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Pitch, raise, network: our Startup Demo Day

The sixth edition of our accelerator programme has come to an end. For the last three months, we’ve been supporting nine innovative food startups from around the world. Last Friday (25 June), the companies graduated from the ProVeg Incubator, finishing off with our Startup Demo Day. Let’s take a look at how it went.

The ProVeg Incubator Startup Demo Day traditionally marks the end of each edition of our accelerator programme. It’s a huge opportunity for our founders because this is the day when they will finally pitch their companies to investors.

The Startup Demo Day is the culmination of all of our hard work together. It’s the point when our startups are ready to take their companies to the next level.

It’s also a great celebration of what our founders have achieved: the milestones they’ve hit, the products they’ve developed, the partnerships formed, and the teams that have been built. It’s a reminder of all they’ve accomplished, and a look at where they’re going next.

How does it work?

Our Startup Demo Day is hosted digitally. We used to host the event in person but, because of the pandemic, we moved it online. While we miss seeing people in real life, a digital Demo Day also has upsides. For example, we can invite guests from all over the world, without them having to come to Berlin to participate. That’s a massive advantage.

Alongside an audience of food-industry specialists, entrepreneurs, retailers, journalists, and innovators, we had a panel of expert investors joining us. Jury members comprised Kirsten Rocca from Unovis Asset Management, Cliff Johnson from Veg Capital, Tanmay Annachhatre from Blue Horizon, and José Luis Cabañero from Eatable Adventures.

After a short welcome and introduction from the Incubator, each startup had seven minutes to pitch. This was followed by a Q&A with the investor panel. Since we couldn’t offer tastings, each company shared a product video to give the audience a sense of their creations.

To finish up, the audience and jury voted for their favourite startups (we’ll get to the winners in a minute). Then we moved onto some good old-fashioned networking sessions. 

The startups?

For this Startup Demo Day, we had nine companies pitching from India, Chile, Mexico, and countries all over Europe.

Omni (UK): Omni is the world’s first vet-formulated plant-based pet-food brand. The company was founded by Dr Guy Sandelowsky and Shiv Sivakumar in order to create nutritionally complete and sustainably produced dog food.

Eggfield (Switzerland): Silvan Leibacher and David Ebneter started Eggfield in order to develop plant-based liquid and whole eggs for food manufacturers. Eggfield focuses on replacing animal-based eggs in consumer products.

Kinoko Labs (Germany): Founded by Isabella Iglesias-Musachio during the pandemic, Kinoko Labs are working on whole-cut meat and fish alternatives made from mushroom mycelium.

Dr. Guy Sandelowsky and Shiv Sivakumar, the founders of Omni

Bifidice (Chile): Bifidice harness the power of good bacteria to produce plant-based ice-cream that helps to fight allergies and chronic diseases. Anastasia Gutkevich founded the biotech company with a team of female entrepreneurs.

ProMeat (India): ProMeat are developing meat alternatives specifically tailored to the Indian market. Founded by Debabrata Das, Pranjuli Garg, and Sugriv Gupts, the company transforms indigenous crops into affordable alt-protein products.

NOKO (France): Founded by boxer-turned-entrepreneur Maxence Damarey, NOKO is developing the next generation of fight food. The company’s plant-based products are specifically designed to aid the recovery of fighters and athletes.

Root Kitchen (UK): Root Kitchen was founded by David Beaver and Rishma Remtulla in order to revolutionise the ready-meal market in the UK. The company produces affordable frozen plant-based meals in a range of authentic flavours.

Anastasia Gutkevich, the founder of Bifidice

Asanté (Mexico): Asanté produces plant-based meat and fish products inspired by traditional Mexican cuisine. Founders Iván Jiménez de Sandi and Gabriela Rivera are also working on mycelium technology in order to further improve their products.

Kern Tec (Austria): Kern Tec upcycles the discarded pits of stone fruits into new plant-based ingredients for use by the food industry. The company was founded by Michael Beitl, Luca Fichtinger, Sebastian Jeschko, and Fabian Wagesreither.

All of our founders did a truly fantastic job in pitching at our Startup Demo Day and we are so proud of all of them. Thankfully, we didn’t have to pick the winning pitches – the audience and the jury decided that for us.

