Make a Gift
Nominations Across Five Categories


Submit Nomination

For a world that is safer, cleaner, and fairer
    43 min read

    [S2:Ep #12] Eating lower in the food chain

    Featured Image

    Why should we all consider eating lower in the food chain? Hosted by Tommaso Di Bartolo, founding partner of Awesm Ventures, panelists Jeremiah Ridenour, Serial Entrepreneur, Founder and CEO of Whole Cane, Inc., Seth Tibbott, Founder and Chairman of The Tofurky Company and Author of In Search of the Wild Tofurky, and Joar Nilssen, Entrepreneur and Expert in Next Gen Proteins, Smart-farming, Food & Agtech Innovations, highlighted key aspects of sustainability, nutrition and innovation on next gen proteins as well as opportunities and challenges ahead for emerging players.

    Virtual Coffee: A Curated panel of industry fellows to discuss how to future-proof traditional markets



    In Season 2, recognized world-class Researchers, Scientists, Faculty Members, Senior Executives, Experts, Chefs, Investors and Entrepreneurs from around the globe, engage in strategic exchange of views and share startling intel on viable transformative innovation in Agriculture, Food and Beverage, zooming in the next gen proteins space. 

    With Special participation of



    [Industry Fellows] Virtual Coffee: S2:E12 

    Jerimiah Ridenour

    Seth Tibbott


    Jeremiah Ridenour
    Seth Tibbott
    Joar Nilssen
    Founder and Chairman of The Tofurky Company and Author of In Search of the Wild Tofurky
    Founder and CEO of Whole Cane, Inc
    Entrepreneur and Expert in Next Gen Proteins, Smart-farming, Food & Agtech Innovations



    Serial entrepreneur w/ 2 exits, author, advisor, faculty, investor.
    Tommaso Di Bartolo



    Key points: 

    • Alternative protein growth in the market
    • ‌The startup ecosystem
    • How to scale up and leading markets in the world



    I prefer 📹 watching the episode's video


    I want to listen 🎧 to the episode's podcast

    Episode's 🔖 Transcription

    Tommaso: Good morning from beautiful San Francisco. Before we kick off things, what is actually a Virtual Coffee? Well, we created the Virtual Coffee to share some lessons learned, some perspectives with the world around a very specific topic about what it is specifically, the curry, basically, as such a panel discussion here within industry fellows to discuss how to future proof traditional markets in the focus on next gen protein brought season one and season two. Actually we are today in our 12th episode. 


    Alternative protein here to stay

    Tommaso: I would like to kick off things with Seth. Seth, what does the current protein market look like in terms of sales in US supermarkets? What are your thoughts on this? What's your experience?


    Seth: So, right now, there's a bit of a renaissance going on with plant based proteins in the United States, and in the category that we are in at tofurkey which is the refrigerated meat alternative category. That category in the last two years has taken this hockey stick kind of growth. It was growing nicely along for many years at four and 5% growth, which in the supermarket's it doesn't sound like much but it actually is all food in supermarkets grows at approximately 1% to 2% a year and sees that gross. So, if a supermarket sees 5% growth, they're like whoa this is a hot category we have to get more of this in, this is growing at twice or more the speed of all food. So we were seeing that growth and that was great, but since 2018 we have seen the growth go up to. First it was about 20%, then 50%, right now I just bought the look at the AC Nielsen spins for this category and the growth was up to 128%, which is astounding. 


    So, what is driving all of this growth? America is about 3% vegan and another 3% vegetarian, so vegans and vegetarians represent about 6% of America, and they of course are buying more of these alternative proteins than their 6% would indicate, but a bigger market is the 30% to 40% of Americans who are meat reducers and flexitarians, and that are just trying to reduce their consumption of animal based proteins, and this is what is really the big picture that's driving most of the growth in this category right now. So it's an amazing time. That said, in plant based proteins, milk is the big winner in terms of market penetration in the milk category. Alternative milks are approximately 13% to 15% of all milk that is sold in supermarkets, which is a huge number. 


    Even though we're seeing this 128% a year growth on the meat alternatives, we're still pegged about that 1% of the animal protein market. So, lots of room to grow there and there's still quite a bit of animal based protein being consumed but it's a jet stream right now and we're seeing some very positive things in all across our industry. 


    The effects of Covid on the market

    Tommaso: The numbers always are the highest form of evidence that this is not the trend, but that is here to stay. Let me actually double down on that you were mentioning flexitarians in milk growing. What is the line of reasoning and would you say that maybe COVID incentivize this growth even more and why? Let's share with the rest of the panelists. What are your thoughts on this? Why this growth right now? Why now this extreme push up on the right of the corner, right?


