Chocolate alternatives are emerging as a disruptive force due to increasing ethical and environmental concerns. The conventional chocolate industry, known for labor issues and deforestation, sees 1.56 million children engaged in cocoa farming, often under exploitative conditions in the countries that produce nearly 60% of the world’s cocoa each year: Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The environmental toll is equally alarming, with cocoa production contributing to vast deforestation, threatening biodiversity, and exacerbating climate change. The chocolate industry’s carbon footprint urges a reevaluation of people’s chocolate-eating habits.

In response, consumers are embracing chocolate alternatives that sidestep these ethical and environmental pitfalls. As the global demand for dairy-free and plant-based options surges, the market for chocolate alternatives is projected to hit $2 billion by 2032, growing at a CAGR of 13.1% from 2023 to 2032, according to Allied Market Research. This shift signifies a growing awareness among consumers, spurring the industry to prioritize sustainable practices and redefine the sweet success of chocolate. Here, we present five startups taking strides in sustainability, ethical practices, and authenticity by creating a unique product: chocolate-free chocolate.

 

Foreverland

Foreverland 🇮🇹, based in Southern Italy, is disrupting the chocolate industry with its innovative cocoa-free alternative called Freecao. Developed by a team with experience in multinational corporations and the food industry, Foreverland aims to address the environmental and ethical challenges associated with cocoa production. Freecao is made from a base of carob, a native Mediterranean legume known for its nutritional benefits. The chocolate is free from the nine major allergens, contains 25-50% less sugar than traditional milk chocolate, and focuses on sustainability and the well-being of people. Foreverland plans to scale its production, emphasizing local sourcing and a horizontal product portfolio that extends beyond chocolate, working on a Freecao Spread. The startup has already tested its chocolate with industry players in Italy and it envisions becoming a strategic supplier of cocoa-free chocolate for major confectionery companies globally, emphasizing its commitment to a better-for-the-planet and better-for-people chocolate revolution.

wnwn logo

Wnwn

WNWN Food Labs 🇬🇧, a London-based food tech company, has introduced vegan and cocoa-free chocolate bars that replicate popular brands such as Cadbury, Tony’s Chocolonely, and Terry’s. The Win-Win bars, are now available for shipping in the UK, and come in three variants—Choc Nut, Choc Orange, and Vegan M*lk Choc. WNWN claims to have used “cutting-edge science” to convert vegetable fat, carob, oats, and barley into its cocoa-free chocolate alternative. The bars are palm oil-free, packaged in compostable wrappers and cardboard sleeves, and aim to offer an ethical, sustainable, and cocoa-free twist to classic chocolate bars.

planet foods

Planet a Food

Planet A Foods 🇩🇪 is a German startup revolutionizing the future of food through its proprietary technology that involves fermenting plant-based ingredients. Their chocolate is 10x more sustainable and 20% cheaper than conventional chocolate. In order to mimic the organoleptic properties of chocolate, tender, and smooth, they are working on the flavor itself but also on replacing the cocoa butter. By utilizing precision fermentation, roasting, and local processing, the company transforms natural ingredients and by-products like oats into the base for various flavors, including their flagship product, ChoViva—a 100% cocoa-free chocolate. This innovative process reduces carbon emissions by 90% and offers a delicious aroma, luxurious snap, and a smooth texture. Planet A Foods aims to create food ingredients decoupled from unsustainable land and labor practices, building a platform for the future of sustainable and ethical food production. Founded in 2021 by Sara and Max, Planet A Foods is on a mission to reduce the carbon footprint while delivering delightful and sustainable culinary experiences.

california Cultured

California cultured

California Cultured 🇺🇸is a Californian Startup based in Davis with a team of chocolate and coffee enthusiasts committed to transforming the industry for the better. Recognizing the environmental and ethical issues in traditional chocolate production, they are using plant cell culture technology in cellular agriculture to create cocoa and coffee with identical qualities to conventional products. By selecting optimal cacao and coffee varieties, nurturing cells, and mimicking rainforest conditions, they produce sustainable alternatives free from deforestation and child labor. California Cultured invites people to join them in embracing a new era of environmentally friendly and delicious chocolate and coffee.

trusty

Trusty

Trusty 🇮🇹, an innovative Italian startup founded in 2022, specializes in blockchain-based end-to-end traceability solutions tailored for the agri-food sector. This platform, in development since 2020, currently benefits over 70 Italian companies. Trusty has acquired extensive expertise in the chocolate industry, having implemented their platform in three major industries. This implementation facilitates the tracking of over one hundred cooperatives and more than fifteen thousand farmers across seven countries.
Leveraging this experience, Trusty is now revolutionizing the cocoa industry. They’ve launched a blockchain-enabled marketplace, which adheres to both the European Union Data Regulation (EUDR) and the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence (CSDD). This marketplace is designed to promote ethical sourcing of high-quality cocoa by fostering direct connections between responsible producers and the industry. Trusty’s platform not only enables transparent trade but also provides micro-financing opportunities. This initiative is pivotal in creating a more sustainable and equitable cocoa supply chain, ultimately benefiting cocoa farmers and the industry alike.

