In collaboration with CNTA, we have put together a summary of the most relevant arguments made at the event Future Food Tech Alternative Proteins. Some of these are the potential of technologies such as precision fermentation or synthetic biology as ways to obtain protein alternatives, as well as predicting that this trend is likely to continue to grow.

CNTA, National Centre for Food Safety and Technology, is a private non-profit making association. Since 1981, the aim of this research centre has been to contribute towards improving the competitiveness and quality of the food sector. Its work is focused on the fields of food science and technology, biology, chemistry, agronomic engineering, food sciences and nutrition.

What is contributing to this acceleration in the so-called alternative protein revolution? Why, as experts and international foodtech leaders point out, are the “stars aligning”? Here we summarize some of the keys:

Technology boom helps: many breakthroughs in precision fermentation and synthetic biology

If there was one term redundantly mentioned at Future Food Tech Alternative Proteins it was “precision fermentation”. Undoubtedly, it is one of the trendy technologies to meet the challenge of the search for alternative proteins. During the event, it was predicted that its progressive implementation will make it possible to continue producing ingredients with technological and nutritional characteristics capable of matching and even surpassing animal sources.

It is also a sustainable and efficient technology, which are very valuable qualities considering that the food industry faces the challenge of mitigating its climate impact in the coming years. Thus, the progress that can be made in the application of precision fermentation will open up great opportunities in the food industry.

The food industry is also looking very closely at the potential offered by synthetic biology. Numerous startups are succeeding in creating very promising cell-based products. So far, cell-based alternatives are the ones that are best able to replicate whole cuts (steaks, chops, sashimi…), as they are able to offer the consumer organoleptic and nutritional qualities that practically match those of the “originals”. After all, as Michael Selden, CEO of Finless Foods, pointed out, “laboratory developments are managing to reproduce what really happens in nature”. Looking to the future, regulatory and price barriers remain to be overcome so that these products can have a real and extensive market penetration.

The strength of new sources: algae, fungi, SCP…

Little by little we will be seeing more products based on alternative proteins from a wide variety of sources. At Future Food Tech Alternative Proteins we were able to see examples of how, increasingly, sources are diversifying with interesting results and potential market implementation. From the commitment to algae varieties such as the red algae used by Triton Algae or the chorella used by Algenuity, to the commitment to mycelium by Meati Foods or the unicellular protein Euglena by Noblegen. These cases make it clear that there is life beyond plant-based sources.

future food tech alternative protein

Noblegen presenting its ‘Euglena’ SCP development at Future FoodTech Alternative Proteins.

Even so, work continues in the plant-based segment, where it is also possible to find sources other than the usual ones (chickpea, pea, soybean). To make this search more effective, the need for a better and more detailed knowledge of the nutritional properties of new plants or legumes was put on the table, applying technologies that make it possible to characterize the ingredients from a technological (texture, stability, etc.) and nutritional (amino acids, digestibility, etc.) point of view.

Greater knowledge will generate even more possibilities for diversification.

“There are startups that are scaling very fast”.

Sean O’Sulivan, of SOSV Imvestment, gave another of the keys that is contributing to the acceleration of developments and the expectation that new products can slowly make their way onto the agenda of more consumers. “There are startups today that are scaling very fast and that is a huge step towards success,” he said in the opening keynote at the congress. One of the reasons for that ability to scale is the fact that the most disruptive startups are counting on a solid technological base. This is also attracting the attention not only of investors but also of large companies in the sector. Looking to the future, everything suggests that this technological solvency will gradually increase and this will allow the innovation boom to be aligned with the investment boom, whose upward trend has been a constant in recent years.

The forecasts, therefore, continue to be very optimistic. With greater technological solvency, it will be possible to scale up and achieve products that can compete on price in the market, reaching a larger number of consumers. This is undoubtedly one of the keys to ensuring that the much-talked-about acceleration does not come to a screeching halt.

The food industry is facing a scenario in which it can connect with a consumer who is increasingly committed to sustainability and who sees alternative protein sources as a strategy in line with this commitment. If we add to this the fact that alternatives to animal protein are already an unavoidable part of the future agenda of institutions and administrations, the scenario is favorable for the “revolution” to consolidate its change of gear and reach cruising speed.

The original content was written by Mikel Arilla, CNTA’s Vanguard and Trends Technician, is available here.

The world is changing at a speed never before seen by mankind. The industrial revolution, which began at the end of the 18th century, was the initial trigger. However, the technological revolution, driven by the creation of the internet towards the end of the 20th century, was a major catalyst for the change we are currently experiencing.

The technologies we know are becoming more and more advanced. It seems that there is always a new virtual platform to revolutionize the way we communicate, a phenomenon that has grown stronger in the age of covid.

In parallel, the way we humans perceive food has begun to change in recent years, empowered by a greater awareness of the inefficiency of the traditional food system and its impact on the planet and animals. This change in perspective has naturally stimulated a shift in the global food supply.  This is where the crucial role of food technology, or foodtech, comes in.