    Seth: Yeah, I mean, I would have to say COVID has made people really think more deeply about diet choices, especially given the animal origin of this pandemic and other pandemics. And also, I will put a little asterisk on the retail numbers, given that the food service sector is down, so much more people are shopping at retail. And so, you're seeing this bump, I take some of that away from that just, but it's still very authentic and as you say it's not a passing fad or a trend, it is something that is here to say because when you look at the environmental footprint of these alternative proteins, you look at the animal welfare and ethical ways that we are raising animals versus these plant based proteins, and you look at the safety, the food safety things, you look at the health things, there are so many more reasons going for this than just like  one reason or something that would indicate Yeah, this is just gonna pass away in six months or a year or something.


    Joar: I think if I look from this side of the Atlantic we see several trends. You said previously the numbers speak volumes, I think this year was the first year that beef consumption in the Netherlands at least didn't grow as opposed to whereas the plant based section actually grew by quite an incredible margin, which has something to do, like Saskatchewan, like the origin of coronavirus but also influenza and type of diseases.


    I think that it also has to do with the fact that not only like the origin, but also we see that in meat producing facilities. For example, in Germany is a big problem for viruses so just make people more conscious or at least brought the issue to the surface, gain more intention that fits in with the trend that was already there so it's not solely based on these reactionary to dynamics, but I think it's just a consciousness that is growing and it’s not like the other way.


    Tommaso: It's basic a series of points that culminated and got into a circumstance where we're basically spikes the demand. We want more sustainable, we are more sensible, say where is it coming from? Then obviously, this additional drop or this huge drop now, COVID came over the market and the fact that the retail trade that it spikes also the numbers and if you sum all of that you see this as a huge acceleration for the entire market.


    Organic agriculture


    Jeremiah, organic agriculture supports life and the source of the bacteria and fungal levels. What are some of the good practices in organic agriculture that are potentially viable to scale? Scale is very important.


    Jeremiah: I just want to go back to that last comment for a minute because as one of the pioneers one was in the organic industry. We never considered attaining 100% of the market, we wanted to get 2% or 3% of the people who read labels who were educated enough to where they could make a choice. Even though it was more expensive. I think that's the same thing that we're seeing now. Even though they're big growth numbers in the industry, they are small numbers and overall. But what's happening with these people who are becoming omnivores or flexitarian is they're dipping their toes in. They see that there's an advantage there, they read more about how the animals are confined, the chemicals involved in that whole operation. So it is a huge trend but really just at the beginning stages.


    Tommaso: You were mentoring something here which is really important about education. So we need to educate, we need to read but we need also to create movement in order to educate and make clear what it is about alternative protein, because there are always some gray zones, some question marks, education is always very costly, education is something that doesn't happen over or died,  it's over a period of time, and only together we can do this.


    Jeremiah: And of course the big corporations are resisting. The ones who are heavily invested in meat locker are resisting it. So we're not gonna see a lot of money coming in to educate the population from them. But I think people are doing it on their own, obviously the access to the internet is doing that and more information about the chemicals, but to go back to your question about agriculture and the agricultural side, just like people are discovering what the microbiome in their own body is and there's more bacteria than there are human cells, the same things happening in agriculture, they're realizing that there's a microbiome in the soil. For the last since the Green Revolution in the 40s, they're seeing that these chemicals are taking away the organic matter in the soil, and that organic matter actually creates carbon capture. There's a movie called kiss the ground, which is about regenerative agriculture. I highly support that and everyone should see that movie to get a perspective on what's going on in agriculture today. 


    Tommaso: And for those who haven't seen the movie, do you mind giving some highlights? What is it about? Give us some breakdown.


    Jeremiah: Basically they're talking about the carbon capture scene, agriculture actually emits more carbon than all of the fossil fuel cars. That's a huge number. And why is it emitting carbon? Because of agricultural practices that do not honor the soil. So they're talking about animal husbandry, how to work the animals across your field and grazing fields, bringing back that whole agriculture, also not leaving the soil open during a winter plowing. Every year I went back to the family farm and farm with my uncles, and they gave me my best education which was common sense. They left the soil open in the wintertime and so the wind and the rain just eroded enormous amounts throughout the Midwest and pushed it down the rivers. Mississippi is a good example in the Gulf of Mexico, where there's a huge dead zone inside of Rhode Island, because all the agricultural chemicals and topsoil has been washed away. 

    Tommaso: So would you say them back to common sense in order to potentially have a viable method of scale. Is this what you were suggesting?


    Jeremiah: Exactly. Cover cropping is an important part to animal husbandry is an important part, growing those cover crops and disking them in, so that they become green manure.