To sum up, in response to increasing ethical and environmental concerns in the conventional chocolate industry, a new era of chocolate alternatives is emerging. The traditional chocolate industry is under scrutiny for labor issues and deforestation, prompting a shift towards sustainable practices. Consumers are actively seeking dairy-free and plant-based options, driving the chocolate alternatives market to a projected $2 billion by 2032. This shift reflects a growing awareness among consumers, urging the industry to prioritize sustainability and redefine the concept of chocolate success. Five startups are leading this transformation, each contributing unique solutions to the ethical and environmental challenges associated with cocoa production. Foreverland, WNWN, Planet A Foods, California Cultured, and Trusty are at the forefront of this movement, introducing innovative cocoa-free alternatives, leveraging plant cell culture technology, and implementing blockchain for transparent supply chains. These startups collectively represent a significant step towards a more sustainable, ethical, and authentic chocolate industry.

Food safety is a critical aspect of the food industry, encompassing measures taken to ensure that food products are safe for consumption. It involves monitoring, handling, and storing food in a way that prevents contamination and minimizes the risk of foodborne illnesses. In today’s world, technology plays a crucial role in revolutionizing food safety practices. Several startups are at the forefront of this transformation, utilizing innovative technologies to enhance food safety across various domains.

This article explores startups in the realm of food safety. It delves into the core principles of food safety and how they apply to different facets of the food industry, from production and processing to packaging and distribution. These startups are not just shaping the future of food; they are safeguarding it, one technological breakthrough at a time. 

 

Agree Net
Agree Net

Agree NET 🇮🇹 is an Italian startup dedicated to advancing food safety in the realm of fruit and vegetable packing. Their focus lies in developing innovative, bio-based, and biodegradable materials for food packaging, revolutionizing the way of store and transport fresh produce. By utilizing by-products of agriculture, we craft sustainable materials that extend the shelf life of fruits and vegetables, reducing food waste and the reliance on disposable plastics. Their flagship products, Ally and ActivePack, are tailored solutions that significantly increase shelf life, promoting eco-friendliness and compliance with international sustainability standards.

 

Agnext

AgNext

AgNext 🇮🇳 harnesses technology to ensure food safety from the beginning: the farm. It is a fast-growing AgTech company that aims to solve quality and trust in food value chains by making them safer, transparent, and fairer. With the digitalization of food quality assessment as its core focus, it offers a uniquely integrated, AI-driven SaaS platform to agribusinesses for automated and instant food quality results. AgNext is bringing trust, speed & transparency to the agriculture value chain using AI-based food assessment technologies.

 

oscillum logo

Oscillum

Oscillum 🇪🇸 is a Spanish startup that plays a pivotal role in ensuring food safety with its cutting-edge smart labeling solutions. These labels not only provide real-time monitoring for quality control but also help optimize logistics and reduce wastage in the food supply chain. By allowing producers to recirculate products efficiently and maintain stringent quality standards, Oscillum significantly contributes to enhancing food safety. This technology is adaptable and extends its impact beyond the food industry, making it a powerful tool for ensuring the safety and quality of various consumer products.

 

prevera

Prevera

Prevera 🇮🇱 is an Israeli startup on a mission to transform food safety into an asset. They’re combatting the challenges in the food industry, where harmful preservatives and ineffective methods compromise safety and shelf-life. Their innovative solution uses Food Protection Proteins, inspired by natural antimicrobial proteins, to enhance food safety. Prevera’s unique mixture of natural essential amino acids forms a powerful antimicrobial protein that protects food from relevant pathogens. When digested, the Prevera protein is broken back into original natural essential amino acids that provide essential nutrients while affecting our microbiome. By replacing harmful preservatives, their approach not only ensures safety but also significantly reduces food waste.

 

tagone logo

TAG ONE

TAG ONE 🇺🇸 is a groundbreaking Traceability Management System delivering comprehensive transparency to the food and natural products supply chain, from seed to sale. It specializes in blockchain-based traceability solutions, bolstering transparency throughout the food supply chain. By enhancing traceability, TAG ONE ensures that food safety incidents can be swiftly identified and addressed, reducing risks for all stakeholders.

 

Bio2Coat_Logo

Bio2coat

Bio2coat, 🇪🇸 an alumnus of  Spain FoodTech, Eatable Adventures accelerator, focuses on enhancing food safety through innovative packaging solutions. They develop biopolymer coatings and films that act as barriers against contaminants, extending the shelf life of products and minimizing food waste. These sustainable packaging innovations contribute to safer food storage and transportation. Their products are 100% natural, reduce plastic consumption, and fight waste. 

 

To sum up, through innovation, technology, and collaboration, these companies are making strides toward a safer and more secure food ecosystem. Their contributions span pathogen detection, packaging solutions, crop management, freshness preservation, and transparent supply chains, ultimately safeguarding the well-being of consumers and the integrity of the global food industry.

