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The startup founder’s journey: updates from I love you veggie much

We recently chatted to one of our dearest alumni, I Love You Veggie Much, to get all of their latest updates. The Berlin-based startup produces organic, plant-based baby food, and was part of our fourth cohort, in 2020. Since then, the team has built a solid foundation for launching their products, established their marketing strategy and business model, and much more!

I Love You Veggie Much was founded by Susanne Komorek and Darja Pilz, both new mothers and vegans, who were looking for a way to offer the best food to their children. Susanne, the CEO of the startup, has a background in marketing, design and branding, while Darja is experienced in photography and film production. Let’s see what they have to say about their startup’s journey. 

Tell us about your journey since graduating from the ProVeg Incubator

Susanne: We started development of the highly complex production process with our contract producer and we have now almost finished it. We have also nailed our marketing strategy, business model, and future planning. Basically, we created a solid ground for continuing to build our business. 

Now we have the pleasure of joining the Hafven impact accelerator programme, where we have a lot of support and inspiration for preparing our official product launch. Our network is growing daily and it’s so exciting to meet talented, energetic people and have strong mentors on our side.

Tell us more about the products you are launching 

Darja: We are just about to finish the product-development process! There is only one last step left to do. We have already started preparing the launch, which will take place soon.

We will launch our product online, so that parents can easily order what they need, in just a few minutes. It’s very exciting to see that the project we have been working on for such a long time will soon become a reality. We can’t wait for it to finally happen and to see how our customers are going to interact with our brand.

I love you veggie much’s baby food

What have been the main challenges of your startup journey?

Darja: The baby-food sector is a huge challenge. Of course we had to meet all of the baby-food regulations and this was our biggest hurdle: to balance innovation and regulation. 

The ingredients in baby food need to meet very strict criteria – which we absolutely agree with and support. The safety and health of the child is the number-one priority for us. 

Only a limited selection of healthy ingredients are currently available in the quality required for the development of baby-food products. The standards that have to be met are also connected to soil quality, and the use of pesticides and fertilisers. At I Love You Veggie Much, we want to promote change and be able to offer healthier, safer, and more sustainable foods for children. Happily, we found fantastic suppliers who fully support this endeavor.

In addition, there have been many challenges with the production process – we didn’t expect it to be that difficult. But, eventually, every problem has a solution! With this state of mind, we finally got to where we are now.

What have been the main highlights of your startup journey?

Susanne: Joining the ProVeg Incubator was, of course, one of the biggest highlights for I Love You Veggie Much. We learned so much during the programme and the people at the Incubator were just incredible. It was very helpful and motivating to be part of a community and even more part of a movement: the plant-based revolution! That’s why we are so happy to join the Hafven accelerator now. Community is a booster.

Darja: We also had all those little highlights, when parents sent us videos of their kids eating our baby food like crazy, and saying, “see, he always was such a bad eater. Now here we go. I can’t believe this – thank you so much.” That’s really mind-blowing! We can’t describe the feeling it causes. It’s too good to find words for..

What was your strategyfor starting a company and surviving during the Corona pandemic? 

Susanne: We started building the company shortly before Corona started – that’s true. And the crisis really took a toll on the food sector. It was hard for us, specifically, to find a producer. In general, food manufacturers are constantly running out of capacity because of the crisis and supply chains were interrupted for a while.

We hope that this is going to be over soon – it’s a tough time for food startups. But we’re not complaining. We are the lucky ones who are building a startup now – other company founders see their life’s work in pieces and we feel really sorry for them. 

Where do you want your company to be in two years?

Darja: Hopefully, customers will find us on every retail shelf in Germany, so we can reach a lot of families with our healthy plant-based baby food. And we want to grow. We are looking forward to welcoming new team members to support us in realising our dream.

Susanne and Darja, founders of I love you veggie much

What have you learned from your startup experience that you wish you had known earlier?

Susanne: No-one told us it was going to be such a rollercoaster. You really need strong nerves. Many decisions have to be made quickly and intuitively. 

Depending on your product and whether you already have a network in the food industry, finding the right producer and establishing the production process can take a lot of time. Our product launch was supposed to take place much earlier, and finding ourselves under such a lot of pressure was challenging. I would advise startups to keep their timelines and milestones ambitious but realistic. Also, to be as flexible as possible in order to be able to adapt as you gain new insights. 

That said, I need to add that I never expected to find so much support, so many nice, talented, and amazing people who are willing to help us to build this company. It was a huge surprise for us how much positive energy you can find out there. It’s been a crazy but really enriching and fulfilling experience.

At the ProVeg Incubator, we enjoy keeping you updated about our alumni. If you enjoy reading about them, you may also like our blog post about Pink Albatross, a plant-based, clean-label ice-cream company from Spain.

Asanté Foods wrap

The Incubator’s sixth cohort is a wrap!

After twelve weeks of intensive training, the nine startups from the ProVeg Incubator’s sixth cohort have completed our accelerator programme. Let’s take a look at what they accomplished during their time with us.

Although the plant-based sector is continuously expanding, advice on how to navigate it is still rather hard to come by. This is where the ProVeg Incubator comes in.

The accelerator programme is a labour of love for all involved. From the Incubator’s team to the mentors in our network to the experts holding training workshops, all strive towards the same goal: leading the startups to success. We believe in this goal – and in the skills and capabilities of their founders.

The nine companies from our latest cohort have recently taken the final step in the programme, culminating in our Startup Demo Day. Let’s see how they progressed during the past twelve weeks, and how the programme assisted them in their growth:

Bifidice

Anastasia Gutkevich, Founder of Bifidice

Bifidice, the Chilean startup creating probiotic ice-cream, is moving forward with its plans to expand into foreign territories. This time the founder, Anastasia Gutkevich, has set her sights on the German market. The country will act as a staging ground for reaching consumers in the rest of the continent. Thanks to its networks in the region, the Incubator is well positioned to provide advice on how to approach the European market. The mentors also helped Bifidice to come up with an effective communication strategy.

