Photo Credit: Lypid
Last week we discussed the larger agri-foodtech trends that we expect to take shape in 2024. Today we will zoom in on the ingredient innovations that we believe will move the needle forward in terms of product development and increased consumer acceptance of alternative products.
Big Idea Ventures is the most active foodtech investor, having invested in more than 110 early-stage startups across plant-based, cultivated, fermentation-enabled products, ingredients and technologies. Having such a diverse portfolio, a global footprint, and an accelerator program that helps us work closely with the most innovative alternative ingredients companies gives us a unique perspective on the industry.
The following insights come from our team of experts and offer a glimpse into top trends set to impact formulation and product development within alternative ingredients in 2024.
Fats innovation remains key
In 2023, it became clear that fats innovation was key to providing the desired taste-texture profile for alternative protein products. Currently, players within the alternative protein sector use vegetable oil as a major ingredient, but due to the low melting point of many vegetable oils, a lot of these are lost during the cooking process, resulting in dry texture of the meat. Looking ahead in 2024, developing sustainable solutions that can replace industry standards will continue to take precedence within the ecosystem.
We can look forward to seeing various technologies developed within this category – from cellular agriculture to precision fermentation, algae, and new plant sources.
Some companies to watch out for in this space include: Cultivated Biosciences, which recently unveiled their first proof-of-concept product using their creamy fat ingredient created with yeast fermentation; Cultimate, which is working to develop cultivated fats using porcine and bovine cells; and Perfat Technologies, which converts vegetable oils into functional solid fats without chemical modification. Last year, we also saw a “world’s first” moment with Lypid launching their plant-based pork belly incorporating their patented Phytofat technology.
With more companies like this entering the scene, we can expect to see the emergence of sustainable, tastier and more cost effective products on the market!
To learn more about the companies in Big Idea Ventures’ portfolio working to develop innovative fats solutions, click here.
Diversification of protein ingredients continues
Protein ingredients, including collagen, gelatin, and microalgae- and fungi-derived ingredients will gain traction. These innovative ingredients offer many benefits, ranging from enhancing the nutritional profile of food products to addressing various consumer preferences and dietary needs. Collagen, for instance, contributes to the structural integrity of many tissues; gelatin serves as a versatile gelling agent and stabilizer, crucial for creating textures in a wide array of food products; fungi, such as mycelium, offer a rich source of proteins, fiber, and other bioactive compounds that can be harnessed for diverse applications in the food industry.
Big Idea Ventures portfolio company, Jellatech, closed an oversubscribed $3.5M seed round this year and is leading the way for cultivated gelatin and collagen development. Other companies are working to convert agri-food sidestreams or waste products into nutritional protein ingredients. These include MOA Foodtech, Pullulo and Mycosortia.
Startups developing product enhancers gain importance
Product enhancers such as flavors, coloring agents and sweeteners are gaining attention. Major barriers for the acceptance of alternative products include taste, texture and aroma. We can solve all the problems of scale up and commercialization, but without increased consumer acceptance, we will not be able to see the full impact that foodtech can bring to climate change and being able to feed the growing population. Product enhancers will help bridge this gap.
One interesting company in this space is Naturannova, which unlocks the potential of peptides to create flavours for food and beverage manufacturers. Another company is Impossible Materials, a foodtech company focused on turning cellulose into functional ingredients that can replace heavy metal materials in existing markets. Their first product is a cellulose white pigment, which will be sold to the food, cosmetics, and pharmaceutical industries. US-based MeliBio, which launched the world’s first bee-free honey last year, is also making strides within this category.
Searching for and supporting startups in this space will be a major focus for investors in the years to come.
The Big Idea Ventures team is always on the lookout for innovative alternative protein and ingredients 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.