The concept of the circular economy stands at the forefront of sustainability, with a mission to curb waste and optimize the use of existing resources. It’s about “closing the loop” on various elements, like products, services, waste, materials, water, and energy. Unlike the linear economy, the circular economy introduces a nonlinear model that champions reuse, recycling, and regeneration. This innovative approach aims to slash waste generation and alleviate the strain on our natural resources. The circular economy isn’t just about bolstering environmental sustainability; it’s a catalyst for economic efficiency by sparking business opportunities around product revaluation and responsible resource management.

In the food sector, the circular economy translates into cutting down food waste across the entire chain, from production to consumption. It encourages repurposing byproducts and transforming waste into valuable resources, such as creating compost or harnessing energy. Local production models and regenerative agriculture take the spotlight to shrink our environmental footprint. Additionally, the sale of imperfect or soon-to-expire foods is promoted, combating premature disposal. In this paradigm, consumers become key players, making informed choices to minimize waste within their homes.

 

The Shift to Circularity – Why is the linear economy undergoing this transformation toward circularity?

The answer lies in the pressing environmental and economic challenges that have arisen from the linear model’s disregard for sustainability. The circular economy offers a promising solution, advocating for efficiency, longevity, and the preservation of vital resources. It is an acknowledgment that a thriving society hinges upon a holistic equilibrium with our planet.

 

Key Principles of Circularity

At the heart of the circular economy lie four guiding principles: reduce, reuse, recycle, and regenerate. These principles converge to challenge the traditional linear production-consumption paradigm and pave the way for a circular shift, where the value of products and materials is extended through sustained use.

  • Reduce: A conscious effort to use resources more judiciously, curtailing the excesses of production and consumption.
  • Reuse: The revival of objects for their original function or other purposes, essential to the circular economy’s mission of multiple lifecycles for products.
  • Recycle: A transformative process that turns waste, raw materials, and byproducts into fresh products, reintegrating them into the cycle of utility.
  • Regenerate: A commitment to rejuvenate natural resources and ecosystems, restoring balance by replenishing what has been utilized.

 

5 Startups: Pioneering Circular Practices and Innovations

MOA

MOA FOODTECH

MOA, is a Spanish forward-thinking startup, that embodies circularity by up-cycling food by-products through innovative methods. Functioning as a B2B platform, they leverage food by-product valorization using optimized fermentation, aided by their in-house artificial intelligence tool.  They use food production waste and by-products as essential resources for their fermentation process, introducing a novel protein source abundant in nutritional value while significantly minimizing resource consumption. Leveraging biotechnology, they craft sustainable ingredients that optimize the efficiency of protein generation, showcasing a commitment to eco-friendly production methods. This process not only curtails waste but also champions sustainable ingredients that substitute animal and plant-based proteins. By reintroducing these ingredients into the food chain, MOA reduces both resource extraction and the environmental repercussions of food industry waste. Their approach underscores their commitment to circular principles by repurposing materials, using cutting-edge technology, and contributing to a healthier planet.

 

Agrain

Agrain

Agrain is a Danish startup that embodies circularity through its innovative approach. The company uses untapped resources, specifically brewer’s spent grain, to create everyday products. This spent grain, which is a by-product of beer and whisky production, is collected from Danish organic microbreweries, thus reducing waste. The production process involves transforming the raw brewer’s spent grain into flour through a gentle and sustainable method that emits 36% less CO2 compared to traditional organic wheat flour production. By repurposing this grain that would otherwise go to waste, Agrain not only provides consumers with delicious and sustainable options but also addresses food waste and environmental concerns. This innovative circular model showcases the potential of turning a once-discarded resource into a valuable contributor to a more sustainable future.

 

orange fiber

Orange Fiber

Orange Fiber is an Italian startup championing circularity through its innovative approach to textiles. By using citrus fruit waste, known as “pastazzo,” which constitutes a significant portion of fresh fruit weight after juice extraction, the company transforms this waste into yarn and fabric. This circular process not only mitigates waste but also contributes to a more environmentally friendly future for the textile industry. The startup’s focus on a transparent supply chain, trademarked products, and a dedicated community of sustainable fashion enthusiasts further reinforces its commitment to circular principles. By creatively repurposing waste into valuable textile materials, this startup demonstrates how circularity and AI technology can harmonize to shape a more eco-conscious and sustainable textile industry.

simpliroute
SimpliRoute

SimpliRoute is a Chilean startup implementing circularity through the integration of AI technology to reshape logistics operations. By optimizing delivery routes and enhancing operational efficiency, the startup simplifies processes and enhances delivery outcomes for businesses globally. Their mission to democratize logistics intelligence aligns with circular principles by making sophisticated solutions accessible to companies worldwide, fostering a more streamlined and sustainable delivery ecosystem. With a strong commitment to innovation, SimpliRoute is not only transforming logistics but also contributing to the evolution of a smarter, more efficient, and globally connected industry

 

