Three startups that impressed us at Rethinking Protein Meetup by Food+Tech Connect

  • Three startups that impressed us at Rethinking Protein Meetup by Food+Tech Connect (elbows-white-cheddar-zucchini-wide.jpg)

Alternative proteins are increasingly becoming a staple of modern day diets.

Consumer demand for ethical, sustainable and healthy sources of protein has fueled a growth in investment and innovation in meat and dairy substitutes. The global plant-based protein market is projected to reach $5 billion by 2020.

On April 30th, we joined the "Rethinking Protein" Meetup organized by Food+Tech Connect at the WeWork Food Lab in New York City and gained deeper insights on alternative protein sources from startups that are offering breakthrough products and solutions in this industry.

Here is a short recap of the startup presentations.

  • Akua (kelp-jerky-package_975x.jpg)

    Kelp Jerky from Akua is available in three flavours


Akua specializes on plant-based snacks using kelp as their protein source. Kelp is a specific kind of seaweed that is full of nutrients and is sustainably harvested within 6 month of growing time.

The company recently launched its first product, a vegan beef jerky made from kelp and boosted with mushrooms and superfoods. The snack does not have the typical seaweed taste and is soft and chewy as the kelp is boiled before further processing.

Co-founder of Akua shared her enthusiasm for seaweed as a plant-based and environment-friendly substitute that can be used not only as an plant-based protein, but also as an alternative to plastic in fashion and cosmetics industries.

  • Banza (redpepperpasta16-9.jpg)

    Banza produces chickpea-based pasta, rice and mac & cheese


Banza, a US-based pasta company, is using pea protein and chickpea flour to create high-protein and low-carb pasta. The pasta has an above average nutritional value, advertising 2x the protein, 4x the fiber and nearly half the net carbs compared to regular pasta.

Due to it’s popularity among consumers, Banza has recently also added a rice substitute made from chickpea flour and legumes to its portfolio. The company does not strongly advertise their products as gluten-free to avoid turning off shoppers. The founder of the company insists that Banza pasta belongs not in the health food section but right on the pasta shelf next to the other pasta brands.

  • Ecovative (ecovative_mycelium.png)

    Mycelium from gourmet mushrooms produced by Ecovative is edible and offers a range of nutritional benefits from fiber to protein.


Ecovative is a biotech company exploring the future of mycelium materials in all kinds of products from food, foams and plastic to furniture. Mycelium (mushroom roots) is an easily scalable product which takes only 9 days to grow.

The company is focusing now on plant-based meat alternatives, using their mycelium-based technology to grow large tissues of gourmet mushrooms with shape and texture of the whole cut of meat. Mushroom foams are infused with plant-based fats, flavors, and seasonings to ensure a familiar "meaty" taste.

Ecovative is also working on other types of meat alternatives such as bacon and is experimenting with mycelium as a cell-based meat alternative.

About the author

About Virginia Benz (virginia-benz-nicholas.png)

Virginia Benz
Hospitality Consultant for Inc. (A company of METRO AG)

Virginia Benz-Nicholas is hospitality enthusiast and consultant based in New York City. She supports Inc. on a project basis, scouting local innovation and trends in the F&B, Hospitality and Retail sector to promote the transformation of the industry.

Branding und Webseite von NX-Food werden entwickelt von dombek—bolay und Naasner Office, in enger Zusammenarbeit mit dem NX-Food Team.