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 deli meats.

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

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.

Waste not, want not

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.

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