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Meet our latest cohort of food startups

Nine startups, based all around the world, from Santiago to Delhi to London to Berlin, comprise our new cohort at the ProVeg Incubator. The founders of these plant-based and food-tech startups are about to set foot on a path that will lead them closer to achieving their goals.

There is no finishing line in the race towards innovation. And for the new cohort of food startups joining the ProVeg Incubator today (April 7), the pace will only increase.

Over the next 12 weeks, we’ll be supporting nine startups from all over the world on their mission to transform the global food system.

It is this goal that unites the companies – some of which are as far removed from each other in their sector of activity as they are geographically: the goal to pursue innovation in the service of the environment and global health.

Read on to meet each of the startups joining our sixth cohort. You’ll also get an introduction to the inspiring founding teams and their innovative products.

Asanté (Mexico): plant-based food startup championing Mexican cuisine

Asanté's plant-based meat-and-fish product line

Asanté’s plant-based meat-and-fish product line

Based in Mexico City, Asanté is carving out a slice of the ever-growing plant-based meat-and-fish sector in North America. This pioneering company’s range of products, based on traditional Mexican cuisine, including pastor, cochinita, and barbacoa, are already on sale in Mexico and the US.

Iván Jiménez de Sandi and Gabriela Rivera founded Asanté to support more people moving towards a plant-based lifestyle. Backed by a team of scientists specialising in biotechnology and molecular biology, the duo is working on mycelium technology in order to further improve their products and build a resilient and low-cost production platform.

Bifidice (Chile): one of our startups is creating probiotic ice cream

Let’s head further south now, to a startup that is revolutionising one of the world’s favourite treats. Bifidice, based in Santiago, Chile, is a biotech company that creates plant-based ice-cream containing powerful probiotic bacteria that help to fight allergies and chronic diseases. The probiotic – known as Bifidum N1 – is also an effective protector of gut flora.

The company’s name, Bidifice, reflects the fruits of the research into which Anastasia Gutkevich has poured years of her life. Maria Jose Buttazzoni, the CMO of Bifidice with 10 years of experience in the field of child nutrition, completes the team.

EggField (Switzerland): growing plant-based eggs

Zurich-based startup EggField aims to achieve what their name suggests – to grow eggs similarly to how seeds are sown in a field. The plant-based origin of their egg alternatives makes this possible. 

By betting on the budding area of plant-based eggs, EggFields aims to do for chickens what plant-based milk is achieving for cows – putting an end to the practice of factory farming.

The founding team behind EggField – Silvan Leibacher and David Ebneter – combine many years of experience in the baking and food-engineering industries in order to develop their cutting-edge products.

Kern Tec (Austria): the food-tech startup upcycling fruit pits

The founding Team behind Kern Tec, the food tech startup

The founding team behind food-tech startup Kern Tec

Cherries, apricots, and plums are all delicious fruits that come with rather less delicious pits inside. The pits can bloom into beautiful trees, but how best to use them if we have no plans to take up horticulture?

Enter Kern Tec, a Vienna-based startup that is turning these otherwise unusable by-products into a resource. The company is upcycling discarded fruit pits in order to develop high-value raw materials for dairy and other plant-based alternatives.

Kern Tec’s founding team comprises Michael Beitl, Luca Fichtinger, Sebastian Jeschko, and Fabian Wagesreither.

Kinoko Labs (Germany): mycelium-based meat alternatives

Using mushroom mycelium (the root-like filaments of fungi), Kinoko Labs is producing plant-based alternatives to meat and fish.

By working on a new generation of alt-proteins, the Berlin-based company plans to accelerate the adoption of sustainable protein sources – without compromising on taste or nutrition.

Isabella Iglesias-Musachio is the CEO of Kinoko Labs. Scientific advisor Branden Wolner, along with scientific consultants Pedro Gonçalves and Rafael Philippini, complete the founding team.

NØKO (France): pro-performance supplements for athletes

The NOKO Team believes in a plant-based path towards athletic achievement

NOKO believes in a plant-based path towards athletic achievement

Plant-based sport supplements are something of a new frontier, and one that French startup Noko is not afraid to explore. Noko promises to prepare the most dedicated of athletes for the toughest challenges, by supplying them with pro-performance, healthy, and sustainably-produced food.

Maxence Damarey, one of the co-founders, stands witness to the products’ effectiveness. He himself is an experienced sportsman – both an undefeated professional boxer and certified personal trainer.

On the other side of the aisle, Maxence’s co-founding partner Olivier Dahan is influential in the French food industry. He has worked with brands like Oreo, Tim-Tam, and Daim.

Omni (UK): plant-based startup innovating the pet-food sector

Based in London, Omni is a pet-food startup that produces nutritionally complete tasty treats that won’t leave dogs wanting for their old kibble. The Omni product range provides a well-balanced, nutritionally complete source of protein, with a laser focus on pet health.

By promoting the transition to sustainable protein sources, Omni also stands to reduce the negative environmental impact of producing factory-farmed meats.

Omni was founded by a team of three. Dr Guy Sandelowsky is a highly experienced veterinary surgeon and biomedical scientist. Shiv Sivakumar, a former investment banker and Jo Barrow, an ex Buzzfeed writer turned marketeer completes the trio.