Aroundrs

Aroundrs

Aroundrs is an Italian startup driving circularity in the realm of food packaging by harnessing smart, reusable containers to combat the prevalent use-and-throw culture. Through its innovative app, Aroundrs offers a solution to the environmental impact caused by single-use food packaging. Their containers, which are suitable for various needs including take-out and delivery, are designed for up to 200 uses before recycling. This embodies the concept of circularity by extending the lifecycle of each container and drastically reducing waste. The startup envisions a future where waste is non-existent, and materials are endlessly reusable. By transitioning from the linear purchase-consume-pollute model, Aroundrs is pioneering a cultural shift towards a sustainable and circular food packaging approach. This transformation reduces the carbon footprint while ensuring convenience for both businesses and consumers, echoing the principles of a circular economy

 

In conclusion, the circular economy represents a paradigm shift that holds immense potential within the food industry. Departing from the linear approach, this transformative model emphasizes resource efficiency, waste reduction, and innovative reuse strategies. By redefining the trajectory of products and materials, the circular economy fosters a more sustainable and resilient food ecosystem.

Through the exploration of innovative startups, we’ve witnessed the tangible impact of this approach. From turning food waste into valuable resources to promoting local production and reimagining supply chains, these startups are redefining what’s possible within the circular food economy. By embracing the principles of the circular economy, they not only tackle pressing environmental challenges but also carve out new avenues for economic growth and societal progress.

 

Big companies are betting on open innovation to lead the transformation of the agrifood industry

  • 78% of the companies consulted already use external sources to innovate, and 100% have invested in innovation in the last two years.
  • According to the study, most innovation efforts are concentrated on the Product area (92%), followed by Technologies (57%), Processes (53%), and Business Models (46%).
  • 78% of companies identify the General Management as the main decision-maker, although the Innovation Departments with 57% and the Business Development and Marketing Departments with 28% in both cases are gaining more weight.
  • 93% of surveyed companies prefer collaborating with technology centers, while 71% prefer co-developing with external entities as open innovation tools.

 

 “Innovate or die” is the motto of almost every company today. Demographic and sustainability challenges, socioeconomic uncertainty and changing consumer trends are some of the key factors that have driven a major technological transformation in the agri-food sector. A transition that has become an opportunity to promote the competitiveness and progress of companies.

Eatable Adventures, one of the world’s leading accelerators, has today presented the data of its first study “The State of Open Innovation”, a report that dives into the need for companies in the food and beverage industry to innovate, as well as the keys to make this innovation as successful as possible.

When it comes to collaborating with external agents to create new products or services or transform existing ones, Mila Valcárcel, Managing Partner of Eatable Adventures, highlighted the change in mentality of companies. “We are in a changing and dynamic environment. Companies need to generate innovation at all levels to improve their competitiveness, but in many cases, they do not have the structure or capacity to do so efficiently internally. Collaborative environments with startups, R&D centers, or universities provide a great advantage, as they allow companies to innovate in a disruptive, agile, and efficient manner, with much more efficient risk management. From Eatable Adventures, we are witnessing how companies are adopting open innovation models more frequently, allowing them to take their productivity and efficiency to another level. The sector is undergoing a transformation process very similar to the one the technology industry went through.” This trend, according to the study, is being established among the Food and Beverage sector leaders in Spain such as Mahou, Pascual, or Europastry, but is also spreading in more emerging markets in the Latin America region, with companies that are leading the transformation of the sector, such as Sigma or Alianza Team.

 

Innovation is a strategic priority for companies

According to the study, 100% of the surveyed companies said they have invested in innovation in the last two years, during the analyzed period (2020- 2022). Positively, this indicates a great deal of maturity in this area, which makes it easier to establish win-win partnerships with external agents. This fact extends to all types of companies in the sector, regardless of their revenue volume and size, as well as their geographical area.

Among the areas of innovation that are prioritized, Products takes the lead (92%), followed by Technologies (57%), Processes (53%), and Business Models (46%).

 

Which department is responsible for the innovation decisions within your company?

78% of the surveyed companies identify General Management as the most responsible party when it comes to decision-making. However, 57% of surveyed companies cite the need for innovation and adaptation as the reason for creating Innovation Departments to handle these decisions. In terms of launching R&D projects, this is highly positive, since it confirms that organizations are changing their cultural mindsets. Finally, the Business Development and Marketing departments also have a very significant weight in establishing these decisions and coordinating innovation flows, making the correlation between innovation and the expansion potential of the companies evident.

 

2022, the year of open innovation

Open innovation is the process by which companies implement innovative opportunities to their existing business models through corporate partnerships with external agents, as well as the acquisition of social capital through investments. As the food sector faces enormous pressures and shoppers demand healthier, more functional, and more sustainably produced products, this sector presents a very favorable environment for the development of these valuable partnerships.

According to the survey, 89% of companies prioritize their internal resources for generating innovation. However, 78% of the surveyed companies state that they turn to external sources to transform their company, making collaboration a key way to generate synergies and new business opportunities.

 

From where does innovation in your company originate?