    So that's what the movie is about, we have a legacy load of carbon, 410 parts per million roughly right now. So, there's new carbon coming but we have to break down that legacy load. And so this is the way that agriculture can come in. So what it shows in the movie is 30 countries have signed on to the regenerative agriculture approach, the big ones that happen unfortunately are India, China and the United States. I'm embarrassed by that, but they definitely show that we can solve a huge problem in co2 capture right in the soil, by adding organic matter in the soil.




    Seth: Jeremiah, I just wanted to know you were mentioning the importance of animal husbandry, and I just wanted to ask the question or point out, with the efficiency of the plant based diet requiring less land, what impact would that have in the agricultural carbon footprint if the world were to overnight adopt plant based diet?


    Jeremiah: Only takes 15 pounds roughly calculated of plant protein to make one pound of beef. I think it's two or three in poultry or something like that. So just that equation alone makes a huge difference. So in agriculture, all the land that's being used for pasture, which I don't remember the numbers but they mentioned that in just the ground(Kiss the Ground), is enormous. So we grew these plant based proteins on these pastures rather than feeding them with animals which is slowly what's happening as everybody has registered so far on the call, then you'd have an enormous amount of land that you could reclaim.


    Joar: Open to be corrected but I believe last time I read the figures it was sort of something to the extent that 60% of the agricultural land that is used is actually going to feed industry, so that's insane. That 's huge. 


    Jeremiah: Yeah, and we got to the starvation on the planet.


    Next protein startup ecosystem


    Tommaso: Let's switch gears to the perspective of the startup ecosystem and we've seen that not just for transfers but more and more funds invested in alternative protein for a reason, buying into a part and shares of the future on how the main kind is going to eat 2050.


    Joar, I would like to have your perspective on how you perceive the effect on the next gen protein startup ecosystem. What are your experiences? What are your thoughts?


    Joar: Yeah, so I think this ties a bit already to what was said earlier by Seth, so every challenge posts opportunities for innovation, so I think definitely we've seen growth in the sense that startups are already the scene was up and coming. This can be plant based but there's a variety like fungi, yfc reject insects.


    Found based purely from all sides type of sources. And I think this just sort of boosted this sector of course, not every sector was hit equally as hard financially, so like you mentioned earlier like food services has been exponentially harder at least here in Europe, basically a standstill. But on the other hand, the flaws in the current meat production system as pointed out, like, even more or so. So there's a lot of opportunity there, we see also big investments being made, even in a certain time. So for example Uber raised 200 million at a $2 billion valuation. So, that indeed ties again back to the growing consciousness. 


    I think that there is confidence in the future of protein and even if you're pessimistic about the role of corporates, I think that purely on their market potential they will have to invest and, you know, they can do it for the wrong reasons but still it contributes to growth of the sector that even, you know chicken farmers or other people in different lifestyle sectors are investing in alternative protein which is competing directly with their main business. So that sort of still makes me optimistic, I like to see from the positive side. So yeah of course it's challenging but I think that the future of alternative proteins nevertheless is bright.


    Seth: I wanted to underscore that, you know, what Joar was saying about the entrepreneurial success in this category and how much of it is really tied into the flavors of the food now are so good. Jeremiah and I have been in this business since 1980. And in 1980 there wasn't much and what there was in alternative protein, you had to have an iron stomach to really consume it, and you had to be very dedicated and we say now that taste is king, value is queen, everything else is marketing. Having a product that is efficient and compassionate and healthy is great, but what really is driving this incremental growth is that the taste of these products is so good. And that is one point and then the other point Joar was saying, these big corporations, when you look back 20 years ago when the big corporations were first getting into plant based foods and they were buying some of these companies, there wasn't a lot of sophistication there and there wasn't a lot of knowledge on how to market this, and there was a lot of failures, which was why the Tofurky company never really sold because we saw this as a short term play that why would we do it, we were looking at more of a long term play. But now I see these large industries and meat companies, in particular, the forward thinking ones are looking at “hey we're in the protein business, there's a market for this, why don't we get into it?” And there's more knowledge and savvy in the marketing and more resources so they're doing a much better job at this. The ones that are lagging behind are the ones that are fighting it and putting these ag gag laws in and saying you can't call this meat, because nobody knows what a veggie burger is, they somehow know what a chicken burger is, but they don't know what a veggie burger is. So they're saying, they're getting their legislators and doing that. So those are the guys that are going to be left behind and the ones that are really embracing this change, and seeing it for what it is they're the ones that are going to be the leaders and they're going to succeed as time goes on. So I think there's more knowledge, and more savvy being put into the marketing of these plant based foods by these large corporations that wasn't there even 15, 20 years ago. 


