Start-Up Innovation Challenge at FiE 2017 – the nominees (part 1)

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13 Nov 2017 --- The most exciting innovations in food & beverages often come from small start-ups who are largely unknown to the wider industry. Vaucluse Provence Attractivité and UBM, have joined forces to launch the Start-Up Innovation Challenge. This Challenge is aimed at the promotion of international innovative projects on ingredients, during Food Ingredients Europe, which is being held in Frankfurt, Germany at the end of this month.

The Start-up Innovation Challenge gives the opportunity for these companies to pitch their idea to the host of F&B industry players that make up Fi Europe’s 1300+ exhibitors and 25,000+ visitors.

Here are the first five nominees for this year’s award. Part 2 can be viewed here

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Alver Golden Chlorella: This new Swiss company is addressing the growing demand for tasty low impact, high-protein foods, by developing a range of healthy, tasty and sustainable foods with the microalgae Golden Chlorella. Golden Chlorella has 63 percent protein (meat has 25 percent) and is rich in potassium, magnesium, zinc and vitamin B. Chlorella is mostly known for its immune system boosting properties and for detoxifying the body, especially from heavy metals. Other benefits include brain maintenance, eye and skin health. It is also known to promote weight loss and lower blood sugar/cholesterol. 

Alver Golden Chlorella is claimed to be truly distinctive and innovative because of its neutral taste and golden color. This has been achieved through a natural fermentation process. Golden Chlorella can easily be added to all foods without disrupting consumers’ eating or cooking habits. This unique product is effectively taking microalgae from a complement to an easy-to-use daily ingredient that will improve both health and carbon footprint.

Golden Chlorella is fermented to ensure the highest levels of micro and macronutrients. The production is highly sustainable requiring on average 44 times less water, 41 times less arable land and emits 36 times less CO2 than for the equivalent of beef protein. Alver Golden Chlorella was founded by Mine Uran, the former Head of Protein R&D at Nestlé who has spent the past 20 years searching for the ideal non-animal protein, and Majbritt Byskov-Bridges, a business strategist. The first Alver Golden Chlorella product was launched in May 2017 in Switzerland at the Vitafoods Europe event.

Byskov-Bridges tells FoodIngredientsFirst: “We’ve identified the following typical customers: vegans, vegetarians, flexitarians. Research shows that 72 percent of clients buy Alver Golden Chlorella for environmental reasons, 30 percent for sports and well-being and 10 percent due to intolerances and allergies. We are looking to scale-up and create a range of products that are high in protein.” 

Algobiotech: With consumers becoming more health-conscious, there is an increasing need for natural ingredients in food. Presently, Phycocyanin is the only authorized natural blue food colorant in the European market. The present process of extraction of this blue pigment is complicated, yielding a product that is less stable and more expensive than its synthetic equivalent. Within this context, Algobiotech has developed a patented process for the stable extraction of blue pigments from microalgae and is working on scaling up this production technology for applications in the food industry.

The company claims two key differentiators in Algobiotech’s preparation of phycobiliproteins: Utilization of only natural solvents for its extraction, making it safe for consumption and posing no risk of allergic reactions; High stability of the extracted phycobiliproteins enables its storage at ambient temperatures, making it suitable for easy transportation and longer shelf-life (as opposed to other preparations of phycobiliproteins which require cold storage and protection from light). The stability also ensures the conservation of the inherent antioxidant activity of phycobiliproteins. 

Koupe: This Dutch company has developed a new range of high-protein ice cream that is promoted as tasty, but also good for health, compared to normal ice cream. The product has 40 percent less calories, 70 percent less sugar and 3 times the amount of protein and fiber. Koupe's protein ice cream delivers a healthier and smart alternative to conventional ice cream. One portion of Koupe contains more protein than three egg whites, less sugar than an apple and more fiber than a portion of broccoli. Independent research indicates that 96 percent of the Dutch rate the ice cream as (very) tasty. Because of its health benefits, Koupe set up a cooperation with “Food for Care” at the Dutch hospitals The University Hospital Radboud UMC in Nijmegen and the AMC Hospital of Amsterdam, where Koupe was offered as a part of a healthier diet for patients.

Koupe’s four flavors are available in the following Dutch supermarkets: Albert Heijn, Jumbo, Dirk and DekaMarkt. Internationally, Koupe is available at Ocado, the largest online supermarket of the UK, several Danish supermarkets and Albert Heijn supermarkets in Belgium. “The challenge for our protein ice cream was mouthfeel: how can we reduce sugar and fat, but still get a great, smooth texture, with creaminess and fullness?”

Jaco Pieper at the company tells FoodIngredientsFirst. “How can we create an indulgent, full product that is free from the ‘bad’ ingredients? We managed to do this by including whey protein and fiber in our ice cream; these ingredients which took over some of the functions of the fat and sugar. But protein has some flavor issues, so we had to really balance and choose the right flavors, for example, the premium cocoa powders.” 

