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Naka Foods: the future of meat in India

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

What does your startup do and what is your mission? 

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

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

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

Where did the idea for your company come from? 

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

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

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

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

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

What are your favourite parts about building your business?

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

What are the main challenges you’ve faced? 

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

Founder Kushal Aradhya and the Naka Foods team

What is it that makes your company unique? 

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

Why did you decide to join the ProVeg Incubator? 

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

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

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

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

Haofood: the startup making chicken from peanuts

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

What does your startup do and what is your mission?  

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

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

Where did the idea for your company come from?  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Haofood founder Astrid Prajogo

What are your favourite parts about building your business? 

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

What are the main challenges you’ve faced? 

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

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

What makes your company unique?  

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

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

Why did you decide to join the ProVeg Incubator?  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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. 

Top 10 tips for launching a food startup

We work with startup founders from all over the world to help them build thriving companies. Although starting a business is challenging, there are certain steps you can take to give yourself the best chance of success. In this blog post, you’ll find our top 10 tips for getting your startup off the ground.

Launching a food startup is exciting. Having a great idea for a new product or service that the world needs and actually turning that into a viable business is hugely rewarding. However, it can also be a daunting and difficult process. We’d be very surprised if any entrepreneur reached their goals without making any mistakes along the way. 

Now, don’t get us wrong, because mistakes are not always a bad thing. They are how we learn and adapt to be able to do better in the future. However, you don’t necessarily need to make all the mistakes yourself in order to learn from them. You can also learn from the experiences of others.

At the ProVeg Incubator, we support around 20 new startups every year and we continue to help our alumni after they graduate from our programme, for as long as they need us. 

From working with such a variety of companies from around the world during different stages of their journeys, we’ve gathered a wealth of information about launching successful businesses. Some members of our team also run their own companies or have done so in the past.

Of course, there is no magic recipe for success; we know you know that already. But, there are some key pieces of advice that we give out to all our startup founders. Now, we’d like to share these with you, too.

Pick the business that is right for you

Your startup will become your life. To get it off the ground and make a real go of it, you’re going to need passion for your business. If your heart isn’t in it, you won’t want to do it for long. Plus, you’ll have a hard time convincing other people like investors and customers to buy into your idea, if you don’t love it yourself. Pick a mission that you truly believe in, and you’re already giving yourself a great start.

The founding team of plant-based milk company, Pläin

Put the right team in place

We cannot emphasise this one enough. Even the best idea in the world won’t come to much if you don’t have the right team to execute it. Having the relevant skills and experience is important, but you should also choose to work with people who share your ambitions, your energy, and your vision for the company.

Do not underestimate branding

Branding is much more than just a logo and a font. It’s your company’s soul. It’s your values, your look-and-feel, and your vision. Nowadays, building a trusted and respectable brand is just as valuable as having a good product. In an ideal world, your product or service would speak for itself, but it cannot. That’s what your branding is for –  so don’t leave it to the last minute.

Branding from plant-based food startup, the nu company

Nail your elevator pitch

When it comes to introducing your company, you should aim to impress. You never know when you might meet somebody who could help your business, and having them listen to a fumbled explanation of your startup will not inspire confidence. Prepare two-to-three short, sharp sentences that describe who you are, what your startup does, and why, and then practice them so you’re ready to make a great first impression. Also, practice and nail other, more detailed versions of your pitch, especially your investor pitch.

Do your research

This one might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people are not thorough. Are you solving a real problem? Is there a big enough market for your solution? Will people actually pay for your product? If so, how much? How will you reach your customers? Do you have competitors, and what are they up to? You should know this information like the back of your hand.

Never stop talking to your customers

That research that we referred to above is not a one-time task. Your customers can continually provide you with valuable insights if you keep engaging with them. Test out ideas with consumers, request feedback, and pay attention to how people interact with your brand. This learning process could help you to improve your brand and product and might even spark fresh, new ideas.

Create content

To build a connected community around your brand, you need to provide your audience with added value. A good way to do this is with content marketing. Are you selling plant-based dog food? Don’t just advertise your kibble – write blogs about pet health and nutrition, film behind-the-scenes videos of your startup journey, and share photos of customers enjoying your products. Engage with your customer community. People love stories and are enticed by interesting content shared on the channels they use.

Plant-based meat company Greenwise pitching at the ProVeg Incubator Demo Day

Find mentors

Reach out to people, network, and speak to fellow founders and entrepreneurs. Seek out people you can learn from, and listen to their advice. Check out incubators and accelerators that can support you. You’ll still want to make your own decisions at the end of the day, but having trusted advisors who’ve been there and done that will give you an incredible advantage.