ProMeat (India): chicken alternatives from indigenous crops

The only meat in this plant-based startup is in the name. ProMeat develops chicken alternatives – burger patties, minced meat, and kebabs – by combining cutting-edge technology with underused, indigenous crops.

The Delhi-based startup is well positioned to capture the attention of the world’s largest flexitarian audience.

CEO Debabrata Das is a food-technology manager with a penchant for the food-processing sector. Pranjuli Garg, COO, has a proven track record in research, quality assurance, and data analysis. Sugriv Gupts, who has expertise in new product development and quality control, completes the founding team.

Root Kitchen (UK): plant-based ready meals

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Root Kitchen is bringing all of the benefits of a plant-based lifestyle into frozen, ready-made meals in recyclable packaging. When it comes to alternative-protein, this is an underserved market segment. Root Kitchen wants to change that.

The startup is targeting the D2C meal-subscription and retail markets with affordable, enjoyable products. They have developed numerous meal varieties including Vegan Shepherd’s Pie, Aubergine Al Forno, and Thai Red Curry.

Root Kitchen’s founding team comprises David Beaver and Rishma Remtulla. David heads up marketing, brand management and sales. Rishma Remtulla is also responsible for sales and leads on product development and category analysis.


We will be sharing more information about these startups as they progress through our programme, including Q+As with the founders. We’ll also be posting programme updates so you can read about their progress and achievements.

Supporting food innovators is at the core of what we do at the ProVeg Incubator. If you’re working in plant-based or cultured food innovation, apply now to join our next cohort of startups.

The impact series: chicken alternatives

Our food system is complex. Everything is connected – from land use to animal welfare to the environment to human health. The result is that the impact of changing something in our food system will be widespread. At the ProVeg Incubator, we have identified three impact areas that we want to focus on: chicken, egg, and fish alternatives. Today, we’ll delve deeper into the first of these topics.

The plant-based and cultivated food industries are growing at a phenomenal rate. However, not all products are yet reaching the standard that consumers want or expect. In addition, some food categories do more to reduce the global consumption of animals than others.

At the ProVeg Incubator, we want our work to have a major impact. That is why we focus on supporting startups that are capable of functioning on a large scale and removing as many animals as possible from the food system.

Based on industry research, consumer studies, and our work with startups, we have identified three categories that are particularly important for us: chicken, egg, and fish alternatives.

Why? Firstly, animal-based versions of these foods are consumed in staggering quantities across the world. To change that, we need to get delicious, affordable alternatives into the hands of consumers.

Secondly, alternatives to conventional chicken, egg, and fish products are in high demand. Consumers are already keen to make the switch and are just waiting for the perfect products.

The hidden facts

Every year, around 50 billion chickens are slaughtered for food. Yet, some people still suggest that eating chicken is not as harmful to the environment as other types of meat production.

While it is true that beef production is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than other types of meat, this doesn’t make the poultry industry any less lethal. The impact of producing chicken in the way that we currently do is detrimental to animals, the ecosystem, and human health. From 1990 to 2013, global poultry consumption increased by 165%. This is not sustainable.

Our food system is so deeply embedded in the animal-based industry that a third of the world’s croplands are used to produce feed for animals. If we had used this area to grow vegetables or to plant trees, we could have been on a different path – in terms of world hunger, the climate crisis, and the preservation of nature.

Soybean production in Brazil. Credit: The Conversation

Where do we go from here?

It is easy to read these facts and figures and think  “ok, we are lost”. But we can see it from another perspective. As frightening as the poultry industry data is, the impact of reducing the consumption of chicken is enormous. What is key here is consumer demand, and we’re moving in the right direction.

The plant-based sector is expected to reach a value of around $8.3 billion by 2025. This means that we can expect to see more and more plant-based options becoming available, with potentially lucrative opportunities for innovative entrepreneurs.

What’s more, in Europe alone, the number of vegans has doubled in the last four years. In addition, around 22.9% of the European population consider themselves to be flexitarians.

According to a survey by ProVeg International, plant-based meat that mimics the texture and flavor of animal-based meat is one of the products that consumers most desire. 

Plant-based chicken curry from Naka Foods

Impacting trends

As the plant-based sector attracts more and more attention, new players, technologies, and ingredients are coming into play. According to a Forbes article on top plant-based trends, 2020 was the year of vegan chicken. This was supported by rising consumer demand and a wave of new products coming onto the market.

There is such a diversity of plant-based products out there that it is now possible to please an increasing number of consumers. From fast food takeaways to ready meals to ingredients for traditional dishes, plant-based options are becoming increasingly common.

However, there is still a lot of room for improvement and new innovations. Plant-based eating is more than just another trend. The impact of moving to a more plant-based lifestyle is real and it makes a difference. 

Currently, humans eat more meat than ever before. While the population has doubled in the last 50 years, the amount of meat we produce and consume has tripled, with the poultry sector showing the largest increase (measured in millions of metric tons).

We can change this scenario, however, with affordable, attractive, and widely available alternatives. For that, we need to encourage new ideas and innovations, seeking global reach. 

