Melt&Marble (formerly Biopetrolia), a company working on fermentation-based production of animal fats, has closed a seed round of €750K led by Nordic FoodTech VC. Other investors include Paulig’s venture arm PINC, Purple Orange Ventures, and Chalmers Ventures. The funding is a kick-start for the company’s new mission of providing delicious and sustainable fats for plant-based foods.
The demand for plant-based meat alternatives has grown rapidly and the selection of great products to cater the demand has expanded quickly. However, there is still a taste gap between plant-based and animal-based meats. Melt&Marble aims to erase this gap by supplying plant-based meats with a key component: delicious animal fat, without the animal.
Founded in 2016, Melt&Marble uses precision fermentation to produce its fats. By engineering the metabolism of yeasts, the team can mimic any fat structure as well as create completely new and better fats. Due to this flexibility, Melt&Marble’s technology can produce tailored fats for a range of plant-based products.
“Fat is key to the experience of eating a delicious piece of meat”, said Anastasia Krivoruchko, founder and CEO of Melt&Marble. “Because the properties of plant-based fats are different from those of animal fats, the experience of eating many plant-based meats has so far been subpar compared to the real thing. This is something we want to address. With our technology, we can create fats that are identical to animal fats, or even better! This could become a booster for the entire industry.”
The fat in current plant-based meats is mostly coconut fat and palm oil. It takes up to ten years for a coconut tree to produce its first crop and twenty years to reach best harvests. The trees also take space from precious tropical biodiversity.
“With the rate that plant-based meat is growing at, there won’t be enough coconut trees to sustain the demand”, explained Lauri Reuter, partner at Nordic FoodTech VC. “If we are to replace a meaningful part of animal production with plant-based meats, we need a more sustainable and scalable source for fats. If there is one team that can make it happen, it is Melt&Marble. They have spent over ten years in the field and have developed an unmatched technology platform to create an animal-mimicking fat without the animal.”
The founders of Melt&Marble, Dr. Anastasia Krivoruchko (CEO), Dr. Florian David (CSO) and Professor Jens Nielsen (chair of the board) are top-tier researchers in microbial engineering and precision fermentation.
The company’s technology platform has been under development since 2010, first within Jens Nielsen’s world-leading research group at Chalmers University of Technology. As a result, the team has accumulated deep expertise and solid IPR on using precision fermentation for production of various lipids (fats and similar products).
The company was originally founded as a patent holding company for the research group, financed by providing yeast engineering services to larger companies. In 2021, the founders decided to pivot and focus on creating their own line of fat products for plant-based meats. “We realized that there was this huge need in the market that our technology, which we’ve already been developing for years, was perfectly suitable to address”, explained Florian David.
The group’s R&D efforts are underpinned by technologies such as metabolic engineering & synthetic biology, metabolic modelling, and high throughput screening.
The founders expect to taste the first prototypes of beef-like fat by the end of the year. Juicy meat-loving consumers may still need to wait for the next generation of plant-based meats a couple of years longer.
Besides R&D, the team is planning to use the funding to strengthen the management team and is currently looking for a commercial executive officer with strong leadership and business development skills.