Startup Demo Day audience and jury winners, Omni and Kern Tec

Omni won the audience award – meaning that they got the highest number of votes from the audience – while Kern Tec took the jury award – meaning that they scored highest with our panel of investors. Well done to both of them!

So, what now?

Just because our programme has come to an end, it doesn’t mean that we will stop supporting these startups. They will all join our growing alumni network and will receive support from us for as long as they need it.

As for us? The wheels of the Incubator never stop turning and we’re already looking for the food innovators who will join our next cohort of startups! The programme will begin at the end of September and we’re accepting applications until Sunday, 18 July.

Do you want to join us? It could be you pitching for investment at our next Startup Demo Day! If you’re an entrepreneur with the drive to transform the global food system, then we want to hear from you! Apply online here.

Why startups should join New Food Invest

New Food Invest is the world’s first digital conference focusing on investment in the alternative-protein and sustainable-food industries. Launched by ProVeg and Beyond Animal, this global event will connect founders and investors who are transforming the food industry. Read on to find out why you should get involved.

The global plant-based-protein market is estimated to be worth $10.3 billion. There’s no doubt that this is a lucrative and growing industry. In fact, we’d be so bold as to say that there has never been a better time to raise money for your food startup.

Investors the world over are keen to get in on the action. In just the first three months of 2020, plant-based companies in the US raised a whopping $741 million. However, that doesn’t mean your road to investment will be a (plant-based) cakewalk.

With increasing interest comes increasing competition. There are loads of entrepreneurs out there competing to secure financial backing. Even just getting in front of the right investors can be challenging.

This is why we at ProVeg, together with our friends at Beyond Animal, are launching New Food Invest. We want to help founders and investors to connect and work together in order to do more good in the world.

NFI, which takes place on 18 March, is the first virtual conference to focus on connecting startups, investors, and industry players from the world of food and food tech. We spoke with Claire Smith, the Founding Director of Beyond Animal, ahead of the event.

Claire, why did ProVeg and Beyond Animal create NFI?

“The subject of why and how to invest in this area needed to be covered – particularly in light of the number of startups looking for investment and the increasing number of investors starting to look at this area. New Food Invest aims to bring these groups together to enjoy educational and inspiring content and benefit from actionable investment opportunities”.

Innovations from the likes of Beyond Meat and Impossible paved the way for success in this market. Photo credit: Beyond Meat

What are the benefits for startups?

“18 startups will have the opportunity to pitch to the pre-approved, mission-driven investors attending NFI. Investors will be able to view not only the pitches of the startups but also additional deal documentation, in the secure deal room Funding by Beyond Animal.

“This means that startups will benefit from connecting with a pool of high-quality investors without having to reach out to them all individually. In effect, the bulk of the fundraising process has already been facilitated. Startups can also be confident that they are dealing with qualified and motivated investors.”

What are the benefits for investors?

“By participating in the conference, investors will receive high-quality information from industry-leading CEOs and other experienced investors, as well as experts in finance, investment, food-tech, and industrial scaling.

“In addition, the startup pitches and additional deal-related documentation will be available to view in the Funding by Beyond Animal deal room. This means that investors will have a clear call-to-action. They can also readily undertake the steps required for investment, should they wish to do so.”

Who will be attending? Give us some programme highlights

  • Cellular agriculture and plant-based food: Josh Tetrick (EatJUST)
  • Plant-based US: Seth Goldman (Beyond Meat)
  • Plant-based Europe: Heather Mills (VBites)
  • Global venture firms: Rob Appleby (Cibus Fund), Alex Behar (Cultivian Sandbox), and Eric Archambeau (Astanor Capital)
  • Cellular aquaculture: Lou Cooperhouse (Blue Nalu)

Startup Blue Farm pitching at the ProVeg Incubator

Why are events like this important, especially in the context of the pandemic?

“Due to the ongoing pandemic, all physical events have had to be cancelled. This is impeding networking opportunities and the due diligence processes that are necessary to complete investment deals.

“Online events are therefore essential to continue making connections between startups and investors. With the stellar speaker list and actionable investment opportunities that New Food Invest is providing, we hope to fill that gap.”

NFI: all the details 

New Food Invest focuses on inclusivity, connection, and quality. The conference covers three key time zones in a single day. With one ticket, you can access over 12 hours of programming across Asia, Australasia, Europe, the Middle East, and the Americas.