Meet some startups

To play a role in transforming the global food system, several startups are already creating chicken alternatives from diverse ingredients, in different parts of the world. Some of the companies are graduates of the ProVeg Incubator.

Haofood

Haofood is a Chinese startup making peanut-based fried chicken. The company’s first product is designed for use in popular Asian chicken dishes. Haofood products are currently available in restaurants across Shanghai and will soon be available to buy online.

Indonesian Ayam Geprek dish from Haofood

Greenwise

Launched in 2019, this startup develops plant-based chicken strips and fillets – as part of its wider plant-based meat range. Based in Russia, Greenwise products are already on sale across Europe, Asia, and Australasia. The team has plans to expand to additional European markets soon, including Austria, Germany, and Switzerland.

Naka Foods

Based in India, Naka Foods has created plant-based alternatives for dishes such as chicken curry, chicken biryani, and chicken nuggets. The company produces alternatives to animal-based products using healthier and more sustainable ingredients, including jackfruit, spirulina, and chickpeas.

Plant-based chicken nuggets from Naka Foods

Like Meat

LikeMeat, founded in Germany in 2013, has developed a plant-based chicken analogue they call ‘Like Chicken’. Its products are available in more than 15,000 stores across 10 European countries. As a result, the company is one of the leaders of the European market in this space. Soya beans are the main ingredient of Like Chicken, GMO-free, and packaged with recycled materials. 

The negative impact of eating animal-based chicken is huge, this cannot be any longer denied. We’re excited to see that so many entrepreneurs are innovating in the plant-based-chicken space and that consumers are ready to sample and purchase these products. Look out for our next impact-area blog, which will focus on eggs! Also, we are happy to announce that our next cohort, starting in April, will have startups from all three of our impact areas – chicken, egg, and fish. Keep your eyes peeled for news from the ProVeg Incubator and be sure not to miss any exciting updates from us!

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.

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. 

We are celebrating our second birthday!

Today (1 November) the ProVeg Incubator turns two years old. Since launching, we have reached many milestones on our mission to transform the global food system. To celebrate our second birthday, we’d like to share some of the highlights with you.

On World Vegan Day 2018, the ProVeg Incubator officially opened its doors for the first time. The months have whizzed by since then, and, somehow, we’re already celebrating our second birthday!

The ProVeg Incubator was launched by ProVeg as part of its mission to reduce the global consumption of animals. It was the world’s first incubator to exclusively support startups producing alternatives to animal-based foods. 

If people are to adopt a more plant-based lifestyle, we strongly believe that they need to be provided with products they will love. Consumers will eat fewer eggs and less seafood, for example, when they can purchase attractive, accessible, affordable alternatives. That’s where our startups come in.

We are supporting the companies at the forefront of innovation. Our alumni have developed a whole range of plant-based and cultured-food products, ingredients, and supporting technologies. In the last two years, we’ve achieved a lot together. Let’s take a look at the highlights…

We’ve built a startup community

To date, the ProVeg Incubator has supported more than 45 startups from around the world. We’ve worked with plant-based meat companies in Russia, fermented dairy startups out of Israel and Germany, and cultured food companies from Latin America to Australia.

Founders from the Incubator’s second cohort of startups

Over 100 entrepreneurs have participated in the ProVeg Incubator programme. They have gone on to continue building thriving businesses and we’re proud to be helping them along that journey. 

However, this is also much bigger than any one individual’s success. What we’ve built is a life-long startup community. A collective, collaborative hub of entrepreneurs that continue to share knowledge, advise one another, and help each other tackle challenges.

We are funding startups

Running out of money is one of the top reasons for the failure of new companies, so securing funding is crucial for a startup’s success and sustainability. At the start of 2020, the ProVeg Incubator announced it would be expanding its support package to startups by including grants and financial investment.

Every startup that joins the programme now receives a grant of 20,000 Euros. There is also the option for follow-up investment of up to 180,000 Euros following the completion of the programme. In addition, we connect founders with investors from our network in order to help  them secure the funds they need to build their companies.

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

We are supporting female entrepreneurs

The food industry remains male-dominated. However, more and more female entrepreneurs and scientists are moving into this sector and choosing to start their own companies.

With every call for entries that we launch, we are receiving increasing numbers of applications from startups with women in leading roles. In fact, the majority of the entrepreneurs in our latest cohort, which kicked off last week, are women.

We’re helping startups to get their products onto shelves

Our alumni have launched over 40 products onto the retail market. That means that the foods they are producing are out there in the world, being purchased by consumers as alternatives to conventional meat, dairy, and animal-based snacks.

Greenwise, for example, is selling its plant-based meat in more than 2,000 stores in Russia. You can find the Nu Company’s chocolate bars in 16 countries worldwide. Better Nature’s tempeh products are available in UK supermarkets and online via Amazon. And in Germany, you’ll find Vly Foods, Mondarella, Cashewbert, and Von Georgia products stocked in supermarkets, drug stores, and cafes.

Chocolate bars from the nu company are on sale in 15+ countries

And those are just the plant-based examples. Food tech companies such as Mushlabs and Legendairy Foods that are working on fermentation, require more time before they can launch tangible products to the public. However, when they –  and others – do, it’s likely to change the face of the food sector fundamentally.