Respondent companies choose to collaborate with universities and technological centers (93%) first when it comes to choosing open innovation tools that meet their needs and level of innovation.

In these universities, the research is generally carried out in scientific parks equipped with the technology necessary to scale these solutions.  Secondly, 71% of surveyed companies prefer to codevelop with external entities, which sometimes results in acceleration programs, industrial scaling, or venture building, among others entities , which often results in acceleration programs, industrial scaling, or venture building, among other results. Over 50% of companies conduct startup search programs such as showcases, scouting, and challenges to learn more about the ecosystem. With 25%, direct investment in startups comes in fourth place. Companies allocate certain amounts of financial resources to another company in order to capture value.

In these universities, the research is generally carried out in scientific parks equipped with the technology necessary to scale these solutions. Secondly, 71% of surveyed companies prefer to codevelop with external entities, which sometimes results in acceleration programs, industrial scaling, or venture building, among others entities , which often results in acceleration programs, industrial scaling, or venture building, among other results

 

Collaboration with startups and creation of specialized investment vehicles: the areas with the greatest growth projection

Nearly all surveyed companies (93%) state that they plan to invest in innovation in the next 3 upcoming years. When considering which tools would best suit their needs, collaboration with universities and technology centers (78%) emerges again, followed by the desire to conduct pilot tests (75%), as well as co-development with external entities (75%) and boosting the innovation culture within the companies (75%), which once again reinforces the priority of innovation in the growth strategy of the companies. Startup search and incubation tools are also capturing growing interest from companies, with 46% and 42% respectively. A projection that is also supported by the comparison between current and desired tools. In addition, the desire for growth in the tool of specialized investment vehicles is also highlighted.

 

What type of open innovation tools would best suit your company?

Regarding the self-perception of the degree of innovation of the company, the average score of these companies is 7.46 out of 10, still room for improvement, especially considering that companies award a 9.4 to the importance of innovation for the growth of their company.

The companies’ self-perception of innovation scored 7.46 out of 10, still room for improvement, especially since most companies assign a 9.4 rating to innovation’s importance to their growth.

Finally, when talking about the projected investment in innovation during the next year, companies are clear, with over 85% betting on increasing investment in this area.

As the study highlights, it is evident that open innovation is gaining more and more weight as a model for attracting talent, technology, and new business models since it has the power to transform organizations in an agile and efficient way

 

Download the full report here.

  • Investment in Spanish foodtech reaches 268 million euros by 2022, a 9.38% increase since the previous year, not considering investment round reached by Glovo

Eatable Adventures, one of the world’s leading agrifood accelerators, has presented the data from its annual study “The State of Foodtech in Spain 2022”. A report gathering key information on the characterization and investment evolution of the Spanish Foodtech entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Broadly, 2022 has been a positive year for the sector in the country. Despite the macroeconomic context, the Spanish Startups have been supported by investors, companies and governments, which have taken a much more active role in the growth of the Spanish ecosystem.

In 2022, Spain remains in the global top 10 ranking in terms of number of foodtech startups, whose latest census, according to the report, totals 412 startups. As for the key areas of the Foodtech sector, once again this year, 4 major categories were identified, showing a fairly balance among them: Agritech (24%); Food Production and Transformation (34%); Logistics, Distribution and Retail (25%); and Restaurant Tech (16%).

Spanish startups are solvent at a technological level and have a solid level of development. The percentage of startups that decide to patent their solutions or generate utility models is growing: 32,9% of startups have patents, 56,6% have a trademark registration and 29% have a trade secret. There is significant growth in the use of artificial intelligence, with an increase of more than 12 points, compared to last year, as well as in machine learning and IoT, with an increase of 8,5 and 9,6 points, respectively. Regarding the degree of technological development (TRL) of the startups, more than 80% have market-ready solutions and 14% are still at an intermediate stage.

This year, the total investment figure stands at 268 million euros, an increase of 9,38% compared to the previous year, not considering the investment round achieved by Glovo (450 million euros). In addition, the increase in Series A rounds stands out, growing by nearly 20%, 5 points more than in 2021.

The largest investments have been in startups working in foodservice/retail, but the emergence of the protein alternative stands out among investments. The top 5 startups leading this ranking are Cover Manager (€52M), Heura (€20M), Good News (€11M), Nova Meat (€6M) and Cubiq (€6M).

Spain is consolidating its position as a Foodtech Nation with a flourishing ecosystem and great technological and intellectual solvency, which has attracted the interest of global investors and corporates throughout the year. Proof of this are the investment rounds received by some of the startups of our Spain Foodtech portfolio, such as Cocuus, Innomy or Moa Foodtech.”, commented José Luis Cabañero, CEO and founder at Eatable Adventures.

New Call for Projects for Spain Foodtech, the national Foodtech acceleration program

Also, Eatable Adventures announced the opening of the new caLl for projects for the acceleration program Spain Foodtech Startups’ Program. This is a national program led by Eatable Adventures, in collaboration with ICEX Spain Export and Investment and CNTA (National Center for Food Technology and Safety) and supported by multiple agents of the food ecosystem.

