20 Sustainable and Innovative Foodtech Startups to watch in 2023
This article presents a comprehensive overview of 20 pioneering startups within the food technology sector. These companies, leveraging advanced scientific techniques like precision fermentation, cellular agriculture, and biomanufacturing, are at the forefront of developing innovative alternatives to conventional food products.
As the global population expands, these startups could provide critical solutions to the mounting challenges of sustainability and food security. Their contributions range from cultured meat products to plant-based substitutes for traditional foods.
The innovations being pioneered by these companies may play a crucial role in redefining the future of our food systems, advancing nutritional goals, and promoting environmental sustainability.
Headquarters: Cambridge, UK
Activity: Biomimicry technology
FoodSquared is a pioneering force in the food tech sector, specifically in the realm of plant-based alternatives. Founded in 2021, this B2B company is dedicated to the creation of next-generation plant-based shellfish, with a focus on shrimp.
Their vision centers around making the shift to a plant-based diet more accessible for everyone, thereby reducing their climate impact. This motivation led them to the under-serviced sector of seafood, and specifically, shrimps, due to their substantial carbon footprint and association with environmental and ethical issues, including the depletion of critical mangrove forests, antibiotic misuse, pollution, and human rights abuses.
2. Bygg Foods
Headquarters: Petaluma, California, US
Founded: 2022 by Smári Ásmundsson
Activity: Next-generation plant-based milk
Bygg Foods is a California-based food tech startup founded in 2022, that is radically redefining the plant-based beverage industry. Based in Petaluma, Bygg Foods develops a line of products including plant-based milk and vegan protein powder, crafted from upcycled ingredients, demonstrating their commitment to both health and environmental sustainability.
Their innovative product, Bygg, is a next-generation plant-based milk high in essential minerals and even surpasses cow's milk in calcium content. This presents consumers with not only an environmentally friendly alternative but also a nutritionally superior one, making one question the traditional preference for cow's milk. Furthermore, the company claims that its plant-based milk has the least environmental impact compared to other plant-based milks available in the market.
3. Standing Ovation
Headquarters: Paris, France
Activity: Vegan cheese
Standing Ovation is revolutionizing the vegan cheese industry with its innovative approach to creating animal-free casein, the primary protein found in dairy products. Located in Paris, the company specializes in the production of non-animal, lactose-free cheese based on casein produced using precision fermentation.
What makes Standing Ovation special is their ability to replicate casein in a lab setting, enhancing the nutrient content, smell, taste, and even the characteristic elasticity of traditional cheese. This progress could dramatically elevate the quality and appeal of vegan cheese, making it virtually indistinguishable from its dairy-based counterpart. In essence, Standing Ovation is pushing the boundaries of traditional cheese-making by blending scientific innovation with culinary artistry to create delicious, animal-free, and lactose-free cheese.
Headquarters: Berlin, Germany
Activity: Alternative protein
Nosh, co-founded in 2022 by seasoned professionals Tim Fronzek and Felipe Lino, aims to revolutionize the alternative proteins industry. This Berlin-based startup uses fungi biomass to unlock the untapped potential of alternative proteins. With a strong focus on developing a technological platform for creating highly functional food ingredients, Nosh.bio is also committed to developing animal-free proteins for human nutrition.
The unique value proposition of Nosh.bio is its vision to help manufacturers overcome the challenges associated with plant-based products, such as taste, texture, and cost, thus facilitating their entry into mass markets. Not confined to just plant-based segments, the company's products have potential applications across a range of food categories, including meat, dairy, bakery, confectionery, and beverages. In essence, Nosh.bio provides high-quality techno-functional ingredients that enhance the quality of alternative protein products and support the creation of more sustainable food systems.
Headquarters: Haifa, Israel
Activity: Plant-based products
Meala, based in Haifa, Israel, is an innovative food tech startup that employs naturally occurring biocatalysts to enhance the texture and juiciness of plant-based proteins. The unique aspect of Meala's technology is its ability to create a stable hydro-gel when heated that doesn't alter its behavior when cooled, resulting in a meat-like texture that greatly improves the eating experience of meat substitutes.
