As the world comes to grip with the need to transition to greener, cleaner and more sustainable ways of operating, pretty much all aspects of our lives are undergoing some form of change. From the way we move around cities and the clothes we wear, to how we heat our homes and fuel our bodies, a Green transition is firmly underway.
This transition is largely being enabled by tech developments – making it easier for us to become more sustainable, easier for us to consider consciously-minded decisions, and make sustainability second nature. Now, virtually every sphere of our lives, and virtually every industry, has seen pioneering new developments that are aiming to develop fresh new approaches with the aspiration to create a happier planet for the future.
The food industry is no exception.
It’s reported that the food industry accounts for about 35% of carbon emissions and agriculture is one of the top three industry polluters, making the food system one of the most environmentally damaging that there is.
As sustainability and GreenTech become key priorities across Europe’s startup and entrepreneurial community, it’s the foodtech space is growing at a rapid pace. We are now seeing new developments in terms of the food products we can buy and the way in which it’s produced – to name just a couple of the growing sectors. This year, we have seen startups like Heura and Meatable pick up big funds, and the food revolution is well and truly on. You can also check out this list of foodtech startups that we think you should watch over the next year.
Founded in 2013, InnovoPro is one of the startups making an impact in the foodtech space. The Israel-based startup, led by Taly Nechushtan, offers a chickpea protean platform that is on a mission to use the humble legume as a sustainable and healthy alternative to animal-based proteins, filling the market need for plant-based, sustainably-produced alternatives. We chatted with InnovoPro CEO Taly to learn more:
Can you tell us about your entrepreneurial story? How did you come to be CEO of a foodtech startup?
I have worked in various fields throughout my career – from marketing management for food corporations all the way to founding a renewable energy company. This journey allowed me to gain a better understanding of why prioritizing a sustainable approach in how we grow and process our food is so important. As the first employee of InnovoPro, the first few months were focused on understanding the ecosystem and learning as much as possible about global consumer behaviors. I realized that what we do in at InnovoPro – extracting a protein from chickpea in a sustainable way – will significantly impact the future of food.
Can you tell us about InnovoPro – what’s the vision and mission of the company?
InnovoPro is a fast-growing FoodTech company that produces a unique, award-winning, chickpea protein-based platform for the global B2B food & nutrition market.
At InnovoPro, we aim to transform the way people across the globe eat by helping our customers create products that people feel good about not only because they taste great, but also because they are sustainable, clean label, and healthier than other options on the market today.
Why the chickpea? What makes it a great protein alternative?
Chickpea is a superfood with excellent nutritional value and according to industry leaders such as Whole Foods, it is within the top 10 food trends that will experience significant growth. The main attributes that make chickpea protein a great solution for the plant-based market are the neutral taste and its high functionality. It is quite versatile and can be incorporated into various categories, such as dairy alternatives, through meat analogues and up to egg replacements.
At Innovopro, we implement a sustainable approach by utilizing a rotational crop that is good for the farmers. The chickpeas are sourced locally, produced using a green process, and provides our customers an opportunity to clean up their label and shorten their ingredient list. All these advantages make chickpea protein a unique product that gives consumers and the industry as a whole “all in one” solution for many different needs. Leveraging chickpea protein also allows for the formulation of high-quality clean label products, without compromising taste or appearance. Furthermore, chickpea protein can be used by many different industrial processes and for preparing different applications – a unique value in the plant-based protein market.
Foodtech is growing pretty quickly at the moment – why do you think that is? And how can we keep up momentum?
The interest in Food Tech is on the rise. In its earlier years, the industry started with small, designated funds that have developed into much bigger VCs. Today, ClimaTech and big Financial Institutions fund and invest in the ecosystem. Although the pandemic and other world turbulences have slowed down investments globally, the FoodTech industry is still attracting financial investors and corporate funds.
How can food tech startups leverage the growing food revolution?