This year, the program incorporates as partners the largest companies in the food industry that are driving open innovation in the agri-food sector: Mahou San Miguel, leading brewing company, Alianza Team, a Colombian-based corporate group, expert in lipids and fats and leader in the food sector, Pascual Innoventures, Pascual’s Corporate Venturing arm, and Sigma, leading multinational food company.

micelio

One of the great wonders in nature is also one of the most unnoticed. Under the ground, regardless where you are there’s a large network of filaments that branch out and unify all the organic matter that surrounds them called mycelium. Its total length in the upper 10 cm of the ground has been estimated to be more than 450 quadrillion km.

What is the importance of mycelium?

Generally, it is in charge of decomposition and symbiosis. It absorbs organic matter avoiding its accumulation on the ground. Moreover, plants carry 70% of the carbon from the CO2 that photosynthesize underground where they exchange it for nutrients with the mycelium through their root system and this carbon is stored in the cell membranes of the fungi. This way it feeds the microbial community and all parts of the food chain like mites or nematodes that recycle nutrients through this food process. 

Fungi are key to stabilizing carbon in the soil hence it remains stored. 

Mycelium, apart from all its natural qualities, can grow rapidly in the ground and in a laboratory through a process that uses little electricity, is safe and, despite being light, is very resistant. Additionally, it is a temperature insulator, has absorbent properties, and is bio-compostable. 

Once mycelium is produced, is usually treated and dehydrated to improve its density, strength, elasticity, and texture.

Mycelium in the food industry 

innomy burgers

Focusing on the food tech industry, protein-based fungi, in other words, mycelium, seems to be reaching a popular plant and cell-based solution. The world’s first large-scale mycoprotein facility was announced in May 2020 and the food tech mushroom protein market is expected to grow 12% between 2019 and 2027 

Mycelium is nowadays normally used in protein-based alternatives, (plant-based) due to its high nutritional protein content and its fibrous appearance that characterizes meat. 

Using technologies such as fermentation, more specifically biomass fermentation due to the capacity of its microorganisms to multiply rapidly and efficiently, the mycelium grows to one of the highest levels, doubling its weight in just a few hours. 

Biomass fermentation takes advantage of rapid growth and high content in the protein of many microorganisms to efficiently produce a high amount of proteins. Biomass can be the principal ingredient of a food product or service as one of the main ingredients of a mixture. 

For example, the Spanish company Innomy uses mycelium combined with precision fermentation technology to create complex structures that reproduce the tender and fibrous consistency of meat. The company modifies shape, color, and flavor in the stringy structures of mycelial arrays to elaborate meat-flavored products. 

Furthermore, we have Libre Foods, a startup based in Barcelona whose mission is to liberate the food system through nutritious and sustainable products grown from mycelium. The first product o the company is a mycelium-based beef fillet followed by a line of red meats, poultry, and seafood. Libre Foods recently presented a mushroom-based bacon product created with fermentation (precision) technology. 

If you want to know about more disruptive projects on this topic, visit our article about 6 startups using mushrooms in food tech. 

The Spanish startup Innomy has raised 1,3 million euros in its Pre Series A funding round. The round was led by international investors as Corporación Cervino, Rockstart, Zubi Capital, Eatable Adventures and the National Center for Technology and Food Safety (CNTA), who have taken equity stakes in the company to scale the startup’s disruptive technology and promote a much more sustainable and healthier protein consumption alternative in other markets.

The leading Argentinian team, composed by CEO and co-founder Juan Pablo de Giacomi, biotechnologist COO and co-founder Pablo Sánchez Rey, and mycologist CSO and Technology Partner Francisco Kuhar, has dedicated years of research to the properties of mushroom-based proteins and their benefits for the health of people and the planet.

Innomy is the third foodtech Spanish startup announcing its first funding round after successfully completing the acceleration program Spain Foodtech developed by Eatable Adventures, in collaboration with ICEX Spain Export and Investment and the National Center for Technology and Food Safety (CNTA) and the Rockstart AgriFood program. Disruptive startups Cocuus and Moa Foodtech were also selected in Spain Foodtech program.

Juan Pablo de Giacomi, CEO and founder of Innomy states “We were born as a platform to channel many years of research in the field of the properties of edible mushrooms. Our mission is to respond to consumers that demand good food products for their health but also for the planet’s wellbeing. We want to reach new markets and bring our product to thousands of people”.

Mycelium, a filamentous, protein-rich ingredient extracted from the root structure of mushrooms is considered to be one of the most promising sources of protein for the future. Its quality in terms of nutrition was recognized by scientists a long time ago, but its current production for human consumption is not yet widespread. Furthermore, the fact that fungi do not produce cholesterol or significant amounts of saturated fats has redirected the attention of the food industry towards them.

