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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.

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The digital cohort: how did we do it?

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

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

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

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

Stand up for startups

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

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

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

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

Fireside chat with Jody Puglisi, Scientific Advisor to Beyond Meat

What we loved about the digital cohort

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

What we missed during our digital cohort

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

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

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

The next cohort

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

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

– Your Incubator team.

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 can an incubator do for your business?

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

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

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

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

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

1. Gives you access to information

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

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

Investor panel at the ProVeg Incubator Startup Demo Day

2. Introduces you to the right people

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

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

3. Opens up funding options

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

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

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

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

4. Provides you with a unique testing ground

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

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

5. Accelerates your growth

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

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

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

Are you feeling inspired now?

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

Incubator success: Mondarella marks major milestone

One of the ProVeg Incubator’s alumni is making waves in the alternative dairy space. Mondarella, a plant-based cheese company, was part of our second cohort of startups and founder Piero Brunetti is now taking an exciting leap forward in his entrepreneurial journey.

One of the ProVeg Incubator’s alumni startups has just reached a major milestone. Plant-based cheese company Mondarella is launching its first product, a plant-based mozzarella, onto the mass market. 

From summer 2020, customers can find the cheese alternative in nearly 4,000 European supermarkets, including 3,200 Lidl stores and about 700 branches of Kaufland.

Piero Brunetti founded Mondarella because he wants to have an impact on the global food system. He says he spends a lot of time thinking about how to improve the way humans nourish themselves and the part he can play in that. 

Piero thinks that, in a few years, “it will be completely normal to mainly eat healthy vegetarian food and to only consume small portions of animal products”. That’s why he is creating plant-based products that pique the interest of consumers and introduce them to new ways of eating.

Mondarella burgers with hummus and courgette

Italian roots

In originally choosing which type of product to focus on, Piero decided to follow his Italian roots. When transitioning to a plant-based diet himself, he admits that giving up mozzarella, a beloved Italian staple, was his biggest challenge. This led to years of research, recipe testing, and product development, all of which culminated in the Mondarella that you will soon be able to find on supermarket shelves. 

“Italian cuisine is straightforward, works well, and is absolutely scrumptious. In most cases, it’s the simplest things that turn out great” – Piero Brunetti

The mozzarella alternative is made with 20% almonds in combination with other natural, raw ingredients and contains no sugar, gluten, or soy. The cheese is produced in a facility just outside of Berlin and the company only works with environmentally-friendly almond farmers.

In 2019, Piero joined the ProVeg Incubator in order to take his growing business to the next level and completely changed his go-to-market strategy as a result, so as to enter the market in just the right way. He says that working with startups for several years, before founding his own company, helped him tremendously. He also stresses that entrepreneurs need to be passionate and unwavering in their mission to achieve success.

Piero Brunetti at the ProVeg Incubator Startup Demo Day

Rising demand from consumers

According to Research and Markets, the global plant-based cheese market is expected to reach $4 billion by 2028. With rising consumer demand, the sector represents a key opportunity for innovation. 

In 2019, ProVeg conducted a survey of over 6,000 people in order to canvas opinions on plant-based products that are currently available on supermarket shelves and to determine which consumers would like to see more of in the future. 

In general, survey respondents reported being relatively satisfied with existing plant-based products. However, the category that they were least impressed by was plant-based cheese. In terms of taste, texture, and value for money, current products are not quite hitting the mark.

Mondarella samples with tomato and basil, photo by Jan Michalko

This means that there is space in this sector for innovation and for startups to populate this potentially very large niche with new products. The survey indicates that there is definitely a demand – when consumers were asked which type of plant-based products they would like to see more of, given the choice between 16 different options, plant-based cheese was the clear winner.

Piero says that he is extremely happy with the positive market response he’s already receiving for Mondarella’s plant-based cheese products. He also confirmed that the team is already developing further varieties, as well as working on some completely new ideas. Watch this space.

Feeling inspired?

Are you feeling motivated by the startup story you’ve read here today? We are currently accepting applications from founders looking to join the ProVeg Incubator. If you are working on an exciting project, then we want to hear from you! Apply online before the deadline on July 31.

Plantcraft: the startup making deli meats from bananas

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

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

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

Plantcraft platter with plant-based deli meats

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

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

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

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

We live in an era of ecocide

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

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

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

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

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

Plantcraft Pâté – one of the first products in the range

Then Covid-19 struck

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

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

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

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

Meet our latest batch of startups 

At the ProVeg Incubator, we work with two cohorts of pioneering startups each year, supporting them to develop and market innovative and disruptive new products and solutions. Today (27 April), we are officially launching our fourth batch of startups. Due to Covid-19, we will be hosting this cohort completely online. Read on to meet the startups.