Kinoko Labs

The Kinoko Labs team is continuing with its R&D and product development and still have a long road of R&D ahead in order to bring their mycelium-based products to consumers’ plates. The startup has, however, already seen its R&D efforts pay off. During their time with the Incubator, the company delivered its first proof of concept. Better still, the team created the first prototype of its Kinoko meat, fully mycelium-based and ready to be cooked. The team is now raising their first pre-seed round of funding, which they will use to grow their team and accelerate product development.

EggField

EggField have validated their product across multiple application areas. The startup’s team was were assisted by the Incubator during this critical phase. Thanks to the ProVeg network, EggField’s egg substitutes were introduced to key players in various sectors. They were deemed to be valid alternatives in areas as diverse as baking, sauces, salad dressings and desserts. And appropriately, given the startup’s Swiss roots, EggField is now a key ingredient for the traditional Swiss Alpine noodles known as spätzli.

Root Kitchen

Root Kitchen: plant-based, ready-made meals

Some of Root Kitchen’s plant-based ready meals

Root Kitchen, the UK-based readymade-meal startup, has been delivering its food packages to new customers across the country. During the Incubator programme, the startup received actionable feedback on how to best improve their web presence. Now, Root Kitchen meal boxes are available on the company’s digital storefront. They are also found on third-party online retailers such as Mighty Plants and GreenBay. Beyond the online realm, the startup’s frozen, plant-based meals are being sold for the first time through multiple points of sale.

Kern Tec

Kern Tec is another startup that had a productive few months since joining the ProVeg Incubator’s sixth batch of startups. The production of upcycled fruit stones at their Austrian facilities has more than doubled. This allowed the company to plan for the launch of its first product – a dairy-milk alternative created from apricot seeds.

Noko Foods

Noko Foods has seen its ‘fight-food’ products steal the limelight, helped by the Olympics currently underway in Tokyo. Its Post-Training product line has gained heavy-hitting brand ambassadors, including the judo practitioner Rizlen Zouak. The startup has welcomed the recent reopening of gyms across France – and seized the opportunity to launch its first points of sales in Parisian gyms. As the Post-Training line gains ground, Noko is preparing to launch additional products. Noko Foods will be expanding their lineup with new innovative plant-based and performance-focused functional-nutrition products.

Omni

Omni received really good responses in their first large-scale trial. Out of a testing population of over 100 dogs, 91% loved Omni, while more than 50% outright preferred it to their usual meat-based meal. The startup also started to work together with vet practice chains across the UK, as part of their go-to-market strategy. Their time in the ProVeg Incubator allowed them to build working relationships with leading voices in the industry, such as Daan Luining, founder of Meatable.

Asanté

The Asanté Team is gearing up for its retail launch in the US, assisted by ProVeg mentors in this latest step in their journey. On the R&D front, Asanté are busy finalising the formulation of an allergen-free protein range. At the same time, they saw the first successful test of their mycelium-based meat alternative. In terms of fundraising, the startup secured a pre-seed round. They are now entering a seed round.

ProMeat

ProMeat aims to feed consumers’ appetite for plant-based chicken products

The Delhi-based ProMeat have been testing their brand with customers as well as industry experts. As part of their launch plans for their plant-based meat patties, nuggets, and kebabs, the team has held tasting sessions with renowned chefs.

What’s next?

This latest edition of our Incubator programme might be over, but we always keep in touch with our alumni startups. You can continue to follow their journey on our LinkedIn and Instagram pages. We will regularly publish updates and announcements from their teams.

If you feel inspired by the work of our startups, and are thinking of following in their footsteps, you can apply here to join our next cohort of founders.

ProMeat's plant-based chicken products

ProMeat: bringing plant-based chicken to the table

Based in New Delhi, India, ProMeat is a startup focused on creating clean-label, plant-based chicken. The founding team is made up of Debabrata Das, Pranjuli Garg, and Sugriv Gupta. Established in 2020, ProMeat offers an alternative source of protein without the involvement of animals and without compromising on taste.

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

Debabrata: I’m a food-tech manager with a degree from NIFTEM. I have always been passionate about food preservation and food security – and especially about the alternative-protein space, which includes plant-based chicken. I was also a Good Food Institute India Fellow, and a Thought For Food Global Ambassador.

Pranjuli: My educational background is as a food-tech manager, also from NIFTEM. Over the course of three years, I mastered additional skills such as content creation, marketing, and management, while working with various organisations.

Sugriv: I completed a Masters in Nutraceutical Science at Mumbai University. On top of that, I have four years’ experience in new product development under my belt, having worked with Adani and Urban Platter.

What is your favourite part of the work you do?

Debabrata: The challenges! It is fun for us to try to determine why a product isn’t working. We enjoy finding solutions that aren’t obvious and require figuring out what hasn’t already been done, and trying out new things.

Sugriv: We see ourselves as changemakers. We continuously strive to make incremental changes in the way people consume protein. Meeting their dietary needs with plant-based chicken will surely lead us closer to a better world – one with less harm to the environment and no animal cruelty.

Pranjuli: Another great thing about the job is the opportunity to work alongside each other, and interact with people from diverse backgrounds. This keeps us super motivated and inspired every day.

The founders: Sugriv Gupta, Pranjuli Garg, and Debabrata Das (left to right)

What have been the main challenges in setting up your business?

Sugriv: The three of us have no background in running a startup. Because of that, we face challenges at every step. 

One of the major hurdles that we faced during the R&D stage was finding specific lipid solutions. We strove to find the best way to achieve the desired texture and other important attributes.

Another significant challenge comes from scaling up production from working at a development scale to a pilot-level of production.

Pranjuli: We operate in extremely price-sensitive markets in which consumers can be wary of testing out completely new products. Keeping price proportional to the quality we offer is another challenging area. 

What is it that makes your company unique?

Debabrata: Our product is made entirely from natural and non-GMO ingredients with multiple health benefits. We use a proprietary blend of mung bean and peas and soya proteins to provide all the essential amino acids naturally present in animal meats. We also utilise an indigenous Indian crop – elephant foot yam, which makes our product highly fibrous and nutritious.

Sugriv: We are also fortifying our product with natural zinc, folic acid, and vitamin B12 in order to provide optimal nutrition to our consumers. 

"ProMeat

Why did you join the ProVeg Incubator?

