of school, you don’t have that yet. You need time to build a network and gain experience.

Meet Jack on the future

Kaline and Marjolein are looking to launch Meet Jack products in supermarkets in the Netherlands early next year (2021) and are already planning to expand rapidly after that.

Marjolein: Our next stop will be retail and food-service in Germany and we are in talks about launching in the UK, France, and Scandinavia. We also want to work towards creating local impact in Asia. In the next four to seven years, we want to take our jackfruit products to the Asian market. We see a lot of potential to expand globally and we want to stay ahead of the competition. We absolutely embrace competitors. There is room in the plant-based space for multiple jackfruit companies – but we want to stay in a pioneering position.

Hanging Jackfruit, the world’s largest hanging fruit

Kaline: We are also investigating opportunities to integrate Meet Jack products into a circular economy. We want to experiment with the seeds of jackfruit, and with the skin, since at the moment it is wasted. We are thinking of creating sustainable fibres out of it and using those fibres in the production of textiles. Ultimately, we want to be experts in the field that we operate in. That’s certainly enough to keep us occupied.”

If you enjoyed this blog post, check out this previous Q+A we did with Kaline and Marjolein when they were taking part in the ProVeg Incubator programme.