    Tommaso: Impressive. Since 1980, that's indeed a while. Futuristic approach that you had already back then. Society say innovation is here to stay or this has been already around, you cannot fight against it. You also were mentioning there is some cannibalizing actually, their core business and going in that direction, the direction of alternative protein in order to position to reposition themselves to have a new product serving a new target audience and actually at the end of the day, the new target audience with a new demand for a more sustainable demand, a demand that is more tied via demand that is here to stay.


    Actually to double down on that, because this is fundamental for growth within the ecosystem. Joar, what are your experiences? We asked about the startup side, but if startup collaboration with corporations, the big incumbents and new commerce are really what might accelerate this market but also the education of where alternative protein is going. What are your experiences on that? How are the corporation's reacting to collaboration with new ideas? Are they more resistant? Are they embracing? What are your thoughts of this? What are your perspectives? 


    Jeremiah: A lot of companies have their own venture capital groups inside these corporations. And they're definitely looking for innovative products. They're willing to risk and move into these territories to try new things and to kind of go back to what Joar said about these different types of proteins and what sets taste is number one. I mean it's really interesting to say, well, we can create protein out of insects. But, what's it taste like? So in the long run I think the corporations can bring that aspect of it in, because they have these huge r&d departments and the ability to do taste and flavor and sensory evaluations is incredibly important as these different categories grow.

    Tommaso: Are they more capable than startups? What's your thought on that?


    Jeremiah: Well, startups usually don't have an r&d department. They usually hire it out, or they develop it over time. And we've all been through that, some has been through that. This is the lesson failure that goes along with developing a research and development department. So now, entrepreneurs can go into these large corporations that can get even mid sized corporations which really I find they're more friendly than the big guys. They're in that 100 or $200 million range, they've gained market share, are very innovative, and those guys sometimes are much more willing and open to address some of these issues of the startup protein. 


    Seth: Yeah, I want to add that I feel like the way these startups, usually the path that I've seen to the market is often a lot of the innovation, I think is still happening with these startups, what's different now that wasn't there in 1980, there was nobody lining up to give Jeremiah and I money. Am I right Jeremiah? In 1980, and you know, for our crazy idea. I went to the world plant based Expo in New York City in 2019 and there were all of these small little business startups there. Just about every one of them had a million dollars of seed money that they could explore. 


    I think that the path to the market is more like the innovation comes from these small guys but once they have the proof of concept, and they get to the scale up side and that's where they start attracting a lot of the big money to come in and that is sort of the path and that's a good path I think. I think starting out without real equity investment is okay. Proving the concept, what is your secret sauce? How are you going to sell it? What other people think about it? And then fine tuning it. But after it's fine tuned you're looking for a scale of partner. I think there's a lot more opportunity now than there certainly ever was certainly back in the 1980s.


    I first met Jeremiah by the way when he was making tempeh in his garage in Santa Cruz and this was 1981. I was making it a $25 a month kitchen in my local Co-op so we bonded quite a bit. 


    Leading markets in plant based food

    Tommaso: I love this story of Jeremiah and Seth. It’s really intriguing. So the smallest start for the startup getting to the product market fit what Seth is saying. It's a very valid point because you prove the product, you prove the interest,  you prove the taste. You see if there is a demand. On the other hand we were just discussing with Jeremiah they're not just the big players, the big xxx corporations are jumping into this, but also there is a mixed market which is very intrigued and very active at the end of the day we serve throughout the entire, let's say chain, regardless of startup in the intrapreneur with funding or without mid market or enterprise market, that innovating is fundamental. And kicking off the second round of brainstorming questions, I’m going to start with Seth. I was intrigued about the numbers that you were mentioning, what are some other leading markets in the world or plant based foods besides the US market?


    Seth: Yeah. So, I have had a last sort of five years doing export sales for Tofurkey which allows me to travel all over the world, which has been awesome. I'm gonna rely on Joar here for some of the more European insight. But what I've seen when I first went over to the UK, in 2014, and the attitude over there was oh you're from the US, you're four or five years ahead of us, and now it is really changed like I think the UK is one of the most innovative markets that has seen the most growth, and has seen the most new startups coming right now. London has the most number of vegan restaurants on the planet, is 160 vegan restaurants within 15 miles of the city center. Other spots in the world are certainly Germany, but using the metric of how many vegan restaurants there are in the town, there're 83 there. Mexico City has 80. 


