Finns have the winning recipe for protein alternatives
Enifer has secured a 12-million-euro grant for building its first commercial-scale production facility producing the company’s proprietary mycoprotein, PEKILO.Enifer
The first-ever in-depth study of the Finnish food technology sector has discovered a sector led by cellular agriculture and next-generation food innovations, such as sustainable protein sources.
The grant will enable the biotechnology startup to build its first commercial-scale plant for producing ingredients required for its proprietary mycoprotein, PEKILO. The plant is set to have an annual production capacity of three million kilos, roughly equivalent to the protein content of 30 000 cows, but produce at least 20 times less carbon emissions and require substantially less land and water.
The 30-million-euro plant is to be completed by the end of 2025, with a ramp-up of production scheduled for 2026.
Simo Ellilä, CEO at Enifer, said in a press release that the startup is extremely grateful for the support, arguing that the plant will be a critical stepping stone to scaling up the production of PEKILO.
“We aim to commercialise [it] globally across different applications,” he declared.
PEKILO is a fibre and protein-rich powder with a neutral taste and colour that can be used similarly to plant-based proteins, according to Enifer.Enifer
“Thanks to the unique history of PEKILO, we are able to take this giant leap from our existing pilot directly to a commercial-scale facility,” he added, pointing to the fact that the production process is based on a fungal fermentation process that was developed in Finland in the 1970s.
Enifer has since refined the process further to create the fibre and protein-rich powder with a neutral taste and colour that can be used similarly to plant-based proteins in the food industry today. The startup is intent on applying for regulatory approval for the food-grade ingredient by mid-2024.
It raised 11 million euros in series-A funding in the first half of last year and has established partnerships with major players in the global food and feed industries, including Skretting and Valio.
Wolt and Relex dominate, but food tech sector sees appeal broaden
Finnish Industry Investment (Tesi) has carried out the first comprehensive study of the food technology sector in Finland.
The study delved into the corporate landscape, funding environment and investor dynamics within the emerging sector, discovering a landscape dominated mostly by companies developing cellular agriculture solutions, plant-based products and other innovations in the agricultural technology and next-generation food spaces.
The sector comprises 84 companies, 29 of which were entered into the next-generation food, 26 into the agricultural technology, 16 into the supply chain, and 13 into the delivery and consumer technology category.
Most of the companies have raised funding or participated in incubator programmes in or outside Finland.
Lippulaiva Library in Espoo has begun offering sourdough yeast to visitors, tapping into the growing popularity of sourdough bread baking.Cats Coming / Pexels
Although funding for food technology enterprises surged substantially between 2019 and 2022 – the three-year total being 1.6 billion euros, marking a 1,500-per-cent increase from the total for 2015–2018 – the surge is attributable chiefly to two companies: Wolt and Relex Solutions.
The two companies accounted for 84 per cent of funding raised in the sector in 2015–2022, leaving 270 million euros for the remaining 82 companies. While the median size of a funding round over the six-year period was 1.9 million euros, there has been a marked increase in the number of funding rounds yielding at least 10 million euros for companies not named Wolt or Relex Solutions.
The challenging macro and funding environment, however, resulted in a year-on-year drop in funding in the first half of 2023.
Tesi also drew attention to the diverse nature of investor activity in the sector, with both generalist and specialist investors active in the sector. While local food companies have also chipped in to support the development of new solutions in the sector, international companies have yet to be as active.
Fazer brings revolutionary protein to Singapore
The Southeast Asian city state is the first in the world to grant a novel food approval for the ingredient, enabling the Finnish duo to launch the snack bar at select candy shops on 18 January. The snack bar contains hazelnut, strawberries and oat puffs, with the protein enriching the flavour and boosting the iron content.
The dark chocolate snack bar contains strawberries, hazelnut and Nordic oat puffs.Fazer
Heli Anttila, head of new product development at Fazer Confectionery, highlighted that the snack bar is the first ever packed consumer product to feature Solein.
“At Fazer, we are continuously looking for opportunities to innovate for a more sustainable future, which is also why we have invested in Solar Foods, the Finnish startup behind Solein,” she commented.
The launch is an exciting moment also for Solar Foods. CEO Pasi Vainikka said the snack bar demonstrates the potential of the protein as a “sustainable and nutritious” fortifier.
“With this introduction in Singapore, we are getting valuable customer feedback on Solein’s viability in a new product category and also get a sense of the consumer acceptance for future ingredients,” he said.
Solar Foods has applied for approvals for the protein in Europe, expecting a decision by the end of next year.
Library in Espoo nourishes the mind and body
Libraries in Finland are venturing more and more boldly beyond the their statutory duty of promoting reading, literacy and literature, and providing guidance and support for information gathering.
Lippulaiva Library in Espoo in January reported that it is offering visitors sourdough yeast in packets of 50 grams. The packets, which need not be returned, have been increasingly popular, with visitors picking them up on a weekly basis, a spokesperson for the library revealed to Maaseudun Tulevaisuus.
“The idea for the sourdough yeast came from a staff member, Saska Ruutiainen, who worked as a chef before his library career,” the spokesperson stated.
The library also has a communal kitchen for cooking, eating and hosting events.
Libraries in Finland also offer visitors a wide range of items, from barbecues, garden tools, season tickets and blood pressure monitors to musical instruments, and exercise and sporting equipment.