Is High Protein Bread the Next Big Plant-Based Trend?
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Food tech startup Equii has closed a $6 million seed funding round for its proprietary microbial protein-based bread. Is this a new frontier for plant-based food?
The seed funding round was led by Khosla Ventures, which also supported Impossible Foods in its early days. The new funding builds on $2 million in previous investments including funding from kdT Ventures, 1derlife Partners, Accelr8 Partners, Axial Ventures, and angel investors in the food tech space.
The company was founded by Monica Bhatia, PhD and Baljit Ghotra, PhD,. Both bring extensive food industry experience, working with companies including Cargill, Mondelez, ADM, and more recently, novel tech startups Geltor and Nature’s Fynd.
Equii, formerly Cella Foods, launched last year, using tech to ferment grains and turn then into high-protein flour. The Equii flour contains three to six times more protein than conventional flour, half the carbohydrates, and all of the essential amino acids, the company says. One slice of its bread contains ten grams of protein—nearly as much as two eggs.
“We’ve been able to check the box on every single metric in terms of how this bread is similar to regular bread,” Dr. Bhatia said. “Bread is very simple when you bake it at home. It’s just water, flour, a little bit of fat, some salt and yeast and sugar. Our ingredient deck is pretty much that, other than our protein, and we add a little bit of natural preservative.”
Bread’s image problem
Bread has struggled with image problems in recent years as diets like Paleo and Keto eschew it for its high carbohydrate content. But as a staple food, it provides sustenance to billions of people around the world. Generally an inexpensive source of food, high-protein bread could also help bring a healthy option to the millions of children who rely on the public school system for several meals a day.
“At Khosla Ventures, we seek out companies that have the ability to make a massive impact on society,” Alice Brooks, principal at Khosla Ventures, said in a statement. “Equii is redefining the natural staples of our diet—starting with bread—to make healthier nutrition more accessible, and we are excited to back them on their journey.”
“Bread, a household staple, is our debutant product,” Dr. Ghotra, said in a statement. “Beyond bread, Equii’s world-class team is developing a pipeline of products that include high-protein pasta, nutrition bars, and snack foods to provide healthy food options throughout the day. We are on the lookout for partners who share our mission of bringing sustainable and healthy foods to the consumer globally.”
Equii is working to bring its high-protein bread into a range of food service locations this year.
Lead image courtesy Equii.