Pranjuli: Our mission is to bring about a sizeable and lasting change in the way people eat. We want to ease the shift away from unsustainable proteins and towards smarter and more sustainable protein sources. 

The ProVeg Incubator can help us do that by sharing knowledge, resources, and skills with our team. This will assist us in tackling any upcoming challenges – and ultimately in reaching our goal. Being part of the ProVeg community allows us to help further entrench the alternative-protein sector and help change the world for the better.

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

Pranjuli: We plan to launch our product within the next 12 months. Eventually, we intend to become one of the leading brands on the Indian market. We would love to see ProMeat grow and help people shift away from animal protein.

We aim to provide taste and nutrition at very affordable prices, so that people will be able to easily access our products.  

Debabrata: Apart from that, we would love to explore the plant-based egg-and-dairy sector in the future. As the population continues to increase, the demand for meat, dairy and poultry products is also on the rise. Through our efforts, we are providing tasty alternatives which are sustainable and healthier than conventional animal-based products. 


Enjoyed this post? Check out the Q&As with the founders of Kern Tec, Bifidice and NØKO.

We are upcycling fruit pits into plant-based ingredients

Kern Tec is a plant-based food company from Austria that is developing new ingredients made from fruit pits. Michael Beitl, Luca Fichtinger, Sebastian Jeschko, and Fabian Wagesreither founded the startup. The team is part of the current cohort at the ProVeg Incubator. This is their story.

What does your startup do and what is your mission? 

Luca: We believe that there are too many side streams in food production. That is why we have developed a unique supply chain and production method to process valuable fruit pits into new plant-based ingredients.

At the moment, we are using the pits from apricots, cherries, and plums to develop ingredients for the food and beverage industries. Our mission is to upcycle hundreds of thousand tonnes worth of pits and to develop new, unique products that can be easily adopted into our daily diets. 

Where did the idea for your company come from? 

Michael: The idea actually came from some local farmers in Austria, who had been trying to process fruit pits for quite a while. However, they lacked the spare time to focus on this project, as well as the R&D know-how to make a process which is truly scalable. That’s where Kern Tec comes in.

Kern Tec upcycles the pits of cherries, apricots, and plums to create new plant-based ingredients

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

Sebastian: Our founding team comprises four engineers and entrepreneurs. Luca and Michael met during university and started to work on the project, before being joined shortly afterwards by Fabian and myself.

Together we were able to design a manufacturing process to upcycle an initial 1.000 tonnes of fruit pits and offer those to over 50 customers from all over Europe. Currently, our wider team consists of ten people with employees supporting our mission in product development, R&D, and business development.

What are your favourite parts about building your business?

Fabian: It is probably the diversity of tasks and challenges. On the one hand, we are building relationships with fruit processing companies from all over Europe. On the other hand, we are developing cutting edge biochemical processes to make sure that the products can be used to their full potential. No two days are the same.

What have been the main challenges you’ve faced? 

Luca: Our main challenge was to develop the whole supply chain without having deep know-how of the raw material. So many factors come into play there without you even knowing it. 

What is it that makes your company unique? 

Sebastian: The broad know-how about these raw materials and the ability to solve problems along the way very efficiently.

Kern Tec production

Why did you decide to join the ProVeg Incubator? 

Fabian: For us it was important to gain more exposure to possible investors, customers, and mentors. We felt like the Proveg Incubator was the perfect place for our team to be able to do that.

In your opinion, what do you think it takes for a startup to be successful? 

Michael: To have a well functioning and diverse team is probably the number one factor for success. 

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

Luca: We hope to close our first investment round for Kern Tec by June. After that, we’d love to see more of our products launching on the market and, finally, we aim to be able to double our production.

Did you enjoy this blog post? If so check out these other founders Q+As we did with Omni, Kinoko Labs, and Root Kitchen.

Bifidice: the startup fighting for a world without allergies

The only Latin American startup among our current cohort at the ProVeg Incubator, Bifidice develops functional ice-cream containing powerful probiotics. Based in Chile and founded by Anastasia Gutkevich, Bifidice wants to help build a world without allergies and chronic diseases. This is the story of Bidifice so far.

What does your startup do and what is your mission? 

Anastasia: At Bidifice, we believe in the possibility of a world without allergies and chronic diseases. Our plan consists of combining the potential of ice cream flavors with the high efficiency of powerful probiotic bacteria.

That’s how we created Bifidice – the first functional plant-based ice-cream that actively combats allergies and long-term illnesses.

Where did the idea for your company come from? 

Anastasia: I grew up in my father’s laboratory, where he researched the mechanisms of how microbiota and the immune system relate to one another on a molecular level. I was really inspired by his work and studies! I wanted to bring a product based on this amazing technology to the market.

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

Anastasia: We are an all-female team with experience and achievements in food science, biotechnology, and innovation. Our synergy lies in biotech and a vision for modern nutrition. Overall, our goal is to offer  functional plant-based solutions to help put a stop to allergies and chronic diseases.

Anastasia Gutkevich, founder of Bifidice

What are your favourite parts about building your business?

Anastasia: We love to inspire people to care and understand more about human health. We are excited every time we hear about someone’s positive experience with Bifidice.

In addition, we love to inspire more female entrepreneurs –  especially in Latin America – to be brave and self-confident in who they are and what they do.

 What have been the main challenges you’ve faced? 

Anastasia: Launching a disruptive innovation is never an easy task – it requires a lot of patience. During our journey, we are learning to listen to what customers want and to build trust with our partners. Also, to develop a solid internal vision of who we are as a team and as a company.

What makes your company unique? 

Anastasia: We are building Bifidice with the dream of making the best probiotic in the world. That vision will be reflected across all areas of our company.

Our expertise comes from a broad range of industries that are vital to this project. These include knowledge about gut health and the immune system, years of scientific studies, and face-to-face dialogue with customers and patients. 

Within this dynamic, we are trying to build an ambitious and unique project that will be scalable but still fit individually to numerous health issues.

Plant-based functional ice-cream from Bifidice

Why did you decide to join the ProVeg Incubator? 