On the other hand, José Luis Cabañero, CEO and founder of Eatable Adventures notes “We are very proud to be part of this new milestone that consolidates the leadership of the Spanish foodtech ecosystem. In the last few months, we have managed to raise Funding rounds of an average of 1.8M for three of the startups that have been selected in our acceleration program. We continue to bet on disruptive technologies that impact the way food is produced and consumed, ensuring food safety for all”.

Mark Durno, Managing Partner AgriFood of Rockstart said: “At Rockstart, purpose driven and determined founders are central to our investment selection. In the case of Innomy, the founding team is composed of specialists in mycelium and have all shown amazing commercial insight and humble curiosity during the mentor sessions throughout our accelerator program. We are delighted to make our second investment in the company.”

“With the entry into the capital we formalize the collaboration we have maintained in recent years to develop Innomy’s proprietary technology. And now, with this financial injection, it will be possible to bring this technology to the market and continue contributing to transforming the future of food to make it healthier, more sustainable, safer and available to everyone,” said Héctor Barbarin, CEO of CNTA.

In the context of the current global environmental and demographic challenges, meat alternatives, such as mycelium, are an effective solution to reduce meat production effects, which are responsible for almost 60% of all greenhouse gasses generated by food production, according to FAO data.

Innomy has been awarded in the fourth edition of the ‘Ingenia Startup Awards’, promoted by the Spanish Federation of Food and Beverage Industries (FIAB), the Technology Platform Food for LifeSpain (PTF4LS) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAPA). In addition, it has been a finalist in the Foodtech Heroes 2022 in the F&A category and has been chosen as one of the top 15 foodtech startups according to El Referente.

 

The impact of room service on hotels is a management problem since it affects the flow of food and beverage services in hotels that offer room service as well as the burden it places on staff and hotels that do not have kitchen facilities.

Le Room Service aims to improve the hotel offer and increase sales by making room service itself more attractive, adding value to the hotel sector. You’ll discover their secrets and learn about their experience in the Eatable Adventures Acceleration Program as you read on.

 

  1. How do you manage to add value to the hotel sector from Le Room Service? What are the services you offer?

 

Le Room Service is a company specialized in outsourcing the F&B service of hotel rooms, apart-hotels and tourist apartments.

We were born in 2017 with the aim of revolutionizing the hospitality sector by offering the cost-effective alternative to room service through operational innovation and specialization in gastronomic trends. As of today, we operate with more than 300 Hotel establishments among which stand out groups such as Meliá, NH, Vincci, Iberoestar, Turim or Barceló in Seville, Madrid, Barcelona and Lisbon.

We focus on bringing value to the hotel sector in 5 aspects: improved profitability, new customer experience, disruptive concept, standardization of processes and increased valuation, allowing hotels to focus on their core business.

 

  1. Why did you decide to join EA’s Acceleration Program?

 

At that time we were in a very early stage of the project, but we already had the first positive results that validated the viability of the business model.

We saw Eatable Adventures as a great opportunity to introduce my company to the startup ecosystem and exponentially accelerate its growth. Additionally, being able to rely on corporate mentors from Grupo Meliá and Banco Sabadell increased the chances of success.

 

  1. How has Eatable Adventures helped you achieve your goals?

 

Eatable Adventures helped us in different ways to professionalize our project.

Firstly, we had an initial mentoring phase where we drew up a medium-term plan, set goals and followed up on them. As part of this plan, Le Room Service aimed to obtain an investment round for national expansion, which later culminated in the opening of its second location (after Seville), Madrid.

Secondly, Eatable Adventures opened doors for us through its network of contacts. With partners like Meliá as well as with investment funds and angel investors. Thanks to all this, we got our first round of investment at the end of the program.

 

  1. What is the most valuable advice José Luis has given you during our Acceleration Program?

 

First of all, we would like to thank José Luis for his involvement and trust in the Le Room Service project. He has always followed our evolution very closely, offering, from his experience, the impulse and stimulus that the startup required in each phase.

More than a specific advice, we keep his mentality to think big, eliminating the barriers that we could have and transmitting the limitless scalability that our project has.

 

  1. How do you see Le Room Service in the medium/long term?

 

At the moment we are immersed and focused on our international expansion, we have just opened in Lisbon and we are working on future openings in Berlin and Paris. We have outlined an ambitious expansion plan and, in the next 3 years we want to be offering our services in the main European capitals.

In addition, we are also growing horizontally in services; we no longer only offer Room Service, but we are now a more comprehensive solution for Food & Beverage departments. We have the possibility to complete the hotel’s offer with breakfast, events or lobby services.

We are also rebranding to adapt to the new positioning that the business requires at this stage. Using our new exclusive packaging, we can operate without barriers in 5-star hotels and raise the brand’s perception.

There are many changes happening right now, and we are determined to successfully navigate them. Among other things, we owe our success to the experience and know-how acquired over the years and to the invaluable support provided by Eatable Adventures.

Get to know more of our Alumni here.

Moon DrinksNacho Alonso, CEO and Founder of Moon Drinks, was hooked on traditional soft drinks for years and, fed up with not finding a healthy alternative on the market, decided to become an entrepreneur and make healthy soft drinks a reality. “The best way to predict the future is… to invent it,” he says. That’s how he founded Moon Drinks SL., the organic and vegan soft drinks company he is running today.