This technology can be effortlessly integrated into existing production lines without any modifications. Furthermore, Meala’s product not only improves the sensory attributes of plant-based proteins but also contributes to creating healthier alternatives by replacing stabilizers and emulsifiers commonly used in the alternative meat, fish, and dairy industries. Thus, Meala is at the forefront of driving the change towards more flavorful and healthier plant-based products.
6. Bright Biotech
Headquarters: Manchester, UK
Founded: 2019 by Mohammad Khalil El Hajj
Activity: Plant-based expression & proteins
Bright Biotech is a leading player in the food tech space specializing in the expression and production of high-quality and affordable recombinant proteins using plant-based methods. Their proprietary technology leverages the power of chloroplasts to generate high-value proteins in plants, driven by light, which makes it not only highly sustainable but also free from animal or microbial components. This ground-breaking technology offers a unique solution to producing recombinant growth factors that can enhance practices in regenerative medicine and clean meat production, thereby addressing the challenges in the cultivated meat industry.
With their innovation, Bright Biotech is paving the way for large-scale, low-cost production of cultivated meat, aiming to tackle the $116 billion global industry by 2040. By leveraging plants as bioreactors and using only light, water, and CO2, they can achieve high protein yields with ultra-high scalability, outperforming other existing systems.
7. Peel Pioneers
Headquarters: Son, Netherlands
Activity: Circular orange ingredients and food products
Peel Pioneers is transforming the way we view and utilize citrus waste. The company has dedicated itself to repurposing the discarded citrus peels from fresh juice production into valuable ingredients. With their innovative technology, they extract natural ingredients from the peel that find widespread application in food products, cosmetics, and cleaning products.
A key contribution from their innovation lab is the launch of Finix citrus fiber. This product provides firmness, structure, and the right mouthfeel for various applications including meat substitutes and muffins
Headquarters: Copenhagen, Denmark
Activity: Food waste
Reduced is an innovative food production company dedicated to reducing food waste through the creation of high-quality food products from upcycled ingredients. Based in Nordhavn, Denmark, Reduced leverages traditional and contemporary techniques to turn overlooked ingredients - like vegetables, protein, and other surplus elements from the food industry - into flavorful, nutritious, and sustainable offerings.
A focal point of their mission is the fermentation process, which allows them to draw out intense flavors from these surplus ingredients. With koji fermentation, they are able to unlock umami flavors and create safe, appealing food products. One of their flagship items is a slow-simmered stock made from bones leftover from milk production, invasive shore crabs, and organic egg-laying chickens, among others.
Headquarters: Gipf-Oberfrick, Switzerland
Activity: Sustainable packaging materials based on seaweed
Founded in 2021 by Jessica Farda, Noriware's innovative approach is centered around creating biodegradable, home-compostable, and even edible packaging materials from 100% natural sources.
Unlike existing bioplastics that often rely on fossil fuels and are typically only compostable in industrial facilities, Noriware's products are designed to biodegrade naturally, akin to fruit in a home compost environment, ensuring no harmful traces are left behind. Seaweed, the primary raw material, sequesters carbon dioxide during its growth phase, thereby yielding a negative CO2 balance during raw material production.
Headquarters: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Founded: 2022 by Adnan Oner
Activity: Sustainable packaging materials based on seaweed
Farmless is a Dutch startup focused on creating proteins without traditional farming operations, using a novel approach to food production that aims to be more land- and resource-efficient. The company's production process uses fermentation based on renewable electricity, a method requiring significantly less land compared to animal or other plant-based protein production. The startup's proprietary fermentation platform uses a liquid feedstock made from CO2, hydrogen, and renewable energy.
Farmless, founded by CEO Adnan Oner, recently raised €1.2 million in a pre-seed equity round, co-led by Revent, Nucleus Capital, and Possible Ventures, with the participation of several other investors. The funds have been used to set up a lab, build a team of fermentation and food scientists, and find microbes that can produce animal-like proteins.