Anastasia: We have never worked with colleagues from the food-industry before, so we are excited about how much we can learn by being part of an innovative food tech network.

We also hope to get guidance in the area of food-tech R&D, as well as access to specialists in the industry.

In your opinion, what do you think it takes for a startup to be successful? 

Anastasia: You need to be open to opportunities and opinions, test every crazy idea, and get out there in the field. To make the transition from a startup to a profitable company, you have to be ready to answer thousands of questions all of the time. In short, startup success means being able to answer most of those questions and being prepared to take risks.

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

Anastasia: Our crucial milestones are assembling a ninja team to operate internationally, launching the best-ever version of plant-based Bifidice, and getting ready to impress investors so that we can expand into Latin America and Europe.

If you enjoyed this blog post, check out our Q&As with Kinoko Labs, Asanté, and NØKO FOODS!

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

NØKO FOODS: plant-based food for fighters

NØKO FOODS is a food company from France developing plant-based food products for martial artists and athletes. The startup was founded by Maxence Damarey, Olivier Dahan, Alvyn Severien, and Gaëtan Gohin, who are all part of the current cohort at the ProVeg Incubator. This is their story.

What does your startup do and what is your mission? 

Maxence: We are reshaping the nutritional regimen of future martial artists, fighters, and athletes by providing them with performance-boosting plant-based foods. Through the NØKO brand, we are supporting the rise of a new generation of world champions who eat pro-performance, healthy, and sustainable foods.

Olivier: NØKO’s products are innovative and unique, drawing on the highly functional power of microalgae. Our product range is 100% plant-based and made in France.

Where did the idea for your company come from? 

Maxence: I am a professional boxer and engineer, and the idea came about while I was still in the amateur ranks. At the time, I struggled to find any specific foods that suited my needs. I was looking for foods that would allow me to face the harsh conditions imposed by our sport, which can be taxing and take a toll on your body.

This is how I started making my own blends. At the same time, I followed an online nutritional science course to certify my knowledge – and to make the right blends for myself. I decided it was time to give all fighters access to this game-changing nutrition!

Tell us about your team – who are you and why are you the right people for the project? 

Maxence: I’m 23 years old, and an undefeated professional boxer. I am also an IT engineer and a certified nutritional-science coach.

Olivier: I was the first French importer of the Oreo, Pepperidge Farm, and Daim brands. My TooGood brand is also the leading product in the French healthy snack segment.

Alvyn: Gaëtan and I are the cofounders of Algama Foods, an innovative company developing microalgae-based foods. We are at the core of NØKO’s innovation, since the products are developed in our labs.

Maxence: Together, we contribute a variety of experiences to build innovative and well-marketed products. To that end, we can count on one of the world’s most functional ingredients: microalgae. On top of that, our target audience is a demographic we know well – after all, we are part of it.

What are your favourite parts about building your business?

Maxence: The best moments are when we see the reaction of fighters who consume NØKO’s plant-based foods for the first time. It is massively rewarding to see how amazed and excited they are about our products!

NOKO: plant-based food for fighters

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

What have been the main challenges you’ve faced? 

Olivier: Launching our product range on the market with the COVID-19 situation as a backdrop proved quite testing. Most gyms had to close, and, as a result, most fighters did not train during this whole period.

What is it that makes your company unique? 

Maxence: Our products are what makes NØKO different from everything else on the market. Their ingredients, their taste, as well as the benefits they provide –  are all quite unlike anything that was available before.

Why did you decide to join the ProVeg Incubator? 

Maxence: our vision is to become the world’s leading fight food company. So how could we not consider joining forces with the world’s best-known incubator for plant-based foods?

In your opinion, what do you think it takes for a startup to be successful? 

Maxence: Being ready to face any challenge. Having a fighter’s mindset – you never lose, whether you win or whether you learn. This spirit is at the heart of NØKO.

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

Olivier: We intend to launch two of our products on the market. Additionally, we aim to become France’s leading fight-food brand, and launch sales Europe-wide. A further goal is beginning to penetrate the Asian market.


Enjoyed this article? Check out our other Q&A with the founders of Omni, EggField, and Root Kitchen.

Omni: plant-based pet food is here

Omni is a plant-based pet food company from the UK, that is developing healthy, sustainable food for dogs. Guy Sandelowsky and Shiv Sivakumar founded the startup and are part of our current cohort. This is their story.

What does your startup do and what is your mission? 

Guy: We started Omni, a D2C plant-based pet food company, in order to make and sell nutritionally complete diets using sustainable, alternative protein sources. We aim to solve the disproportionate environmental impact and pet health problems related to factory-farmed, processed meat diets. Our mission is to change the way the world’s pets eat, for good.

Where did the idea for your company come from? 

Guy: As a practising veterinarian I saw a lot of pet health issues in my clinic, many of which were linked to poor quality, cheap, processed meat diets. At the same time, I was concerned about the rise of human grade meat companies and their massive carbon footprint. 

Shiv, my co-founder, had just got his first dog, Leo, an adorable Cavapoo and was concerned about feeding Leo processed meat. Shiv and his family were also cutting down on their meat consumption at this time, due to the devastating impact it has on the environment.  

When we met, we realised that we had the same concerns. As a result, we became determined to create dog food that was better for pet health and for the planet. We consulted a leading veterinary nutritionist to find a solution and quickly discovered that dogs don’t need meat. In fact, there is strong evidence that dogs have been thriving on plant-based diets for years. So, we decided to create a company that just focused on developing this and hence, Omni was born.

This is how excited dogs are going to be for Omni food

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

Shiv: Guy is an influential Vet Surgeon, Biomedical Scientist, and dog lover and is well respected by dog owners all over the world. He is responsible for the development of the product formulations and guides the team on animal welfare. Guy also oversees all research and is actively engaged in educating the veterinary community. He is an MBA candidate at Imperial College London.

I, meanwhile, am a former investment banker with extensive mergers and acquisition experience in the fast-moving consumer goods space. I oversee the finance and operations side of the business and have a wealth of experience with consumer facing business development. 

What are your favourite parts about building your business?

Shiv: We love that we are building the pet food business of the future, which can provide better health for our pets while also being kinder to our planet. It’s great to work everyday on something you feel passionate about. That is particularly true when your project will have a lasting impact on animal health and the environment.