Today is an exciting day at the ProVeg Incubator. Ten new startups from across the globe are (virtually) joining our accelerator programme. We’ll be working with the founders of these companies extremely closely over the coming three months, and supporting them in taking their businesses to the next level. 

Selected from a record number of applications, the startups are working on unique and diverse products and food solutions, from jackfruit meat alternatives to plant-based baby food and fermented dairy products. However, they are united by a common goal: to disrupt the global food system. So, without further ado, here they are!

Meet the startups 

Hooked: Hooked is a plant-based seafood company that Emil Wasteson and Tom Johansson founded in Stockholm, Sweden. Their first products are shredded tuna and salmon. The team at Hooked is tackling health and sustainability challenges in the seafood industry by offering nutritious, healthy, plant-based alternatives.

The founders of Hooked, Emil Wasteson and Tom Johansson

Meet Jack: Founded by Marjolein Pleune and Kaline Van Halder (pictured in main image), Meet Jack is an alternative meat company from Haarlem in the Netherlands. Their products are based on jackfruit, with their range including Dutch meatballs, croquettes, and burgers. Jackfruit has a naturally meaty texture and doesn’t require any chemicals to grow.

Zveetz: An impact-driven, smart-food company that focuses on sugar-free plant-based desserts, Zveetz was founded by Christian Krause and Vishal Kawatra in Berlin, Germany. The duo founded their startup after battling personal and family health issues due to the overconsumption of sugar. Their first line of products is a plant-based mousse range.

Devon Garden: Devon Garden is an alternative-dairy company founded by Cesar Torres in Exeter, England. The startup has developed a plant-based pea milk and is working on protein extraction methods to create sustainable, new alternatives to dairy products without the cow.

Heuros: Founded by Nick Beaumont, Heuros is a cellular-agriculture startup from Brisbane, Australia. The team has developed a growth medium free from animal ingredients and genetic engineering or modification. It can be used to grow cultured meat and poultry. Heuros will supply its medium to producers of cultured meat and will also develop its own line of products in-house.

I Love You Veggie Much: Producers of organic, plant-based baby food optimised to meet the nutritional needs of infants and toddlers, I Love You Veggie Much was founded by Susanne Komorek and Darja Pilz in Berlin, Germany. The company’s flagship product will be a cereal-based breakfast meal for youngsters aged 6-24 months.

Wholyfood: Wholyfood develops and sells its own range of plant-based bowls, dips, and sauces –  including mayonnaise, tzatziki, sour cream, and pesto – for food service. The startup was founded by Anthony and Adrien Masseli, Julien Amsellem, and Camille Tomat in Paris, France.

The founders of I Love You Veggie Much, Susanne Komorek and Darja Pilz

The Live Green Co: Founded by Priyanka Srinivas and Sasikanth Chemalamudi in Chile, The Live Green Co uses smart technology for the development of plant-based products. The aim is to make plant-based foods healthier, tastier, and more sustainable using biotechnology and machine learning.

Mister Veg: Producers of textured meat and seafood alternatives that have a focus on nutrition, taste, and sustainability, Mister Veg was founded by Simarjeet Singh and Rupinder Singh in Faridabad, India. Their products are available both as ready meals and as base ingredients such as plant-based mince and salmon.

Remilk: Remilk uses precision fermentation to create dairy proteins for the production of alternative dairy products. Aviv Wolff and Ori Cohavi founded the company in Tel Aviv, Israel. The team at Remilk is passionate about developing quality products using animal-free processes.

In response to the Covid-19 outbreak, the ProVeg Incubator has taken the decision to host its spring 2020 cohort online. The Incubator is committed to keeping its startups, mentors, and staff safe, and is adhering to all regulatory standards in order to flatten the curve and minimise the spread of the virus. 

Be sure to stay tuned as we’ll be updating our blog regularly with news and information about the startups in our latest cohort. If you’re the founder of a startup and would like to take part in our fifth cohort, provisionally starting in October, then apply now.

Surviving and thriving in times of corona

Corona is a test for the whole economy – and even more so for startups. In this post, we look at how innovative plant-based and cellular-agriculture food startups can tackle the current crisis – and how ProVeg Incubator is supporting them during this unprecedented challenge.

The corona crisis is a global phenomenon – it affects countries on all continents and is hitting health systems, financial markets, the economy, and global society as a whole. The International Monetary Fund is forecasting the “worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.” The Covid-19 pandemic carries immense uncertainty and threat for businesses. It is tough to predict what the world will look like when the storm is over. How will food startups working on plant-based and cultured innovations fare during this crisis? 