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Nutrition Innovation: Nutrition Innovation offers Nucane, promoted as a less processed, healthier, low GI industrial sugar thatcould be used in any brand recipe as a straight swap for refined sugar. Dr. David Kannar is the Chairman, Chief Science Officer and Founder of Nutrition Innovation, had a vision to create a less processed, healthier, low GI industrial sugar that could be easily used in any brand recipe.

The Nucane manufacturing process involves installing near-infrared technology into existing food grade sugar mills. Once installed, with a proprietary algorithm, the mill can then precisely produce Nucane to exact specifications, consistently. 

Nucane’s approach means that brands can now purchase a healthier, low GI sugar direct from a primary mill and not the heavily refined more processed sugar that they currently rely on for the brand products.

“The food and beverage industry wants healthier choices, but they need them to be economical, in-sync with their global infrastructure, consistent at scale and matched with their existing taste and recipe profiles. But they have also committed to UN sustainability goals so they need to make changes all through their supply chain as quickly as possible,” Matthew Godfrey, CEO, tells FoodIngredientsFirst. “Sugar mills have significant investment in infrastructure so any innovation needs to be efficient, environmental and support quality and food safety standards. Plus it needs to suit their customer needs. Consumers want healthier choices but struggle to compromise on taste and price in order to get these choices. Any rapid change that is to be successful at a mass global scale ideally needs to work with existing consumer preferences and not against them. Governments want to reduce the growing medical problems and costs of obesity and diabetes and want consumers to make healthier choices but they need the choices to be simple and still need to support brands and businesses in the ecosystem. Our innovation helps overcome these challenges for all of these groups. That's one of the reasons we call it Nucane, the good sugar. It is good for the different groups of the ecosystem.” 

Nucane is a 1-for-1 swap in most branded recipes as it is 100 percent cane sugar. It is designed for industrial customers in retail, baked goods, beverages, dairy, soy milk, confectionery, chocolates, ice cream, sauces and cereals... anywhere where sugar is used. The company has launched its first installation and production with their partners in Manildra Australia in September. They are one of the regions’ leading milling groups and the first in the world to produce Nucane, the good sugar,” says Godfrey.

“We partner with leading food engineering companies Foss and Schneider so we can scale rapidly to any mill in the world that accepts the technology and has food grade sugar mills. Key markets for expansion of production will be Thailand, Brazil, Mexico, India and Africa. For industrial customers, these exist in every market of the world and we are currently in sampling agreements with customers in Asia, Europe and Australia,” he adds.

Duplaco: This private company started producing microalgae in 2016 in a sustainable, heterotrophic and biological manner. Thanks to its great taste and very healthy nutritional composition, it is a unique microalgae that can be used in its entirety as an ingredient in human food and animal feed. It is claimed to be the first tasty, healthy food ingredient “chlorella” that is produced in the Netherlands. Duplaco developed an innovative fermentation process, called “heterotrophic” cultivation, to produce high quality and tasty food grade (micro)algae.

Using this sustainable, fully controlled and sterile cultivation process, they are able to produce fresh, liquid chlorella 365 days per year. Their chlorella has a high protein content (<45 percent) and contains all the essential amino acids. Furthermore it contains 20 percent healthy dietary fibers, many vitamins and minerals (e.g. rich in vitamin D and iron) and is extremely rich in antioxidants.

Esther Heinen of Duplaco tells FoodIngredientsFirst: “The quality of our microalgae is so high, that they can be applied in their most pure form, with a very high concentration of 10 percent. As a comparison with other cultivation methods the concentration is up to 0.3 percent. To produce the same quantities of dry weight (powder form), less energy needs to be used.”

She notes how the company produces these very high-quality microalgae using an innovation on itself; called heterotrophic cultivation. “It means that our microalgae grow without sunlight, which enables us to produce completely sterile microalgae inside in a bioreactor. Using this production method, we can control and steer the growth, so we can influence the nutritional values of the microalgae.”

For example, the company developed a microalgae rich in protein (45 percent), iron and vitamin D. Another innovation is that the taste is completely different from other cultivation methods. “The taste is so mild and neutral, that our Chlorella can be applied in great amounts in food products, without having negative taste side effects,” she says.

Heinen explains that the company can deliver the microalgae both fresh (liquid in different concentrations) and in powder form. Besides this, they can steer the nutritional values and structure of the (fresh) algae. In terms of commercial applications, she notes that is already being used in finished products in both the food- and feed market.

“One of our customers made a vegan ‘algae steak’ with our fresh Chlorella. Another customer makes healthy shots from our algae. Most of our new customers are in the fresh food industry, this is also what we believe is the best application. In the feed market, it is used to increase the health of the animals. For example, the immune system of the animals increases, so the farmer can use less antibiotics. It is also used as feed material for pets and as fish food,” she explains.

Part 2 of this preview is available here

By Robin Wyers

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