We stood together against corona

Companies, big and small around the world, have been rocked by the coronavirus pandemic. When the first lockdown was announced in March, we were just weeks away from launching our first startup cohort of 2020.

We decided to stand up for startups in these trying times and swiftly moved our whole programme online. By the end of this year, we will have hosted two full cohorts of startups digitally.

The ProVeg Incubator’s first digital cohort of startups

Our job is to support and accelerate startups. We’re proud to have been able to continue to do that, even under particularly tricky circumstances.

If you would like to keep up to date with all the latest news from the ProVeg Incubator, subscribe to our newsletter below. You can also follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram @provegincubator

Come meet our latest startups

We are excited to be launching our fifth batch of pioneering startups at the ProVeg Incubator. Over the next three months, we’ll be working closely with the founders of these innovative companies to help them take their businesses to the next level. Read on to meet the startups.

From algae-based dairy alternatives to the world’s first chicken made from peanut protein, these startups are ready to disrupt the global food industry. This week, we are officially launching the latest cohort of pioneering companies to join the ProVeg Incubator.

In total, we’ll be working with six startups from around the world, including China, Chile, India, and several European countries. The companies were selected from a record number of startup applications to the Incubator and we’re really looking forward to supporting their growth.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, we’ll be hosting this batch of startups online, just as we did earlier this year with our fourth cohort. We already know that the format works well, and in these trying times we want to offer startups all the support we possibly can. So, without further ado, here is our fifth cohort!

Meet the startups 

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

Update Foods

Update Foods is on a mission to help more people around the world tackle the difficult challenge of ditching dairy. Clémence Landeau, Céline Bouvier, Gaëtan Gohin, and Franck Manifacier founded the company in France. Together, they are producing algae-based milk and other dairy alternatives.

The team is motivated by the conviction that it’s time to step back from animal-based products and embrace plant-based eating. To help more people take the plunge into a new lifestyle, Update Foods offers a line of nutritious, affordable alternatives. They taste like dairy, but without any of the negatives.

Haofood

One of the first startups in the world to use peanut protein as the key ingredient for creating plant-based meat. Haofood’s initial product is a fried plant-based chicken, developed using a rigorous, scientific R&D process.

The company was founded in China by Astrid Prajogo, with the aim of helping flexitarians to reduce their meat consumption without foregoing the pleasures of the meals they know and love. Haofood’s plant-based chicken is targeted for use in familiar Asian dishes. These include Chinese street-food fried chicken (鸡排), chicken katsu, and the Indonesian speciality ayam geprek.

The Fast Good Company

An impact-driven, plant-based-food startup, founded by Dylan Duinmaijer in the Netherlands. The Fast Good Company’s mission is to turn fast food into fast good with the power of plant-based ready meals.

Currently, the Fast Good product line consists of three different dishes: Lasagna Bolognese, Sweet Potato Pie, and Tikka Masala. The meals are 100% plant-based and free of any added sugars or preservatives.

As well as being passionate about reducing global animal consumption, the Fast Good Company also aims to reduce food waste.

Founders of the Fast Good Company, Dylan Duinmaijer and Stephanie de Jong

Naka Foods

Naka Foods was founded by Kushal Aradhya R, in India, in order to create innovative alternatives to animal-based foods, using microalgae and plant-based-superfood ingredients. The company develops sustainable products, with a focus on nutrition, taste, and high-quality, natural ingredients.

Naka Foods’ first product, the 4pmbar, is a plant-based chocolate bar made using algae-derived spirulina and probiotics. Now, the startup has set its sights on the plant-based meat sector. Naka Foods has produced a chicken alternative that is specifically designed to suit Indian and Asian cuisine.

Fellow Creatures

Fellow Creatures is taking plant-based treats mainstream by showing just how delicious vegan food can be. The startup was founded by Zsolt Stefkovics and Fraser Doherty, in Scotland, in order to create chocolate that causes no harm.

The current Fellow Creatures range consists of five flavours (creamy hazelnut, raspberry white, salted caramel, matcha white, and the basic milkless option). The conventional dairy element is substituted with creamed coconut.

Humans are continually striving to make progress towards a better world, and that includes making conscious food choices. This might be just chocolate – but it’s part of something much bigger.

Chorizo alternative from Pow! Foods

Pow! Foods

Pow! Foods produces meat alternatives that are scientifically designed to contain more protein and less fat than their animal-based counterparts.

The startup was founded by Amy Leon in Chile. Her team has researched the interaction between different plant proteins and used that knowledge to design a unique biotech process that replicates the flavour and texture of meat without the need for animals or additives.

Pow! Foods has a strong focus on minimising the involvement of animals in the global food system and lessening the impact of our food choices on the environment.

Be sure to stay up-to-date with our blog. We’ll regularly be posting news and information about the startups in our latest cohort here. Meanwhile, if you’re the founder of a startup and would like to join the ProVeg Incubator in 2021, then apply now. 

Meet the team: Alan Ramos

Alan Ramos is the Programme & Startup Coordinator at the ProVeg Incubator. He is originally from Mexico but was raised mainly in the United States. After graduating from university, Alan moved to Taiwan to continue his Mandarin Chinese studies before joining the Incubator in early 2019.

