LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND — Two alternative protein startups have been selected to participate in Purina’s Unleashed Accelerator Program, along with four other pet care startups. MOA Foodtech and eniferBio have been selected for the Unleashed accelerator and will receive mentoring from Purina experts as part of the accelerator program.

As Europe’s only pet care accelerator program, Purina’s Unleashed seeks to drive pet innovation, supporting the development of new pet products and services throughout Europe and the Asia Oceania regions.

Spain-based MOA Foodtech develops sustainable human and pet food ingredients by upcycling food waste and byproducts.

“We believe that the pet food industry is a crucial part of the food industry as a whole, and we are dedicated to expanding our efforts into making healthy and sustainable food,” said Bosco Emperanza, chief executive officer of MOA Foodtech. “Previously, we have been focused on products for humans, so we believe that Purina is the perfect partner to get to know the pet food sector and see how we can have an impact on sustainability and nutrition.”

Finland-based eniferBio develops PEKILO®, a sustainable mycoprotein that can be used in aquaculture, pet food and human food.

“The PEKILO® protein produced by eniferBio is the most competitive alternative protein out there, and the production technology is ready to scale,” said Simo Ellilä, chief executive officer and co-founder of eniferBio. “Through Unleashed, we want to understand the potential of introducing our unique protein to the companion animal sector.  

“More and more attention is being paid to the quality and sustainability of the ingredients in pet food today and Purina is a leader in this segment, so obviously an ideal partner to investigate whether there is a product-market-fit,” Ellilä added.

Portugal-based knok, Spain-based Kibus, Austria-based Feragen and Egypt-based Vetwork, all of which focus on pet digital health solutions, were also chosen to participate in Purina’s Unleashed.

The six startups were chosen from more than 150 applicants spanning 28 countries. Each startup will receive CHF 50,000 ($51,731 USD) to upscale their business, mentorship and hands-on testing and learning pilots from Purina’s team of experts.

“We are delighted to welcome such an extraordinary group of innovators into the 2022 cohort,” said Kim Bill, head of the Purina Accelerator Lab. “Just like Purina, these businesses are driven to innovate and challenge the industry through technology, and data-driven solutions. While the next six months will be busy, we cannot wait to see what they will build.”

The Unleashed program will be completed in October 2022, with recruitment for the 2023 program to begin soon after.

“After a global pandemic, the number of pet owners and animal lovers worldwide is greater than ever, and the industry is responding by accelerating its innovation, offering greener, smarter and better solutions than ever before,” said Jeff Hamilton, chief executive officer of Nestlé Purina PetCare Europe.

Since 2020, Purina’s Unleashed has accelerated 12 startups, including BlueNalu Innovations, developer of sustainable seafood; Pawpots, manufacturer of ready-to-eat pet food; and BioKind, a sustainable, alternative protein developer.

"Start-ups joining Unleashed can expect a well-resourced and transparent co-development process — this is quite unique when starting a relationship with a large corporate," said Max Swinscow Hall, chief executive officer and co-founder of Biokind.

Read more global pet food and treat news from outside North America.