The top food-tech successes of 2021

With the year drawing to a close, the ProVeg Incubator looks back at the major food-tech successes of 2021. From the achievements of our alumni to key industry triumphs to our own fist-pumping milestones (please indulge us – it’s the festive season!), we’ve rounded up all of our highlights in this nifty little blog post. 

In 2021, food tech packed a big punch. From record-breaking funding rounds to new product launches and whole new categories of alt-protein emerging, it’s safe to say that there was a LOT going on this year.

With Covid-19 still hanging over us like a big wet blanket, this is a hard time to build a business. It’s tough to network, launch products, and get funding…all of that. But there are pioneers out there who are doing it anyway. Innovators who are pushing themselves to build companies that look set to turn the global food system on its head.

Every day, we work with founders who are reimagining, revitalising, and revolutionising the way we eat food – for the better. When we look back at the food-tech successes of 2021, we really can’t help but feel optimistic about the future.

Slam dunks from our alumni

After three jam-packed years, we are proud to count 63 innovative food-tech startups among our alumni. While some of them joined us fresh this year, others have been with us from the start of our journey. Many of them hit major milestones this year.

Let’s start with a landmark funding round. In September, Formo raised $50 million to make animal-free cheese, in what is Europe’s largest Series A food-tech investment to date. Formo uses precision fermentation to develop “nature-identical” dairy products with the same taste, texture, and functional properties as animal-based cheeses.

food-tech successes for vly foods
Vly Foods raised €6.1 million in 2021 and launched a kakao drink

Another of our German startups – Vly Foods – raised €6.1 million for their split-pea-based milk business, while the UK startup Fellow Creatures raised £450,000 to develop their plant-based chocolate range, including an investment from ProVeg .

The key drivers of Russian food-tech

The founders of alt-meat brand Greenwise launched the non-profit organisation AAFPP – Russia’s first plant-based incubator. Julia Marsel and Tim Ponomarev made the announcement at one one of our startup demo days and we’re also proud to be one of the partner organisations on this project.

Julia Marsel, Co-founder of Greenwise and the AAFP, said: “We started as a plant-based brand but, over the years, we’ve broadened the scope of our activities and now see ourselves as key drivers of Russian food-tech.

“In Russia, the alt-food market is still in its infancy and needs support. This is why we set up an organisation that, together with the ProVeg Incubator, will support startups. We want to help to achieve a future food system that doesn’t rely on animals.”

Meanwhile, Kern Tec – the startup that developed a unique process for upcycling discarded fruit pits into high-value ingredients – launched into retail. The company is selling upcycled oils made from apricot and plum kernels in the Austrian supermarkets Billa Plus and BillaAG.

food-tech successes plantcraft
In 2021, Plantcraft launched its vegan deli meats in the US

Plantcraft, a vegan deli-meat startup out of Hungary, launched its products in the US, while Alt Foods launched its millet-and-grain-based milk online in India. In Sweden, alt-seafood brand Hooked went for a trifecta in 2021 –  they not only launched their product range but also raised a fresh €3.8 million in funding, and landed a spot on this list of Europe’s most-funded plant-based companies.

Top industry triumphs

We should say again that 2021 has been an amazing year for food tech! It would be impossible to list all of the industry successes here. Well actually, we could but nobody wants to read an encyclopaedic blog post. So we’ve picked out just a few of our favourites.

First up, an astounding number of new products and categories emerged this year. Singapore startup Shiok Meats developed the world’s first cultured crab, while Melibio started producing real honey using fermentation technology instead of bees. Cultured pet food made its global debut and a startup from India invented a plant-based milk alternative made from potatoes!

After rebranding as the EVERY Company, the startup formally known as Clara Foods unveiled the world’s first animal-free egg protein and went on to raise a cool $175 million to launch. Also in the US, the tuna alternative from Kuleana, founded by former ProVeg Incubator employee Jacek Prus, was named one of Time Magazine’s best inventions of 2021.

A year of record funding rounds

Let’s also dip a collective toe into the funding pool. Although the alt-seafood industry is still fairly embryonic, there’s no denying that there’s lucrative potential. This is capturing the attention of investors around the world. In the first half of 2021, the alternative seafood sector raised a record $116 million. For a bit of perspective – that’s more than was raised in the whole of 2020.

On the startup front, Melt & Marble landed a sizeable €750,000 to make fermented animal fats without the use of animals, while London-based startup THIS secured the largest ever funding round (£11 million) for a UK-based alt-meat company. On the other side of the pond, Chilean food-tech company NotCo raised a staggering $235 million to expand its AI-designed plant-based dairy business.

Finally, this roundup would not be complete without mentioning the EU rejecting plans for unprecedented restrictions on the packaging, naming, and promotion of plant-based dairy. This is an issue that our colleagues at ProVeg campaigned strongly against and we can confidently say that the win really does benefit the entire alt-protein industry.

Milestones from the ProVeg Incubator

In 2021, we worked with 17 food-tech startups from 13 different countries. As well as adding new countries to our global portfolio – including Japan, Bulgaria, Mexico, and Estonia – we also ventured into new product categories. UK-based brand Omni – our first pet-food startup – develops plant-based, nutritionally complete, vet-backed food for dogs. Eggfield, meanwhile, was our first startup to work on plant-based egg alternatives. 

Food-tech successes the every company
Arturo Elizondo in EVERY HQ Kitchen

In November, we held our first Food Hackathon – supporting budding food scientists and entrepreneurs in building their own food-tech startups in just four days. Seven teams were hand-picked to take part in the event, which culminated in a Dragon’s-Den-style Demo Day. The winning company, Nice Slice, harnesses the power of fermentation to transform byproducts from the brewing industry into dairy alternatives.

This was also the year that we launched our brand new website and our first podcast! If you haven’t listened to it yet, you can catch Meet the Food Innovators on any good podcasting platform. In each episode, we sit down with a food-tech founder (or founders) to talk about how they built their company. The latest episode was with Chris Kong – the co-founder and CEO of alt-meat brand Better Nature.

That was 2021! After more than 100 workshops and fireside chats, five external events, countless coaching sessions and zoom meetings, and two Startup Demo Days we’re heading for our Christmas break! Thank you to everyone who supported and worked with us in 2021. We’re already looking forward to firing up the Incubator for another successful and dynamic year in 2022! 

If you would like to join our programme, just fill out an application form on our website

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