8 Israeli start-ups to keep an eye on
Early-stage foodtech companies producing next-gen ingredients and alternative proteins set to hit the market in the next six-to-twelve months
The past decade has seen a fervour of food innovation sweeping the Holy Land and there are no signs of it slowing down. Between 2013 and 2019, investments in Israeli foodtech start-ups have almost tripled and strategic collaborations with global food and drink companies continue to flourish – Israel’s foodtech ecosystem is made up of more than 300 start-ups and 17 universities and research centres.
As a global melting pot of cultures and religions, Israel had to establish every type of food company and production to ensure an attractive, authentic, and safe supply for all its population. This approach established a base of vast knowledge and expertise in food technologies, allowing entrepreneurs to get local support for almost every need.
Foodtech innovation incubator, The Kitchen FoodTech Hub, addresses global food challenges by harnessing Israel’s renowned innovation capabilities. The hub is part of the Strauss Group, one of the largest food products manufacturers in Israel.
“We are not only seed-stage investors but also company builders with more than 18 companies in our portfolio, all making vast contributions to the future of food,” said Jonathan Berger, The Kitchen’s chief executive.
“The Kitchen is currently completing investments in a few new start-ups with breakthrough technologies and will continue supporting portfolio companies to raise capital in Series A rounds and penetrating global markets.”
Plant-based meat and other protein alternatives are the biggest global food trend today, yet it is not a new concept for the Israeli consumer: vegans, vegetarians and flexitarians make up close to 40% of the Israeli population, and in 1985, food company Tivall pioneered a range of animal-free meat.
Food technology is required in all areas of the food and drink value chain, and there is a strong focus on alternative proteins.
Below is a list of eight Israeli foodtech start-ups generating positive transformations in the global food landscape.
Headquartered in Givat Brenner, located 45-minutes’ drive south of Tel Aviv, Equinom breeds non-GMO seeds with exceptional characteristics, superior nutritional profiles, and outstanding crop yields.
Equinom is the only legume and sesame breeder designing seeds exclusively for the food industry, offering food manufacturers many ingredient possibilities to feed the explosive growth in the plant-based market.
The company developed Smarter Sesame, a mechanical harvestable seed already in commercial production in 10 different countries.
With a new office also in Indianapolis, Indiana, the start-up has raised $16 million and is currently approaching its C round funding stage.
Investors supporting Equinom include Fortissimo Capital, BASF, Roquette Freres, The Danzinger Group, Trendlines, and Hazera.
Foodtech start-up Aleph Farms is based in Rehovot, a city in the Central District of Israel, about 20 kilometres south of Tel Aviv. The company cultivates cells to produce minute steaks.
Aleph Farms grows slaughter-free meat cells in a lab under controlled conditions, eliminating risks of pathogen or contaminants.
Last year, the company secured $12 million in a Series A round and attracted strategic partners and venture capital, including Cargill and M-Industry, part of the Swiss Migros Group.
Aleph’s new product development is focused on beef steak. The completion of the first commercial development is expected by the end of this year, leading to a limited production run scheduled for 2022.
Flying Spark is developing a new source of alternative protein powder based on the Mediterranean fruit fly larvae for business-to-business products in the food, pet food, aquaculture and cosmetic industries.
A fully sustainable ingredient, Flying Spark’s insect-based powder is naturally high in protein, calcium, iron, and magnesium. It is also odourless and flavourless and can be easily integrated into any food or feed matrix.
Farming the larvae requires minimal water, almost no land, and little human intervention. This low carbon footprint set up allows for clean farming and gives Flying Spark a sustainable edge over animal, poultry, and seafood farming.
Following the formation of a strategic partnership, including investment last year from Thai Union, a multinational seafood company, the start-up set up a new additional base in Thailand, marking a significant milestone in bringing insect protein to the mainstream.
Rehovot-based Better Juice is deemed the first foodtech start-up to develop a technology to reduce all types of sugars in orange juice.