Alan, what do you do at the ProVeg Incubator?

As the Programme & Startup Coordinator, I am actively involved in putting the cohort together, (recruiting, screening, interviewing, and selecting startups). Afterwards, I provide support by putting together tailored programme topics and content for our selection of startups.

During the programme, I support startups by coaching them through workshop activities, deliverables and strategic planning. Lastly, I manage our alumni community with post-incubation check-ins to continue providing support after startups graduate from the Incubator. 

How did you end up working in this position?

After receiving my Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy, I was admitted to law school in the US. However, I chose to defer my admission for one year while I moved to Taiwan to master my Chinese language learning.

During my time in Taiwan, I realised that what I was truly passionate about was improving our current climate crisis and its collateral damages. Once I came across a project that addressed these issues through my second biggest passion, food, I knew I had to take part. 

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I often find myself saying how grateful I feel to wholeheartedly love my job.

Working with so many diverse teams and innovative products allows me to learn something new every day. However, one of my favorite aspects of the job is working closely and learning from amazingly talented entrepreneurs from around the world united by the same mission.

It is incredibly motivating and nourishing to find oneself in a room full of people from different backgrounds and walks of life all pushing for positive change.  

What are some of the challenges of your job?

Because our project is so dynamic, there are always new and exciting challenges to face. However, one of the main challenges is not being able to help all the interesting projects that apply to our programme.

There are so many talented teams and amazing ideas from around the world aimed at helping us achieve our mission to reduce global animal consumption by 50% by the year 2040.

Choosing which companies to support is always a challenge because you want to help so many of them, but that is of course, not always possible.  

What are the values that drive you?

The values that drive me are environmentalism, social justice, and human rights. It is important for me to help create and co-exist in a society where all beings are recognised, respected, and appreciated for their differences.

It’s important for me to conduct myself with integrity, humility, and love and treat others with empathy, dignity, and respect.

Alan, tell us three interesting facts about yourself?

  1. I’ve lived and worked on three different continents. 
  2. I spend a lot of my time in the kitchen cooking up the plant-based goodness. 
  3. I’m a martial arts enthusiast. I’ve competed in mixed martial arts and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and actively train both. 

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

  1. Las Venas Abiertas de América Latina [book]
  2. Ice On Fire [documentary]
  3. How I Built This [podcast]

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Mainly spending time with friends. I like attending festivals, gatherings, and going out for food together. When I’m by myself, I enjoy writing, reading, and exercising. 

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

I would save my bag of personal collections, which include photos, postcards, and notes from friends and my bill collection, which contains bills from most of the countries I’ve visited.

How do we pick the startups we work with?

The ProVeg Incubator team is currently reviewing applications from founders looking to join its next batch of startups. The process involves analysing all of the companies that apply, conducting interviews, and hosting pitch sessions. How do we move through these phases to select a new cohort? Read on to find out.

“How do you pick the startups that you work with?” is a question that we often get asked at the ProVeg Incubator.

Every year, we work with around 20 startups, split across two batches. To select those companies, we run a global call for entries, and we always get more companies applying than we could possibly work with.

Our most recent call for entries closed on 31 July and we received a record number of applications. Since then, the Incubator team has been diligently reviewing all of the applications and deciding which companies to move forward with.

Delving into the details

The first stage is to analyse the written application that startups submit via our website. At this point, we are looking mainly at the type of product or service a startup is offering, as well as the team and what kind of progress the company has made to date.

For the upcoming cohort, we are particularly interested in startups developing egg, chicken, and seafood alternatives. However, we will of course also be accepting companies that are working on other exciting and impactful innovations.

The second stage in our process is to conduct an (online) interview with the founders we are keen to move forward with. This helps us get to know the people behind the projects, and learn more about how they plan to build their startups. It also allows us to identify the areas in which they will need the most support.

Finally, we reach the pitch round. The startups that have made it this far have five minutes to pitch their companies and products to a panel of ProVeg Incubator team members and external experts. The pitch is followed by a Q&A session.

This is an opportunity for us to delve deeper into the details of a company and look at everything from financing and product development to branding, go-to-market strategies, and team development.

It’s also a chance for founders to ask us questions and learn more about the programme we offer. At this point, we also ask startups to provide certain documents, such as financial projections, and clarify any remaining questions they may have.

Then comes the hardest part (for us at least) – deciding which startups to invite to join the Incubator.

Founders of alumni startups Legendairy, Better Nature, Panvega, and Greenwise

The final stretch

During each stage of the assessment process, we unfortunately have to let some startups go. That means that, by the time we come to the point of selecting the final cohort, we are down to what we believe to be the strongest companies.

We use all of the information and feedback that we have gathered during our evaluations to make the final decision. There are a number of key factors that we examine, which we covered in more detail in our blog post: What do we look for in a startup?

In short, you need to have a strong team, an innovative product or service, and your mission should align with ours. As part of the organisation ProVeg, we are working to reduce the global consumption of animals by 50% by the year 2040. 

If your startup doesn’t contribute to that mission, it doesn’t make much sense for us to work together. In addition, your business model should be defensible and scalable. By supporting companies that tick all of these boxes, we’re giving ourselves the best chance of being as impactful as possible. That’s important to us.

