15 New Alt Protein Startups to Watch


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Animal agriculture contributes to climate change to such an extent that there is no doubt that alternatives must be adopted. As the second largest human-made contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, the industrial animal protein industry demands disruption. Fortunately, motivated founders are rising to the challenge, and new alternative protein startups are springing up every day around the world to create solutions that are as nutritious as they are sustainable.

The early-stage VC Big Idea Ventures (BIV) unveiled the 15 future food companies that have joined their various acceleration programs in Singapore, Paris and New York Representing a diverse range of technologies and niches from Thailand to the Republic Czech Republic, all seek to protect our global food chain from the looming climate crisis.

Photo by Louis Reed on Unsplash.

The plant boom continues

Australian-based Leaf Protein Co uses proprietary technology to unlock the world’s most abundant protein source, rubisco, to add to plant-based foods, including dairy and meat.

Plant-based dairy products receive a new injection of energy via Spain’s Väcka. Creating cheese using traditional fermentation and ripening, he specializes in using unexpected ingredients, including pumpkin. Along the same lines, New Zealand’s Kabocha has developed milk from squash and is looking to expand into meat patties, using imperfect cultures and its own milk production waste.

Meanwhile, Mushroom Meat Co isn’t shy about using “culinary-medicinal” mushrooms and recycled plant proteins to create whole-food meat analogues in the United States.

Asian startups rise to the challenge of alternative proteins

Meatless Kingdom is looking to take on Green Rebel as the plant-based meat maker of choice in Indonesia. It combines mushrooms and soy to create realistic and affordable meat alternatives.

The American company Optimized Foods, which trusts mushrooms, aims to harness the power of the mycelium to develop healthier versions of existing foods. Thai company More Foods is also looking to unlock the potential of mushrooms by using them in its plant-based proteins rich in bioactive ingredients.

Dr. Dalal AlGhawas, BIV’s program manager in Singapore, says consumers in Southeast Asia want solutions that suit their food cultures and taste buds that are also environmentally friendly. “For these markets, product localization is key and we are pleased to see the focus also on clean labels and the recovery of food waste.”

Umami United is Japan’s answer to regional foods that are vegan and made with locally sourced ingredients, such as konjac. The startup is already making an Umami egg and creating clean, Buddhist-friendly dishes.

Alt Protein MVP

There are now hundreds of alternative protein companies and over 100 cultured meat and seafood startups that have sprung up in the past two years. These players need supporting technologies to scale, think affordable scaffolds, growth media, and bioreactor machinery.

UK-based Alt Atlas has developed a bio-learning platform for sourcing functional ingredients for alternative meat and dairy applications. A non-GMO bovine stem cell line is his top priority, to help the cultured industry grow.

Novel food companies also need ingredients and additives. Singapore’s Pullulo manufactures microbial proteins for food applications, focusing on vegan developments and underserved sectors such as medical catering. It seeks to recycle waste into functional food additives.

Swiss company Cultivated Biosciences ferments an additive to make plant-based dairy products creamier, without using GMOs.

In Israel, Genesea uses macro algae to create a clean protein for use in the manufacture of food products. It has a biomass recovery rate of 92% of raw materials during processing.

Photo by Alice Donovan Rouse at Unsplash.

Developments developed in the laboratory

Using precision fermentation, French company Nutropy replicates milk proteins to develop vegan versions of favorite French cheeses, for health, animal welfare and environmental reasons.

The Czech Republic officially enters the cultured meat vertical market via Mewery. Slated to be the first European cellular agriculture startup to create pork from microalgae, the company is on a mission to cut costs with animal serum-free growth media.

CF Foods, which is based in the United States, makes premium dog treats using cultured meat and plant-based ingredients together. The startup wants to be one of the first companies to offer CPG items in the United States and Asia.

“With 15 companies from 13 different countries, this cohort is the most diverse yet. This is a testament to the growth of the alternative protein food industry globally. Each company in this cohort fills a specific gap in the market, said Andrew D. Ive, founder and managing partner of BIV.

Principal photo by Sam Moghadam Khamseh at Unsplash.


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