5 Alternative Protein Innovation Trends To Watch In 2023
By: BIV Team
2022 was a year of soaring inflation, interest rate hikes and a reduction in Venture Capital investment across industries. While the alternative protein sector was not immune to this slowdown, not all segments of the industry have been impacted in the same way. Companies with world changing intellectual property and a commitment to building a strong business model which leverages it have continued to see traction and we expect this to continue in 2023. As a global leader in early-stage alternative protein and food technology, here’s what Big Idea Ventures believes will be the key factors to look out for in 2023.
New direction for plant-based startups
New plant-based startups will work on bridging the gap in terms of nutrition, taste and price that still exists between plant-based and animal-based food products.
Instead of developing new plant-based CPG products, more and more startups will create products which help to improve existing ones. Startups are now developing functional ingredients which, when added to current plant-based products on the market, will significantly improve their nutritional content and taste. These companies provide consumers with a transparent understanding of the ingredients used in their products and use ingredients that are non-GMO, organic, and free from artificial preservatives, colors, and flavors.
For example, our portfolio company, The Good Pulse Company, is focused on developing individual ingredients such as proteins, fiber and starch which can be added to baked goods or products such as plant-based cheeses.These companies are becoming increasingly popular as consumers become more conscious of what’s in their food and demand more transparency from food manufacturers.
“The better the plant-based products are on the market – tastier and more nutritious, the easier it will be for consumers to make that choice every single day to follow a sustainable diet,” says Henrietta Hearth, VP Global Acceleration at Big Idea Ventures.
Targeting niche markets
Innovative startups will target niche markets where the products which are currently on the market fall short in terms of taste and texture. Some of our companies are already focused on providing fine food such as foie gras and caviar, showcasing the importance that cultural influences play on consumer acceptability and preferences. Some companies are also moving away from mince meat analogues and burgers and focussing on deli meats and bacon.
The emergence of “hybrid” products
Novel food technologies like cultivated and precision fermentation or molecular farming-derived proteins will focus on process optimization to lower cost and increase yield. However, with the regulatory approval of these ingredients fast approaching, the race to turn them into actual products on the shelves is on. Hybrid products (combining ingredients produced by different technologies) to allow for better taste and texture, lower cost, reduced R&D time and increased consumer acceptance will be of particular interest.
This past December, Singapore-based ImpacFat had a world’s first cultivated fish fats tasting held at BIV’s Demo Day. ImpacFat develops their fish cell-based fat as a novel ingredient which can supplement plant-based products and improve the taste, texture, flavour and aroma of alternative protein products.
Integrating Artificial Intelligence with Food Tech
AI is used to process large amounts of data and extrapolate information. In the plant-based protein space, companies process instrumental and sensory data to understand the taste and texture of food, which helps in the product development of milk and meat using plant-based sustainable sources.
For fermentation and cultivated meat companies, AI is often used for process and infrastructure optimization, to increase the yield and quality of products while reducing cost. The next generation of artificial intelligence-employing foodtech companies are using more robust and precise models to better understand the data that is presented, which naturally results in higher quality products within the space.
Some interesting companies to watch out for in this space include:
- Singaporean company Dynacyte which is developing affordable, highly-scalable, modular bioreactors by incorporating IoT, artificial intelligence and state-of-the-art microelectronics.
- German company Innocent Meat which creates plug-and-play bioreactors using their smart AI to monitor and control the entire production process. From the exponential cell growth to the cell differentiation into fat and muscle tissue, every aspect is fully automated to make production smooth and easy for conventional meat processors.
- Cocuus, a company based in Spain, employs a proprietary platform dubbed Mimethica, which uses AI to analyse the composition of existing foods. It then uses mathematical models to recreate the same structures but using new ingredients that have been converted into bio-inks.
Moving to larger scale production
2023 will be a year focused on moving to larger scale production of many of the transformative technologies delivering more sustainable food ingredients and products. That includes new ingredients, improved growth serums, cell-based technologies, innovations in fat and protein, upcycling, companies working to scale cultivated meat production and more.
For example, UK-based Extracellular channels biology, digitalisation and biomanufacturing expertise to accelerate cultivated meat development. They are the first CDMO of this nature, focusing solely on helping cell-cultivated companies scale at a quick and thorough rate by providing equipment, people, facilities and processes.
“BIV has primed the pump with great companies, it’s now time to realize the potential of these companies to provide more sustainable food,” says Andrew D. Ive, Founder and General Managing Partner at Big Idea Ventures.
The end of 2022 also saw UPSIDE Foods receive a ‘No Questions’ letter from the FDA, certifying that its cultivated chicken is safe to consume, showing that the industry is one step closer to scale up and commercialization. We already kicked off this year with the exciting news that the Singapore-based company GOOD Meat received regulatory approval by the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) for the use of serum-free media for the production of cultivated meat. These developments will certainly drive investments, research and development and business opportunities within the cultivated meat industry.
Investors who truly understand the food space, the underlying technologies and the global landscape will continue to invest in great companies on behalf of corporations, family offices and high net worth individuals who are focused on strong longer term returns and sustainability.
“2023 will be a challenging year for founders looking to fundraise, and valuation will likely take a hit. But if you have a product that has a unique market-product fit, and you can convey the story across to the consumers, then you should be able to find funding regardless of the state of the economy.” Said Hao Lu, Program director of BIV Asia.
The Big Idea Ventures team is always on the lookout for innovative alternative protein companies. If you are an early-stage startup looking for investment and support, reach out to us here. If you are a corporate or an investor interested in investing in the space, reach out to us here.