When: 18 March 2021, across multiple time-zones (Europe, Africa, the Americas, Asia).

Where: Online

Hosts: ProVeg and Beyond Animal

Sign up: 

With four networking sessions built into the programme (before, between, and after the main sessions), there is ample time to connect with industry professionals at NFI. What’s more, all of the investors attending the event will be pre-approved in order to ensure a good fit for suitable food and food-tech startups.

New Food Invest is where innovation meets investment. This virtual one-day conference takes place on 18 March 2021 and will be hosted by ProVeg and Beyond Animal. Don’t miss this opportunity to be involved. Get more information and register today.

Credit: Shutterstock

Plant-based cheese: a new opportunity on the table

The plant-based market has exploded in recent years – from the range of products to the increasing number of consumers. Cheese alternatives are one of the biggest upcoming opportunities in this market. While plant-based-meat and – milk products are found in (near) abundance in supermarkets – with diverse ingredients and flavours – cheese is lagging behind in terms of customer satisfaction. Consumers expect more. So, how are we going to give it to them? Read on to find out. 

Around the world, consumers are changing their food habits. Increasing awareness of the environmental and welfare impacts of producing animal-based meat and dairy products is encouraging more people to adopt plant-based lifestyles.

Meanwhile, the number of people who are lactose intolerant now stands at around 68% of the world’s population. This increases the number of potential consumers who need affordable and tasty plant-based dairy options. 

One study, from Research and Markets, shows that the global non-dairy milk sector is estimated to reach $38 billion by 2024. In the US alone, the plant-based cheese market was worth $189 million in 2019.

A survey by ProVeg International of over 6,000 European consumers showed that plant-based cheese is the product that both vegans and flexitarians wish to see more of in supermarkets.

Cheese production from New Roots

Despite these statistics, there are several reasons why cheese alternatives are not widely available. For one, cheese is much harder to mimic than other dairy products such as milk and yogurt. The process depends on different factors, including fermentation, microbial activity, and room temperature.

Additionally, customers are looking for specific types of cheese, with specific tastes and textures. For instance, nut-based cheese usually replicates soft cheese. This is currently easier to find on the market and seems to align well with what consumers expect from this kind of product.

However, hard cheese is more complex to produce due to the time required for aging. Consequently, there are fewer options in supermarkets. ProVeg’s survey, however, identifies hard cheese as a key product that customers would like to have available for purchase.

An opportunity to innovate

For plant-based entrepreneurs, the alternative cheese market is an incredible opportunity to innovate – in terms of taste, ingredients, and new technologies.

To delve further into this topic, on 10 March, our next ‘Future Food Series’ webinar will focus on cheese! 

We’re organising the event together with our friends at NX-Food. We will feature speakers from Noquo Foods, the Arivia Group, Legendairy Foods, New Roots, and the Veganz Group. These companies are already revolutionising the alternative cheese market and will share insights into what we can expect next! 

You can sign up for the event here. In the meantime, we’ve prepared a teaser from some of our speakers: 

Anthimos Misailidis CEO of Violife/ARIVIA Group

“We believe that veganism and flexitarianism will be the new normal, with consumers more conscious of their impact on the planet and aware of how the foods we eat play an important part in this.

“With this in mind, the ‘free-from’ categories will grow exponentially, with a wide range of plant-based alternatives available across all markets and product categories. 

“To make sure that these products perform to the high standards that we set for Violife requires a dedication to innovation which is ingrained in the heart of what we do.”

Plant-based cheese from Violife

Anja Brachmüller, COO at Veganz, and Jan Bredack, Founder and CEO of Veganz

“The market for cheese alternatives is the most popular plant-based category after meat alternatives. Upcoming high-quality products will bring more consumers on board and support them in choosing to follow a more sustainable diet.”

Anja Leissner, Founder and Head of R&D at Noquo Foods

Cheese is often identified as the most difficult aspect of converting to a totally plant-based diet. I’ve tried plenty of cheese alternatives from all over the world. The results vary, but all seem to target vegan customers.

“None can truly compete with the animal-based versions in terms of nutritional profile or in taste experience. And none can be found in my fridge!

“It’s our firm belief that we can, and have to do better to improve the quality in order to have the necessary impact on consumer acceptance and behaviour.”

