2021 was a testing year for most, but the alternative proteins industry in Australia and New Zealand managed to rise above these challenges and continue their momentous progress. From major investments in the plant-based ingredient supply chain to a partnership between precision fermentation and cultivated meat start-ups, here are some of the region’s top moments in alternative proteins:
The world’s first carbon neutral plant-based mince
In February, Queensland plant-based meat company vEEF, by Fenn Foods, launched a Carbon Neutral Plant-Based Mince. The mince was the world’s first carbon neutral plant-based meat. Fenn Foods co-founder Alejandro Cancino and his wife and co-founder Paola Moro explained that the company’s commitment to the environment inspired them to undergo the six-month process necessary for carbon neutral accreditation. Cancino has since said the company plans to make sustainability a key focus and wants the entire range of vEEF products to eventually be carbon neutral. Later in the year, Fenn Foods also launched six new products under its vEEF brand, more than doubling its existing range.
Nourish Ingredients raise and partnership
ACT-based animal-free fat start-up Nourish Ingredients raised A$14.4 million in seed funding in March. Founded by former CSIRO scientists Dr James Petrie and Dr Ben Leita, Nourish Ingredients uses a precision fermentation process to create fat compounds that mimic those found in animal products. The animal-free fat is intended to be used in alternative proteins, helping what Dr Petrie calls the “mouth feel” of the products – which he says makes alternative proteins taste and feel like the real thing.
Later in September, Nourish Ingredients announced a partnership with Australian cultivated meat company Vow to create a new hybrid alternative protein. The partnership will see the startups flavouring cultivated meat products with “animal-free” fat – the key flavour element that Nourish claims enhances the palatability of meat.
APP raises $45M, expanding processing capacity for locally grown legumes
In April, Australian Plant Proteins (APP), the only commercial plant protein fractionation facility in Australia, received a A$45.7 million investment from major global agri-food company Bunge. APP first began production in its newly built Horsham facility in November 2020, using a proprietary fractionation process to produce protein isolates from Australian crops including faba beans, yellow peas, mung beans, chickpeas, red lentils and yellow lentils. The investment from Bunge has allowed APP to start increasing its output of locally grown plant protein isolates, a critical factor in enabling the local plant-based meat alternative sector to grow.
Eden Brew partners with a dairy giant
Precision fermentation start-up Eden Brew burst on to the alternative proteins scene in July by announcing a partnership with Australia’s largest dairy cooperative Norco, along with the CSIRO, to develop animal-free milk. Eden Brew said it has made scientific breakthroughs allowing the company to create casein micelles through a process of microbial fermentation and without a cow. The company is now backed by A$4 million in funding, technology and industry expertise from CSIRO offshoot Main Sequence Ventures and Norco, which will be responsible for producing the milk in their facilities and distributing it once commercialised.
As the first precision fermentation company working on producing dairy proteins in Australia, Jim Fader, CEO of Eden Brew, wants to preserve the company’s “first mover” advantage, saying “I believe that we sit in a world-leading position with the casein micelles production ability.”
v2food partners with universities to drive flavour research
November saw a new international food flavour facility launched at the University of Adelaide’s Waite campus in South Australia, in partnership with Australian plant-based meat company v2food and University of Nottingham. Researchers from both universities have now joined forces to explore the plant-based flavours and taste and sensory attributes of plant-based meat alternatives. The new A$2.5 million facility will expand the University of Nottingham’s renowned International Flavour Research Centre overseas and bring together scientists across chemistry, food and agriculture, under one team.
Industry partner Nick Hazell, CEO of v2food, said of the launch: “We’re delighted to be partnering with globally recognised researchers with a wealth of expertise to develop our next generation of sustainable and healthy plant protein products. Our leadership and development team are looking forward to working closely with the Centre to accelerate knowledge creation, new product development, and advance the quality of delicious, nutritious v2food.”
Sustainable plant-based jerky
In December, New Zealand start-up Off-Piste Provisions launched one of the country’s first plant-based meat jerkies. The launch followed a record-breaking pre-seed funding round that saw the young company raise NZ$1.5 million in just 48 hours. Development of the “perfect jerky texture” was the result of a year-long R&D project between Off-Piste, Massey University, and Callaghan Innovation, as well as a government grant of NZ$200,000. The resulting pea and fava bean-based snack is soy and gluten-free, with a hefty 45% protein content. CEO and Founder Jade Gray said that given his product is so realistic, “it’s actually geared towards meat-reducers and flexitarians”. Seeing the market opportunity with this broader consumer group, he explained “if we’re going to have an impact on greenhouse gas emissions, it needs to be in that demographic.”
ProForm Foods secures major investment
To close out the year, ProForm Foods, producer of plant-based meat brand MEET, secured a large investment from major Australian agri-food businesses Harvest Road. The announcement of the new partnership follows a big year for the company, with ProForm Foods launching a new range of MEET chilled products in Coles supermarkets across Australia, as well as in HelloFresh meal kits. CEO Matt Dunn explained that Harvest Road’s investment will help ProForm Foods accelerate its growth and expand its production facilities in northern Sydney, as the company targets a boost in sales both in Australia and internationally.
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