 What have been the main challenges you’ve faced?

Guy: The biggest challenge is market education. Even though a significant percentage of pet owners are interested in alternative proteins, we anticipate some resistance to change from entrenched interests in the raw meat feeding community or among more conventionally-minded pet owners.

What makes your company unique?

Guy: Firstly, we are bringing scientific authority to a space that has previously remained on the fringes because it lacked validation from veterinary professionals.

Secondly, existing plant-based pet food brands aren’t innovators, each offering one formulation that hasn’t changed in sometimes up to decades. We have a focus on R&D.

In the short-term we’re working to bring new alternative protein sources to pet food that have never been used before. Our vision for the long term includes developing our own IP in the field of cellular agriculture for pet food. 

Why did you decide to join the ProVeg Incubator?

Shiv: As a business whose mission aligns exactly with that of the ProVeg incubator, we’re excited by the opportunity it presents to immerse ourselves in the alternative protein entrepreneurial space, as well as to learn from the expertise of mentors and industry experts.

We founded Omni during lockdown. Therefore, we have missed networking and brainstorming with other people who share our values and ambitions. The ProVeg incubator gives us an excellent chance of making up for lost time in that regard! 

In your opinion, what does it takes for a startup to be successful?

Guy: A great idea backed by passionate founders who know their customers well and are persistent in the face of adversity.

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

Shiv: We’d like to launch the complete range of plant-based dog food products including dry food, wet food, treats, and supplements. We are initially launching our business online but we would also like to be in retail channels around Europe.

Ultimately, we would like to change peoples minds about the way they feed their pets. We are working towards making the pet food sector healthier and more sustainable. 

Did you enjoy this post? If so, check out some of previous founder Q+As with Eggfield, Kinoko Labs, and Root Kitchen.

Asanté: makers of plant-based Mexican food

Asanté is a plant-based food startup from Mexico that is developing meat alternatives with a Mexican flavour. The company was founded by Iván Jiménez and Gaby Rivera, who are both part of the current cohort at the ProVeg Incubator. They are joined by Claudio Garibay, the technology partner lead. This is the Asanté story.

What does your startup do and what is your mission?

Iván: At Asanté, we use natural ingredients to create plant-based versions of recipes in which meat is traditionally firmly at the centre of the plate. Beginning with Mexican cuisine, we created a filet with a unique texture, juiciness, and taste.

Gaby: Our mission is to create the taste that helps people to protect our future. We believe that once we offer people a very similar experience to eating animal-based products, in a delicious, healthy, convenient, and affordable way, they will start to transition to a plant-based lifestyle.

Where did the idea for your company come from?

Gaby: We started our company in 2017. At the time, there were limited options for plant-based meat in Mexico. And none had the taste or nutritional value that we were looking for.

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

Iván: I have a background in Industrial Engineering and an MBA – but I’m also a passionate cook. As the CEO, I bring in my experience in managing large and complex operations in private equity and manufacturing, having previously worked with Unilever.

Gaby: I’m the CAO, with experience in administration, law, and accounting for a real estate and a sports business. I majored in management and finance. And not least, I am a dedicated foodie.

Claudio Garibay: I am the technology partner lead at Asanté. I have a PhD in biotechnology, and I have experience in developing technology from science-based models to large-scale industrial implementation.

What are your favourite parts about building your business?

Iván: I love training for endurance competitions. An Ironman event, for example, is more about the journey than the goal. A purpose-driven startup is similar in that way.

I enjoy being part of an industry that fights to improve our future. We work towards reducing the food-related impact of climate change (which makes up 19% of the 55 billion tons of CO2 emissions), fighting for animal welfare, as well as improving our usage of water and land resources. We aim to improve human health by reducing the consumption of carcinogens, antibiotics, and hormones.

What I enjoy the most though, are the immediate reactions of people who had never tried plant-based meat before. Suddenly, they get excited and want to learn more because they like our products. Few things are as satisfying as this.

The Asanté product range

The Asanté product range

What have been the main challenges you’ve faced?

Gaby: We had a poor fit with our initial operating partner, which led to us making mistakes. Eventually, we agreed to buy their stock in the company – but we lost very valuable time.

We also decided to transition from refrigerated to shelf-stable technology, which was a very complex and challenging process. In hindsight, we made the right decisions, and we are now in a better position to attract the capital partners that can help us to grow.

What is it that makes your company unique?

Iván: We are an agile and lean company operating in Mexico – one of the most efficient supply chain corridors in the world. North America has many raw materials, natural resources, and the talent required to create unique plant-based meat products.

It is also the largest consumer market in the world, with a very efficient and automated fulfilment system.

Gaby: Mexico and the US have a very significant impact on climate. Mexico is the second-largest beef exporter in the world, and the US is the largest consumer. In order to make an impact on the global meat market, we need to start by addressing the challenges in these parts of the world. We are one of the first companies to start with this approach.

Why did you decide to join the ProVeg Incubator?

Gaby: ProVeg has the experience, credibility, and global reach that we need to polish our value proposition. They can also help Asanté in finding the right connections to launch our plant-based Mexican food products in the US retail market, and later in the European market as well.

In your opinion, what do you think it takes for a startup to be successful?

Iván: Success requires a particular combination of time, place, and people with good ideas. Resilience helps if you are running in the right direction.

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

Iván: A year from now, we hope to have built a strong team of talented and passionate individuals who will complement our existing team. 

We aim to reach $2 million in revenue. We can achieve this goal by either selling one container per month to regional Costco stores in California, or by selling through a strong distributor in different parts of the US.

Gaby: We also intend to make inroads with our disruptive innovation project: producing proteins and flavours via the fermentation of fungal mycelium. In 12 months’ time, we should also be in a good position for a Series A funding round.


If you enjoyed reading about Asanté’s work in the plant-based Mexican food space, check out the previous Q&As with EggField, and Kinoko Labs, and keep your eyes peeled so as not to miss future updates.