Every startup that joins the ProVeg Incubator receives a grant of €20,000. Following completion of the programme, ProVeg has the option to invest a further €30,000 to €180,000 in those startups. This means that we also look at how much investment potential a startup has to offer. 

What if I didn’t get in?

If you didn’t get selected to join the ProVeg Incubator this time around, don’t be disheartened. The process is very competitive. We receive many applications to join the programme and can only select a handful of them to work with each round.

Not getting in does not mean that your startup is not good or that your ideas are not valuable. It could be that your mission doesn’t align closely enough with ours or that you need to strengthen your team in order to achieve your ambitious goals. If you believe in what you are doing, then we encourage you to keep going! 

Don’t forget, you are always welcome to apply again to join the Incubator in the future. We also host various events and webinars and publish informative content on our blog and social media. Be sure to follow us on LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter for all the latest updates.

Meet the team: Albrecht Wolfmeyer

Albrecht Wolfmeyer is the Head of the ProVeg Incubator. He was born in Heilbronn and has lived in Heidelberg, Toronto, Paris, and – since the roaring 1990s – in Berlin. Albrecht joined the ProVeg Incubator in October 2018. Read on to find out about what motivates him, the challenges of the job, and how he spends his free time.

Albrecht, what do you do at the ProVeg Incubator?

I work as the Head of the ProVeg Incubator. That means that I build and manage the Incubator team and develop our long-term strategy, which includes startup investments and internationalisation. In addition, I build partnerships with investors, corporates, and innovation hubs around the globe, and secure long-term funding of the ProVeg Incubator.

How did you end up working in this position?

I studied social sciences and association/nonprofit management. I worked first as a political journalist, and then as a corporate marketing specialist and project manager at a consulting firm. After that, I moved from the corporate to the nonprofit world to make a difference for children, animals, the environment, and the planet. 

What do you enjoy most about your job?

At ProVeg and the ProVeg Incubator I can bring in my diverse experience and also learn new things every day. Working with an awesome team, mission-driven food startups, and partners in the alternative protein space is exciting and never boring.

What are some of the challenges of your job?

Stick to the plan, stick to the mission. There are so many interesting ideas and projects that can distract us from our mission to take animals out of the food equation. We have to ignore them. Get enough sleep. Be good, do good. Balance life and work. 

What are the values that drive you?

Respect all species, diversity, and otherness. Appreciate people’s efforts. Promote good food. Make a difference in the world.

Tell us three interesting facts about yourself?

  1. I gave up on meat (and religion) when I was a kid.
  2. I have twins called Leo and Tom. They are the most awesome little boys around.
  3. I co-founded a social startup to develop software as a service for charities to combine online fundraising, social media, and gamification (which failed terribly and was a great learning experience). 

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

Coronavirus Update from NDR Info / Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami / The Game Changers

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Foosball, biking, snowboarding, reading, walking, thinking.

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

My journals, laptop, and hard drives (for photos).

The digital cohort: how did we do it?

For the last three months, we have been incubating 10 food startups from across the globe. However, due to Covid-19, we couldn’t actually meet any of the founders in person to deliver our accelerator programme. So, we adapted. How did we do it and how did things turn out? Read on to find out.

Back in March, nearly the whole world went into lockdown. When the coronavirus hit, we were preparing to welcome a new batch of startups to the ProVeg Incubator programme. In fact, we were just two weeks away from launch day.

We had accepted 10 companies to join what would be our fourth cohort at the Incubator. The founders were based all over the globe, from Australia to Chile to India to Sweden. 

Normally, the startup teams would travel to Berlin to participate in the accelerator programme. With international travel restricted, however, and cities the world over heading into quarantine, this was not going to be possible.

Stand up for startups

The Incubator team had a decision to make: do we carry on with the programme, or do we cancel it? In hindsight, it could have been a complicated choice but the truth is, we all knew what we wanted to do. We wanted the programme to go ahead. Here’s why:

  • We were motivated to work with the 10 startups we had selected. They have strong teams and are working on impactful projects, including seafood alternatives, plant-based baby food, and fermented dairy alternatives. 
  • The founders needed our help now more than ever. Under the difficult circumstances of Covid-19, startups are facing even more challenges. At the Incubator, we have the resources and networks that young companies need and we wanted to put them to use in these trying times.
  • It presented a learning opportunity. We were being challenged to change our programme unexpectedly. Perhaps we would find new ways to help our startups that we otherwise wouldn’t have discovered. We were keen to find out.

So the decision was made. Despite Covid-19, we were going to stand up for startups and run our first-ever digital cohort. In just a few weeks, we converted our entire accelerator programme to an online format and we were ready to go. 

Overall, we are extremely happy with how it turned out and all 10 startups made significant progress during the three months that we worked together. So, let’s have a closer look at what worked well for our digital cohort and what we missed out on while working under social distancing.

