Featured in image: Willicroft‘s vegan cheese

The new faces of the protein transition

In May we announced Fastlane, a program for ventures leading the way in the protein transition. In partnership with Foodvalley and InvestNL, the program enables teams with innovative technologies to fast track their growth, in order to attract the right investors.

After receiving quite a number of applications, 6 candidates were invited for a selection day on July 29th. There, a jury of experts analysed whether each company had what it takes to scale – strategy, competitive edge, team, ambition, financials and consistency in their execution. Four companies ultimately convinced the panel that they are one of the leading runners in the future of the protein industry, granting them a spot at the program, coming September: Rival Foods, Grassa, De Nieuwe Melkboer and Willicroft. Learn more about each of them below.

Willicroft gets its name from the farm that the founder’s grandparents built in the 1950’s. In the Willicroft farm animals were treated lovingly, had plenty of room too graze, and lived long healthy lives. But Brad knows that “even the happiest cows still have a negative impact on the environment”, as he puts it.

When he shifted to a plant-based diet a few years ago, Brad saw one big opportunity – creating cheese that would be on par with the existing meat and milk replacements. Combining age old techniques with a more planet-friendly ingredient base, Willicroft’s plant-based product line ranges from white cheese, to a grated variety, to cheese fondue.

Grassa is leading the way in biorefining – a technology that processes grass and other green residues into excellent sources of protein for animal feed. It creates 3 major advantages:

  • Less waste, as grassland and other residual flows can be repurposed for new protein (creating additional income for farmers and gardeners as a bonus)
  • Less greenhouse gas emissions, because animals digest refined grass more efficiently, as it doesn’t contain any unused proteins that are later converted into ammonia and nitrogen
  • Limits need for large-scale import of soy, by creating a steady source of animal feed locally

A lot of existing plant-based alternatives to meat require the consumer to make some concession on taste. Ultimately, they’re doing it for the planet, not for the food experience. But Rival Foods is determined to change that. Using a newly developed technology, they produce plant-based whole-cuts, which promise to offer “unparalleled fibrous texture, rich mouthfeel and high juiciness”, using minimal ingredients. There are 3 ready-to-be-cooked rival products: “on land”, “at sea”, or “with wings”.

Bart and Tom, the founders of De Nieuwe Melkboer have a long family history of producing cow’s milk. And much like the founder of Willicroft, they now want to do it their way – the vegetable way. In 2017 they harvested their first batch of soy in Twente, and were convinced of its possibilities as a milk-producing crop. Using local ingredients and distributing their product locally, De Nieuwe Melkboer aims to shorten the supply chain. The team also hopes to inspire other Dutch farmers to do things differently and go vegetable.

Are interested in joining Fastlane in the future? Contact fastlane@invest-nl.nl.

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