13 Indian innovators at Smart Protein Summit 2020

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Plant-based food and ingredients start-ups in the spotlight at this year’s Smart Protein Summit in India
Assorted indian food on black background..

Smart Protein Summit 2020 drew to a close on 10 October attracting 2,300 attendees to its virtual stage. Organised by Good Food Institute India, the five-day event brought together food industry experts, investors, and alternative protein start-ups with a shared vision of shaping the food of the future in the country.

The keynote speech of Josh Tetrick, chief executive of plant-based egg replacement Just, kicked off the summit – he discussed the implications for society if we got rid of the assumption that an egg has to come from an animal.

Tetrick reported that Just has sold 50 million eggs made from mung beans. He pointed out that the company wants to improve the nutrition of the global population, particularly in India, as the populace is known to suffer from micronutrient deficiency.

During the summit, Good Food Institute India revealed that several initiatives are under way, including international trade corridors, and the creation of an India-focused food accelerator with the support of Big Idea Ventures and financial giant Ashika Group.

The accelerator is aimed at supporting alternative protein entrepreneurs with mentorship, investment, and access to stakeholders in the value chain to help entrepreneurs get their products to market and build best-in-class companies. It is scheduled to launch in the second half of next year.

Each day of the summit served as a virtual platform where local start-ups and food innovators showcased their alternative protein products and presented their business to a panel of plant-based food consultants and investment executives, engaging with potential customers and connecting with attendees.

Below is a review of 13 companies making waves in India’s alternative protein scene.

Proeon Foods

Founded by Kevin Parekh and Ashish Korde in 2018, Proeon Foods claims to produce plant protein ingredients with superior nutrition, functional, and sensory profiles. The ingredients are made out of well-known protein sources like chickpea and mung beans, as well as less explored plants, such as amaranth, fava bean, and hemp seeds.

Proeon said each type of ingredient is targeted at a particular application area in the alternative protein space – fava beans, for example, are for meat replacement and meat blend products.

The company argued that its ambition is to enable healthier eating, conscious food consumption, and cruelty-free food practices that have a long-term impact on the environment.

Amaranth-based protein

Speaking at the summit, the company’s founders explained its ingredients portfolio has enormous potential, especially the amaranth protein – tests show unprecedented emulsification properties, making it ideal for use in plant-based milk and dairy products.

The company said it aims to reach a turnover of $10 million in the next four years by developing an intellectual property portfolio for the process and composition of ingredients.

Parekh concluded the presentation reflecting on the need for more variety of ingredients through indigenous crops to support the alternative protein market in India.

Plantmade

Liquid egg company Plantmade is the brainchild of researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi. The company aims to introduce cleaner sources of protein in a price point similar to the animal counterparts while providing nutrients that are cholesterol- and gluten-free.

Funded by Four Pursuits Ventures, Plantmade’s research led to the creation of a liquid egg product from lentils. The company has engaged restaurants and chefs, testing the product in multiple recipes – from cooking to baking.

Plantmade has also contacted multiple stakeholders in the market, including contract manufacturing partners and packaging vendors, and reports being on track to scaling up its egg production output from 1 kg a day to 200 kg.

At the summit, Plantmade’s chief of innovation, Prakarshi Pulkit, said that during the Covid-19 lockdown, the company was able to formulate a recipe for coconut milk paste for instant beverages. The new offering has been available for purchase online.

Pulkit also revealed that Plantmade is currently working on more plant-based dairy products, including dips, cheese, and paneer. The company wants to expand distribution across India and grow its portfolio to manufacture plant-based chicken, mutton, beef, and turkey.

Brew51

Formed on 8 June, World Ocean Day, Brew51 strives to replicate the look, texture, and taste of fish in whole cut format. The company, which produces an alternative protein via a precision fermentation process, is one of the five start-ups selected to join India’s Humane Entrepreneurship Program cohort of 2020.

Brew51 has received mentorship from Sandhya Sriram, chief executive and co-founder of cell-based shrimp maker Shiok Meats.

Speaking at the summit, Brew51’s founder, Ravali Amba, said the company has seen encouraging results in the making of its proof of concept. The start-up is using equipment designed for the process during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Brew51 seeks to raise $200,000 in the future to progress from a few batches to mass production.

Amba pointed out that Brew51’s point of difference lies in producing whole cuts of fish. The company is trying to replicate the white stripes on salmon and add fatty acids to the cut.

Mister Veg Food

Plant-based meat start-up Mister Veg Food was founded in 2018. With a production facility in Faridabad, an industrial centre bordering New Delhi, the company produces plant-based meat in different formats, including meat chunks, strips, minced beef, and fish – pomfret and salmon.

The company currently sells plant-based meat in a ready-to-eat format designed to suit Indian cuisine and has roped in a few restaurants and eateries. Mister Veg expects to partner with quick-service restaurants in the future.