Pink Albatross: updates from new flavours to rebranding

Pepe and Luke, founders of Pink Albatross – one of our 2019 alumni – are more than ready to announce their 2021 updates. This is an important milestone in Pink Albatross’s journey, from changing the go-to-market strategy to launching new flavours, it’s their turn to shine! 

Luisa: Can you tell us more about the new products you’re launching, and what you’re focusing on now?

Pepe: One of our goals for 2021 was to review our product portfolio and expand it in terms of flavours, for both the foodservice and retail sectors. The main reason for this was that we wanted to have broader options for customers. 

Therefore, we spoke to different customers to see what flavours they wanted to see, and we evaluated what the competition was doing in terms of flavours. What flavours do they offer? What flavours are they selling the most?

With that in mind, we reviewed about 14 flavours and decided on launching five flavors: peanut butter with chocolate chips, mango with passion fruit, pistachio, coffee with chocolate and mint with chocolate chips. The latter was quite interesting because it was not on our roadmap at all, but some of the supermarkets we work with mentioned that customers miss a premium mint ice cream with chocolate chips. That’s why we decides on this flavour.

 

Pink Albatross – mango with passion fruit ice cream

Luisa: What about the process of rebranding Pink Albatross?

Luke: Rebranding is the outcome of a strategic exercise that we went through before entering retail – once you get into retail, you’re appealing to a much broader consumer segment. You lose your personal touch! Suddenly, you’re competing not only with brands, but also with lights, noise, and people, so the attention gets narrowed down. We had to find a way to stand out. 

Pepe: We noticed that we needed to have a more compelling story, a better way to communicate to our clients, so that they would feel closer to the brand. 

We partnered with an agency and we reviewed every little detail of the branding. We looked at supermarket shelves and figured that most brands have a particular pattern. Plant-based brands, for instance, usually use the colors green, white, and brown. They position themselves as brands that are good for you and the environment. Pink Albatross wants to be detached from that perspective.

We have come up with a new design for our ice cream pots and kept the pink since it’s the colour that represents our brand identity! Therefore, we decided to communicate the flavours through different lids, and, as well as listing the ingredients, they are also drawn on the back of the pots. So everyone knows immediately what’s in them and what’s not. 

Luke: We also promoted the name of the flavour as the main focus in the cups, since ice cream is an indulgent purchase. When buying ice cream, people make their purchase decisions based on flavour, not brand. 

Re-branding is an exercise. It’s more than just redesigning the graphic elements – it’s about redefining your brand identity. It’s a reflection of who you are, what do you stand for, and what you want people to think of you. 

Pink Albatross – pistachio ice cream

Luisa: What was your strategy during the Corona pandemic? What has changed for Pink Albatross?

Pepe: The Corona pandemic actually affected us a lot. In 2019, we did our first go-to-market strategy connected to food service. We were manufacturing in a partner manufacturer, which was artisanal and had low capacity. We also had issues with the manufacturer – they were producing our ice cream and keeping all our stock. And when the pandemic started, they shut down the facilities because they had no customers. 

So, basically, we could no longer manufacture anymore and we lost our biggest client. At that point, we had to change our strategy completely. We went from artisanal manufacturing to industrial manufacturing, from having no logistics problem to have to deal with logistics of a frozen product, independent of the manufacturing facility. With the new machinery, we had to change our recipes as well as shift our scale. As a result, we’ve been able to reduce our recommended retail price for the final consumer. Basically, thanks to corona 0r because of corona, we changed everything. 

Luisa: What have you learned from your startup experience that you wish you had known earlier?

Luke: In the beginning, you develop this false notion that you’re too expensive. But if there is value in what you’re offering, people will be willing to pay. However, even though people may be willing to pay a premium for your product, first you need to convince the retailer. It doesn’t matter if your product is cheap or expensive if people won’t see it because it’s not on the shelves. For me, one important learning is to work as hard as you can to achieve a certain economy of scale and lower your price earlier, rather than later, since it has a strong impact on consumer adoption. 

Pepe: Understanding that your customer is not only the end-purchaser, but also the person in the middle of the chain. We understood how specialty stores operated and how small restaurants operate. However, we didn’t have a broader understanding of how supermarkets work. This was one of the key learnings from the last few months. If you don’t understand this relationship, you’re not going to get your products onto supermarket shelves. 

Did you enjoy this blog post? So, be ready because soon we will be posting the second part of Pink Albatross’ Q+A! 

Root Kitchen: nutritious and convenient plant-based meals

From England, Root Kitchen enters the market with a key proposal: plant-based frozen ready meals that are nutritious, and convenient. The startup was founded by the brother and sister-in-law team David Beaver and Rishma Remtulla, both of whom are part of our current cohort. This is their story.

What does your startup do and what is your mission? 

David: At Root Kitchen, we believe in the importance of eating more plants – it’s good for us and it’s good for our planet. Our mission is to be the frozen-meal brand that makes healthy and nutritious plant-based meals more attractive and more accessible to a wider market. 

Where did the idea for your company come from? 

David: The idea for Root Kitchen came in late 2019. Rishma suffered from fatigue and immunity-based health issues for a number of years. She was subsequently diagnosed with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, a disease that mainly affects the nervous and immune systems. 

In order to attempt to ease her condition, she tried a plant-based lifestyle. In this transition, she realised that there were very few convenient, nutritious, and affordable options. Inspired to solve this problem, Rishma went into the kitchen and started creating. 

David and Rishma

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

Rishma: David and I worked together for the family business –  a manufacturer of ready-to-eat meals that was founded 36 years ago. The company has partnerships with supermarkets such as Lidl and Iceland, as well as food-service companies such as Green King and Mecca Bingo.  

I joined the family business 13 years ago as New Product Development Director. My role was to lead a team of development chefs and food technologists. We worked with the production team in order to ensure that the transition from recipe development to large-scale production ran smoothly while maintaining product quality. 

David meanwhile, has experience in Fast Moving Consumer Goods sales, as he previously worked for Nestlé and Unilever. He joined the family business five years ago to look after marketing and new business development. 

What are your favourite parts about building your business?

Rishma: In addition to the health benefits of adopting a plant-based lifestyle, we became acutely aware of the impact that animal agriculture has on the environment. Luckily, we are in the perfect position to make a difference. For me, working with plant-based ingredients has opened up a whole new world of recipes and opportunities to be creative in the kitchen.