Headquarters: Leuven, Belgium
Activity: Meat and fish proteins through precision fermentation
As we navigate through an era where sustainability and health are central to our lifestyle choices, innovative companies like Paleo are making considerable strides in transforming the way we eat. Utilizing cutting-edge technology, Paleo offers a unique array of animal-free and GMO-free proteins, breaking barriers and paving the way towards a more eco-friendly and health-conscious society. Their portfolio, spanning from traditional meats to more adventurous choices like mammoth, demonstrates their capacity for innovation and commitment to the cause. With their unique blend of science and culinary creativity, Paleo is certainly a company to watch as they revolutionize the future of our food.
Headquarters: Navarra, Spain
Activity: Large-scale bio-printing of plant-based products
Cocuus, a Spain-based food technology company, is bringing to the table a new method of producing alternative protein products by leveraging 3D bioprinting technology. Recently, the startup raised €2.5 million in a Pre Series A funding round supported by investors including Cargill Ventures, Big Idea Ventures, Eatable Adventures, and Tech Transfer UPV. With these funds, Cocuus aims to expand its business model and reach into international markets.
Founded in 2017 and located in Navarra, Cocuus has developed an innovative platform called Mimethica, which is a toolbox of diverse 3D printing technologies tailored for food production. Among the technologies are Softmimic, a solution that morphs purees into visually appealing dishes aimed at hospitals and eldercare facilities; LEVELUP, an inkjet printing technology that prints images onto drinks, similar to the Ripples system; and LASERGLOW, a laser printer platform that etches images onto food.
Headquarters: San Fransisco, California, USA
Activity: Plant-based fats
Lypid, previously known as Minutri, is a San Francisco-based startup that manufactures plant-based fats designed to mimic the mouthfeel and taste of animal fats, thereby enhancing the appeal of alternative protein sources. The company, established in 2020, has introduced a product named PhytoFat, which is created by microencapsulating plant oils such as olive and sunflower oil in water to create an emulsion that behaves like animal fat when cooked.
Through this process, Lypid aims to overcome a significant challenge in plant-based meat alternatives: the need for a fat source that not only has a high melting point, thereby retaining its properties when heated and keeping more fat in the plant-based meat, but is also low in saturated fat. Lypid's PhytoFat aims to fulfill this need, improving the texture, juiciness, and bite of plant-based meats while keeping a clean label.
Headquarters: Berlin, Germany
Activity: Plant-based eggs
Founded in 2021 by Veronica Garcia-Arteaga and Dr. Patrick Deufel, Neggst prides itself on having developed the world's first two-component plant-based egg, which includes both egg white and yolk, as well as an eggshell that mimics natural ones. The company's goal is to make their vegan egg feel like an upgrade from a chicken egg, thereby encouraging consumers to switch to more sustainable alternatives that are easy to use and offer a satisfying taste.
Neggst's mission also involves improving animal welfare by creating a product that eliminates the need for chickens to be used for egg production. Furthermore, they aim to reduce CO2 emissions associated with traditional egg production, with a view towards promoting a more environmentally sustainable future.
Headquarters: Brussels, Belgium
Activity: Urban farm
Eclo, previously known as Le Champignon de Bruxelles (The Brussels Mushroom), is a pioneering urban farming enterprise based in Brussels, Belgium. Established in 2014, Eclo has made a name for itself through its innovative use of organic waste from breweries and bakeries to cultivate exotic mushrooms. This approach not only helps reduce waste but also provides a sustainable source of nutrients for mushroom growth.
Located in the Cureghem Cellars in the heart of Brussels, Eclo spans a 3,000 square meter area, making it the largest underground farm in Belgium. The company's primary process involves recycling spent beer grains from Cantillon Brewery and organic bread waste from Colruyt Group and Bon Pain. These waste materials replace the traditional grains used in mushroom substrates, contributing to a circular economy and enhancing the sustainability of the farming process.
Headquarters: Tallinn, Estonia
Activity: Microbial fermentation to produce oils and fats
ÄIO, an Estonian startup founded in 2022, is part of a rising wave of companies using microbial fermentation to produce oils and fats as sustainable alternatives to tropical oils such as palm and coconut. These oils, often found in products ranging from lipsticks to meat alternatives, come with significant environmental and societal costs.
