MINNEAPOLIS — Four companies with hands in the food industry have teamed up to establish an accelerator program supporting plant-based protein startups based in the United States, District of Columbia or Canada.

Bühler, Cargill, Givaudan and PURIS will pool resources and provide mentorship as part of the program, named Scale It Up Innovation Challenge, aiming to help young companies accelerate time-to-market for their sustainable protein products.

“All four companies are dedicated to helping solve the coming protein gap,” said Yannick Gaechter, director of Bühler’s Food Application Center. “The Scale It Up Innovation Challenge is designed to really accelerate those start-ups who are also working to close that gap.”

According to Bühler, the global population is on track to reach 10 billion people by 2050, a fact that has spurred urgent conversation about how to sustainably feed the growing population while acting as good stewards of the planet.

“Many of these start-ups struggle when it comes to the critical stage of getting to market,” said Chris Thoen, North American innovation director at Bühler. “We created this challenge to help them bridge the gap to commercialization.”

Rahul Shinde, director of front end innovation at Givaudan, agreed. “It’s that last stage, where they have a proof of concept, but lack the resources to properly scale their operation,” he said. “It’s here that this partnership can help.”

Applications for the Scale It Up Innovation Challenge were accepted until Aug. 4, 2021, through a web-based submission. A panel of experts representing the four partner companies will select 15 of the best projects submitted on Aug. 6. These 15 companies will pitch their business ideas to the panel virtually. From there, the top five startups will be selected to participate in the program. This final selection will be announced on Aug. 16.

The program will run from Sept. 13 to Nov. 12. Final pitches will be made on Nov. 12, at which point two companies will be selected to receive “varying degrees of support to help scale their product for market introduction,” Bühler stated.

“Aside from the incredible possibility that the winners have as a result of the challenge, all entrants will benefit from the collective experience of industry experts along with gaining great exposure into the alternative protein innovation ecosystem,” said Anshuman Bhatia, lead of Cargill’s North America plant protein product line.

Other benefits of the program include opportunities for networking, collaboration, and gaining visibility into the larger-scale plant-based protein operations and ideas. Bühler, Cargill, Givaudan and PURIS are all involved in the plant-based protein business, with each bringing their own insights from various points of the value chain.

Additionally, the top five startups chosen to participate in the program will be given access to testing and scale-up piloting facilities in Minneapolis, courtesy of the four partner companies.

“This challenge, and this partnership between our companies, is unique in this industry,” says Julie Mann, chief innovation officer at PURIS. “Innovating a sustainable food supply is at the core of the PURIS mission. This challenge provides an excellent opportunity for a start-up to work alongside a like-minded leader in the food industry.”

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