The company created an enzymatic bioconversion process that uses all-natural non-GMO microorganisms to convert fructose, glucose, and sucrose into prebiotic dietary fibres and other non-digestible molecules.
The resulting juice maintains the full flavour and naturally occurring complement of vitamins and nutrients of the fruits.
Better Juice has secured contracts with several global orange juice producers, including the Brazil-based giant Citrosuco. The company has also secured additional investments from The Kitchen Hub and Maverick.
This year, the company announced it began scaling up its lab prototype to a semi-industrial device and is just one step away from being fully commercial.
Better Juice founder and chief executive Eran Blanchisky said the company will extend pilot production in several facilities in the EU, US, Brazil, and Mexico. Plans on the table also include the construction of a full production line next autumn.
Zero Egg is a foodtech company in Kfar Saba, a city located 30-minutes’ drive northeast of Tel Aviv. The company developed a powdered egg alternative to replace eggs in multiple applications.
Zero Egg’s powder delivers the flavour, appearance, and functionality of ordinary eggs yet is vegan and based on a unique blend of plant proteins.
The product is free of cholesterol and GMO and offers a sustainable option that dramatically reduces water, land and energy use compared to traditional animal-based production.
Zero Egg is available in powder form to foodservice outlets as a cost-effective platform for creating plant-based dishes, such as omelettes, scrambled eggs, frittatas, cakes, cookies and sauces.
The company sells products in Israel and The Netherlands and is set to debut in the US in September.
Zero Egg has attracted investments from The Kitchen Hub and New Crop Capital VC, and is currently raising funds in a Series A round with bridge capital from Valor Equity Partners.
Yofix has developed a line of dairy-free, soy-free yoghurt alternatives based on a unique, clean-label formula that uses a handful of highly nutritious natural ingredients, including lentils and oats.
The product is traditionally fermented and contains live probiotic cultures plus the prebiotic fibres that feed them.
Yofix claims to hit all the right targets for flavour, texture, nutrition, and eco-friendliness. It has no added sugars, nor added flavours, colours, or preservatives.
In 2019, the start-up raised $2.5 million in a Series A round with strategic investment from Germany-based Muller Ventures, the French Bel Group, and Lion Tree Partners.
Last July, the company introduced to the UK market Yo’Ridge, its first new breakfast concept. The product is a breakfast pot that marries real cultured vegan yoghurt and porridge, offering a nutritious, probiotic-rich, ready-to-eat alternative to cereals. Yofix was the first start-up to join The Kitchen Hub.
Based in Tel Aviv, More Foods developed a tasty and scalable textured plant-based meat alternative with a mission to eliminate the use of animals in the food system.
Founder Leonardo Marcovitz said More Foods products are based on an all-natural blend of secret ingredients, which will be revealed upon hitting the market in spring next year.
More Foods’ flagship product contains approximately 24% protein and Marcovitz says it delivers a compelling umami experience.
The company recently passed the proof-of-concept stage and is expected to enter pilot production within six months. The start-up is in the early phases of seed investment.
Rehovot-based ChickP has created next-generation chickpea protein isolates specifically designed for plant-based dairy, meat and egg alternative products.
The new plant protein technology was developed by the faculty of Agriculture, Food, and Environment of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. It uses a patent-pending mechanism to extract up to 90% pure protein out of the chickpea seed.
ChickP was born out of founder and pediatric gastroenterologist Ram Reifen’s desire to find a plant-based solution to alleviate malnutrition and to improve nutrition and health for children and their parents. Now, the business also targets sports nutrition.
These eight Israeli companies are just a handful of brands paving the way for the future of food.
In Israel, foodtech start-ups are also focusing on food safety, traceability, and the reduction of food waste.
Kiryat Shemona, a city located two-hours’ drive north of Tel Aviv, is home to a new government-backed food-tech incubator. It’s only a matter of time before we see what other novel ideas will crop up.