Build in buffers

This is not meant to scare you – but everything is going to take longer than you expect. Bear this in mind when fundraising, looking for production partners, and trying to get listings, for example. Build in time buffers if you can, plan realistically, and always have a Plan B in your back pocket, just in case things don’t go according to plan.

Stay on top of your cash flow

One of the main reasons for startup failure is running out of funds. Establish budgets, track all of your spending, and limit your early expenses in order to help mitigate that risk. Don’t dream when it comes to your financial model – make solid and plausible forecasts. Make solid and plausible forecasts. Also, don’t feel pressured to quit your day job if you can’t afford to do so right away (although, at some point, you will need to fully focus on your startup). Having a steady flow of income can give you financial peace of mind until your business really takes off.

Did you enjoy this blog post? If so, please sign up for our newsletter. On the first Monday of every month, we share top tips, industry insights, and news highlights with our subscribers via email. Just scroll down a little further on this page to sign up.

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.

Protein, the better way

Better Nature is an alternative-protein company based in Indonesia and the UK. The founders joined the ProVeg Incubator programme with their tempeh startup, back in 2019. Since graduating, they’ve gone on to hit some major milestones in the plant-based space.

Tempeh was discovered more than 300 years ago in Indonesia. It is made via the process of fermentation, where soybeans (or other legumes) bind together to form a meaty block. The resulting product is plant-based, high in protein and fibre, and it’s good for the gut, too.

Due to its meaty texture and the variety of ways in which it can be prepared, tempeh is most often used as a meat alternative. However, until recently, it wasn’t particularly well-known outside of Indonesia, where it is a street-food staple.

That’s where the team at Better Nature spotted an opportunity. They wanted to build a company that would take tempeh mainstream, while introducing more plant-based and planet-friendly food options to the market.

Better Nature Co-founder Chris Kong pitching at the ProVeg Incubator. Pictured above with Co-founder Elin Roberts.

With two of the founders having grown up in Indonesia, and the others bringing a passion for plant-based nutrition and fitness to the table, it was a match made in veggie heaven. 

Better Nature joined the ProVeg Incubator in 2019. They went on to be named Best Startup of the Cohort at the end of the programme. Let’s take a look at the team’s top five achievements since then.

Taking retail by storm

Since graduating from the ProVeg Incubator, the team has launched several new products including tempeh rashers, mince, and better bites. Consumers eager to hop on the tempeh train can find these in over 120 retail locations in the UK, with more product variants in the pipeline. Better Nature has also tripled its revenue since March. 

A cash injection

In early 2020, the Better Nature team raised seed funding of £430,000. The funding round was led by serial investor and technologist Nicholas Owen Gunden, along with Capital V founder Michiel van Deursen.

Van Deursen was previously responsible for overseeing the expansion of The Vegetarian Butcher across Europe. At the time, he commented to The Grocer that Better Nature was “very well positioned to play a huge part in the consumption of future foods”. The funding will be used for accelerating new product development and marketing.

Tackling the plastic plague

In July, Better Nature became the first plastic-neutral meat-alternative company in the world. That means that the team is contributing to the removal of the same amount of plastic from the environment as it uses in its packaging and shipping. The company is achieving this impressive feat through its partnership with rePurpose Global

Due to the complicated food-safety aspect of tempeh production, it’s difficult to remove plastic completely from the packaging. However, the team admits it is something that frustrates them and that they are working on. 

They’re making progress, however, but it’s a long process, and going plastic neutral provides them with a feasible interim solution.

Expanding horizons

Following a successful launch in the UK, Better Nature’s products are now available in Germany. You won’t see them in retail stores just yet, however. Instead, you can purchase the company’s full range on Amazon. 

And they didn’t stop there

The startup is continuing its European expansion, with its next port of call being Scandinavia. Better Nature has teamed up with one of the ProVeg Incubator’s partners, Kale United, to take their products to the region. 

Keep your eyes peeled for these protein-packed products, which will soon be appearing on supermarket shelves across Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland.

Get all the latest alt-protein news

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Our new partnership with KitchenTown 

We are delighted to announce that the ProVeg Incubator is partnering with KitchenTown to accelerate global food innovation. If you haven’t heard of it yet, KitchenTown is an innovation platform that helps to develop impact-driven food products. Read on to learn how we’ll be working together. 

Across the world, there are many people working to transform the global food system – and we think that’s incredible. The more people who are championing new ways of eating and developing solutions to make that happen, the better.

