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Celebrating the winner, finalists and honorable mentions in Fast Company's World Changing Ideas Awards

May 4, 2023

Fast Company has just announced its 2023 'World Changing Ideas Awards' winners and we’re thrilled to see so many of our supporters and partners among not only the finalists and the honorable mentions but also massive congratulations to Christopher Landowski and Maija Itkonen from Onego Bio, which claimed the top prize for the company’s Bioalbumin animal-free egg white product, which was voted winner of the Food category as well as a Finalist in the Agriculture category.

These Fast Company awards honor projects that make the world more equitable, accessible, and sustainable, recognizing products or services that change what we eat, how we eat, or how we get our food.

Clearly we’re following the right companies in the pages of our magazine, Protein Production Technology International, as Onego Bio and MyForest Foods both feature in our April/May 2023 edition.

This year’s World Changing Ideas Awards showcase 45 winners, 216 finalists, and more than 300 honorable mentions – with health, climate, energy, and AI among the most popular categories. A panel of Fast Company editors and reporters selected winners and finalists from a pool of more than 2,200 entries across urban design, education, nature, politics, technology, corporate social responsibility, and more.

“It’s thrilling to see the creativity and innovation that are so abundant among this year’s honorees,” commented Fast Company Editor-in-Chief, Brendan Vaughan. “Although it’s easy to feel discouraged by the state of the world, the entrepreneurs, companies, and non-profits featured in this package show the limitless potential to address society’s most urgent problems. Our journalists have highlighted some of the most exciting and impactful work being done today – from housing to equity to sustainability – and we look forward to seeing not only how these projects evolve but how they inspire others to develop solutions of their own.”

Here’s a bit more about those companies flying the flag in the alternative proteins sector.


Onego Bio for Bioalbumen

Bioalbumen is an animal-free egg white protein produced with precision fermentation. Fast Company named it as both the winner of the Food category and a Finalist in the Agriculture category. “As widely used as they are, egg whites are often the last frontier before entirely animal-free products can be manufactured,” said Maija Itkonen, Co-founder & CEO, Onego Bio. “Ovalbumin is ‘one of nature’s wonders’. We anticipate that by bringing such an important ingredient to the market, many food system challenges can be solved, even outside of the egg market.”

The scalable and efficient biotech process is based on harnessing the microorganism Trichoderma reesei for egg protein production, with the help of water, sugar, and certain minerals. The method can be compared to beer production, in which the microorganism is fed sugar to produce alcohol. The outcome in this process is Bioalbumen powder, which is identical to egg white protein powder – without the need for chickens.

Onego Bio’s production technology is unique in that it can be scaled up into large industrial bioreactors and produces levels of the desired protein efficiently with little to no waste, since the side stream biomass can be utilized as well in products like packaging materials or animal-free mycelium leather. You can read more about the genesis of the product via this interview with Chris Landowski in the April/May 2023 edition of Protein Production Technology International.

Bioalbumen provides all the nutritional and functional upsides of egg white, without the environmental, ethical, safety and supply chain-related concerns. It can maintain all the performance of egg white, including foaming, gelling, binding and leavening properties which are challenging to replace with other ingredients.

“Bioalbumen is not a substitute. It is the real thing. It is part of an emerging category of animal-free ingredients produced through fermentation,” continued Itkonen. “Precision fermentation is the newest chapter in the history of making food without animals. It allows us to provide people with food that is sustainable, tasty, and healthy – without cutting any corners or making any compromises.”


Animal-free cheese from New Culture

Co-founded by Matt Gibson (CEO) and Inja Radman (CSO), New Culture’s roots go back to a single burger – the one unveiled by Mark Post back in 2013. Ultimately, though, Gibson and Radman decided to focus on cheese because it has the largest environmental footprint of any dairy product and its sustainable alternatives had made minimal traction with consumers (plant-based cheeses account for a measly ~0.5% of cheese consumption in the USA). So how could they solve that problem? Turns out there was only one answer: casein protein.

“Casein is responsible for everything we love about cheese,” the co-founders say. “The crumble and creaminess, the stretch and melt. It’s what makes cheese… well… cheesy. Trouble is, until that point, casein had only been found in mammalian milk. But if we could somehow create casein without any animal inputs – without needing animal milk – we could make delicious cheese without the environmental or animal welfare drawbacks of conventional cheese, or the taste drawbacks of plant-based alternatives."