    I mean, it's amazing for me to see what's happening in Latin America right now, and Mexico in particular, because I've traveled all around Mexico in the 70s and 80s, other than vapes and tortillas there wasn't a lot for me to eat. So Chile is another one. Australia really is embracing, I think it's the fourth largest market for vegan plant based packaged goods Canada, of course, our good neighbors to the north, but even Israel, of course, is also one of the leading markets there. It's a phenomenon, even in the smaller countries you know tofurkey is sold in 27,000 stores on all the continents on the planet. And there's even like tofurkey and Kuwait and Dubai and Slovakia and a little places that you would never really notice. 


    Joar, what's your view on this and when you see I know that the Netherlands has always been a leader in research and innovation. What do you see from your perspective on that side of the pond?


    Joar: I think you got the markets. I think Berlin is definitely a hotspot when it comes to vegan, big, big scenes. There are several also like promoting entities who are just trying to raise awareness. It's actually interesting to link that to what you were mentioning earlier on the legislation concerning types of birth domains. We actually have proposed a couple company EU that's trying to limit the entrance of alternative protein sources and one of the Late Night Show hosts in the Netherlands actually made a really funny video in English about it, whether the tagline was ironic like yeah, you have to murder to call it the burger, because it makes no sense, because it's super clear what is plant based,  you have the whole green, degree fonts are different for the type of the plants imaging, everything is different so it makes no sense to say that it's too confusing. 


    I think the Netherlands is a big market. I don't think that the vegan, like the hardcore vegan per se is the biggest market, also known in terms of rambling but if you look at the percentage of flexitarians is huge. I mean it's so normal for people to make meals that don't contain meat, even without meat replacements, but also using the replacements to use weight, but actually sometimes I think it's a shame that we are still trying to make the meat replaced with like the burger, or the sausage, when we could be so much more creative in creating other types of products that are plant based, like for example I’ve always liked falafel, it’s not a replacement directly or something that it is meat type product, but it’s amazing. So many recipes where you just think of falafel, so I think that there's a lot of games still in this space.


    In Europe, let’s say there are differences in eastern and western in terms of the appreciation for vegetarian diets, but also I think their growth will continue so I see as a bonus.

    Tommaso: So based on the numbers that you mentioned, we're sharing numbers of restaurants and supermarkets that you guys are having. Do you see a bigger demand coming from restaurants or restaurant chains and maybe you go to the market. What's the percentage between supermarket and restaurant nowadays to get a sense from where you guys stand?


    Seth: Food service traditionally has been slower I think to embrace some of these proteins but that's really changing now I know that it was, it's still very burger centric I think, if you look at the success in food service, if you're going out now it's just, it's pretty easy to have a plant based burger of one kind or another with Beyond and Impossible certainly have paved a lot of ways, opened a lot of doors all around the world, but I think food service needs to expand beyond the burger and into other alternatives and other meals like you're saying that aren't necessarily meat alternatives but there are plant based. But I see that once the COVID goes away that we'll see a lot more food service items that are being placed in chains already stepping over it. 


    I’ve just received samples of the chicken product that has been made, it's served in all of the Kentucky Fried Chicken outlets in Canada. I got that yesterday from somebody so I'm anxious to try that, but that's a step forward, here's a chain that isn't like a burger, but it's like popcorn. They have popcorn chicken, they have chicken nuggets, and they have a filet sandwich, so food services definitely is catching on to this and serving more products.


    Upscaling solutions

    Tommaso: That’s very interesting. So we are talking here about how the market is embracing accepting what our growth rates. In this regard, Joar, I would like to get your point of view. What are the greatest hurdles if one is thinking of upscaling next gen protein solutions today? 


    Joar: So the major one already mentioned of course is taste. So it's crucial, if it tastes like cardboard you have to create specific filler but you won't be able to sell it. But I think big points are made, big strides are made. The only thing that I've noticed which is interesting, if I go to the local supermarket here sometimes can be Beyond meat burger and the balance we have the sticker which goes on with a discount of 35% if it's close to the expiration date. I saw that the entire stack was called the Impossible burger being on discount. And there's been an ongoing debate here in the Netherlands on the clean label aspect, so of course it's something you can make plant based, but if you just buy a beef burger you look at ingredients like soy, beef, some emulsifiers maybe. If you look at the Impossible burgers list of 40 ingredients and have them people don't know what it is, so that's an additional challenge for the plant based market, which I think can be tackled nonetheless, but for now we know it's sort of interesting hurdle that have to come across and then of course regulation is the other one.  I sincerely hope that we're going to realize that this is the way forward and also a regulation begins at the European level.

    Tommaso: Any other thoughts? 


