An interview with ProVeg Incubator: The first incubator in the world to exclusively support plant-based startup products

  • An interview with ProVeg Incubator The first incubator in the world to exclusively support plant-based startup products (inkubator-kohorte-3-foto-proveg-incubator.jpg)

ProVeg Incubator is the first incubator in the world to exclusively support startups that are producing alternatives to animal-based products.

Launched in November 2018 by the food awareness organisation ProVeg International, the Incubator has already worked with over 30 startups from 16 countries, helping them to raise more than €8 million and launch over 40 products.

ProVeg’s mission is to reduce the global consumption of animal products by 50% by the year 2040. The Incubator is key to achieving this goal by supporting startups that are developing and bringing to market attractive plant-based and cultured foods and beverages which replace conventional animal-based products.

In January 2020, NX-Food entered a partnership with ProVeg Incubator. We talked to Louise Cullen, Marketing & Communications Manager of ProVeg Incubator about the ways to reduce animal consumption, requirements to join ProVeg Incubator, its successful graduates and campaigns that ProVeg International plans to organize in 2020.

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    ProVeg Demo Day 2019, Photo by Cadenza Zhao

What are the three main steps that need to be taken to reduce global animal consumption?

The first step is creating attractive plant-based and cultured alternatives to conventionally produced meat, eggs, and dairy products and ingredients; second, creating a supportive and welcoming environment for these products to enter the market; and third, ensuring that consumers and the industry embrace these products.

All of this hinges on the attractiveness, availability, and affordability of these alternative products and food solutions. If they taste the same or better, cost the same or less, and their availability is the same or better, these products will be successful with the large majority of consumers.

As such, they will contribute towards achieving our goal of 50by40 — regardless of people’s individual motives for choosing these alternatives. That’s the beauty of this solution.

Can you tell us more about the ProVeg Incubator and the requirements for joining?

We have an experienced international team at ProVeg Incubator, backed by renowned mentors from the food industry and key partners. Together, we deliver a tailored three-month programme twice yearly to emerging startups to help them to learn, scale, and succeed.

From April 2020, we will be supporting our startups with funding. Each company accepted to join the Incubator will receive a €20,000 grant, with the potential for a further €80,000 in seed investment after completing the program. We also connect entrepreneurs with external investors and experts from our extensive networks, run workshops and events, offer marketing support, and provide access to our specialised coworking space.

In order to be considered for the program, startups should be innovative and impact-oriented. They can be relatively early stage but should have a strong team and a scalable, marketable product or food solution which aligns with ProVeg’s mission and is capable of making a significant change to the food system.

At least one of the founders from each startup must also attend the six intensive in-house weeks of the programme in Berlin.

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    Greenwise Team

Which startups are the most successful graduates of ProVeg Incubator?

We are extremely proud of the progress our alumni are making since leaving the Incubator. For example, Legendairy Foods from our second batch of startups recently secured an incredible $4.7 million in funding, which will allow them to take on new staff and accelerate product development. Legendairy is an alternative dairy company which uses the fermentation process to produce milk proteins without cows.

Mushlabs is a biotech company from Berlin that also uses fermentation to create sustainable proteins from mycelium, the roots of mushrooms.

Greenwise, which is one of the first plant-based meat companies out of Russia, is now selling alternative jerky products in 2,000 stores, while The Nu+ Company and Vly Foods from our very first batch are selling products in major retailers all over Germany.

Better Nature from our second batch combines the century-old tradition of tempeh-making with 21st century food tech to bring nutritious and delicious tempeh-based food products from Indonesia to the UK, the US, and Ireland. The company has recently launched an online store.

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    Better Nature Team

While it is hard for many to follow a fully vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, more and more people in industrialized countries are self-identifying as flexitarians and reducetarians. What is your take on this?

We welcome every step people take towards a more plant-based lifestyle. Changing deeply ingrained habits is challenging, which is why ProVeg works with producers and consumers to create an environment that makes it easier for people to transition.

There is growing evidence that flexitarians and reducetarians are the driving force behind the significant changes we are currently witnessing in terms of the growing demand for and supply of plant-based alternatives to conventionally-produced meat, eggs, and dairy.

We focus our efforts more on these groups in order to facilitate a protein paradigm shift from conventional animal-based products towards plant-based and cultured alternatives.

Which campaigns are ProVeg International planning to organize in 2020?

In February 2020, ProVeg will launch an international campaign around the Veggie Challenge, a free 30-day programme that challenges people to eat a more plant-based diet. Over 120,000 participants have already received support, coaching, daily emails, and recipes.

In addition, ProVeg will continue to work with the corporate and political sectors as well as civil society to move towards a more sustainable, humane, healthy, and just food system – with a host of exciting campaigns, incentivisation, and collaborations.

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What are your expectations from the partnership with NX-Food?

NX-Food and ProVeg will support each other in order to accelerate food innovation in the plant-based space, from retail to research and investment.

We will connect each other’s network partners, assist in detecting and referring speaker opportunities (e.g. at food industry events) in order to encourage the spreading of news about each other’s focus areas, as well as inspiring and networking with key stakeholders.

We also hope to establish an ongoing exchange between NX-Food and the ProVeg Incubator in order to share insights, work on joint national and international projects, and facilitate startups’ access to each other’s programs. The collaboration will also include mutual benefits such as mentoring, speaking opportunities, and introductions to relevant stakeholders.

The NX-Food visual branding and website are developed by dombek—bolay and Naasner Office, in close collaboration with the NX-Food team.