In early 2019, Gibson and Radman got to work showing that animal-free casein was possible. “Those earliest days were full of exploration and experimentation and iteration, which led to our first ‘cheeses’, some of which were so funky that we weren’t even willing to try them,” they say. “We learned the ins and outs of cheesemaking, the problems with plant-based products, and what makes casein a magical protein and the foundation of cheese. Slowly but surely, we made tangible progress, started growing the team, and raised our seed investment following an IndieBio demo day.

“The next five years will be filled with even more exciting moments as we continue to make progress on New Culture's multi-decade journey – scaling our production capacity, releasing our first products onto the market, bringing our cheese to consumers everywhere. No matter who you are, what you believe in, or whatever dietary restrictions you might have, you won’t have to compromise when it comes to enjoying your favorite cheeses.

“Although it has been harder than either of us could’ve imagined, we’ve never believed more deeply in our work to lead the change to an animal-free dairy future.”

Beyond Steak from Beyond Meat

Beyond Meat debuted its plant-based Beyond Steak in October 2022, a new innovation designed to deliver the juicy, tender and delicious bite of seared steak tips with the added nutritional and environmental benefits of plant-based meat, perfect for sandwiches, bowls, salads, stir fries, fajitas, tacos, and more.

“Beyond Steak was a highly anticipated expansion of our popular beef platform and we were proud to introduce this innovative product to consumers US-wide,” Dariush Ajami, Chief Innovation Officer, Beyond Meat, said at the time. “Beyond Steak delivers the taste and texture of sliced steak in a way that is better for both people and the planet.”

Seared to perfection and chopped into bite-sized pieces, Beyond Steak provides a flavorful and satisfying experience for meat lovers and flexitarians alike. Packed with 21g of protein per serving and only 170 calories, it delivers the tender bite and savory taste consumers crave while offering nutritional benefits, including being low in saturated fat (only 1g per serving) and having 0mg of cholesterol with no added antibiotics or hormones.

In March 2023, Beyond Steak was awarded the 2023 FABI Award (Food and Beverage Innovation) from the National Restaurant Association for breaking new ground in creativity and taste. In April 2023, the FABI gong was followed up by the ‘Good Housekeeping Nutritionist Approved Emblem’ from the Good Housekeeping Institute’s Nutrition Lab, making it the first plant-based meat product to receive the honor.

As part of its commitment to improving human health, Beyond Meat is dedicated to supporting scientific and evidence-based research on the health implications of shifting from animal-based meat to plant-based meat. For example, in the SWAP-MEAT study, which was published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers reported the positive impacts of replacing animal-based meat with Beyond Meat’s plant-based meat over an eight-week period, including the improvement of several cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as LDL cholesterol levels and TMAO. Beyond Meat continues to support ongoing studies at the Plant-Based Diet Initiative at Stanford University School of Medicine and last year signed a multi-year agreement with the American Cancer Society to advance research on plant-based meat and cancer prevention.

Cultivated beef in suspension from SCiFi Foods

SCiFi Foods claims to be the first company in the world to develop edible beef cells that grow in single-cell suspension, reputedly the biggest barrier to scaling cultivated meat. The San Leandro, California-based company also developed beef cell lines that can grow without the need for Fetal Bovine Serum (FBS), another major hurdle. These allow it to greatly reduce costs while scaling through existing cell culture infrastructure. This level of tenacity, deep scientific knowledge, and commitment to research has allowed SCiFi Foods to move what it believes is faster and more cost-efficiently than competitors.

The company was co-founded by CEO, Joshua March, a serial entrepreneur with two prior exits, and CTO, Kasia Gora, PhD, who has led R&D teams in bioengineering for more than a decade, most recently at Zymergen.

The company’s R&D is powered by a cutting-edge synthetic biology platform combined with modern bioengineering technology, such as CRISPR, to push the industry toward price parity with conventional meat. To develop animal cell lines that are happy growing in a bioreactor (instead of an animal), the cell lines have to go through some kind of genetic changes. While it’s possible to rely on random mutations and genetic rearrangements to adapt animal cells to the growth conditions in a bioreactor, it is faster and more reliable to use technologies like CRISPR that allow the team at SCiFi Foods to make very targeted, tiny genetic edits to shift cell behavior exactly how is needed.

In terms of flavor, the company’s burgers are essentially indistinguishable from traditional beef burgers. This is because its cultivated beef cells bring in the real beef fats and proteins that create the flavor, aroma, and experience of meat – because it is real meat, just produced in a different way.

