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Dao Foods International has released the names of the latest six alternative protein companies to be welcomed into its incubator programme. They represent the third cohort since the project launched in 2020. The incubator scheme is intended to support and invest in 25-30 alt-protein companies that are China-specific, by the end of 2023.
Companies do not need to be founded in China to be eligible for Dao’s support. Those that have chosen to focus solely on the growing Chinese market, with tailored food flavours and profiles, are eligible. In this incubator round, China, Canada, and Singapore are all represented across a diverse selection of food industry specialisms.
The lucky six
The six chosen companies include precision fermentation outfit Liven Proteins, from Canada, Singapore’s alt-seafood producer Lohas Foods and cell-based pork belly startup NewDay Farm, also from China. Canada’s Saint Michael Foods specialises in buckwheat products, while China’s ProTi Food Tech is honing in on the potential applications of microalgae and microbial processes. Zero Limit completes the line-up, as a Shenzhen-based bakery startup looking to develop vegan baked goods that are healthier but taste equivalent to conventional favourites.
“The alternative protein sector is still quite nascent in China,” Tao Zhang, co-founder of Dao Foods, said in a statement. “Though momentum has been building up in this sector over the past two years, knowledge and adoption of new protein products among mainstream consumers in the country are still not established yet. The game changers will be those entrepreneurs who know how to conquer the stomachs and minds of China’s shoppers. We hope that an army of such entrepreneurs can be nurtured and developed via the Dao Foods Incubator to achieve the positive environmental and climate impacts we are working toward in and from China.”
Previous success stories
Dao has previously welcomed 9 startups into its incubator. Plant-based ready meals and dairy, cell-based developments and mycelium companies have all been chosen for their potential to create food security for Chinese consumers. The first company to be supported by the project was China’s own Starfield Food and Science Technology. Today, the startup stands as the country’s fastest-growing and most financed plant-based protein operation, having bagged $100 million in a Series B funding round, in January this year. It proved to be the biggest investment into a vegan brand in China’s history, with its products now present in more than 14,000 restaurants domestically.
Alongside its incubator programme, Dao is looking to support the creation of an alternative protein infrastructure in China by hosting ‘Good Food Bootcamp’ events. Educational in nature, the bootcamps offer practical support to help switch over to sustainable proteins. A sixth event is planned for next month, in Guangzhou.
China as a plant-based powerhouse?
While domestic companies are being supported to increase impact, China is heralded by international protein manufacturers are a space ripe for distribution. With alternative proteins mentioned in both the China five-year agricultural plan, for the first time in history, and a speech given by President Xi, the sector looks on optimistically and is seeking to gain ground at an early juncture.
Last month, U.S.-based Beyond Meat revealed it has launched an online store through agricultural tech platform Pinduoduo. The e-giant will allow Beyond to gain ground within China, by making its products easily accessible and deliverable. Beyond is not alone in seizing an opportunity, however.
Good Food Technologies, a developer of plant-based pork, has revealed plans to move into mainland China from Hong Kong. It has raised HK$12 million for rollout in a seed round participated in by DaydayCook, Brinc, LeverVC and raise leader VC Gobi Partners.
Lead photo by Lohas Foods.