The Skinny on Fat: Two Female-Founded Firms Offer Solutions to Advance Alternative & Cultured Fats
By Lynda Kiernan-Stone, Global AgInvesting Media (July 18, 2023)
Reprinted from our sister publication, Global AgInvesting News
If asked about the relationship that humans have with fat, the answer would likely be “it’s complicated”. At the same time that we malign and avoid fat, eons of survival instincts have hardwired our brains to send strong “reward signals” when we eat foods high in fat, or carbs. It’s a balancing act.
Well, as plant-based and cultured foods continue to grow in popularity in response to consumer demand, these industries have consistently faced a common challenge - how to source and incorporate alternative fats into products in a way that provides optimum taste, texture, and satisfaction.
Where there is a challenge to be solved there also exists opportunity. And investors are deploying capital to drive innovations that can open the sluice gate holding back alternative and cultured meats. Here we profile two startups, founded by female entrepreneurs, that are working to provide solutions to the challenging question of fat, and successfully securing the funding they need to drive change.
With a foundation in microbial fermentation, Sweden’s Melt&Marble uses precision fermentation technology to create non-animal fats for the plant-based food sector that have the same properties as animal fats, enabling companies to bridge the “taste gap” between conventional, animal-based foods and their plant-based alternatives.
To advance its work, the company announced that it closed on €5 million (US$5.26 million) in Seed funding led by Lever VC to be used to scale up production and expand its team. Additional investors who participated in the round included new investors Be8 Ventures and Good Startup, and existing investors Nordic Foodtech VC, PINC (Paulig Incubator), and Chalmers Ventures.
“While most people accept that we must minimize our consumption of animal-based foods, plant-based alternatives face a big hurdle,” said Dr. Anastasia Krivoruchko, CEO and co-founder, Melt&Marble. “The plant-based fats currently used simply do not feel, act and taste like animal-based fats. As a result, the food does not taste as good, making it less attractive to consumers. As far as we’re aware, this is the first beef-like fat prototype produced via precision fermentation. It is a groundbreaking step towards making plant-based meat tastier.”
The technology making this possible has been spun out of research conducted over the past decade by company co-founders Dr. Krivoruchko, Dr. Florian David, and Professor Jens Nielsen at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden.
This work resulted in the company’s latest prototype that testing has indicated displays the gradual melting quality of beef fat, allowing for a slower flavor release and improved juiciness. Furthermore, this technology can be used to produce fats of various animals, making it an industry-wide game changing prospect.
“Melt&Marble’s fermentation-derived beef fat will facilitate the step change in product quality that companies in the space have been striving for, increasing the size of their addressable markets and accelerating consumer uptake,” said James Caffyn, partner, Lever VC. “We have been hugely impressed by the progress Dr. Krivoruchko and her team have made and are excited to support them in their growth.”
The capital raised through this round will enable Melt&Marble to accelerate its path toward commercialization by expanding its R&D platform, scaling up production, conducting extensive testing, and expanding its team. Toward this end the company is actively recruiting microbial and bioprocess engineers, and is looking for candidates to fill the position of head of food science to grow its food technology team.
Another European startup, Spain-based Cubiq Foods, has also raised €5.75 million (US$6 million) in funding from Cargill, Moira Capital Partners, SGEIC, and Newtree Impact.
Based in Barcelona and founded in 2018 by Dr. Raquel Revilla, Andrés Montefeltro, and Jordi Bladé, Cubiq Foods is the first cultivated cell platform to produce alternative fats high in omega-3s.
Using cell culture, microencapsulation of omega-3 oils, and new oil/water emulsion formulas, Cubiq Foods is developing a technology platform to produce cell-based oils rich in omega-3s along with novel, patented methods to prepare oil and water emulsions suitable to replace saturated vegetable and animal fat ingredients in food production.
Achieving this at scale will place Cubiq Foods as a leader in the “daily dose omega-3” benchmark. In mid-2021 the company saw the successful launch of Go!Drop - a fat replacer that offers improved juiciness, a full flavor profile, and fewer calories with less saturated fat and only 20 percent oil, making it a viable alternative to animal fats in processed foods and saturated vegetable fats, such as coconut oil, in plant-based foods.
The money from this round will support Cubiq Foods in expanding its commercial and production operations in North America and Europe, and to launch new products for a growing customer base. In connection with these goals, Cubiq Foods explained that Cargill’s participation in this funding round is a “first step” in a strategic partnership that include a product development plan and a commercial agreement for the marketing and selling of Cubiq Foods’ products.
“Consumer interest in plant-based protein continues to be a strong trend, expanding the innovation opportunity for food manufacturers looking to address this demand,” said Vivek Cherian, meat and dairy alternatives category leader for edible oils, Cargill. “Our strategic partnership with CUBIQ FOODS will help us better serve our customers by accelerating the development of plant-based alternatives that offer the taste, texture and flavor, as well as the nutritional profile and sustainability story, that they and their consumers desire.”
“Cubiq Foods help food producers to succeed!” said Andrés Montefeltro, co-founder and CEO, Cubiq Foods. “Our improvements to nutrition and juiciness with healthier fats reduce dependance on scarce ingredients and meet sustainability goals in the food chain.”
~ Lynda Kiernan-Stone is editor with GAI Media, and is managing editor and daily contributor for Global AgInvesting’s AgInvesting Weekly News and Agtech Intel News, as well as HighQuest Group’s Unconventional Ag. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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