The impact we can have is amplified when we work together in teams, organisations, and partnerships. Collaborating with the right partners can be hugely beneficial. It enables the sharing of knowledge and expertise, for example, and can accelerate projects by bringing more hands on deck.

Shaping the future of food

At the ProVeg Incubator, our mission is to reduce the global consumption of animals by 50% by the year 2040. We believe that the best way to achieve that goal is to offer people affordable, attractive, and widely available alternatives to conventional animal-based products. 

By supporting startups that are working on plant-based, cultivated, and fermented foods — we have become a driving force in getting new, alternative products to market, and, ultimately, into the hands of consumers. 

KitchenTown focuses on sustainable food solutions, tech innovation, and planet-friendly foods.

KitchenTown is also working to support startups in the food space. The innovation platform was founded in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2014 and its hub in Berlin is amplifying the European startup scene. KitchenTown provides a test kitchen and scientific lab equipment to support a startup’s product development. The team focuses on sustainable food solutions, tech innovation, better nutrition, and planet-friendly foods.

This is where we cross over. We are both shaping the future of food and, by working together, we believe we can achieve much more.

A cooperative mindset

By establishing ties of friendship and cooperation, we’re essentially agreeing to help each other out and to use our shared resources to better support our startups. 

The key purpose of the partnership is to accelerate global food innovation. In order to do that, we’ll be promoting one another’s work, sharing insights and industry knowledge, and introducing each other to potential exciting new opportunities.

Moving forward, we hope to establish an ongoing exchange with KitchenTown. As such, we’ll be looking for potential collaborations in terms of investment opportunities, research and development, and new technological business solutions. 

Solving problems that young companies face

Two of the companies that we have incubated at the ProVeg Incubator are now based at KitchenTown in Berlin. 

Zveetz is a plant-based desserts company founded in Germany and the UK, with the aim of reducing sugar consumption. 

Vly Foods has developed a milk alternative from yellow-split peas — you may have seen their products for sale in Edeka supermarkets.

Small batch production at KitchenTown

One aspect of both the ProVeg Incubator and KitchenTown is that the startups find particularly important is the community that is created in an accelerator environment. Of the ProVeg Incubator, Nicolas Hartmann, Co-founder of Vly Foods says, “The network that ProVeg provides is unique and helps to solve all kinds of problems that a young company faces.” 

Of KitchenTown, Hartmann says: “The space is great and the exchange within the community is satisfying us a lot. Working with other exciting startups that also have big plans is a great added value for us.”

Building a collaborative community

The ProVeg Incubator is also partnering with NX-FOOD, a food innovation hub of the wholesaler METRO, as well as a range of investors, media outlets, and other organisations in the food space. 

Having a vast network and supportive partners is one of the key benefits we can offer to startups. It expands the services we have access to and increases the knowledge we can share. It also means that we’re connected with all the right people who can help entrepreneurs to grow their businesses. 

We’re accepting applications right now to join our next cohort of startups. If you’re the founder of an innovative food company, we’d love to receive your online application. Just make sure you get it to us before the deadline of 31 July. 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

Startups wanted! Apply now

Are you a food innovator with a passion for plant-based nutrition or cultured food? If so, then maybe you are just who we are looking for! We will be recruiting up to 10 innovative companies to join our next cohort of startups and you can apply now. Are you a good fit for the role? Let’s find out…

Who you’ll work with: ProVeg Incubator

Where you’ll work: Berlin, Germany + home office

What you’ll earn: up to €200,000

Application deadline: Sunday, 7 February 2021

Apply: Fill in the application

Role description

We are looking for innovative, highly motivated founders to join our next cohort of startups at the ProVeg Incubator. Your startup should be focused on plant, fungi, or recombinant food products or solutions, or cellular agriculture. 

It’s important that your company has the potential to remove animals from the food system. This means, for example, replacing conventional animal-based products, rather than your products simply being plant-based.

If selected for the Incubator, you will join our three-month accelerator programme and will need to work hard to build and improve your company. In return, we’ll support you with all of the tools, skills, and contacts you need to succeed.

The ProVeg Incubator is the world’s leading Incubator for plant-based and cultured food startups. Since its launch in November 2018, our team has worked with 46 startups from around the world, helping them to raise more than €22 million and launch over 40 products. 