David: I’m enjoying the journey so far. It has reawakened a passion for learning in me. We both want to create something that is much bigger than ourselves. We also recognise that joining the ProVeg Incubator is a great opportunity to personally develop alongside other people who have similar values. Hopefully, we can all help to encourage more people to adopt a plant-based diet.

What have been the main challenges you’ve faced? 

David: Initially, we started out as an online direct-to-consumer brand in a sector that has some well-founded startups. Those companies have already established an initial concept for plant-based frozen meals. However, we had to learn everything from scratch! From how to attract customers to structuring the customer’s journey to ensuring that meals arrive in the perfect condition. All of that was a big challenge.

What makes your company unique? 

Rishma: Our position in the market is to make nutritious plant-based meals that are accessible to a wider audience, not just those who can afford monthly subscription boxes. 

We have the infrastructure to make meals at scale, while still using a small-batch process. All of our meals are prepared by chefs in 70L-90L stockpots. They follow the concept of homemade meals, but on an industrial scale. 

I also designed our meals to appeal to flexitarians who are making the transition to eating more plant-based foods. Our meals are designed to have a taste profile and experience that is similar to what people would usually eat. Our aim is to make meals an easy option on those busy mid-week evening meal occasions. 

Root Kitchen meals

Why did you decide to join the ProVeg Incubator? 

David: While we are experienced in selling ready-meals to the retail and food-service sector, we have no experience in building a brand that stands for something more than just great-tasting meals.

We both want to learn from people who have been on the same journey as us. By this, we mean, creating a brand that aims to make a difference to our global food system. We looked at the mentors and alumni of the ProVeg Incubator and we thought that this would be the perfect environment to develop Root Kitchen as the brand we want it to be. 

In your opinion, what do you think it takes for a startup to be successful? 

David: We are at the beginning of our journey but I think you need to have the fundamentals in place right at the start. Firstly, developing a good-tasting product that fits with consumer expectations and that people will want to buy again is key for a successful food brand.

Secondly, an experienced team and a viable infrastructure that will allow the startup to scale. Thirdly, a startup needs a support network, such as mentors who have experience in the plant-based market and who will support the founders in the decision-making process.

Finally, we think that timing is essential. Not many people would think of starting a cigarette company in 2021, for example. If you can find a category that is growing and you are able to develop a product that meets the needs of the consumer, you’ll have a chance.  

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

Rishma: Our short-term goal is to make the most of our time at the ProVeg Incubator. We plan to learn as much as we can from the experts who are embedded in the environmentally-conscious sector.

In the medium term, we would like to partner with investors who share the same values as us and who will support us in realising our dream of making Root Kitchen a business that has a positive impact. Our focus will be to continue developing our range of meals. Also, grown our list of partners (in retail and other channels) in order to make plant-based meals more enjoyable and accessible. 

Did you enjoy this blog post? Then check out our previous Q+A with the founders of Eggfield – the startup making egg alternatives from plants – and Kinoko Labs – the startup making meat from fungi!

Kinoko Labs: the startup making meat from fungi

Kinoko Labs is a fungi-based food company from Germany that is developing whole-cut meat alternatives grown naturally from mycelium. The startup, which is part of the current cohort at the ProVeg Incubator, was founded by Isabella Iglesias-Musachio, with Rafael Philippini serving as the Microbiology Lead. This is the Kinoko Labs story.

What does your startup do and what is your mission? 

Isabella: Kinoko Labs is a biotech company that is on a mission to create whole-cut meat alternatives, grown naturally from mycelium. We aim to create better-than-meat products that deliver on the entire taste experience, nutrition, and affordability without compromise.  

Our solution is to create clean-image, minimally-processed, and nutrient dense alternatives to animal-based meat. We do this by leveraging a combination of microbial fermentation and mycelium’s inherently fibrous texture. We will develop a line of steaks, fillets, and cutlets, beginning with a flagship chicken product.

Our vision is to help create a more environmentally sustainable, equitable, and animal-free food system in order to protect our planet. As a result, we are also preserving our most cherished culinary traditions.

Fungal mycelium on the ground

Where did the idea for your company come from? 

Isabella: While studying sustainable agriculture when  I was 16, I came to learn about the gruesome conditions of factory farms, and decided to become vegetarian. I had to reinvent my daily food rituals, and found that mushrooms were a great centre-of-the-plate alternative to meat. 

That sparked my regard for fungi as a biological kingdom with incredible variety and versatility. Not only to produce mushrooms, but also the molds and yeasts that allow us to make beer, wine, bread, and cheese. This fascination led me to learn about fermentation over a decade ago and I began experimenting.  

When I embarked on my entrepreneurial path, I knew my company mission would be creating a more sustainable food system. By that time, the idea for Kinoko Labs had been brewing (no pun intended) for years. Therefore, I knew it had to be fermentation-enabled and fungi-based.

The inspiration to focus on creating minimally-processed, nutrient-dense alternatives came from both my own experience as a consumer. There was a lack of meat alternatives I feel good about consuming regularly. I recognised also that  many other people were having the same problem. 

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

Isabella: Rafael, our Lead Microbiologist, is the perfect person to help build Kinoko Labs, being a skilled microbiologist and an expert in industrial biotechnology. He dedicated the last twelve years to researching the utilisation of agro-industrial byproducts as feedstock for sustainable carbon and nitrogen sources, as well as their application in the developing biomolecules of industrial interest.

I have an academic background in sustainability and agriculture, and I’ve spent my career helping to build startups in the United States, Europe, and Asia. I have a proven track record in leading tech startups to scale internationally, most recently for the ag-tech startup Infarm. As CEO, I bring my life-long passion for sustainability and my experience in business management to building Kinoko Labs.

What are your favourite parts about building your business?

Rafael: My favorite part is building the bioprocess from scratch. As a scientist, I like to develop methodologies, to see prototypes taking form, and implemented them as a real-world product. Creating something and implementing my own ideas gives me a great sense of pride and is very rewarding.

