Food Tech Start-Up Challenge [NEW deadline 11 Feb 2023] A Sustainable & Innovative Future
Wednesday, February 1st, 2023
New Industry Challenge Launched to Support Scale Up of Food Tech Start-Ups
To find out more and submit your entry for the Food Tech Start-Up Challenge, visit https://nurasa.com/food-tech-start-up-challenge or follow Nurasa on LinkedIn for regular Challenge updates. The deadline for Open Call submissions has been extended to Saturday, 11 February 2023, 11:59 pm SGT.
A Sustainable & Innovative Future: On a related note, Jolene Lum, Client Development Manager, for Nurasa, shares her vision for building a sustainable future for food, and the potential for innovations and technologies to speed up progress.
Q: In November, it was announced that the world population has reached 8 billion, giving rise to concerns around food security. With a growing population and demographic shifts, what does this mean for the alternative and functional foods sector?
The world’s increasing population, coupled with climate change challenges that are straining food systems and supply chains, signal a need to reimagine the future of food. We need to ensure there is a regenerative and equitable ecosystem that provides healthy, safe, and nutritious food for all.
At the same time, we also need to address changing consumer needs and preferences that are shifting in support of food choices that are better for them and for the planet.
For instance, with the world’s population ageing much faster — the number of people aged 60 years or over is expected to increase from 1 billion in 2020 to 1.4 billion by 2030 — food products will crucially need to adapt to the health and nutrition needs of older adults.
Functional food products that are part of the so-called “silver diet”, which promote health benefits in addition to possessing nutritive value, and are modified in taste, texture, nutrition, and ease of preparation, can improve the life quality of an ageing population.
Meantime, consumers are also demanding more from the food they consume, seeking better food outcomes that align with an evolving food palette and shifts towards a healthier lifestyle. Many looking to balance their diets are choosing vegetarian or flexitarian options, including incorporating plant-based or cultivated alternative proteins.
These changing demands are creating many opportunities for the alternative and functional foods space, and the market is ripe with opportunities for investments in new, innovative products and novel technologies to drive sustainable and forward-thinking food systems that will not only reduce the food system’s impact on the planet, but also enable those that are highly responsive to the unique needs of consumers.
Q: Where do you think the current gaps are in the alternative food space?
While alternative foods hold the potential to transform our food systems, challenges remain in driving greater consumer adoption and acceptance. Despite a desire for healthier, more sustainable protein options, studies show that the primary concerns among consumers when making the switch to plant-based food or other alternative protein options are taste, texture, nutrition, and price. From our observation, which is supported by research, there are still some gaps present when it comes to addressing these concerns.
Additionally, food tech start-ups, in general, face barriers in scaling up and bringing their products to market. These include long wait-times for pilot-scale facilities and equipment; the lack of deep product and process development capabilities; and the difficulty in navigating regulatory processes and understanding unfamiliar markets in parts of Asia.
Q: Why do these gaps exist and how are they hampering the growth of the sector in Asia Pacific?
Creating an innovation-rich environment for food tech companies to create healthier and affordable food alternatives that also taste good requires sufficient access to funding, resources and expertise.
In Asia, it is projected that a total of US$1.55 trillion in investments across the entire value chain is required over the next decade to secure the capabilities and technology needed to address the unique food and agricultural challenges facing the region.
A concerted effort by all stakeholders — including greater support and collaboration between governments, corporations, and investors — is necessary to bring this additional funding and technical expertise needed to drive a more diverse and sustainable food ecosystem.
Q: How is Nurasa supporting start-ups to overcome these barriers and challenges?
Driven by our vision to accelerate the commercialisation and adoption of sustainable foods in Asia, Nurasa wants to address the pain points experienced by start-ups in scaling up and commercialising their products.
By tapping on our regional and global network of partners, as well as our end-to-end enabler, operator, and investor capabilities, we look to provide bespoke solutions and support to aspiring food-tech companies at every stage of their growth cycle.
As an enabler, we provide pilot-to-scale advisory and food-grade manufacturing facilities to support start-ups in accelerating product commercialisation. In partnership with A*STAR’s Singapore Institute of Food & Biotechnology Innovation (SIFBI), our Food Tech Innovation Centre (FTIC) is slated for opening in the first half of 2023 as one of the first food-grade food innovation pilot centres in Singapore. The FTIC will serve as a one-stop shop where start-ups can access precision fermentation and high moisture extrusion (HME) labs and equipment; the Givaudan Taste & Wellbeing Taste and Colour Lab for flavour solutions; ready-to-fit test kitchens and co-working spaces; and formulation and analytical resources.
Additionally, as an Operator, we provide manufacturing capabilities and market insights into commercialisation opportunities to support scaling up across Asia. For example, we founded Cremer Sustainable Foods, alongside German agri-food multinational CREMER, to add significant HME capabilities to Asia with a dedicated plant-based food contract manufacturing facility, operational in Singapore as of July this year.
Lastly, as an Investor, we provide businesses with a network of strategic connections within the ecosystem and allocate capital into viable food-tech start-ups. As part of this, we’re proud to support Growthwell Foods, makers of the HAPPIEE! plant-based seafood products and chickpea-based milk, as well as Next Gen Foods, makers of TiNDLE plant-based chicken.
Finally, we have just launched a global Open Call for the FTIC Food Tech Start-Up Challenge and are accepting pitch submissions until 27 January 2023. We hope to support entrepreneurs in overcoming these barriers and provide them with an effective platform to accelerate their growth and be a key contributor to Asia’s vibrant food tech landscape. Winners of the Challenge will gain early access to cutting-edge technologies and tools at the FTIC and the opportunity to work closely with industry leaders to accelerate their growth.
Q: What are you most looking forward to from the entries of the Food Tech Start-Up Challenge?
I’m excited to see how the creative solutions by emerging innovators around the world can enrich Asia’s vibrant food tech landscape and lift the barriers to the adoption of alternative foods in this region.
My main hope is that global entrepreneurs will apply and share exciting new applications or products to optimise alternative proteins, or novel product formats in the functional foods space, so we can support them in accelerating their growth and translate these ideas into tasty and nutritious food products for consumers.
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