Major investments into the future of plant-based foods

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Upfield Group, a leading Dutch producer of plant margarines, spreads and cheeses, plans to open a new €50 million food science centre in Wageningen, the Netherlands. Meanwhile, Denver-based MycoTechnology, a US company that uses fungi-based food-processing platforms to transform the flavour and value of agricultural products, has closed its latest round of financing for US$39 million, bringing its total funding to over US$120 million.

Both announcements serve to underline the major investments being made into developing new plant-based foods – in particular proteins – to help improve sustainability.

Upfield Group

Upfield Group plans to open its new food science centre before the end of 2021. Located in Wageningen, which the company describes as ‘the Silicon Valley of the food industry’, the new facility will benefit from its close proximity to The Wageningen University & Research (WUR), which is ranked as the world’s leading university in agri-food, and sits at the heart of of a leading agri-food ecosystem.

Since Upfield was established under two years ago, we have already launched new and industry-leading plant-based cheese, cream, and butter products,” commented David Haines, group CEO. “The new Upfield Food Science Centre will allow us to accelerate our ambitious agenda and develop even more options so people can enjoy great tasting, natural, plant-based foods that are not only beneficial to their health, but to the planet. As a global leader in plant-based nutrition, we are extremely excited by what this investment means for the future of the category.”

The group, which is headquartered in Amsterdam, has also committed to opening a new global headquarters by the end of 2021. The newly built office will bring together associates that are currently based in both Rotterdam and Amsterdam, enhancing collaboration and offering a modern working environment.

Upfield submitted its plans for both its new food science centre and a new global headquarters office to the Dutch Works Council on 11 June, 2020.

MycoTechnology

Across the Atlantic, on the same day, MycoTechnology announced it had succeeded in raising nearly US$40 million during a ‘Series D’ funding round co-led by Greenleaf Foods, SPC, S2G Ventures, and Evolution Partners, with participation from Rich Products Ventures, Tyson Ventures, Continental Grain, Middleland Capital, Bunge Ventures, Seventure Partners, Cibus Investments Limited, and Kellogg’s eighteen94 Capital investment arm.

Completed during the COVID-19 pandemic, the company says the sum raised clearly demonstrates investor confidence in the company, despite otherwise uncertain times for the global economy.

And with over US$120 million in total funding now secured, MycoTechnology claims to be one of the most valued food technology start-ups in the world. Its mission is to help the food industry create healthier products without excessive sugar, salt, and fat, by working with the natural transformative power of mushrooms to make new food ingredients.

The company describes its flagship product, ClearTaste™, as the world’s first organic bitter blocker and flavour clarifier that helps ‘clean up’ the taste of functional ingredients, and reduce the use of sugar and sodium. Completely natural and GMO free, ClearTaste™ is Kosher and Halal certified. Meanwhile, the company’s PureTaste™ plant-based protein offers improved functionality and bioavailability.

MycoTechnology’s CEO, Alan Hahn, attributes much of the company’s success to its sharp focus on problem solving:

We do not innovate for the sake of innovating,” said Hahn. “We create products that solve the biggest challenges in the food industry, like creating great tasting products without excessive sugar, salt, or fat and doing so in a more sustainable way. I believe this is what attracted our investors to look closely at our company, and when they saw the many ways that mushroom fermentation can truly transform the food industry for the better, they decided to invest, even during challenging times.

As a leading producer of plant-based foods in North America, we were already experienced in the process of fermentation, but MycoTechnology’s unique application has the potential to transform the plant-based space by unleashing new protein sources,” added Dan Curtin, president of Greenleaf Foods. “Their commitment to clean, simple ingredients, food quality and sustainability align with our values and desire to find new ways to meet changing consumer demands.

As an original pioneer in plant-based, non-dairy products such as coffee creamer and whipped toppings, we understand the power of MycoTechnology’s innovative technology, which will enable food manufacturers to offer new plant-based products that meet the demands of today’s health-conscious and environmentally-aware consumers,” noted Dinsh Guzdar, managing director, Rich Products Ventures. “We also look forward to leveraging Myco’s unique capabilities in producing great-tasting, plant-based proteins in a scalable, cost effective manner.”

We’re pleased to continue investing in MycoTechnology,” said Erin VanLanduit, managing director of Tyson Ventures. “We have been impressed with their novel approach to ingredient creation through mushroom fermentation from the beginning. Tyson is focused on ensuring the growing global demand for accessible, sustainable protein is met; we need partners like them, innovating with that same eye towards the future.”

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