    Jeremiah: In terms of scaling as Seth mentioned, there’s lawsuits coming forward that you can't use the word dairy or cheese or meat or beef, and to me those guys are stuck in the past and if they want to increase, especially in the dairy industry. They want to use up the excess capacity because a lot of these dairies are going out of business. They want to use the excess capacity, they should embrace these ideas. They should be pulling these in and in giving time. When we worked on the first probiotic soya milk yogurt years ago, that's what I did, I went into these dairy companies that had fermentation equipment, etc. and worked with them, so that they could adopt and use up the linetime that wasn't being used and to me the scale up is finding these innovators, so that these people can go in, into a sanitary clean good quality control, good quality assurance and legal processors, so they can bring their plant based products or innovative products into those kind of scenarios.


    Seth: I'm glad you brought up the idea that it is a hurdle, but it's kind of a pet peeve of mine,  the perception that somehow the number of ingredients in a product make it more or less nutritional. I mean in an extreme case, you could have an arsenic burger, they would have one ingredient, and it would be like oh that's healthy right?. So I think that is often a justification that is thrown out there, and a critique by people that do not want to see plant based proteins succeed, and I really don't think that necessarily equates that to this. Like you could have one ingredient, but if it's a bad ingredient and it causes heart attacks or cholesterol or anything. Bacon for instance can be like one and I've had people tell me when trying to sell Tofurkey oh yeah you have more ingredients that look like bacon, it’s so simple, but you know there's a lot of pushback when you look at the nutrition of just this one ingredient. So..


    Joar: Wait a minute. Weren't you the inventor of fake bacon?


    Seth: I never had that name. But we do sell a tempeh bacon. I think it's probably six ingredients though, so it must be healthy. 


    Joar: I agree, I mean I'm not that opinion but it's something that you just see and listen to European Union, we have this thing called the in reverse which basically just uses like lemon juice is turned into a special classification number and for people who are not aware of it, they think it was beheaded it must be bad. That's why I'm not going to eat it. So that just has to do around education and game application education. So definitely if you're going to make a little bit of our selling burger you might have been called a natural but..


    Seth: I was trying to think of a better analogy, but I'm on the spot. I'll work on that one.


    Alternatives of the alternatives

    Tommaso: Before we actually switch to the questions on the audience, I have another one for Jeremiah. Jeremiah, what are some of the most promising alternatives to switch from toxic chemicals additions to focus on soil health organic matter content and increasing levels of biological content as meant promoting long term sustainable food production?


    Jeremiah: It's going to get to the fermentation in the soil right now these guys are putting on the conventional guys are putting on a number of chemicals, and no one knows what happens with those who combine them in the soil.


    The worst most dangerous ones need to just immediately stop being used, like pesticide is a good example, they come back is another good example of weed control chemicals. But the biological activity in the soil is really what creates it and if you will just to take a second to understand a little better. The bacteria is actually taking the minerals, or the nitrogen and consuming it in the plants in their root here, the plants can't take up chunks of things they pick up liquids. And so that, that's exactly the job of the bacteria to do. Now in most of these soils in America and around the world conventionally there's no organic matter left in the soil, so there's no bacteria left in the soil.


    So some of the ideas that are coming forward are about how do you make homes for bacteria? How do we make yogurt in the soil?. So some of my work in Asia, I've lived in Asia for the last six years with with biochar and biochar is really interesting, you put it in the soil once every 30 years it makes home to the bacteria, one gram might have eight kilometers of pathways through there with the bacteria can grow and also it'll resist throughout moisture in the soil. And so there's those kinds of new things, especially you know fermented proteins like tempeh. I mean look at the space that kombucha has, like I couldn't believe it when I came back and how much shelf space that product has. When there's really in most of those there's no live culture. So what, what you're consuming is something that has consumed the protein, or the ingredients and makes it more bioavailable. And so that goes from the human definitely into the soil the same idea.

    Tommaso: Besides Asia, have you seen other practices around the world where they are mentioning an experiment on? 


    Jeremiah: There's not a lot of experimentation going on in some of these Asian countries. I think the majority has happened in the EU and in America, because they just don't have the access to the information. So a lot of this stuff that you see happening like biochar is a good one. They just do that because they've got it. And then, year one not so much increase, year to maybe 20% or 30% increase in yield. So it's significant, and they definitely get that from an economic point of view. But I have to say that agricultural chemical companies have a very tight rein on things because they're the ones that are funding the universities that are teaching the agricultural engineers how to farm, and they're only teaching them basically how to farm with chemical agriculture. I think there’re a couple things starting out with regenerative where we educate the young farmers, the ones that want to get into agriculture and not to grow the next 40 acres on their land but they actually want to reach people and consultants are learning a different style. It's not about NPK which has been since the Green Revolution, it's more about the biological inorganic matter in the soil.