Assi Grunder, Sales Manager at New Roots

“We strongly believe that the demand for plant-based products will only increase as people become more aware of the ethical, environmental, and health issues associated with animal-based dairy products.

“With an increasing amount of plant-based options, we also believe that consumers will become more critical. They will expect not only great taste and quality – but also nutritional benefits and sustainable ingredients.”

To hear more about what these experts have to say about plant-based cheese, sign up for our free webinar, organised in partnership with NX-Food. The event will take place on 10 March, from 6.00 to 7:30 pm CEST. We look forward to seeing you there! 

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.

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!

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.

Stand up for Startups: Meet Jack

Meet Jack is a pioneering, female-led food startup from the Netherlands that produces meat alternatives from unripe jackfruit. In our latest Stand up for Startups webinar, we sat down with the founders to chat about their entrepreneurial experiences. We’ve summarised all of the best bits for you across two blog posts. In part one, we focus on jackfruit as a star of the plant-based sector, and how Meet Jack is coping with the coronavirus pandemic.

Meet Jack founders, Kaline van Halder and Marjolein Pleune, met over 25 years ago at university. They had always talked about setting up a company together, usually over a couple of beers. In 2017, those chats finally turned into a tangible plan, when they decided to take the plunge and start a business making meat alternatives from jackfruit.

Since then, the pair have created a full line of products and raised two rounds of funding. They have participated in several incubators and accelerator programmes (including the ProVeg Incubator), and are now in talks to launch Meet Jack with Albert Heijn, the biggest retailer in the Netherlands.

Meet Jack team in Bali

Kaline says that a major turning point for them was raising 130% of their target during a crowdfunding campaign. “In order to launch the campaign, we had to make sure many other elements of the business were ready, for example, the packaging, branding, and product and strategic plans. 

“As a result of the campaign, we had resources, we had some money, and we had validation. When people choose to fund you, they are not just enthusiastic about your company, they are actually putting their money where their mouth is. That is very meaningful.”

Meet Jack on jackfruit

Kaline and Marjolein were inspired by jackfruit while travelling in Asia and, as Kaline is half-Filipino, she already had some experience with the fruit. But what makes jackfruit such an attractive ingredient?

Marjolein: Jackfruit is completely unprocessed. We use unripe jackfruit, which has natural meaty fibres, a neutral taste, and contains no sugar. In terms of processing, the jackfruit is taken out of the skin and put through a blast freezer. It’s then transported from Asia to Europe where it’s seasoned and cooked. This is very different to what happens to [more processed] soya products, for example.

Meet Jack jackfruit tacos

Kaline: We really thought about where we can create impact. We want to create meaty, savoury street food dishes that would satisfy carnivores. Jackfruit naturally offers the attributes that we need to achieve that. Our best-selling product is a plant-based alternative to the traditional dutch bitterballen which can be found on every menu in the Netherlands

We have set ourselves the challenge to be THE bitterball on the menu. We don’t want our products just to be in the vegan section. Eventually, we hope that you will order a portion of bitterballen and have no idea that there is no animal meat in it. You will just eat it with your beer and think, ‘wow this is delicious’. Our whole product line is targeted in this way – to seduce meat lovers in order to reduce global meat consumption.

Meet Jack plant-based jackfruit Bitterballen

Meet Jack on COVID-19

During the webinar, Kaline and Marjolein emphasised that launching a startup has not all been plain sailing. There have been plenty of challenges along the way – not least, the coronavirus pandemic.

Kaline: COVID hit us really badly because we were moving to get a piece of the pie from the food-service sector, and were not yet looking at retail. Prior to the emergence of the coronavirus, people had been ordering hundreds of kilos of our products for events and festivals, and restaurants were calling us every day. February was our most successful month since we started our company, and, then in March, we shut down. No clients, no phone calls, nothing. After two years of working on Meet Jack, Marjolein and I took our first salary in February, and, in March, we felt like it was all over.

Meet Jack food truck at a festival

Kaline: For two weeks, we thought, what do we do now? We just had to jump back on the horse –  it was either eat or be eaten. So we decided to move into retail. This was also around the time that we got accepted to the ProVeg Incubator. That really helped us to move into retail at a faster pace. We developed new products and started knocking on doors. Now, in autumn, retailers are getting interested and we’re in talks with them.