Fireside chat with Jody Puglisi, Scientific Advisor to Beyond Meat

What we loved about the digital cohort

  • 99.9% of our sessions functioned well online. We could still host workshops, fireside chats, feedback sessions, and roundtable discussions as we would have done in-house.
  • Being online allowed us to bring in new speakers and coaches from further afield. For example, some experts in the US were keen to host a one-hour webinar with us but perhaps wouldn’t have been able to commit to a session in person.
  • The interactions online were brilliant. There was so much energy in our sessions, with plenty of questions, solutions, and positive collaborations among the group.
  • The advances in technology allowed us all to see, hear, and interact with one another, with relatively few hiccups.
  • By not travelling to Germany, our startups were able to cut down on their travel costs and CO2 emissions.

What we missed during our digital cohort

  • With our startups being based all over the world, differing time zones were a challenge. For every session, we had to consider what time it would be in Australia, Israel, and South America, in order to make sure no-one was getting up at 4 am to join a workshop!
  • The food. Shipping samples from country to country became trickier and the process took longer. Under the circumstances, opportunities for hosting tasting events in order to showcase the startup products were also far more limited.
  • We learned how valuable meeting people face-to-face is. Even with all of the advantages of modern technology, we still love spending time with our founders in person.

The fourth edition of the ProVeg Incubator accelerator programme came to an end on July 17th. All ten startups graduated from the Incubator after pitching their companies to a panel of investors at our Startup Demo Day. 

Due to Covid-19, the majority of the guests were online, but five of our startups managed to join the Incubator team in Berlin for the event. Finally, after three months, at least a few of us got to meet in person! We are extremely proud to have all of these pioneering companies in our alumni and we are looking forward to continuing our collaboration with all of them, going forward.

The next cohort

We will be working with our next batch of startups from October 2020. We don’t yet know exactly what the format will be for that round of the programme. But we do know that it will largely depend on the circumstances surrounding Covid-19. Ideally, we would opt for a mix of in-house and remote weeks, but we are still waiting to see what will be possible.

If you are interested in joining the ProVeg Incubator, we are accepting applications from startup founders right now. Just go to the Apply section of our website and submit your application.

– Your Incubator team.

What can an incubator do for your business?

When joining a business incubator, it’s important that the partnership is a good fit for both the company and the incubator. Entrepreneurs want to receive high-quality support, while incubators want to find startups that have significant growth and impact potential. Signing up for an incubator is not the only way to grow your company, but we (obviously!) think it’s a good one. Let’s take a closer look…

It can be daunting to take an idea that you’ve come up with and share it with the world. Doing so opens your plans up to feedback, criticism, and judgment. It may expose weaknesses in your concepts or raise questions you hadn’t considered yet. However, it’s essential for entrepreneurs who want to improve, innovate, and ultimately succeed.  

Incubators exist in order to support startups and help them succeed. They can offer funding, industry contact networks, and invaluable resources. However, they will also challenge you, question your ideas, and give you constructive feedback. This is a good thing. 

Building a company is extremely rewarding but it’s also a lot of hard work, and you’ll be glad you tackled any potential problem areas as early as you could. The staff working in incubators have specific areas of expertise and they’ve worked with plenty of startups before. They are great at recognising what you’re doing well and helping you to build on that. They’ll also identify potential pitfalls in your company and help you to avoid or solve them.

Are you almost ready to take the plunge? To help you decide, here are five positive things that an incubator can do for your business:

1. Gives you access to information

Incubators are hives of valuable information. The teams employed there are made up of experts who have worked with many startups before. They’re also really well connected to investors, retailers, and other organisations in the space. 

What’s more, the environment in an incubator is one of creativity and innovation. Entrepreneurs are keen to bounce ideas off of one another. If you’re facing a challenge, it’s likely that someone else is facing something similar, or has already solved it! By joining an Incubator, you’re joining a collaborative community that is difficult to replicate elsewhere.

Investor panel at the ProVeg Incubator Startup Demo Day

2. Introduces you to the right people

Networking is absolutely essential. While incubators provide startups with in-house services, they also offer expertise and coaching from outside sources too. These networks can help to break down the barriers of technology, retail markets, and financing. 

You’ll meet people who you need to know and who will introduce you to other key contacts. If you’ve ever tried cold-calling or emailing, you’ll know that getting a personal introduction to an investor, retailer, or business mentor makes things a whole lot easier.

3. Opens up funding options

Finding funding can be one of the biggest challenges for a startup and is a pressing priority. Incubators can save you time and money by connecting you with suitable investors. What’s more, many incubators actually invest in startups themselves.

The ProVeg Incubator, for example, works with many investors, and when you are ready, we’ll introduce you to the right people. We also include funding as part of our programme. 

Every startup to join the ProVeg Incubator receives a €20,000 grant. There is also the option to potentially invest a further €30,000 to €180,000, following a startup’s completion of the programme.

The Nu Company plant-based chocolate products from our first cohort of startups

4. Provides you with a unique testing ground

Validating an innovative idea is a crucial step for entrepreneurs in determining if an idea is actually viable and scalable as a business. Incubators monitor how startups plan to address market needs and give them feedback in order to improve. Proper validation outside of an incubator space can be more difficult to obtain. 

There’s also less risk associated with testing out your product or service while on an incubator programme. It’s a great chance to iron out the kinks in your business before launching in the real world. If your product is a flop with consumers on the retail market, you might not always get a second chance, even if it’s only a minor tweak that is needed.

