The Fi Global Start-up Innovation Challenge, hosted during Fi Europe, gave start-ups the opportunity to pitch their ideas to a jury of R&D experts, investors, and major food and beverage industry company representatives. Brevel was the deserved winner in the Most Innovative Plant-Based or Alternative Ingredient category.
We spoke with Brevel's chief business officer Yoav Earon about the challenges of developing innovative production processes, tapping opportunities in the plant-based protein market, and bringing sustainable nutrition to consumers.
Developing viable protein alternatives
Brevel’s award-winning technology combines the sugar-based fermentation of microalgae with a high concentration of light at industrial scale. The result is a protein that the company says is price competitive with pea and soy and – just as importantly – tasty. The start-up’s success is the result of years of dedication to developing an alternative protein ingredient that fully meets expectations for cost competitiveness, nutrition, and flavour.
“Brevel was co-founded by the three Golan brothers,” explains Yoav. “Matan, chief operating officer, trained as a surgeon and spent days treating unhealthy patients. He wanted to help people live a more healthy and nutritious life before they get to the point of needing a doctor. Ido, chief technical officer, is an engineer with a background in microalgae, who invented a new way of producing microalgae efficiently and at very high quality. Yonatan, chief executive officer, is vegan, and wanted to find solutions for feeding our growing population in a sustainable and ethical way.”
While all three agreed that microalgae provided the most viable solution to achieving this goal, they were aware that overcoming cost and quality issues has consistently presented a barrier to market entry for many alternative protein solutions.
For this reason, they decided to launch Brevel to fully address this challenge themselves. Their solution - to combine sugar-based fermentation and light in a single process - produces affordable, nutritious microalgae at very high yields.
“The uniqueness of our technology enables us to provide alternative protein that addresses all food sector concerns - flavour, colour, functionality, allergenicity, and cost,” says Yoav.
Scaling up to meet market demand
Brevel is confident that its innovation meets both industry needs and consumer expectations for sustainable nutrition. “Microalgae are by far the most sustainable source of protein on this planet,” explains Yoav. “Compared to soy - the leading plant-based protein today - microalgae are 99.95% more efficient in terms of land, 67% more efficient in greenhouse gas emissions and 55% more efficient in water usage.”
Current production methods employed by microalgae companies, says Yoav, are not cost-efficient enough for mass-market relevancy. On the other hand, alternative plant protein sources such as pea, hemp, and others may be cost efficient, but often lack performance in terms of flavour and functionality.
According to Yoav, Brevel's protein delivers a very mild flavour and colour, making it suitable for food applications where flavour masking is not an option - mostly plant-based dairy and egg alternatives. “These food applications currently don't have suitable solutions today at affordable costs,” he says.
Brevel is currently in discussions with food manufacturers around the world involved in developing plant-based products. The company is building its first commercial factory in Israel, with the aim of delivering products to shelves later this year.
“We are currently piloting with more than 30 different companies and are in the process of signing several commercial agreements,” says Yoav. “Our aim is to become the number one choice for plant-based protein worldwide.”
Fi Europe: A platform to bring innovation to the world
To this end, recognition from Fi Europe’s Start-up Innovation Challenge has helped to raise Brevel’s profile. “As a company with the goal of introducing a unique and innovative alternative protein to the market, Fi Europe was the perfect platform to showcase our product and get noticed by industry leaders,” says Yoav. “The award we received at the conference is a significant milestone for us, and recognises the hard work and dedication we have put into developing our protein.”
The Fi Europe conference also provided the Brevel team with a valuable learning experience. “We discovered many entrepreneurs and industry leaders who share our belief in a sustainable food industry,” says Yoav. “We were able to see that the market is ready for innovation, and is expecting it to come from start-ups like ours.”