What’s one of the few things every human needs to survive? Food. So it’s no wonder there’s fierce competition among food and beverage startups — the next big innovation in the space could translate to a planet full of customers.
Food startups are no longer just about pastures and orchards: Technology is at the forefront of innovating what we eat and how it's made. Successful brands have to provide delicious, nutritious products, while solving growing environmental crises that are disrupting the way food is grown, manufactured, and eaten.
In the near future, whether you’re scrambling up an omelet, grilling a steak, or savoring some chocolate, you may be able to do it all without touching an animal product.
Read on for eight companies breaking ground so we can break bread:
Food and beverage packaging waste makes up more than half of the world’s ocean litter. Singapore-based Alterpacks is killing two birds with one stone — turning food waste into takeout boxes and containers.
Founded in 2019, the company is FDA certified and has raised $1m in pre-seed funding thus far.
Its containers are made from spent grains, such as malt and barley, that food manufacturers use in their production cycles. These grains would normally go to landfills to be used as compost or animal feed, but the startup upcycles them into 100% organic containers.
The containers are freezer and microwave friendly, and reusable — the company makes utensils, too.
Eat Just's egg sandwich
2. Eat Just
One of the trailblazers in the plant-based food industry is Eat Just, founded in 2011 and now valued at $1.2B. Its main product is Just Egg, a plant-based egg substitute made from mung beans that comes in a squirt bottle and can be scrambled like a chicken egg.
The company also houses a cultivated meat division, Good Meat, which was the first to receive regulatory approval to sell cultivated meat to consumers in Singapore in 2020.
The startup says it’s sold the equivalent of 350m chicken eggs since founding. Its products have no cholesterol and less saturated fat than poultry eggs. The company says it uses 98% less water and emits 93% less carbon dioxide when making the equivalent of one chicken egg.
Meatless meats are one of the hottest trends in food — resulting in a saturated market with many companies vying to get the formulation, texture, and taste just right.
Slovenian startup Juicy Marbles, founded in 2019, is part of that club with its mission to make convincing plant-based meat — specifically the premium cut of filet mignon — and has already raised $4.5m to do so.
The plant-based steaks are primarily made of soy and can be ordered online via the company’s website (one whole-cut loin will cost you $60).
A raw loin cut from Juicy Marbles
4. Kinoko Tech
Launched in 2019, this Israeli startup uses fermentation and fungi to make protein-rich superfoods. Its alternative protein products, created by growing fungus on legumes and grains, contain all nine of the essential amino acids that create a complete protein.
Kinoko is emphasizing “alternative”: Its food doesn’t mimic meat products; rather, it is introducing a new type of food.
The company is aiming to combat the highly processed, expensive plant-based meats with an alternative protein option that is healthy, affordable, and can be produced with low water and energy, making it easier on the environment.
5. Nobell Foods
The San Francisco based startup raised a $75m series B round in 2021 to make the impossible happen: a plant-based cheese pull.
Nobell’s mission is simple yet lofty. It wants to make animal-free cheese that melts, stretches, and tastes exactly as dairy cheese does.
The company’s secret recipe is growing casein — the protein that occurs naturally in milk — out of soybeans that have been genetically edited to make the protein. If all goes to plan, making and buying the plant-based cheese would be cheaper than getting milk from a cow.
Founded in 2021, the German company is tackling one of the world’s most beloved treats: chocolate.
Producing cacao often leads to the deforestation of rainforests and substantial carbon emissions. Planet A Foods aims to save 500m tons of CO2 each year by using other plant-based ingredients to recreate the flavor of chocolate.
The startup’s chocolate is 100% cocoa-free; it ferments, roasts, and processes oats to create a concentrate and a butter that’s combined to make Nocoa. Producing the chocolate substitute causes 90% less CO2 than conventional methods.
One of the newer plant-based meat companies to the scene, Berlin-based Project Eaden was founded in 2022 but has already raised $10.9m in funding.
The company uses edible, plant-based protein fibers and fiber-spinning technology to create whole cuts of meatless meat. The fibers are thin threads that get fed into a machine that bundles them together into a piece of meat.
The process gives the product a texture that feels closer to the real thing when chewed, starting with whole, bloody cuts of beef.
Chicken from Upside Foods
8. Upside Foods
Another upstart on the meatless meat scene, Upside Foods uses cell cultivation techniques to grow chicken in labs.
The company’s production process takes cells from a chicken or fertilized egg, culturing the cells by feeding them in a lab (with compounds like amino acids, sugars, and salts), and placing them in a cultivator which allows them to multiply and grow. The chicken tissue is then harvested, inspected, prepared, and ready to serve.
The company’s offering is the only human or animal food product currently evaluated by the FDA. While the evaluation doesn’t equate to approval, it’s a step toward approving culture meat products for sale in the US (which Singapore was the first to do).