“We just had to jump back on the horse. It was either eat or be eaten”

Marjolein: COVID was a new starting point for us and now we think we can be successful in the retail market. Although we were growing very fast in the food-service sector, behind the scenes, we were not ready for that growth. This COVID-19 period gave us an opportunity to better organise and structure ourselves. We hired two people to work on marketing and operations and we closed a partnership deal with a logistics company. COVID-19 may have set us back from a financial perspective in 2020, but, in the long term, this has been a beneficial time for us.

We’ll be posting part 2 of this blog post next week, focusing on female entrepreneurship and advice for fellow founders. In the meantime, check out this previous Q+A we did with Kaline and Marjolein while they were taking part in the ProVeg Incubator programme.

Plantcraft: the startup making deli meats from bananas

Plantcraft is a Hungarian food startup working to optimise human health and environmental sustainability. The startup was part of our second cohort here at the Incubator and produces plant-based meat. Find out more about Plantcraft’s story by reading on.

Globally, the popularity of plant-based meat is booming. Sales of alternative protein increased 280% in the US in March – when much of the world went into lockdown. Meanwhile, plant-based meat products are making their way into major fast-food chains all over the globe and Beyond Meat just partnered with two of them, to bring their products to China. Investors are also following suit. A record $930 million of funding was invested into the alternative protein sector in the first quarter of this year alone. 

Back in 2018, Kati Ohens and Csaba Hetenyi were already convinced that plant-based proteins would outcompete animal-based products in the future. That’s when they decided to found Plantcraft. The startup, based in Hungary, produces a plant-based deli range – specifically alternative meat slices and Pâté

Plantcraft platter with plant-based deli meats

“The future of food is plant-based and there is more than enough for our growing population”, says Csaba. “We just need to use creativity to produce foods that are good for us and for the planet, but also tasty and affordable.”

Sometimes, that aforementioned creativity takes the form of unexpected ingredients. Green bananas, for example, are a staple component of all Plantcraft recipes. These fruits reportedly help to increase nutrient absorption, improve digestion, lower blood pressure, and boost metabolism.

“We believe that food is the single strongest lever to optimise human health and environmental sustainability on earth.”

Other ingredients are born from what some may consider food waste. While winemakers discard grape seeds during the winemaking process, Plantcraft collects them to make oil. “It’s so high in Omega-6 fatty acids and Vitamin E that people use it as a natural beauty product,” says Kati. “We use it in our plant-based pepperoni.”

We live in an era of ecocide

Kati and Csaba are motivated to create products that benefit human health but that are also good for the planet. “Human inflicted damages such as climate breakdown, wildlife annihilation, and the destruction of land and waterways put all of earth’s inhabitants in danger,” says Kati. 

815 million individuals across the world are estimated to be malnourished and scientists are urging people to lower their meat consumption for the good of the planet. The Plantcraft team identified a problem they could help to solve, by producing affordable meat products – just made from plants. 

Csaba came to the project from a commercial banking background with a focus on financial consulting in retail and small to medium enterprises. With over ten years of CEO experience, Csaba also brought food industry knowledge to the table, having worked previously as the manager of a pasta factory.

Kati meanwhile had spent most of her professional career in advertising and software development. That is – until she made a significant change and decided to dedicate her time to planetary stewardship. Kati is immensely passionate about improving human health through diet on both a personal and global level.

The duo joined the ProVeg Incubator as part of our second cohort of startups in 2019. They were in the midst of preparing to take their products to market this year (2020).

Plantcraft Pâté – one of the first products in the range

Then Covid-19 struck

“Overall the current situation has urged us to rethink and restructure some of our strategies”, says Kati. “If anything, it has accelerated our plans to hit the market with our products”.

Plantcraft had been gearing up to launch in the US before the pandemic hit. As a result of Covid-19 however, the team has been unable to travel stateside for product testing and co-manufacturing trials.

Kati says that instead of fully focusing on a US launch, the team is now “exploring the possibility of bringing the EU launch forward” and that it’s “likely” they will still launch their products before the end of 2020. Being flexible and building resilience has been key for these founders under the difficult circumstances of the current crisis.

