Update Foods: the startup making milk from microalgae

Update Foods is a plant-based-dairy startup from France founded by CEO Clémence Landeau, together with Céline Bouvier, Gaëtan Gohin, and Franck Manifacier. The team makes milk from algae and was part of the sixth cohort at the ProVeg Incubator.

What does your startup do and what is your mission? 

Clémence: Update Foods develops plant-based milk and dairy solutions that are based on microalgae and faba-bean protein. We focus on producing affordable products that aim to replicate the taste, appearance, texture, and nutritional benefits of conventional animal-based dairy products.

Transitioning to a more plant-based lifestyle should look and feel effortless, almost invisible. Our mission is to take an updated version of milk and other dairy staples mainstream. With our products, we aim to help the next generation to move towards a plant-based lifestyle without any regrets.

Where did the idea for your company come from? 

Clémence: Update Foods sounded like an obvious, exciting, and impactful project to us when we connected the dots between the following elements:

Firstly, plant-based living is gathering momentum. Flexitarianism is becoming more popular and there are a growing number of consumers looking for 100% plant-based options.

When you add to that the number of people who are lactose intolerant, you are looking at an attractive pool of potential customers. Adopting a plant-based lifestyle is also crucial if we are to cope with the world’s environmental, health, animal welfare, and social justice challenges.

Secondly, some people still struggle with going plant-based, even if they genuinely want to. For example, many consumers say that they “miss the taste” of cheese or milk.

The current alternatives available on the market are not (yet) convincing enough to seduce flexitarians or hardcore cheese-lovers. There is therefore still a need for accessible, affordable, and delicious plant-based dairy products to be developed.

Finally, the current plant-based sector still has a long way to go. For example, my father cannot make the switch to plant-based dairy alternatives because they are generally soya-based or inaccessible.

He cannot eat soya and he lives far out in the countryside. Our goal is to help people like him to replace conventional animal-based products with alternatives that suit 21st-century living.

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

Céline: Clémence Landeau is our CEO and I would describe her as sincere and future-oriented. She has dedicated her professional life to easing the global transition to plant-based eating. Clémence has supported consumer choices as a V-Label account manager, lobbied for political changes in the plant-based space, and worked to change the image of veganism, with the SMMMILE Vegan & Pop Festival.

Gaëtan Gohin is our Head of Growth and brings a wealth of knowledge about entrepreneurialism in the food sector to the team. As co-founder of Algama Foods, the Good Spoon Foods, and NOKO Foods, he has built a strong network of retailers, potential customers, and food-brand leaders during his career.

Clémence: Franck Manifacier is our Head of Sales. Frank is experienced in managing brands, having led Pepsico in establishing new premium brands in France. His background will help Update Foods to strengthen its position in different markets and build a strong and efficient commercial strategy.

Céline Bouvier is our Chair and Head of Marketing. She has developed sharp insights into effective marketing strategies in the food business, thanks to her former position as Managing Director for Coca Cola France, and her current position at Vojo.

Céline: With our collective professional and personal experience and educational backgrounds, we have a strong understanding of the way we need to think about our brand and our products. We know how to make them attractive to the different target markets we have in our sights.

What are your favourite parts about building your business? 

Clémence: Building a business is a beautiful mess. We love the freedom to create, iterate, fail, and rebuild that it allows. We love the idea that, if well-executed, we can have a real, game-changing impact on the food industry. Our startup is a project that people and the planet really need.

What is it that makes your company unique? 

Céline: Update Foods combines a unique production process with an innovative formula based on microalgae and faba protein. We are following a modern direct-to-consumer business model and have established a thorough approach to our branding. Our team is also introducing the daring concept of a dehydrated DIY product called ‘M!LK it yourself’.

Why did you decide to join the ProVeg Incubator? 

Clémence: The ProVeg Incubator is the perfect place for Update Foods to scale. The accelerator programme provides a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem and a supportive but challenging environment, with input from experienced mentors and sharp analysts.

When we looked at the previous startups it has supported, the potential of the ProVeg Incubator was immediately clear to us. We are convinced that it is just what we need to reach for the sky and make waves on the European (and hopefully global) food market.

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

Clémence: We plan to launch our first microalgae-based product, M!LK Update Original, in 2021, and raise awareness of M!LK it yourself (our DIY product) in the global plant-based and food-industry spaces. Additionally, we are striving to fund the startup and make new hires. We also want to strengthen the bonds between our team members and to become a certified B Corporation.

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