    Tommaso: Seth, what's your experience on that?


    Seth: I think that's a really good point, you know when we're talking about alternative proteins, I think that as Jeremiah states that we can't sacrifice the means in order to get to an end. And that, you know, we at Tofurkey have always bought all of our soy from organic sources to take out the GMO issue, but also to  increase the bioavailability of the soil, and I do have concern that as the industry grows and as more and more corporations take over the small businesses that have succeeded by using organic materials that in order to save money and give a few more sense to their stockholders that they will overlook the means and just focus on the ends, and I do see that as a threat. So, thank you, Jeremiah for being a great advocate for organic foods for all your organic agriculture for years.


    Jeremiah: I want to point out the regenerative agriculture is not organic necessarily, so they're trying to roll it out across all areas, so that they can make this carbon capture happen.

    Tommaso: Joar, anything from Europe before we switch into questions from the audience? 


    Joar: I think we definitely see a lot of food startups increase interest in both regenerative agri and organic farming. I think also from the educational side of things, we have some interesting sort of pilot farms here, which are experimenting with trip cultivation and also types of farming which sort of pull back the monoculture, which is the standard and looking more at what kind of ecosystem do you need to create in addition to just the soil which is also the biodiversity surrounding flowers, which then harbors natural predators to the things you would normally spray for the fungicides and insecticides. So, it's a whole different discussion. We could have hours about it but I think that we need to look at it differently either way in which you can actually try again alternative protein also to type of farming. For example, farmers who are now, it doesn't have to go out of business they might transition over to in the secondary ring as a type of feed or as a type of nutrition, which could be a great model but it's still tricky, as everyone else door. 


    Seth: Joar, how do you see the demand in the Netherlands for organic foods? Is that something that is more universally demanded at a big selling point for a product? Because in the United States, I would say that 6% of the US that is vegetarian and vegan would demand they place a much higher value on this coming from organic sources, then the flexitarian market would lead to these bigger corporations going well, there's no market driven demand for these organic products so we're just gonna remove that from it. So, I'm just wondering how you feel out there. 


    Joar: I feel that sentiment is here, present here as well. There is a certain niche for organic products. But I think in general, they're trying to tie in with the movement to plant based protein itself. So, for example, we have a type of egg which is sold here which is called kitzur, which tries to combine every aspect, slowly, still phasing out, xxxx but also looking at sustainability ways of using organic materials sourcing. I think it's clever in a way that they're trying to bring everything alone sort of the same umbrella, which is at least call to sustainability, which you can argue whether it's a good or a bad thing, but I think on itself, the organic movement hasn't really been able to really make an impact so perhaps it's a good thing is trying to provide with more, try and receive towards more sustainability in that sense.


    Questions from the audience

    Tommaso: We already have selected three questions from the audience and I would like to kick off things with a question for Seth. This is coming from California, San Diego. Roger. Roger, thanks for asking “how should the consumption of the next gen protein be promoted to a much larger scale with observation, sustainability and how factors can health and sustainable initiatives in the next gen protein space be rescaled globally?” This is for Seth. Thanks Roger. 


    Seth: Yeah. Well, it will be scaled globally, absolutely. Victor Hugo said it best when he said there's nothing so powerful as an idea whose time has come, and I really think that is the case here, but you know in terms of selling it and marketing it to the consumer once again I fall back on. There's all these underlying reasons that are fine to talk about. But the way to the portal to the human heart is through the tastebuds, and I think that the first rule about Fight Club is don't talk about Fight Club and the first rule about marketing these products, I think, is really playing up how delicious they are, because that is really what is we share as human beings all over the world, that's the uniting force that we can all agree on, which is that we enjoy food and want to enjoy what we eat. So I would say marketing through taste.

    Tommaso: We have here a question for Jeremiah. Elisa asked how effective and impacting to consider the application of biochar in decontamination/remove organic pollutants from soil and water? Thanks, Elisa. 


    Jeremiah: So the idea about biochar is not to remove toxins from the soil. It's really as a draft preventative, but also as a delivery mechanism, you can actually spray the soil bacteria that you want, the selected strains on to the biochar and then distribute that in the soil. So, as you know, activated charcoal is taken in every hospital in the world, almost it's taken to prevent poisons. So, in the soil, there may be some reduction in contamination but that's not the concept or the concept is to introduce the carbon into the soil and have the bacteria. If it's not related to, bacteria has a home. They can go there and grow and expand in the soil.


    Tommaso: Thank you so much Elisa for your question to Jeremiah.

    The next one comes from Boston. Elizabeth asks Joar: What are the transformative innovations that can promote growth in the next gen protein space in the near future and are they sustainable?