Notably, SCiFi Foods is looking to hybrid products. It’s currently just too expensive, the company feels, and technologically challenging to create a burger from 100% cultivated meat. Luckily though, by combining cultivated beef cells with high-quality plant-based ingredients, SCiFi Foods can create a flavor that’s exactly like a standard beef burger, something that cannot be done with plant-based ingredients alone.

Cultivated meat from UPSIDE Foods

UPSIDE Foods is often taken as a “bellwether for where the industry is headed”, according to CEO & Founder, Dr Uma Valeti. “On some days, like when we received the world’s first US FDA greenlight for cultivated meat in November 2022, the signal is hopeful and positive,” he said. “On other days, our role shifts to highlighting the industry’s challenges. To me, none of it – the successes or the challenges – comes as a surprise.”

In under eight years, the team at UPSIDE Foods has arguably inspired an entire industry to form around it, and its recent milestones demonstrate the tangible progress it has made toward commercialization. This includes the opening of one of the world’s most advanced cultivated meat production facilities and innovation centers (‘EPIC’, which stands for ‘Engineering, Production, and Innovation Center’), and as already cited receiving the world’s first US FDA green light for a cultivated meat product.

Among other notable achievements, UPSIDE has developed an animal component-free cell feed and a cell line that doesn’t rely on one of the most expensive cell feed components, both for use in its ground products, and is expanding its product portfolio to include a range of delicious meats that consumers love – from chicken filets to hot dogs, sausages, and fried chicken sandwiches.

“For us to realize the impact that we want to have, we’ve always known that we need to provide a portfolio that matches the diversity of formats and forms that consumers expect,” said Valeti, highlighting the new range of follow-on announced recently.

“Our first consumer product, a cultivated chicken filet, demonstrates our ability to deliver the experience of eating a more complex and textured meat product,” Valeti continued. “On the other hand, our ground products are extremely versatile and enable us to explore a range of exciting formats and flavor experiences, while also allowing us to scale faster and make cultivated meat more accessible.”

UPSIDE’s breakthrough chicken cell line eliminates the need for platelet-derived growth factors (PDGF), one of the most expensive components of cell culture media. “By eliminating the most expensive growth factor in our process, we’re able to dramatically reduce cost and increase scale,” added Kevin Kayser, SVP of Research and Development at UPSIDE Foods. “We look forward to leveraging the insights gained to drive future innovations and continue to work toward making all of our products more delicious, affordable, humane, and sustainable.”

K-12 Products from Impossible Foods

It was in May 2021 that Impossible Foods announced it had secured Child Nutrition Labels (CN Labels) for its Impossible Burger products, which cleared a hurdle toward widely entering the K-12 market.

CN Labels are voluntary food crediting statements authorized by the USDA that make it easier for schools participating in federal Child Nutrition Programs, including the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program, to determine how much a particular food contributes to federal meal pattern requirements for nutritionally balanced meals for children each school day.

The program is run by the USDA's Food and Nutrition Services (FNS), which must evaluate a product's formulation to determine how much it contributes to federal meal pattern requirements. The submission process not only includes evaluation of a product's formulation, but also inspection and evaluation of quality control procedures and manufacturing operations. FNS determined that Impossible Burger products met the quality control program requirements and approved Impossible Foods’ CN labels in the Alternate Protein category in April 2021.

“Making Impossible products available everywhere people consume meat, which for kids often includes schools, is key to the mission of the company,” said Pat Brown, CEO & Founder. “Schools not only play a role in shaping children’s dietary patterns, but they play an important role in providing early education about climate change and its root causes. We are thrilled to be partnering with K-12 school districts across the country [USA] to lower barriers to access our plant-based meat for this change-making generation.”

“Increasing plant-based menu options is a key part of our strategy to reduce carbon emissions by 34% by 2025,” added Michael Morris, Senior Manager, Culinary Offer Implementation of Sodexo, one of the USA’s largest food-service contractors. “The Impossible Burger is a product we think teenagers are going to get excited about. We are interested in how the popularity of this low-carbon food can help effectively lower a whole district’s carbon footprint, while also getting students more engaged in thinking about their connection to the planet.”

