At Fi Europe in Paris this month, four startups were selected by the panel of judges for their stand-out solutions that are helping the food industry to develop healthier, more sustainable, and more affordable food and drink products.
Bio2Coat: Most innovative sustainable solution and Most innovative service, technology or digital solution
Bio2Coat is a Portuguese startup that produces edible natural coatings to extend the shelf-life of fruit and vegetables. It can also use this material to produce edible, sustainable packaging.
Bio2Coat so impressed the judges with its product and business plan that it scooped up two prizes at the Challenge: most innovative sustainable solution and most innovative service, technology or digital solution supporting the food and beverage industry.
Farayde Matta Fakhouri, co-founder of the company, said: “It’s an honour for us and we are grateful. It’s a sign that we are going in the right direction. We have now our plant and we want to start selling our products in four months. We are in our first round of investment at this moment.”
Kern Tec: Most innovative food or beverage ingredient
Austrian startup, Kern Tec, won first prize in the most innovative food or beverage ingredient category. It has developed a technology to remove harmful toxins from the kernels of stone fruit and open up this by-product to high value applications. It supplies a nut-paste preparation made using the upcycled kernels of apricot, cherry and other stone fruit kernels that have, until now, gone to waste. Manufacturers can then dilute this nut paste with water to create a plant-based milk or add dairy fermentation cultures to make yoghurts. Kern Tec also produces oils from the kernels.
After collecting the prize, co-founder and CTO Sebastian Jeshcko told us: “As a startup, you always try to wave your flag and show [...] to big corporates and food companies [that] you exist and have great food ingredients. This Startup Innovation Challenge award really helps us so that people can come to our booth, taste the products, and hopefully we will develop future products with them.”
Brevel: Most innovative plant-based or alternative ingredient
Israeli startup Brevel won a prize for producing the most innovative plant-based or alternative ingredient with its microalgae. It has developed a technology that combines sugar-based fermentation of microalgae with a high concentration of light at industrial scales.
Yoav Earon, chief business officer at Brevel, said he believed what had most impressed the judges was Brevel’s ability to bring down costs of microalgae-based ingredients, allowing manufacturers to produce affordable plant-based alternatives.
Vanilla Vida: Most innovative processing technology
Another Israeli startup, Vanilla Vida, won first prize in the most innovative processing technology category.
Gali Fried, vice president of business development and marketing, said this was the first time Vanilla Vida had been selected for such a competition. Just being nominated as a finalist in the Startup Innovation Challenge was an honour but to have won first prize in the category was even more exciting, she said.
“Vanilla is the most loved ingredient in the world but I think [what impressed the judges the most] was the ability to control the entire process from the tissue culture to the end raw material and to do it all by data,” she added.
The judges’ view: ‘There are impressive startups everywhere’
The difficult process of picking a winner took place at Station F in Paris, a global hub for startup innovation, after each startup pitched before the panel of judges.
“It was a difficult decision as the startups were all very high level. We had a lot of long discussions,” said Giancarlo Addario, principal at Five Seasons Ventures and Startup Innovation Challenge judge.
Itziar Ortega, senior vice president of global operations at Eatable Adventures and fellow judge, said she was impressed by the level of innovation currently happening in the food system. “We foresee a brilliant future when it comes to foodtech. There are very impressive startups everywhere in a global sense so there is more to come: more problems to tackle and more solutions to see!”
Finally, Thomas van den Boezem, principal at PeakBridge, agreed that while enough innovation was happening in the food industry, the problem was scaling it up.
“Our focus, not just as jury members to select the right innovations but also as investors and supporters of this ecosystem, is to make sure we scale these innovations. The challenges are global, they are not local, and so these companies need to become globally active as well to address the problems,” he said.