Food manufacturers remain on the lookout for meat-less protein alternatives, aiming to satisfy society's growing appetite for low-cost protein produce that fits vegetarian and health-related diet plans, while also outbidding or enhancing the plethora of products already out there in grocery stores.
One new entrant in this space is the Parisian startup Yeasty, which just closed its pre-seed round of funding at €1.4 million to help roll out its alternative proteins that use "upcycled" beer yeast.
The round is led by Asterion Ventures, whose food tech credentials include a bet on the unsold food marketplace TooGoodtoGo in the US.
Satgana, a climate tech VC, and Caméléon Invest both filled out the round together with over 40 business angels affiliated to Asterion, including Cédric Sellin, Clément Alteresco and Anne Carole Coen.
Not every meat free protein is environmentally sound, as a lot will depend on the emissions that occur during the production process. Besides the climate angle, it's a tough business and highly competitive.
Just a couple of months ago, Impossible Foods, the giant of meat replacement products based in the US, laid off 6% of its staff, and there's early word today that a German food tech is parting ways with more than 50% of its workforce.
Yeasty's product would recycle raw yeast from breweries. It argues the yeast is currently "unused" and therefore a source of environmental and economic waste.
Once in production, Yeasty would process the feedstock to change the taste of the yeast, in theory removing the "bitterness" we'd associate with beer and enhancing the product's nutritional value.
It's the bitterness that Yeasty says has prevented yeast being used for foodstuffs previously, as until now there's been no way to remove it.
Yeasty is still to scale its technique out of the lab; by 2025 its team aims to deliver its first manufacturing plant to produce a maximum of 5,000 tons of yeast proteins each year.
The pre-seed fundraise will support that goal by producing samples for food manufacturers, hopefully locking down orders once the yeast is proven tasty in recipes for meat alternative products, pasta, high-protein snacks and bread loaves.
Yeasty's core product was invented by food scientists Nikola Stefanovic and Mathieu Durand while they were conducting research at AgroParisTech, a French institute that's part of Paris-Saclay University, and Genopole, a biocluster just south of Paris.
The founding duo were joined in late 2021 by Yeasty's CEO, Juan Londono, who came on board with a business and data science background.