Your profile

  • You are the founder or co-founder of a food or beverage startup working on plant, fungi, recombinant, or cultured food products or solutions. 
  • Your startup is dedicated to the mission of reducing the global consumption of animals. 
  • You are working on an idea that could replace conventional animal-based products or services and has the potential to have a major impact.
  • Your startup has a sound business model that is scalable, defensible, and backed by a stellar team. 
  • You are passionate, hard-working, and ambitious.

What we offer

  • A three-month, tailor-made accelerator programme based in Europe’s startup capital.
  • Up to €200,000 in funding.
  • One-on-one mentoring from leading food industry experts.
  • Access to our extensive professional networks of investors, mentors, and other industry experts.
  • Lifelong membership of our startup alumni community, as well as the opportunity to collaborate with fellow founders in your cohort.
  • Exclusive workshops, talks, events, investor introductions, and the use of ProVeg services such as V-label certification and our research department.
  • Access to our large, open-plan co-working space and test kitchen in the heart of Berlin.
  • Marketing and PR support for your startup and promotion via the ProVeg Incubator channels.
  • Fresh fruits and a daily plant-based lunch. We’ll also invite you to play ping-pong and kicker with us!

Requirements

  • Active participation in the three-month ProVeg Incubator accelerator programme. At least one founder must also be available to attend the online and/or in-house sessions (Covid-19 dependent) of the programme.
  • We conduct the programme in English. This doesn’t have to be your first language, but you will require a good level of understanding.
  • Once the programme is complete, you will join our lifelong Incubator alumni community. We may call on you from time to time to support future startups that we work with. It’s not really a requirement, but it would be nice if you did.

How to apply

This is the easy part. To apply to join our next cohort of startups, all you have to do is fill in the application form on our website.

If you have any questions, check out our FAQ section. If there’s anything else you need to know, please feel free to get in touch with us on social media or via email. We’d be more than happy to hear from you. Good luck with your application!

– Your Incubator Team

The Alvego story: welcome to the seaweed revolution

Alvego is a plant-based seafood startup from Berlin, Germany. The company was founded by Friedrich Schneider and Philipp Götz, who were part of our third cohort at the Incubator.

Worldwide, the plant-based fish and seafood market is still in its infancy. In the US for example, annual sales reach around $10 million compared to $800 million for plant-based meat. This leaves space for innovation. The market is not yet saturated with products, giving startups the chance to make their mark. 

Friedrich Schneider and Philipp Götz set up Alvego in 2018 – the company name is short for ‘Algae, Vegan, and to-go’. Friedrich and Philipp established their startup following a visit to a museum exhibition on food, which introduced them to the idea of seaweed-based meat. A year later, they joined us at the ProVeg Incubator to grow their business and bring their products to market.

Founders of Alvego, Friedrich Schneider and Philipp Götz

Seaweed snacks and burger hacks  

Alvego produces algae snacks and fish alternatives made from a red-coloured seaweed known as dulse or Palmaria palmata. Riff Raff, their inaugural product, is the world’s first jerky made from red algae. 

Alvego has launched a range of plant-based fish salads based on traditional German styles. This year, they will also introduce a new product to market – the seaweed burger. “Seaweed has long been a traditional component of Asian cuisine,” says Friedrich. “It is also popular in the coastal regions of Europe. The possibilities for processing seaweed are almost as diverse as the plant itself. More than 400,000 algae varieties are estimated to be growing on Earth, of which around 500 are eaten by humans.”

Plant-based fish salads from Alvego, based on traditional German styles

Dulse is a macroalgae with a high protein content and contains all of the essential amino acids required by human beings. Friedrich says: “There is no plant on land that is as rich and diverse in vitamins, minerals, and trace elements as seaweed. It is a natural source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are otherwise mainly found in fish, and contains vitamin B12 and iodine.” Iodine is essential for pregnant women and people living with thyroid disorders. Thyroid conditions affect an estimated one in 20 people in the UK, according to the British Thyroid Foundation, and around 8-million individuals in total in Germany. 

The seaweed revolution

Friedrich says he and his business partner were motivated to launch Alvego after realising the current food system was “not sustainable”. “Against the backdrop of the world’s growing population and the looming threat of food shortages, it is imperative to find alternative foodstuffs that are also less resource-intensive to produce”, he says. 

Billions of tonnes of seaweed grow in the world’s oceans, meaning they are not only a valuable food resource but also a vital tool in the fight against climate change. During the process of photosynthesis, these plants bind CO2 and release oxygen. In fact, there are so many of them doing it, that every second oxygen molecule in the atmosphere is produced by algae! Seaweeds occupy first place in the marine food chain because they are ‘producers’, transferring their accumulated solar energy to other ocean-dwelling creatures. Without algae, there would barely be any life in our seas.