    Joar: Thanks for the question. I think it is a good one. I think if we look past five years there have been four different types of plant based proteins which have been fighting for dominance. To me it feels like steel has sort of weighed in on it, in the sense that, for example if you can see this has to be grown in the specific circumstances, you deal with coastal areas, which in total scale will never compete with algae, which can be formed in a bioreactor for example. So, it will really depend on the application and the taste preference. So for example, in the early stages a lot of alternative protein based products are made of soy, and it's really hard to get rid of the taste. We see for example with something like fungi, they have more texture which we usually associate with meat. So, I think skills are means of production but also definitely how easy it is to be integrated into either half mixes so using, for example, half chicken half fungi to start new or fresh products in terms of satisfactory and reception by customers. So its production cost because at the end if you have to compete with soy, it's so cheap and it's going to be hard. Of course you're going to make a premium product so probably it's okay to have the cheapest out there, but also you have to take into account the way that you're going to produce sales in terms of sustainability.


    Eating in 2050

    Tommaso: Thank you so much, gentlemen. I would like to wrap up things with my final question here to give you the rocket 50 packets to meditate, think about it, think about the future of food by 2050. How is mankind going to eat in 2050?


    What are your thoughts? What's your vision really from a future back perspective? How can you tell the story of what's going to be like 2050? Joar, what's your perspective?



    Joar: I'm going to say that it's tasty and minimally processed and locally sourced food that is healthy for both the consumer as well as for nature. 


    Tommaso: Awesome. Well thank you so much. Seth?


    Seth: I’m going to say that the plant based penetration in the supermarkets will be up to 33%, and that we have to realize that this is a very young category. The first plant based milks that I ever saw were really in the 1990s as were the first plant based cheeses. People often talk about cheese like “oh it's just not as good as animal based cheese, the vegan cheese”. But can you give it a couple centuries, because the first animal based cheeses I bet we're pretty crummy to, and then having a 1000s of years of experience doing this, so as the taste and texture of the cheese and the milks and meats improve. I think they're going to keep growing at a much faster pace, once you hit 10% of the population, it's really going to accelerate. So I would say that would be my take, is that plant based foods, all the different categories combined will be at approximately 30% of the market.

    Tommaso: Critical mass 10% and we are plant based food until 2050. Thank you so much, Seth. Last but not least, Jeremiah. What are your thoughts?


    Jeremiah: Well, if we can adjust our trajectory and reduce our carbon footprint xxxx decent humans around in 2050 to actually make a decision on what their plant based diet is like. And so, holding out hope for that, I do think I agree with Seth and Joar. I do think that the idea of right now is food traveled 1500 miles before it gets delivered, and so on an average and so I think that the sustainability and the regional markets are what's going to grow. And I do think plant based is going to grow as the educational process expands. And I don't think people are going to be necessarily committed to vegetarian and veganism. I think in their process it's going to incorporate more and more of an event on their plate.


    Tommaso: With education basically becoming more as opposed to, you don't even notice. 


    Jeremiah: It becomes obvious, sustainability becomes obvious.


    Tommaso: I always love these episodes, because I love to learn every single time. Thanks for sharing your perspective, your experiences Seth, Jeremiah from 1980s when you started already. What a vision you guys had back then. Congratulations on your experience. And Joar, thanks for allowing us to pick your brain and with that I'd like to wrap up things. Thank you so much for another episode of Virtual Coffee, where we gathered together here in a format of a panel discussion, debate experts brains in the industry fellow shared with the world around this topic about alternative protein.


    I usually wrap up always on a quote that I crafted along the last 20 years of  my activities, experimentation as an entrepreneur and on the other hand as an investor and it goes like this: 


    Tommaso: “Never forget where you come from, it keeps you humble. But where you come from, cannot limit you where you want to go.”


    Thank you so much. All the best, I really appreciate you taking the time and doing this. And we'll talk to you soon. Bye bye.

    Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this Podcast as well as in its transcript are those of the participant guest speakers and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of proteinX or its partners and sponsors. In the same way, the participant speakers do not endorse any products, services, brands, practices, professionals or views other than what they specifically and directly expressed by verbalizing at the time the episode was recorded. In addition, transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio file (podcast) before ever quoting in print.

    And this series is brought you by:

    Awesm Ventures: A VC that unlike others, invests exclusively with and on behalf of corporations in fragmented industries. The Innovation institute focused on helping future-proof corporations in traditional industries. .


    This is a proteinX Series.   


    ProteinX and the pX Logo are trademarks of ProteinX Foundation. If you haven’t received permissions, do not use the ProteinX marks as your own or in any manner that implies sponsorship or endorsement by proteinX.