Find out how Eatable Adventures Accelerator Program helped him scale his business, what advice he has retained, and where he sees Moon Water going in the future.

 

  1. When and for what purpose was Moonwater born?

The project was born at the end of 2017 and has evolved a lot over the years. Our purpose is to contribute to improving the quality of life of people and the planet by creating healthy and sustainable alternatives to traditional beverages.

 

Traditional soft drinks have not changed their formulas for decades nor adapting or incorporating industry advances and consumer demands. Traditional drinks still rule the market, but they have become obsolete. Consumers are unaware of the alternatives that may exist, and therefore need to be informed about them.

 

  1. How did you come up with the formula for your soft drinks, and how does it differ from other soft drinks?

It has been a very long and laborious process. The current formula wasn’t found until May 2021 (almost 4 of work). We have launched four versions of our product on the market, and it was consumers and customers who validated it. Because of this, you could say the product was not created by us, but by the consumer only two red lines: we do not compromise health nor sustainability, which are core values for us.

 

As opposed to traditional soft drinks, we use 100% natural and organic ingredients, with very little sugar and low-calories. Our bubbles are soft, pleasant to the taste, and our flavors are not the traditional ones, we offer innovative flavor combinations that are truly delicious. Our business is to provide new experiences for consumers. In addition, our products are packaged exclusively with aluminum, the most sustainable material for packaging now a days .

 

  1. How did the Eatable Adventures Accelerator Program help you scale your project?

The experience was truly BRUTAL, completely changing the way we viewed the industry, better understanding the global market, and providing us with the tools we needed to reach our goals. And I can’t forget the most important thing, an amazing team on a professional and personal level.

 

  1. How do you see the future of Moonwater?

Our company is called Moon Water, we started this “revolution” with the soft drink category by launching Moonwater, but we are developing new products. We have already created an organic energy drink that is a healthy alternative to energy drinks that we plan to launch this year.

 

While we continue to work on new products and trends, we will also strive to improve existing products, incorporating all the new technologies, both at the production level and in packaging, and improving the entire value chain.

 

We are very happy with the evolution, we can’t believe it. The company is growing fast in Spain but also abroad, with a strong presence in the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Qatar, etc. Our goal is to bring Moonwater to every corner of the world.

 

  1. What is the most valuable advice José Luis has given you during our Acceleration Program?

That the product had to be at the peak of our project, which is why we will never be completely satisfied with our products, because we are firm believers that everything can be improved, no matter how good it is.

Cocuus
This round was led by Big Idea Ventures, Cargill Ventures, Eatable Adventures and Tech Transfer Agrifood.

The Spanish startup Cocuus has raised 2,5 million euros in its Pre Series A funding round for its innovative process for producing plant or cell- based animal protein food analogs. The company achieved this round after completing Eatable Adventures acceleration program, one of the top three globalaccelerators for foodtech startups.

The round was led by Big Idea Ventures, the global alternative protein fund, the U.S. multinational Cargill Ventures, the Spanish accelerator Eatable Adventures and Tech Transfer Agrifood. With a capital injection of this size, the startup can scale its business model and expand into other international markets, enabling them to utilize their disruptive 3D bioprinting and robotics technologies to create more sustainable and nutritious food products.

Patxi Larumbe, CEO and founder of Cocuus states “We are very proud to have attracted the interest of international investors with this round of financing. Thanks to this capital injection we will be able to bring our technology within reach of corporations that want to print proteins on an industrial scale”. In addition, the Founder and Managing General Partner of Big Idea Ventures, Andrew D Ive, also highlights “At Big Idea Ventures, we invest in technology which impacts the alternative protein industry’s entire value chain. Cocuus’ technology addresses a major pain point of structured plant- and cell-based meat production methods scalability. We are thrilled to support this innovative team and we look forward to
seeing their scalable food technology making an impact across the world.”

On the other hand, José Luis Cabañero, CEO and founder of Eatable Adventures notes, “The Spanish foodtech startups’ ecosystem is consolidating very quickly, attracting major investors and international corporations. Through Eatable Adventures, we offer our services to startups and corporations around the globe to accelerate the process of transformation and innovation in the food value chain”.

As Cabañero points out, this current environmental and world population scenario calls for a rethinking of production methods to achieve a much more sustainable and efficient food system. According to FAO data, in 2050, in order to feed a population of 9.1 billion, food production will have to increase by 70% and meat production by more than 200 million tons.

Cocuus, along with MOA Foodtech, Proppos, H2hydroponics, and Innomy have been selected as finalists for the first edition of Spain Foodtech, the acceleration program of Eatable Adventures supported by the National Center for Technology and Food Safety (CNTA) and ICEX Spain Export and Investment.

Cocuus has been awarded by the international Quality Innovation Award (QIA) in the category of Innovation in Microenterprises and Startups, after winning the 2021 national award.