At the summit, Mister Veg co-founder Simarjeet Singh explained the company has been part of the ProVeg Incubator since March and is ready to translate the lessons from the programme into a go-to-market plan.

Blue Tribe Foods

With a mission to revolutionise how the world consumes meat, Blue Tribe Foods targets the non-vegetarian consumer by offering plant-based minced meat and chicken nuggets in pre-cooked frozen formats.

The company was founded by Sandeep Singh, managing director of pharmaceutical company Alkem Labs, and his wife, with the aim to launch its first products to market in November.

Speaking at the summit, Blue Tribe Foods’ chief marketing officer Sohail Wazir said the plan is to make products available at storefronts, online groceries, restaurants, quick-service restaurants, and ghost kitchens.

Greenest

Greenest is a Delhi-based start-up founded in 2017 to produces plant-based kebabs. The company has invested time and resources in consumer research, informing its product development to appeal to the target audience. Greenest plans to launch five-to-six SKUs for the frozen aisle.

Speaking at the summit, Greenest founder Gaurav Sharma argued that high moisture extrusion machines are the business’s Achilles heel, as they determine the quality of the product.

Sharma also explained the strategy is to capture the market in and around Delhi before progressing with expansion plans into other regions in India.

Greenest has identified 10 target cities for expansion and revealed it is already working on new products in its pipeline. 

SoftSpot

Plant-based cheese company SoftSpot produces a range of cheese alternatives made with cashew cream and coconut oil. The company said that its first products hit the market after 18 months of product development.

Speaking at the summit, founder Anushi Patel explained the focused is on bringing out the right flavour and taste at a competitive price. Patel noted that working on the recipe for its mozzarella cheese has been the most challenging R&D work so far.

The SoftSpot product range is currently available on Amazon and other online stores, and Patel reported the business has remained profitable during the Covid-19 lockdown.

With a presence in five cities through online stores, SoftSpots seeks to expand its distribution to storefronts in other cities.

In the future, the company aims to add nutritional benefits to the range, introduce eco-friendly packaging, and launch new formats including slices and shreds.

Supplant

Supplant is a plant-based ingredient start-up. Founded in 2018, the company produces unflavoured chickpea flour, targeting multiple applications, notably vegan dairy and eggs products.

Raw chickpeas

The company said it has invested significant time and resources in extracting other ingredients from plants to target ready-to-eat snacks and plant-based dairy, and said it filed for IP protection for these products.

It plans to supply novel ingredients to plant-based companies in the West and eventually develop a range of plant-based eggs, dairy, and meat in India.

FemtoFarad

FemtoFarad is a start-up backed by a team of biotechnologists and industry experts with more than 30 years of experience combined. The company aims to develop plant-based meat products that combine protein extracted from algae and other plant-based protein.

The team has been working on a technique to isolate edible, non-GMO microalgae. This work led the team to produce heme, an ingredient essential to delivering the meat-like taste of plant-based products.

The team formulated a blend of heme extract and tested with multiple plant-based proteins including peas, chickpeas, and moong, creating a range of plant-based meat patty and loaf under the BornMeat brand.

The team claims to have developed a robust and scalable technology for the extraction of ingredients required for plant-based meat alternative. The company’s infrastructure comprises a combination of modular raceway ponds for heme isolation, integrated circuit, and a computerised vision module.

At the summit, the company announced to have filed IP protection for its manufacturing process, preservatives, and reductants.

Evo Foods

Plant-based egg start-up Evo Foods was established in Mumbai early last year to disrupt India’s traditional egg market with a plant-based alternative.

Evo Foods uses a combination of advanced plant biochemistry and food science to extract proteins from legumes and other plant sources.

The company created a liquid egg and claims the product is a sustainable and tasty replica of the animal counterpart, but without cholesterol, antibiotics, or animal cruelty.

Supported by business accelerator Big Idea Ventures, Evo Foods has gained international recognition and is known to be Asia’s first plant-based egg start-up to have raised capital from international investors. The company is now also backed by pet food company Wild Earth.

The summit also lent its platform to showcase start-ups developing cultivated meat and alternative protein via fermentation processes. Early-stage businesses in the spotlight were Myoworks, StingBio, and Clear Meat.

India’s celebrity couple, the actors Ritesh and Genelia Deshmukh, founders of plant-based start-up Imagine Meats, also joined the summit, and in a panel discussion, they expressed the need for making India the source of raw material for alternative protein.

Closing the summit, Indra Nooyi, former chief executive of PepsiCo, delivered a keynote speech, encouraging attendees to invest in health, and work towards a positive change of the food system.

About the author

Rithika Ponnala
Rithika Ponnala
Senior research analyst

Senior research analyst Rithika Ponnala is based in India. She has experience in product and service market research and consulting. A plant-based food advocate, Ponnala confesses that becoming a vegan is an aspiration of her own.

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