FoodTech IL 2019: The Future of Proteins

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Feature image: Sivan Farag

Not a single day goes by without another alternative meat and protein product emerging on the market.

Being it burgers, eggless eggs or milkless milk, there is a pretty dynamic development going on in this space as we speak.

To discuss the future of the protein industry, Givaudan organized a panel at FoodTech IL 2019 moderated by Henning Hartnacke, President of the Flavour Division for Givaudan in Europe, Africa and the Middle East (EAME).

Panel participants:

Didier Toubia, Co-Founder and CEO of Aleph Farms, a cultivated meat company that is shaping the future of food by growing high-quality slaughter-free beef steaks directly from cow cells, preserving natural resources, and avoiding the use of antibiotics.

Barak Melamed, CEO of Rilbite, the company producing “minced plants" – the only minced meat alternative created from fresh plants that can be sourced anywhere in the world.

Eliana Zamprogna, Board member of the start-up program Kickstart Accelerator and CTO of M-Industry, the largest retailer in the Swiss market. With its 23 Swiss companies and nine foreign businesses, M-Industry produces over 20,000 high-quality food and non-food products.

Michela Petronio, Vice President of Blu 1877, Barilla Venture Capital Arm that helps Barilla promote food that is good for consumers and the planet.

Hadas Yariv, Health, Nutrition and Corporate Responsibility Manager at Echo.

Dominique Harris, Alternative Protein Strategy and Business Development Lead at Cargill, focused on portfolio growth, engaging strategic partners and managing business development.

Matthew Walker, Managing Director at S2G Ventures, focused on sourcing and evaluating potential investment opportunities, contributing to the business development efforts of portfolio companies, and serving on many portfolio company boards.

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    Photo: Achikam Ben Yosef

Henning Hartnacke, Moderator: If we talk about investment criteria, what is the next big thing after the burger craze?

Dominique Harris: For us, when we think of food innovation investment, it has to fill an empty niche, be Series A or beyond, has both solid technology and a great team. These days, we are looking at alternative protein space, cell-based meat and all the innovations that can help us feed the growing world.

Matt Walker: There are 13 brands in our portfolio at the moment. For us to invest, there has to be something about the product, sourcing, supply chain or production that gives us a lasting advantage. Seafood is interesting, as well as fiber products. When it comes to ingredients, we look for platforms rather than single hero ingredients, for technologies that can provide many products down the line and give us an advantage as the market evolves.

Cultured meat is going to be transformational in the food stack: animal meat has strong positions on the market, alternative meat is on the rise and a lot of institutional capital is going into the industry. In the future, there will be a mosaic of options, large meat players will offer animal-based, hybrid, plant-based and cultured meat options. Companies will compete to produce the most superior — with fat, fiber, full amino acid profile and authentic taste — yet healthy product.

Large producers can take advantage of their distribution network and expertise, they are very well positioned to be market leaders. There is and will be some push back from those who think that meat should only exist in its traditional form, but we will work through that.

Didier Toubia: In the long term, the share of conventional meat will decrease to the benefit of plant-based and cultured options. There is also more focus on quality: in the 90s, technology was used to produce more and do it faster. Now we aim to improve living conditions and create a great product.

Henning Hartnacke, Moderator: The taste, texture and eating experience are important for plant-based products as they go mainstream. We still have work to do when it comes to the ingredients, nutritional aspects and process optimization. The fact that plant-based products are heavily processed and frequently have longer ingredient lists that a meat product would have, raises questions marks.

Michela Petronio: As more and more plant-based products join the niche, there is not as much innovation in terms of ingredients and formulas anymore. In the debate about the concept of processed food, there is a lack of understanding of what processed, unprocessed and ultra-processed exactly mean.

Barak Melamud: We produce our products from the ingredients that can be found anywhere in the world, be it Israel, Brazil, China or the US. From just 5-6 ingredients we create a meatlike product with a great texture, so when a toddler or a kid look at it they don’t see any broccoli.

We use a Mediterranean approach to nutrition and try to turn grain, legumes, vegetables and fruits into something craveable. Eating quinoa and lentils daily is hard, that is why we source fresh products to create a perfect and tasty product in terms of nutritional values.

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    Photo: Achikam Ben Yosef

Henning Hartnacke, Moderator: Some people choose alternative protein because of animal welfare and sustainability but most of the consumers just look for experiences and great tasting food. They will be excited to buy plant-based products as long as those are tasty. You can have great technology, but if it doesn’t work In the mouth — forget about it.

Eliana Zamprogna: The taste issue is just one part of a problem. Consumers from younger generations are becoming more curious about the product story, they want to know how many times the ingredients travelled around the world before landing on their plates.

Plant-based products may be better, but consumers need transparency and producers need to prepare the supply stack to answer this request. There is a great potential in improving the nutritional value without compromising taste, structuring micronutrients, enzymes, vitamins, important for our metabolism. Transparency and real nutrition value are great areas for innovation.

Dominique Harris: Consumers want cleaner labels and ingredients they can pronounce. As the industry evolves, consumer demands keep growing. We can already observe a significant cost reduction in the cell-based industry.

Didier Toubia: The acceptance of cultured meat among consumers is pretty high. The key here is to explain every detail to your consumers. For some people, it might sound like Sci-Fi, so we constantly tell them what we do and how we do it. Aleph Farms is a non-GMO platform, we replicate nature as close as possible. The way we do it is similar to the initial steps of agriculture.

Michela Petronio: why wouldn’t people just eat more vegetables? Why does it have to be a burger patty? In fact, there is no good food and bad food, it’s all about combinations, proportions and frequencies. We should acknowledge that we need to consume the right quality and quantity of protein during every particular stage of our life. We need to find natural sources of protein and combine them in a right way, provide people who don’t want to change their eating habits with healthy protein, embrace all the options.

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Henning Hartnacke, Moderator: How can a startup that comes to market with a first-time innovation start cooperating with a large company?

Eliana Zamprogna: Many alternative protein products created lately don’t look innovative in the eyes of consumers. To make a really groundbreaking innovation, companies have to risk and get ready for a long run. Cell-based agriculture it is not a short term game, but rather a vision of bringing change in the food industry.

There are still many unanswered questions, in particular when it comes to the feasibility of cell-based meat products. Big companies need to be profitable, both short- and long-term, that’s why it might be challenging to pitch such innovative decisions to the board.

Didier Toubia: As a startup company, we should stick to a long-term vision and we cannot achieve everything from A to Z on our own. Startup founders need to do what they know best, partner with companies with global production capabilities, connect to the consumer in each of their target countries, be quicker, bigger and better.

When looking for partners, focus on those who share your vision and values. Manage your relationship on a daily basis and do your best to deliver the best outcome of your partnership by the means of trust and transparency.

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