FoodTech startups are at the forefront of the food revolution and as more people adopt vegetarian and vegan diets, new sources of plant-based proteins are being sought by the food producers. As of 2022, 42% of global consumers consider themselves flexitarians and are driving mainstream plant-based shift. Adopting a sustainable approach leads the global food industry to search for new innovations in plant-based proteins as a way to meet the consumers’ rising demand for tastier and more sustainable food choices.
The global consumers need for clean-label products is also on the rise as they are seeking out foods with a shorter list of ingredients. This is also supported by the market research Euromonitor International, which uncovered that clean-label was selected as one of the trends that will shape the future of the food industry.
Which plant-based trend do you think is here to stay? And which one do you most want to see stay?
Trend 1: Nutrition and sustainability playing a bigger role as brands refine the next generation of plant-based foods.
Trend 2: Natural and Clean Label Ingredients. Many manufacturers are starting
to make linkages between great taste and all natural flavorings.
Trend 3: Back to the roots. Consumers increasingly value the functionality, freshness, and authenticity of local food.
Why is investing in alt-protein and foodtech important for our food system?
The world population is booming while today’s food systems are failing. How we produce and consume food is the biggest driver of using natural resources. It is also what’s driving greenhouse gas emissions to surge. A western diet rich in sugar and carbs is leaving billions obese, overweight, and ill. Additionally, a huge amount of the food we produce is going to waste instead of being utilized efficiently and locally.
Our food systems are inefficient and unsustainable, and climate change and nature loss are reducing food security around the world. Investing in alternative protein can have an incredibly positive impact on our environment and the health of our consumers. And with new technologies and efficient food systems on the rise, we will be able to change the course of global warming and its bad effects.
How is going plant-based helping make society more sustainable? And what can businesses do to promote it?
Promoting a more plant-based approach diet is integral to accomplishing sustainability goals. The meat and dairy industries alone use one third of Earth’s fresh water, so this is a very serious problem that impacts both the Food and Beverage industry and everyone around the world.
Businesses have a duty to reevaluate their supply chains to ensure that they’re not producing too much waste or have unsustainable business practices. To incentivize a plant-based culture at work, businesses have conducted some very interesting experiments to encourage employees to explore the world of plant-based alternatives.
How do we bring about a societal shift in our mentality towards plant protein? What are the biggest challenges in your opinion?
While a societal shift in our eating practices is easier said than done, it can be accomplished if a few things are kept top of mind. First, we must remember that big paradigm shifts are usually generated by small decisions that we make in our daily lives. Going to a grocery store and opting to explore plant-based alternatives over the traditional meat and dairy selection is a great first step that only requires an open mind. Second, when we explore new plant-based alternatives, we should remember what the benefits are. There are the larger societal benefits around energy consumption, but what usually resonates the most with consumers are the personal benefits. These include lowering one’s cholesterol and sodium intake, lowering one’s risk of cancer by avoiding artificial preservatives, and boosting one’s energy levels by avoiding all the meat and dairy products that can negatively impact our health overall.
Europe is famous for food – from French fine dining to Italian culinary heritage – how can food tech build upon our gastronomic culture?
Europe is a culinary powerhouse with extremely delicious food. Whether you enjoy a French or Italian dinner at home, using fresh and quality components is always the best choice for healthy living.
With that being said, we have adopted an “on-the-go” lifestyle, eating fast food outdoors or grabbing an industrialized snack. FoodTech is here to provide additional solutions without compromising on taste, while enabling the food industry to formulate better food choices that are also good for the planet.
What are your plans for InnovoPro over the next few years?
InnovoPro plans to further develop new chickpea protein-based solutions to support our customers in formulating better food choices. As part of our sustainable business model, we also aim to utilize all chickpea side-streams and implement a “zero-waste” plan for the production process.
As we intend to significantly increase our growth trajectory worldwide, we are now expanding to new territories and targeting North America and Asia. This will allow us to continue our ongoing search for new opportunities to provide alternative and more sustainable protein-rich products.