Isabella: For me, working towards our mission of creating something that we feel will make a positive impact in people’s lives and help preserve our planet is one of the most satisfying parts about building Kinoko Labs. Beyond that, meeting and working with incredible scientists, thought leaders, and entrepreneurs inspires me to continue fighting the good fight!

Kinoko Labs Founder and CEO Isabella Iglesias-Musachio

What have been the main challenges you’ve faced? 

Isabella: Building a company during a worldwide pandemic naturally created many obstacles that we never could have imagined. As with many early-stage companies, this has slowed our progress. It has also made it very difficult to meet potential collaborators and get access to lab space.

Not being able to meet my team in person was a challenge I never anticipated prior to the pandemic. However, it has also opened up the possibility to collaborate with experts around the world who, in normal times, we may have never had the opportunity to meet.  Our team is a great example of that.

What makes your company unique? 

Isabella: Our approach to creating meat alternatives is to leverage fermentation and fungi in order to create naturally meat-like structures, which is a departure from how many plant-based alternatives are made.

By leveraging mycelium’s inherent fibrous structure, we can naturally replicate the texture of meat without the need for a long list of texturizers, fillers, and binders that you often find in meat alternatives. This means we can create clean-image, minimally processed products. Plus, they will be healthier and nutrient dense since mycelium has a similar amino acid and mineral profile to animal-meat. 

We are also unique because we focus entirely on whole-cut meats. This has the highest margins yet is the most underserved segment of the meat sector in our industry.

Why did you decide to join the ProVeg Incubator? 

Isabella: We have been huge fans of Proveg’s work for years, and recognised that it brought together an incredible community of mentors and thought leaders in the plant-based, cell-based, and fermentation-based industry. Being based in Berlin, it was a natural choice for us to apply. We’re thrilled to be collaborating with other startups and learn from their networks of industry experts.

What do you think it takes for a startup to be successful? 

Isabella: Building a great team is definitely the most important factor for a startup to be successful. You need people who have the right skills, mindset, and passion to turn your vision into a reality, and to get through the hard times.  After that, having a healthy dose of tenacity, grit, creativity, and good luck is key!

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

Rafael: We hope to establish our lab, secure our pre-seed round of funding, kick off our in-house R&D, and recruit one or two additional team members. Achieving these critical milestones will bring us a few steps closer to developing a prototype of our flagship chicken product.

Did you enjoy this blog post? Then check out our previous Q+A with the founders of Eggfield – the startup making whole egg alternatives from plants!

EggField: the startup making egg alternatives from plants

EggField is a plant-based food startup from Switzerland developing whole and liquid egg alternatives. The startup team comprises Silvan, David, and Magdalena who are part of the current cohort at the ProVeg Incubator. This is their story.

What does your startup do and what is your mission? 

Silvan: EggField is developing egg alternatives for use in baking and cooking. Our aim is to support food industry partners in their transition to plant-based product ranges. We can achieve this by creating egg alternatives with the same functional properties as animal-based eggs! 

More than half of the eggs produced globally (1.2 trillion) are used as industrial ingredients in consumer products. Often, consumers are not even aware that they are consuming eggs. They are just another ingredient in a product. Already by replacing these eggs that are used as ingredients global greenhouse gas emissions and animal harm can be greatly reduced.

Where did the idea for your company come from? 

David: The idea to develop a purely plant-based egg came from the industry itself. Silvan Leibacher is a Co-Founder of the Leibacher Biber-Manufaktur, which produces sweet plant-based pastries.

For their white Gingerbreads, the team was looking for a plant-based egg alternative, but couldn’t find any that offered the same results as animal-based eggs. For this reason, Silvan and I  (I am a food scientist) developed an egg substitute. Thus, the first white egg-free Gingerbread was created and Eggfield’s journey began.

Tell us about your team – who are you and why are you the right people for the project? 

David: Our team consists of three members: Silvan Leibacher, David Ebneter, and Magdalena Herren. Silvan is one of the Co-Founders and is responsible for marketing and financing. Due to his background, Silvan knows about building a company and has many contacts in the baking industry.

Silvan: David is my Co-Founder, he is a food engineer who has worked in extraction and food processing. This has provided him with relevant skills and extensive know-how of the food industry. Completing our team we have Magdalena who is a food scientist and is responsible for R&D.

Eggfield’s team: Silvan, Magdalena, and David

What are your favourite parts about building your business?

Silvan: When building your own business, you can make your dreams come true! By working on your own project, you take on a completely different mindset compared to working for a big company. The decisions you make have a real impact on the outcomes.

What have been the main challenges you’ve faced? 

Magdalena: Eggs have several desirable properties like foaming, gelation, binding, high protein content, and clarifying agent. Developing a product that has the same characteristics, while staying away from artificial ingredients, can be really difficult. But with curiosity and creativity, we get there.

Eggfield White

What is it that makes your company unique? 

David: We are working very closely with the food industry. As our headquarter is at a plant-based bakery, which uses our product, we can observe the development process and any challenges they have. Together we search for solutions to optimise our product and the bakery’s recipes.

Why did you decide to join the ProVeg Incubator? 

Silvan: ProVeg Incubator is a great opportunity for us to reflect on Eggfield and grow as entrepreneurs. In our daily work, many ideas come up and we don’t always have time to fully evaluate which ones to pursue. Also, it is an interesting experience to meet people from other startups, and to understand their mindsets and company journeys. 

In your opinion, what does it take for a startup to be successful? 

Silvan: There are three main points that make a startup successful. First, the right idea – you need to go with the trends and see the potential.

Second, proper development of the product. It is really important to iterate, test, and learn, together with potential customers. Only by developing a product step by step and trying out all the different combinations can you find the best solution.

Finally, the right timing and a great deal of luck. Believe in yourself and never stop trying!

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

Magdalena: We are planning to scale up our EggField White product, our liquid egg alternative which is already on the market. We want to produce large quantities of that product in agreement with a contract manufacturer. Another goal is to finalise and launch our second product, the EggField Whole, which can be used as an alternative to whole animal-based eggs.

As our cohort 6 began, we’ll be posting a Q+A with our alumni startups every week! Keep your eyes peeled for our channels and don’t miss any updates.