The chocolate company that’s planted 1 million trees

The Nu Company is a German food startup with a powerful social mission. The team is dedicated to helping create a healthier planet by developing plant-based products, eliminating plastic packaging, and planting trees in Madagascar. The Nu Company was part of our first cohort of startups at the Incubator. We’ll be hosting an online fireside chat with one of the founders next week, which you can join. Find out more about this startup’s story by reading on.

Like many startups, The Nu Company’s inaugural product – the Nucao chocolate bar – was crafted in the kitchen of a shared student apartment. In 2016, Christian Fenner, Thomas Stoffels, and Mathias Tholey were all preparing to pursue lucrative careers in engineering. That is – until a different calling stopped them in their tracks.

The trio had begun to question the lack of exciting, healthy snacks available on the market, and to think in more depth about the impact of nutrition on the wellbeing of people and the planet. At around that same time, Mathias had been given a do-it-yourself chocolate kit as a gift.

Passionate about healthy food, he came up with the idea of including hemp seeds in the mixture. In doing so, Mathias managed to avoid adding so much sugar, and thus the base recipe for Nucao was born. 

Three journeys, one path

In the coming months, the team continued to tinker with their creations in their shared kitchen and gradually build what would become The Nu Company. 

Mathias and Thomas both became interested in the topic of nutrition after dealing with personal health concerns. This led them to a project that they were more passionate about than anything that they had worked on before.

Christian meanwhile, had become disillusioned with his engineering job at an automotive group and was driven to join the pair in pursuing a career that, for him, had a real purpose. 

“Everyone can find meaning in the professional world if they regularly question what they are doing and why,” says Christian. “The Nu Company doesn’t exist simply to make money. We want to have an impact and play a role in moving towards a healthier and greener world.”

Rethinking food

For The Nu Company, the future of food is natural and plant-based. The team is passionate about producing quality products that people enjoy but that are also good for the planet. That’s why, as well as being plant-based, the chocolate bars come in plastic-free, home-compostable wrappers.

Christian says that the packing “almost drove them crazy and into bankruptcy”. “The process resulted in grey hairs, for sure”, he says.“However, we could not accept compostable packaging as an unrealistic or overambitious goal.” 

The Nu Company took its first product, the Nucao chocolate bar, to market in 2017. When the ProVeg Incubator launched in 2018, the startup was accepted as part of the very first cohort to join the accelerator programme.

Since then, the chocolate company has expanded significantly. The team has already smashed the one-million sales mark, with their bars now available in 16 countries across Europe and Asia, including China, Japan, Germany, the UK, and the Netherlands. 

Mangrove tree planting in Madagascar, photo credit: Eden Reforestation Project

One treat = one tree

In 2018, The Nu Company adopted the ‘one product, one tree’ principle. This means, that for every chocolate bar sold, they plant a tree. “We believe that to simply protect the environment is no longer enough,” says Christian. “In order to really combat climate change, we need to actively support nature in its regeneration.” 

The chocolate company is working together with the Eden Reforestation Project, a global NGO that reduces poverty and restores the health of forests by hiring local villagers to plant trees. Together, the Nu Company and the Eden Reforestation Project have planted over one million Mangrove trees in Madagascar.

This type of tree can bind four times more CO2 than other species. This means that it makes a significant contribution in the fight against climate change, thereby protecting 200,000 other plant and animal species that are indigenous to Madagascar.

Stand up for startups: Christian Fenner

On Tuesday 19 May, we will be hosting a virtual fireside chat with Christian Fenner, one of the founders of The Nu Company.

We’ll be chatting about his startup journey and how his team is coping in these difficult and uncertain times. He’ll be sharing his tips and tricks of the trade, as well as answering questions from the audience.

The event kicks off (on Zoom) at 7 pm (Berlin time) and you can sign up to join us via Eventbrite – just follow this link. We look forward to seeing you there!

Alternative proteins: what does the future hold?

In this blog, we bring you the opinions of experts from the food industry on the topic of alternative proteins. What will we be eating in the future and why are alt proteins important? If you like what you read and want to learn more, we are hosting an event on this topic next month in partnership with NX-Food.

The global food and beverage market is undergoing a dramatic change. Consumer interest in non-animal-based, alternative proteins is increasing and the food industry is developing new ingredients and products to satisfy demand. 