Honorable Mentions

Eat Meati from Meati Foods

Meati Foods is a producer of animal-free, whole-food protein made from mushroom root. The Thornton, Colorado-based company recently announced its newly-opened industrial-scale production facility, in part financed by its oversubscribed Series C round which brings total funding to date to more than US$250 million. Dubbed the ‘Mega Ranch,’ the fully integrated, resource-efficient manufacturing operation is expected to cultivate Meati at an annual rate of tens of millions of pounds by late 2023.

Able to grow a teaspoon of spores into hundreds of cows’ equivalent of whole-food protein in just a few days, Meati’s proprietary production processes coupled with its unique mushroom root create a nearly infinitely scalable platform. The Eat Meati product line is produced at the Mega Ranch and currently includes the Classic Cutlet, Crispy Cutlet, Classic Steak, and Carne Asada Steak. To date, Meati products have repeatedly sold out within minutes of being released online, and consumers have continued to embrace Meati products through the company’s retail and food-service partners, including Sprouts Farmers Market, Sweetgreen, and Birdcall.

“Investors and consumers recognize that Meati is a new, differentiated food,” explained Tyler Huggins, CEO & Co-founder of Meati Foods. “They only need to read our simple ingredient list and taste Meati to recognize that this is the cut-through option people have been waiting for – something they absolutely see weekly if not daily on their plates. Our belief that nature already has the answer to many of today’s challenges allowed us to unlock a new food with Meati at a time when consumers are demanding something different and better. Meati delivers an unparalleled food with its taste, texture, nutrition, and purity, and we’re thrilled to open this first and subsequent phases of the resource-efficient ‘Mega Ranch’ facility to help even more consumers add it to their diets.”

Koji-based deli meat from Prime Roots

The Co-founders of Prime Roots, Kim Le and Josh Nixon, were well aware of the climate crisis, but felt completely powerless against the enormous industries that supported it. Eventually, they realized the one thing they could control: the meat they ate every day.

Prime Roots was born out of UC Berkeley's Alt: Meat Lab, where students that semester were challenged to make fish, without actually using fish. After growing up in her mom’s restaurant and experimenting with fermentation in the kitchen, Le (CEO) knew well the culinary potential of koji. Starting with her apartment Instant Pot then graduating to a larger-scale test kitchen, she and Nixon (CTO) experimented with the fungi to perfect their Koji Salmon Burger. Eventually, they cracked the code, and won the praise of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Wired.

After determining what makes meat, meat (the familiar texture and rich umami), Le and Nixon discovered a foundation in koji. From that moment, they dreamed of walking into the grocery store and seeing an entire deli case filled with Koji Meats.

The ultimate goal at Prime Roots is to create a sustainable and equitable food web on a global scale, and change the way we all think about meat through accessible and climate-friendly food for everyone to enjoy. The company’s meats made from koji mycelium result in 92% less water use, 91% less land impact, and nearly zero by-products, while replicating the delicious umami-rich flavor and meaty texture you know and love from animal meat.

In comparison to the years that it takes to grow an animal or +10 days for other fungi, koji only takes two to three days to grow. Most plant proteins (like soy, pea, and gluten) have to be isolated, modified, and heavily processed to come even close to a meaty product. With koji, Le and Nixon use something straight from the planet to make products they’re proud of.

The company’s first product launch in February 2020, Koji Bacon, sold out in four hours, proving to Le and Nixon the demand for a delicious, meaty alternative that was easily swapped into your breakfast plate or BLT sandwich. Over the next year and a half, they improved the bacon based on feedback, and tested out a multitude of ready-to-eat meals featuring a few different Koji Meats.

After a while, it became clear that Koji Bacon was Prime Roots’ bestseller by a landslide. In surveying and talking to several of their community members, they learned that what most consumers wanted was a convenient alternative to meat that could become a regular part of meals. Most interestingly, they learned that 64% of their customers did not actually identify as vegan or vegetarian.

“It was time to shake up our product line to align with our core mission,” said Le. “We didn’t want to exist to provide heat-and-eat meals, but we wanted to make meat products that were so satisfying you don’t even have to think of them as ‘alternatives’.”

Enter: Koji Deli Meats.

“We deeply understand the need to make positive changes in the plant-based meat industry,” Nixon added. “Unlike other plant-based options, we’re proud to have a clean, simple label – and we offer more affordable, tastier, and healthier options to reduce your meat consumption than our competitors. This year, we will continue to expand access to our plant-based meat options that are actually better for you and better for the planet. We were thrilled to recently receive the B-Corp designation and be in the company of similar businesses that are working toward creating a healthier future.”

