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Proeon, an Indian plant protein ingredients startup, has just raised $2.4 million in a seed funding round. The company, which leverages a wide range of crops such as amaranth, hemp seeds and mung beans, say the funds will fuel its global expansion plans, with North America and Europe as its key target markets.
Proeon has closed its seed funding round with $2.4 million, the company announced on Monday (September 6). The round was led by Indian angel investor Shaival Desai, and saw participation from a number of VCs including Flowstate Ventures, Peak Sustainability Venture Fund and Waoo Partners. Other angels joining the round included existing investor OmniActive Health Technologies, managing director of health tech firm OmniActive.
According to the Good Food Institute India, this is the largest alt protein funding round in India to date. GFI India MD
Varun Deshpande said: “India’s agricultural heritage and biodiversity offers tremendous potential to satisfy skyrocketing global demand for plant protein, and Proeon’s work is emblematic of that potential. This investment is a show of confidence in the sector’s promise to strengthen agricultural value chains and benefit farmers, create jobs, and catalyze a more sustainable, secure, and just protein supply.”
The Pune-based plant protein ingredients innovator says the funds will be used to “accelerate growth” and expand its R&D, as the company looks to make its mark on the US and European markets.
Diverse plant-based proteins
Founded in 2018 by Ashish Korde and Kevin Parekh, Proeon is a plant-based ingredients supplier on a mission to diversify the range of sustainable crops used in the alt-protein industry. It currently offers protein and other ingredients from crops like hemp seeds, amaranth, fava beans and chickpeas, which undergo gentle extraction and processing to enhance its functionality, making it easier for producers to incorporate into their formulations.
Proeon’s range of products can be used to make everything from plant-based meat substitutes, to dairy-free milk, as well as vegan egg replacements, spreads, dips and butters.
Earlier this year, the startup was selected to join Scrum Ventures’ sustainable food global accelerator program Food Tech Studio, and has since also joined MassChallenge Switzerland 2021, representing the only food tech from India within the sustainable food cohort.
Proeon to scale up and expand globally
Proeon says the fresh capital will speed up its global expansion plans, a major part of which includes setting up its R&D lab in the Netherlands as it looks to establish a foothold in the European and North American markets. The funds will also be used to file IP for its proprietary technology, as well as scaling up production.
The company takes a B2B approach, supplying food industry clients and producers with its functional plant-based ingredients to make a range of products. It says it hopes to help “save more than 170 billion liters of water and eliminate about 150 metric tonnes of CO2 emissions by replacing wasteful, animal-based foods with plant-based alternatives.”
“By relentlessly focusing on innovation and partnering with large global brands as well as startups, we are working towards creating food products that are hassle-free to formulate,” explained co-founders Parekh and Korde. “Our immediate focus would be expanding presence in the markets of North America and Europe, where the shift to plant proteins is accelerating at an unprecedented pace.”
While the US saw plant-based retail sales surge to $7 billion in 2020, Europe has been recording double-digit growth figures for the past two years to top €3.6 billion (US$4.35 billion).
Plant-based supply chain
As demand for plant-based products continues to grow, more supply-side solutions are now garnering the attention of investors—especially companies providing innovative ingredient solutions that match shifting consumer preferences, such as the clean label trend, or specific needs like gluten and soy allergies.
Related: Asian countries to lead diversification of plant crops for alt-protein industry – report
The clean label demand has prompted players like Beyond Meat to respond by reformulating its burgers with lower fat and calorie content, while newer startups like Actual Veggies and PlantCraft double down their brand focus on predominantly whole food and clean label plant ingredients.
It’s the reason why lead investor Shaival Desai has backed Proeon and its diverse range of plant protein offerings. In a statement, Desai shared that the startup’s “deep industry experience and technical understanding” on using technology to improve the functionality of plant proteins will help “cater to this industry that thrives on innovation.”
Anjani Bansal, founder of Flowstate Angel Investment Fund, agreed, saying that Proeon is poised to “have a major societal impact by solving both climate change and nutrition challenges of today.”
Lead image courtesy of Pexels.