Startups need partners in the food industry who will believe in them and accompany them on their entrepreneurial journey. They also need partners that provide sustainable funding. Furthermore, they need to have a sound strategy when it comes to commercialisation and scaling. It has to be solid and flexible in equal measure, especially in times of crisis – like now. 

Corona is a test for startups in all of these regards.

Let’s have a look, for example, at the industry partners and networks that startups rely on. The out-of-home market has basically collapsed. Foodservice is stalled, with restaurants, cafes, schools, and canteens closed in many countries. Even when the shutdown loosens, it will take a long time for the industry to recover. 

Food delivery has benefitted from this gap in the market but is not strong enough to make up for the losses. Retail, meanwhile, is booming, as customers stock up on staples and non-perishable food. However, supermarkets are tending to focus on big brands and essentials in the current crisis. Against this background, startup innovations are getting less attention.

Kathi Ohens and Csaba Hetényi, the founders of plant-based deli meat company Plantcraft

Funding rounds at risk

On the financial side, startups are also facing challenges. Yes, there is still a lot of money in the market – However, ongoing funding rounds may be endangered, stalled, or even postponed. Many venture capitalists, family trusts, and other investors will now prioritise their existing portfolios and take their time to assess the situation. They will wait and sit out the crisis. The risk of valuations going down is very real when there are fewer active investors around. 

It is great news that companies such as Impossible Foods are defying the crisis, having recently raised huge rounds of fresh funding. Remarkably, plant-based-chicken startup Rebellyous Foods just successfully raised a Series-A round of funding. But, chances are, that many investors will now tend to stick with the bigger fish, while early-stage startups may be stalled on their growth path.

So these are the threats, and they are real. Now, what are the opportunities?

Some impact investors focusing on plant-based and cellular-agriculture startups have confirmed to us that they are still feeling bullish. They have reason to believe that, both now and after the crisis, innovative, impact-driven startups will thrive even more. 

Consumer behaviour may tend to be more savings-oriented for a longer time. Yet, health and the environment will be more in focus in the wake of corona. Diet considerations and diet change will also become even more important over the next few years.

Startups working on healthy plant-based and cultured alternatives have a chance to stand out in the coming times. Alternative proteins that are sustainable, clean, and high in wholesome and functional ingredients will be in high demand in the long run, especially among millennials and future generations. Consumer scepticism about food tech might yield to more openness, with tech-driven food startups benefitting from such a situation.

Show stamina, rethink strategy

In the meantime, cutting fixed costs to a minimum and preserving cash flow is essential to survival. One promising path may be government-support programmes that include loans, down payments, and short-time-work benefits. Unfortunately, such programmes often only address established companies and are not applicable to early-stage startups.

In the meantime, startups will need to be adaptive, creative, and patient – and prove that they have stamina. This is the time to reconsider your go-to-market strategy, work on your forecasts, and strengthen your network, for example, your ties with suppliers and co-manufacturers. Think about new ways of commercialisation and scale-up. Consider building your food-delivery business and work on your DTC channels. Or think about entering new markets that you may have neglected until now. 

Take Plantcraft, a ProVeg Incubator startup that makes plant-based deli products. They are now pushing to bring their pate and pepperoni to European markets quicker than planned. This way they can address increasing demand in this food category in Europe and compensate for the high uncertainty in the US market due to corona. 

Sander Sieuwerts of Incubator alumni startup Brannatura. Photo credit: Cadenza Zhao

Support from accelerators

As for new funding, think beyond venture capital. Now may be the right time for young startups to plan and launch a crowdfunding campaign. Brannatura, another startup that participated in the ProVeg Incubator programme, has prioritised setting up this type of campaign in the face of the corona crisis. Another great way to get support and access to funding are incubators and accelerators such as the ProVeg Incubator. Their resources and networks have proven to be invaluable for startups – especially in times of crisis.

At the ProVeg Incubator, we help startups in many different ways. Together with founders, we analyse strengths and weaknesses and set goals for the upcoming months. During our three-month programme – which we offer twice a year and for now completely online –  our mentors and team coach startups in topics such as food law, branding, and fundraising. 

Mentoring, matchmaking, and connections to food-industry experts are now more important than ever. Additionally, for the first time, the ProVeg Incubator is now giving a cash grant to each accepted startup, along with the opportunity to receive follow-up funding of up to 180,000, on completion of the programme.

We stand up for mission-driven food startups – so they can not only survive this crisis but thrive once it is over.

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.