Unlike many of its competitors who rely on gas fermentation or glucose from food crops, ÄIO uses a yeast strain (nicknamed the 'red bug') that can consume cellulosic sugars in agricultural and wood industry byproducts as feedstocks. The company claims this approach is more cost-effective and sustainable.
The company's mission is to replace palm oil, coconut oil, and animal fats with sustainable alternatives using precision fermentation processes. ÄIO's product line includes proteins, omega-3s, antioxidants, and other nutrients, with offerings like encapsulated oil, red oil, and buttery fat.
17. Provectus Algae
Headquarters: Noosaville, Queensland, Australia
Founded: 2018 by Nusqe Spanton
Activity: Biomanufacturing with carbon-capturing microbes
Provectus Algae is an Australian biotechnology company, founded in 2018 and based in Noosaville. It focuses on the development of biomanufacturing solutions utilizing carbon-capturing microbes, particularly microalgae. The company uses both natural and synthetic biology approaches to program these microalgae to produce biochemicals. It serves various sectors, including food and beverage, cosmetics, therapeutics, and agriculture.
Microalgae are among the world's oldest and most diverse microbes. These organisms have become skilled at producing unique and valuable molecules using light and CO2, abundant natural resources. Provectus Algae sees great potential in the diversity of novel microalgae species, which they believe has barely been explored. This offers them opportunities for new product discovery and the displacement of existing products with biosynthetic solutions.
Headquarters: Cambridge, England, United Kingdom
Founded: 2017 by Benjamina Bollag and David Hay
Activity: Lab-grown meat
Uncommon, formerly known as Higher Steaks, is a lab-grown meat production company based in Cambridge, U.K., and founded in 2017. It concentrates on cell-cultured "lab-grown" meats, particularly focusing on the $250 billion global pork market by developing products such as bacon and pork belly. The company changed its name to Uncommon in June 2023 and recently raised $30 million in a Series A round of funding.
Uncommon utilizes a unique technique involving mRNA (a type of RNA, ribonucleic acid) that carries the instructions for the cells to make proteins. This approach allows Uncommon to create genuine meat without resorting to genetic engineering. This distinction is crucial for the company's plans to scale its cultivated meat worldwide, given the growing international resistance to genetically engineered food and associated regulatory challenges.
Headquarters: Delft, Netherlands
Activity: Stem cell technology to produce cultured meat
Meatable, uses stem cell technology to create cultured meat, including a range of products such as sausages and salamis. The founders, Krijn de Nood, Daan Luining, and Dr. Mark Kotter, have raised around $60 million in funding from investors like DSM Venturing and Section32.
Located in Delft, the Netherlands, Meatable operates a pilot facility and aims to launch on a small scale in Singapore in early 2024. They also plan to debut in the United States in 2025 with hybrid products that blend 50% cultivated meat with 50% plant-based meat.
The company's technology centers around pluripotent stem cells (PSCs), which have the advantages of rapid division and versatility. These cells can quickly proliferate without becoming 'immortalized' and can differentiate into various cell types, such as fat or muscle.
20. De Novo Dairy
Headquarters: Cape Town, South Africa
Activity: Animal-free dairy products
De Novo Foodlabs, formerly known as De Novo Dairy, is a company focused on creating sustainable nutrients that enhance the health of both people and the planet. They use precision fermentation and other advanced technologies to create high-quality, nutrient-rich ingredients from non-animal sources, contributing to a more ethical and sustainable food system.
Their unique process involves the precision fermentation of yeast strains to extract crucial milk proteins that are usually scarce and challenging to acquire. These proteins can be used in a variety of products across numerous industries, including food, health, sports nutrition, and baby formula, with the aim of improving and enhancing human nutrition.
The 20 startups showcased in this article embody this narrative with their innovative solutions in cellular agriculture, precision fermentation, alternative proteins, and more. They are striving to address critical challenges such as climate change, food security, and animal welfare, demonstrating the transformative potential of technology in the food industry. As we move forward, their impact will likely grow and reshape our food systems in ways that are both unexpected and groundbreaking. With their continual progress, they don't just give us food for thought; they provide a vision of a more sustainable and equitable future for global food production.