Top five seaweed facts

  • Seaweed is present in 70% of all processed foods and 75% of all medicines and cosmetics. 
  • Seaweed grows in season, just like plants on land. 
  • Algae farms covering only 2% of the ocean’s surface could feed 10 billion people.
  • Algae can be blue, green, red, yellow, or brown in colour. 
  • When it is sunny, some shallow-water seaweeds secrete a substance that protects younger plants from UV rays.

Despite the alternative seafood market being relatively young at this stage, it’s one that’s gaining interest. High-profile investors seem to be betting at least some of their money on it. For example, German poultry producer PHW has invested in Good Catch and Tyson foods are backing New Wave Foods.

We’re excited to see where this trend goes. Of course, we are also looking out for any cool new startups we can support in this sector. If that sounds like you, hit the apply tab and send us your startup application.

We come in peas: Vly develops plant-based milk

As the popularity of plant-based milk increases across the globe, we take a closer look at the pea protein alternative from Incubator alumni startup Vly Foods.

In the last decade, there has been a seismic shift in the popularity of plant-based milk. 75% of the world’s adult population is lactose intolerant. Plant-based drinks are therefore a great substitute, but the shift is not just down to allergies.

People are choosing alternatives to conventional dairy products for animal-welfare reasons, to reduce their environmental impact, for the nutritional value, and simply because they like the taste.

Half of all American and European customers reportedly now use plant-based milk, instead of or in addition to cow’s milk. In Asian Pacific and Latin American regions that figure jumps to around two thirds. It’s actually the number-one selling product type in the plant-based sector. In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, oat milk sales have jumped by 300%, which is mainly a result of it being a shelf-stable product. 

If you’re already an avid plant milk fan, you’ll know there are some great options available including rice, coconut, oat, and hemp, but there is also a fresh contender nudging its way onto the field.

Founders of plant-based milk company Vly Foods, Nicolas Hartmann, Niklas Katter, and Moritz Braunwarth

We come in peas

Welcome, the humble pea. This legume packs a protein punch. It is one of the best plant-based sources of this nutrient that you can eat (or drink). In fact, pea-based protein powders have become extremely popular with people looking to boost their protein intake. Many alternative meat products, including the world-famous Beyond Burger, contain peas as an ingredient.

Now, pea protein is working its way into the dairy sector. Berlin-based startup Vly Foods has created a 100% plant-based, sustainable milk alternative using yellow split peas. Nicolas Hartmann, Niklas Katter, and Moritz Braunwarth founded Vly together in 2018. The trio went on to join our Incubator that same year in order to develop their product and build their business.

“To provide the same amount of protein as cow’s milk, Vly requires 13 times less water, five times less acreage, and generates a total of 15 times less CO2 compared with the production of conventional dairy milk,” says the team. “Our diet is one of the most important factors influencing climate change. Peas not only have an excellent carbon footprint, but they also bind nitrogen to the soil. In this way, they actively improve the quality of arable land and reduce emissions of nitrous oxide, an even more harmful climate killer than CO2.”

Vly milk is made using yellow split peas as a base ingredient

Vlying high 

As well as its positive effect on the environment, the unassuming pea also has its fair share of health benefits. Peas are rich in lysine, an essential amino acid that the human body cannot produce. Lysine is important for normal growth and muscle development and helps transport fats across cells to be converted into energy. 

Pea protein also has a positive effect on blood sugar levels, supports muscle building, and helps to regulate appetite. Products developed with peas as a base ingredient are also a safer alternative for people suffering from allergies. Vly milk, for example, contains no lactose, no gluten, and no soya. 

Since graduating from the ProVeg Incubator in 2019, Vly has gone on to finalise its recipe, officially launch the company, and successfully release its products for sale online and in retailers across Germany. 

Where do we go from here?  

In 2018, a study by researchers at the University of Oxford found that producing one glass of cow’s milk results in nearly three times as much greenhouse gas emissions as any plant-based alternative. So whether you’re a fan of oat milk, or you’re ready to jump on the split-pea train, you’re already contributing to a healthier planet. 

This is not the end of the story, however. Scientists and startups are already working on producing lab-grown versions of the proteins in cow’s milk. This would allow the production of replica dairy products without the need for any animals. 

Additionally, the global non-dairy milk market is expected to be worth an estimated $38 billion dollars by 2024. In such a lucrative and fast-moving market, we’re likely to see plenty of exciting new innovations appearing in the future.