5. Accelerates your growth

While nothing is guaranteed, incubators are recognised as boosting the probability of startup success. In one study, the five-year survival rate of startups that participated in incubator programmes was estimated at an impressive 75-87%.

By joining an Incubator you’re also signing up for a programme that runs for a specific length of time. You’ll want to get the most out of it. 

Three months of intensive networking opportunities, workshops, product development and testing, pitching, and coaching sessions will drive your company forward at an impressive pace. Not to mention, you’ll likely garner valuable media attention which can really propel your business into the spotlight.

Are you feeling inspired now?

If you’re feeling inspired by what you’ve read here today and feel that a startup incubator would be the right fit for your company, we have some good news! The ProVeg Incubator is currently accepting applications. If you have an innovative food product or brand, then we would love to hear from you. Just go to the application section of our website and fill in the online application form. Good luck!

What do we look for in a startup?

At the ProVeg Incubator, we typically work with around 20 startups each year, split across two cohorts. We receive a large number of applications for these limited slots – so how do we select who to work with? What are we looking for in a startup and in the founding team? Read on to find out. 

From plant-based seafood to dairy alternatives and cellular agriculture, the ProVeg Incubator has worked with a strong and diverse array of startups in our 18-month history. Thus far, the Incubator has supported 46 startups from around the world, helping them to raise over €22 million and launch more than 40 products. 

Although our alumni startups are varied, they have a number of key attributes in common. These qualities made them stand out to us and ultimately encouraged us to accept them onto our accelerator programme. We like to keep our application process open and transparent – our Incubator should be a good fit for you and for us. So here is a rundown of the top five things we are looking for in a startup.

Your mission

Why does your company exist? What is your goal? In general, when establishing a startup, it’s crucial to have a mission. It’s your reason for being. For us, it’s important that your mission aligns with ours. As part of the food awareness organisation ProVeg International, we are working to reduce the global consumption of animals by 50% by the year 2040. 

In the plant-based space, there are many companies doing great things, and that’s exciting to see. However, for us, it is key that the startups we support are working to remove animals from the global food system, rather than simply being plant-based by nature. This means your project should have the potential to transform the global food culture – by replacing traditional animal-based foods with plant, fungi, recombinant, or cultured solutions.

That’s why you will see us working with, for example, companies in the plant-based dairy, alternative meat, and cellular-agriculture spaces. They offer promising alternatives that allow animals to be removed from the food chain. 

The founders of Incubator alumni startup Legendairy, an alternative dairy company.

Your team

The founding team is perhaps the most important element of any startup. We want to know who you are and why you are the right person or people to drive the project to success. In order to answer these questions, we look at your professional and educational background, industry experience, and skills. We also want to see evidence of your passion. If you are highly motivated and enthusiastic about your startup, that makes us excited to work with you. It also makes you far more likely to succeed. 

Generally speaking, we find founding teams of at least two people to be the ideal setup. Every person on the team needs a specific, defined role, and the skill sets represented should complement one another rather than overlap. Likewise, there shouldn’t be any major skill gaps on your team that could stall your project.

That said, we do accept solo startup founders to our programme. If you come to us with a great idea and the right energy, then, of course, we will consider you for the Incubator. What’s crucial is your drive and passion. After all, you can’t hire that on LinkedIn. 

Impact and scalability

We are looking for companies with sound business models that have the potential for major impact. The innovation that you present to us should be able to function on a large scale. Otherwise, it might not help us to reach the mission that ProVeg and its partners are striving to achieve. 

It’s okay if your startup is still in the early stages when you apply for the Incubator programme, but the ability to scale your business model, ingredients, and process in the future is vital. 

Thinking about your long-term vision for the company also shows that you are ambitious. It tells us that you want to make a real difference in the world with your project, which takes us back to point one – aligning with our mission.

The third cohort of startups at the ProVeg Incubator.

Defensibility 

Having strong competitive advantages will increase the chances of your startup becoming successful. Defensibility, however, is what will help you stay there. You need to be able to protect what you’re doing from the competition.

Perhaps you are planning to protect your product under intellectual property (IP) rights,  using patents or trademarks, or maybe you are planning to focus on building a recognisable brand with a stellar team. Perhaps you’ve worked in this industry before and that gives you the inside track.

There is no magic bullet for defensibility. If you are building something that is truly great, others will want to replicate it, and that creates competition. You just need to have a strategy for how you’ll deal with that – either by protecting your innovation or outpacing or outperforming your competitors.

Your product category 

We consider applications from startups working in all product and service categories – from plant-based drinks and snacks to cultured meat and dairy proteins produced by precision fermentation. However, if you bring something new to the table we’ll be excited about that. 

It could be an idea that hasn’t been worked on before, or you have a completely new take on an existing product. Perhaps you have identified a gap in the market that is under-represented or you are working in an industry that’s still in its infancy. You could be just the right team to fill that space!

We hope that you feel inspired to join the ProVeg Incubator and if you think we would make a good match, then we’d love to hear from you! We are currently accepting applications for our next cohort and you can apply directly on our website.

Maybe you still have questions? Check out our FAQ page or contact us on social media and we’d be happy to help.

 – Your Incubator Team