MyBacon from MyForest Foods

MyForest Foods is a US food technology company spun out of Ecovative in 2020. The company’s proprietary platform uses a natural super-ingredient called mycelium to grow nutrient-rich fibers that replicate the textures and mouth-feel of meat. Its MyBacon product is available in 32 New York and New England retailers with more widespread availability expected later in 2023. The company’s unique, whole-cut approach to plant-based food is enabled by the use of a proprietary AirMycelium cultivation method, developed by Ecovative, which offers control over mycelium’s shape and density as it grows, fine-tuning the same environmental factors present in its natural forest habitat.

“Our mission, from the start has been to harness the power of mushrooms to feed the planet in a more sustainable way,” said Eben Bayer, Co-founder & CEO of MyForest Foods, who was featured in the April/May 2023 edition of Protein Production Technology International.

“MyBacon delights consumers with a fresh, clean-label, meatless bacon product that tastes great and keeps pigs safe. Meanwhile, our star ingredient, mycelium, enables us to ideate limitless variations – from form to flavor – in pursuit of positive, lasting change for our food system and, in turn, Spaceship Earth. With the added harvests from Swersey Silos, we are looking forward to launching MyJerky, a yummy snack-able we have been enjoying internally the past year.”

Swersey Silos has the capacity to produce nearly three million pounds of mycelium annually, offering an alternative to traditional pork bacon that drastically reduces the land, water and carbon footprint found in conventional factory farming practices. Swersey Silos is part of 120,000ft2 of new infrastructure, including a new production facility in Saratoga Springs, New York. Operating at full capacity, MyForest Foods is projected to serve MyBacon to more than one million consumers by the year 2024.

Plant-based luncheon meat from unMEAT

unMEAT is the plant-based protein brand from Century Pacific Food, Inc (CNPF), one of the largest branded food and beverage companies in the Philippines.

Starting with a refrigerated line in 2020, CNPF expanded its ‘unMEAT’ portfolio to include new plant-based food formats. The company rolled out a shelf-stable ‘unMEAT’ luncheon meat line and a plant-based dairy alternative ‘unCHEESE’ in 2021, while it launched a domestic breakfast range and a seafood alternative ‘unMEAT Fish-free Tuna’ last year.

“So far, our top sellers are the UnMEAT plant-based Luncheon Meat in shelf stable cans and unMEAT plant-based Frozen Nuggets,” said Greg Banzon, Chief Operating Officer of CNPF. “But we are seeing a lot of interest in our plant-based canned tuna as well. unMEAT is already present in more than 1,500 supermarkets in the USA, Singapore and the UAE and has become a crowd favorite at recent international food shows where the brand has been showcased.”

In February 2023, unMEAT Luncheon Meat hit more than 2,000 Walmart stores across the USA. “This vote of confidence from Walmart affirms that we are heading in the right direction with respect to our plant-based business,” Banzon added. “We believe in the long-term potential of plant-based alternatives, and brands like unMEAT have a role to play to sustainably address the food requirements of an increasingly growing global population.”

“Consumers are looking for healthier and better-for-the-planet food options,” continued Banzon. “As a protein delivery company, we need to be present in the plant-based segment and innovate in this space to democratize the category. Introducing an accessible shelf-stable format priced at parity to meat analogs can change the game, attract more users, and hopefully unlock the segment’s potential.”

Aside from Walmart, unMEAT is distributed in the USA through HEB, Harris Teeter, Meijer, and select natural and grocery stores. It is also available in specialty e-commerce sites such as GTFO, It’s Vegan, Weee! and Vegan Black Market.

unMEAT products have been favorably received both locally and abroad. The brand recently won the Katha Award for Best Food Innovation for 2022 given by the Department of Trade & Industry (DTI) and was ranked number one among meat alternatives at the opening day of the FHA food show in Singapore, one of Asia’s largest international food and beverage trade shows. In addition, a recent survey conducted in the USA by a third-party market research firm showed that seven out of 10 respondents claimed that unMEAT Fish-free Tuna is significantly superior to other plant-based tuna brands in terms of taste and texture.

If you have any questions or would like to get in touch with us, please email info@futureofproteinproduction.com

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Every week, you’ll receive a compilation of the latest breakthroughs from the global alternative proteins sector, covering plant-based, fermentation-derived and cultivated proteins.
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