 

What is foodtech?

Foodtech as a concept is nothing new. Our ancestors have been modifying food for thousands of years. Even the process of putting food in salt to preserve it can be considered a primitive manifestation of foodtech.

foodtech

However, foodtech as a term has had much greater relevance in modern times. It represents the sophisticated changes we are currently experiencing. Today’s foodtech is not a simple and concise term, but rather one that encompasses all those agents that apply technology to the agri-food value chain. From production to consumption of food, technology is bringing efficiency, safety, and a significant improvement in sustainability.

Foodtech nowadays goes far beyond the mere preservation and alteration of food. Indeed, it is a whole system that encompasses other technologies that converge to improve and streamline the food system of this century. Thus affecting innovation throughout the agri-food value chain.

 

FoodTech is the new internet

A few decades ago, the internet was the wave of opportunity to be seized. As of 2019, when Beyond Meat became the first foodtech IPO on the New York Stock Exchange, the plant-based food industry was cemented as the new wave of investment to take advantage of. That IPO was the most successful since Yahoo went public in 1996.

In 2019, investment in foodtech startups globally reached a value of $19.8 billion (AgFunder). Only in Europe, investment in startups in this sector grew 106% compared to the previous year. Being increasingly dominated by plant-based foods. 

In parallel, there is another sector within the foodtech sphere that is causing a stir worldwide, cultured meat. According to the global consulting firm McKinsey this industry will be worth approximately $25 billion by 2030. It will also be presenting opportunities within and outside the current food industry.

Although this area of foodtech is barely in its infancy, by 2020 cultured meat companies had already raised $366 million. Which is 6 times more than the previous year. As was the case with the internet a few decades ago, the foodtech sector is, and will increasingly continue to be, a major driver of the global economy.

 

Foodtech technologies

Today’s food technologies are numerous and will continue to evolve. The following are the ones with the greatest impact on foodtech:

Blockchain: Launched in 2011 to track bitcoin cryptocurrency transactions, blockchain is a system by which transactions can be made between people around the world without the need for intermediaries. 

Fermentation technologies: These are technologies for developing microbes to alter a certain substrate or produce specialized biomass. Humans have relied on fermentation processes for thousands of years to create and alter foods and beverages. 

Bioprinting: It consists of the application of microfabrication technologies to the production of textured foods with functional characteristics. It uses cells and biomaterials to create organ-like structures and allows the cells to multiply. This technology has very practical applications in foodtech, especially for creating meat-flavored plant-based or cultured cell-based foods.

Cell Cultured technology: Speaking of cultured cells, this technology is used for manipulation at the cellular level that allows the industrialization of cell lines. Cells are obtained through painless biopsy and are cultured to create a significant amount of meat. The process does not require slaughter or harm to any animals.

Internet of Things: This is the set of devices, communication networks, and central services that make it possible to obtain data and automate different systems. The wireless digitization of today’s food industry is key to system efficiency. Especially considering the need for instant communication from one system to another for food production. 

Robotics: Automates food creation and processing and can eliminate manual hazards on the production line. This technology increases the efficiency of food production in addition to improving quality.

Data Management: Information analysis and modeling systems using database technologies or artificial intelligence. For food production on a massive scale, the role of Data Management is key to maintain a reliable and updated record of each product that will enter the market.

Automated logistics: Used for autonomous driving, fleet logistics improvement, and last mile logistics. Overall, the warehouse automation industry is projected to reach a value of $27 billion by 2025 (LogisticsIQ latest market research study).

E-commerce: This technology consists of technological tools that enable the implementation of electronic intermediation systems, both between companies and individuals. It is estimated that e-commerce revenues for the food sector will exceed 25.7 billion dollars in the U.S. by 2025.

Novel Foods: New ingredients and forms of production for the creation of foods with a healthier and more sustainable profile. According to the European Commission, Novel Foods are those that were not consumed before May 15, 1997, when the first regulation for Novel Foods was implemented.

Packaging: The elements for the protection and preservation of food in a healthy state, eliminating petroleum products. Many corporations are focusing on the implementation of ecological and biodegradable packaging. In addition to the reduction of excessive materials to protect food in the market.

Foodtech in Spain

Food plays an integral role in Spanish culture. It is no wonder the country keeps producing more and more foodtech startups. The gastronomy sector represents up to 33% of Spain’s GDP, according to a report by the multinational consulting firm KPMG.  

In Spain, there are approximately 400 startups in the foodtech sector, according to the report “The state of foodtech in Spain 2020” by Eatable Adventures. These companies are very young, as more than 60% are less than three years old. Also, 13% were created in the last year, at the height of the pandemic. Moreover, the majority (35%) are direct-to-consumer models, whose growth has skyrocketed in the wake of the pandemic.

foodtech

“Foodtech in Spain: Fuelling a More Sustainable and Efficient Food System” by ICEX

“Technology has allowed us to develop 100% vegetable meat that reduces gas emissions by 99% compared to animal meat. This will allow us to create the food system that society needs,” said Marc Coloma in an interview with Eatable Adventures.

