The rise of plant-based start ups
An increasing number of people avoid eating any animal derived products and focus on a plant-based diet. For this reason, the current vegan food market is experiencing a market size estimated at £ 10.5 billion, with a CAGR of 10.5% from 2019 to 2026. This enormous growth, along with the increasing demand, has led to a strong boost in start-up companies dealing with this type of diet, especially in recent years. However, as it currently leads to strong competitiveness in the vegan market, companies entering the field have to find unique and innovative ways to convince the buyer. These new angles and approaches to making plant-based food even tastier, in terms of appearance as well as substance, can be divided into two categories, such as the applied technology but also the basis of the product.
What seemed unimaginable for a long time has now become reality, namely cell-based agriculture. The American company Eat Just introduced their first cell-based chicken nuggets last year. The main idea behind this £ 273 million invested cell technology is to consume food without harming any animal but also to protect the environment with the smallest possible carbon footprint.
In addition to the breakthrough of cell-based products, there has also been tremendous progress in the production of plant-based food in recent years. The Spanish start-up Nova Meat has made it possible to produce steaks from a 3D in recent years. With the collaboration from the Spanish government, the company managed to increase the production of 3D-printed meat by integrating its microextrusion technology into higher-throughput industrial printing machines. By using this technology, the texture, taste, appearance and nutritional properties of animal meat products could be imitated with the composition of vegetable fats, water and protein.
While most companies focus on meat substitutes, the German company Legendairy has set itself the task of artificially producing cheese using microorganisms. A method was developed that identifies the genes of cows that are responsible for the production of the milk components in order to artificially breed the milk proteins casein and whey protein.
While some companies seek to differentiate themselves from competitors through the previously mentioned techniques, others prefer to innovate through unique ingredients and substitutes.
Milk substitutes made from the usual ingredients such as oats, almonds or soya are no longer anything unnatural on the vegan market, which is why the German start-up Vly has launched a milk made from yellow split peas. This pulse crop not only features an excellent CO2 balance, but also binds nitrogen. This improves soil quality and makes artificial fertiliser superfluous.
Looking at fish products, though, the American start-up Triton concentrates on the use of red algae. This protein source can be applied individually through precision fermentation, meaning that algae with a lot of omega oils is needed for tuna substitutes, whereas meat products require less omega oils, as otherwise a strong fishy taste occurs.
Besides establishing a unique selling point, the company states that people who suffer from the top ten allergies, such as nuts, soy or grains, still have the possibility to consume their meat or fish substitute.
As can be seen, a number of companies are currently emerging as well as new ideas and pathways for the plant-based market. After all, the 10.5% market growth per year provides an appeal for young companies to focus on vegan nutrition, but also an incentive for many investors to support it with financial buzz.