Take the global meat market for example – a $1.4 trillion industry. According to a Barclays projection, alternative meats could make up a $140 billion slice of this enormous market over the next decade. Barclays analysts are actually considering new cultured options that are still years away. This means that they are suitably convinced by current protein alternatives and the expected growth of this market.

By 2050, global food systems will have to sustain a population of 10 billion people. The UN has declared climate change the “defining issue of our times” and leading scientists agree that avoiding meat and dairy is the single biggest way to reduce your environmental impact. The shift towards alternative proteins is not slowing down. 

We asked a panel of specialists from the industry to share their thoughts with us on this topic. The same panel will be joining us for our first Future Food Series event in March. 

Britta Winterberg, Co-Founder and CSO, Legendairy Foods:

“Almost 20 years ago, still an undergrad biology student, I heard about lab-grown meat for the first time. I can still remember the conversation I had with my husband about the opportunities of animal- and antibiotic-free clean meat. We would definitely be among the first customers when these products came onto the market.

“Little did I know that my path would one day lead me from plant pathology into the world of cellular agriculture and that I would get the chance to contribute to making dairy products more sustainable and ethical. 

“We all know that feeding the world’s growing population is a challenge. I firmly believe that biotechnology and cellular agriculture will greatly contribute to a more environmentally- friendly future for our planet.”

The team from Legendairy Foods, an alternative dairy company. Britta Winterberg pictured far left

Dr. Bernd Boeck, Scientific Advisor, Alife Foods GmbH:

“We need alternative protein sources asap, as our current animal agricultural system has the potential to gravely impact the planet and its many inhabitants. This is due to the enormous negative impacts of land-use change, water dissipation, waste, and emissions. Feeding a population of 10 billion in a sustainable way is not feasible with animal agriculture, at all. 

“Animal-based proteins have very low efficiency in terms of energy and protein conversion. There can be up to 96% protein waste in comparison with nutritionally equivalent plant replacements. Plant-based and cell-based alternatives are promising solutions to feed the growing population. They can also satisfy the world´s appetite for meat without harming people, animals, or the planet.”

Albrecht Wolfmeyer, Head of ProVeg Incubator:

“The trend towards alternative proteins is strong and sustainable. Consumer demand is increasing and the industry is responding. Plant-based meat pioneers Beyond Meat and Rügenwalder Mühle, for example, are working with pea protein isolates.

“Meanwhile, Startups like Vly Foods use pea protein to produce dairy alternatives. Algae are also gaining traction in the food industry, being used as an ingredient in alternatives to fish salads, burgers, and jerky

“Until now, Soy has dominated the ingredients lists of plant-based meat and dairy alternatives, but the kingdom of plants is much bigger. More than 300,000 species of plants all around the world have yet to be explored – maybe the next starter protein will be found soon to create the foods of the future.”

Red algae-based fish salad alternative from Incubator alumni startup Alvego

Csaba Hetényi, Co-Founder and COO, Plantcraft:

“At Plantcraft, believe that plant-based proteins will enjoy preference over animal-based products in the future. We can expect systemic changes due to sustainability, environmental, and public health considerations. 

“Intensive animal agriculture, for example, is responsible for spreading zoonotic diseases such as the coronavirus. Often these come from pigs or chickens on overcrowded farms that the media calls intermediate carriers between wildlife and humans. This, coupled with growing antibiotic resistance, also due to over administering these drugs to farmed animals, creates the perfect storm and a deadly threat to communities. 

“The future of food is plant-based and there is more than enough for our growing population. We just need to use creativity and ingenuity to create foods that are good for us and good for the planet, but also tasty, affordable, and easily available.”

Kati Ohens and Csaba Hetenyi, the Founders of Plantcraft

Gary Lin, Investor and Managing Director at Purple Orange Ventures GmbH will also be on the panel. Gary has more than 20 years of entrepreneurial and investing experience, having worked with many of the world’s most innovative tech companies.

He says: “My investment company, Purple Orange Ventures, is backing leading teams in the cultivated meat and alternative protein space. The key focus for me in the new decade is to support bold scientists to create truly transformative products and solutions that displace animal-derived foods.”

These opinions are just teasers. The members of our panel have many more insights and opinions to share on the topic of alternative proteins. To join them, hear more, and ask questions, register now for our Future Food Series: Proteins event. It takes place on March 11 in Berlin. Just click the link to go to our Eventbrite page and sign up.