Coloma is the co-founder of Heura Foods, the Barcelona-based vegan meat company that last month raised €16 million in an investment round.  

However, entrepreneurship in this field has yet to reach the stature of other powerhouses, such as Germany, Israel, or the United States.

“I think [in Spain] there have been important steps and initiatives to support entrepreneurship that favor the enrichment and development of the entrepreneurial culture from educational environments, but there is always room for improvement,” said Iñigo Charola in an interview with Eatable Adventures.

Charola is the CEO of BioTech Foods, another alternative protein company founded in San Sebastian, Spain in 2017.

There is no doubt that things are changing in Spain, and the foodtech sector is playing an increasingly important role in the country. In January 2021, the Spanish government invested €250,000 in NovaMeat, a company that prints plant-based steaks. Plus, it awarded €5.2 million to the aforementioned BioTech Foods for the development of cell-grown meat.  

 

The role of Eatable Adventures in the foodtech sector

Eatable Adventures promotes the Spain FoodTech Startup Program, an acceleration program whose purpose is to support the development of projects in this field with a solid technological base.

foodtech

This program -supported by the National Center for Food Technology and Safety (CNTA) and ICEX Spain Export and Investment – already has its five finalist startups. These are Cocuus (large-scale bioprinting of plant-based product analogous to traditional animal protein products); Proppos  (AI and computer vision to offer an unattended payment solution in foodservice and supermarkets); Innomy (animal protein substitute products based on mushroom mycelium cultivation); H2 Hydroponics (designs, operates and delivers at full capacity hydroponic vertical and indoor farming facilities in countries with extreme climates); and MOA foodtech (biotechnology and AI used to convert waste and by-products from the agri-food industry into a next generation protein with high nutritional value and is 100% sustainable).

baking the future

In an effort to further its relationship with startups in the baking world, Europastry reveals the accelerator program Baking the Future through its R & D center Cereal. This journey began with the Baking the Future Challenge launched with Eatable Adventures in June 2019, a competition to find a food-based start-up to help identify “the most innovative and disruptive solutions” to issues faced as an international baking manufacturer.

What is Baking the Future?

Baking the Future is an accelerator for startups in the bakery sector. The goal is to challenge the future of baking by helping startups around the world develop their products, test them in the marketplace and create new  business models. With this open innovation model, Cereal focuses on the search for ingredients, raw materials, or processes that reduce or eliminate trans fats, sugars, or solve intolerances and allergies; technologies focused on the reuse of waste, and new  business models to improve the consumer experience. 

The selected startups will participate in the Baking the Future acceleration  program for six months, during which they will receive mentoring, advice and business development. 

Call for Projects

Projects can be received until September 5th 2021The projects will be  assessed by an Evaluation Committee, made up of a team appointed by Europastry.  

Once a maximum of 5 projects have been selected, startups will be notified of their  inclusion in the Baking the Future acceleration program, which will start on 26  September 2021 at CEREAL in Barcelona

The Demo Day will take place six months later, in March 2022, enabling the startups to present their projects to a network of private investors and highly qualified experts. 

What can you expect from the accelerator?

Once the 5 startups are chosen as finalists, they will unlock a world of opportunities to help them develop their business with all necessary tools. These include tailor-made work sessions, available workspace at Cereals’s facilities in Barcelona, specialised mentoring sessions with experts in the bakery-related areas, access to Europastry’s R&D&i department and latest technologies and production on a pilot scale at the facilities.

In addition, expect Europastry’s smart capital in high-tech laboratory concept improvement, access to sensory testing, inspirational sessions and workshops, business plan design, pitch template and refinement, Demo Day preparatory sessions and a communication plan.Baking the Future is located in Barcelona, meaning you will be at the heart of one of the most dynamic foodtech centers in Europe.

You will feel the support from the very start of the program until your project is fully developed and ready to go to market.

Who is behind the program?

Europastry

Europastry is a global leading bakery company. Founded in 1987, it has established itself as one of the most expert and state-of-the-art bakery companies in the sector of frozen dough for bread, rolls, pastries and snacks. With 22 production plants and 26 sales offices around the world, Europastry is currently present in more than 70 countries. In 2020, Europastry reached 686 million euros in turnover and launched more than 400 new products to the market. 

Cereal 

Cereal is Europastry’s main R&D centre, founded in 2016 in Barcelona. At Cereal, bakers, confectioners, engineers, chemists and nutritionists join forces to cater to the demands and new trends that arise in the market. Europastry’s R&D team launches 400 new products a year and each year develops more than 1,100 projects.