The vegan and protein scene is heating up across the continent

5 Min reading

Innovation in alternative proteins is growing all over the world, and Africa is no exception to the trend. While American food technologies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods may be in the spotlight right now, a growing cohort of startups across the African continent are making vegan meat suitable for Nigerian cuisine, seafood grown in Africa. South and much more. Beyond entrepreneurs, the ecosystem is also supported by African venture capital firms and non-profit organizations.

The innovation of vegan startups

Startups are popping up across Africa and there is no shortage of new innovations in alternative proteins. In the vegan protein scene, VeggieVictory pioneered the concept in Nigeria, becoming the country’s very first plant-based meat brand.

Based in Lagos, the company’s range includes plant-based dishes suitable for Nigerian cuisine, such as efo riro stews made with its vegan ‘Vchunks’ meat, as well as international dishes like meatless burger patties. soy-based shawarmas and hot dogs. Gaining the attention of international investors for its pre-seedings, the company is now gearing up to launch vegan beef jerky.

VChunk Skewers developed by VeggieVictory. (Image: VeggieVictory)

At the time, Hakeem Jimo, the startup’s co-founder and CEO, said global funding was a sign of Africa’s strong potential for plant-based innovation. “We are delighted to have won over these well-known investors not only for VeggieVictory, but also for the African continent as the next frontier for the plant movement.”

But Africa is also home to older plant-based brands, including Fry’s Family Food Co., which started in 1991. Based in South Africa, the brand produces meatless nuggets, cutlets, burgers, rolls. sausages and sausages, and even vegan pies and pies. pastries – an exception to the list of early adopters of alternative proteins mainly dominated by the West, such as the British Quorn and the American Lightlife.

In 2020, the brand was acquired by The LiveKindly Collective, joining the group of herbal companies, including Oumph! and LikeMeat.

One of the first meatless brands, Fry Family Food Co., originated in South Africa. (Image: Fry Family Food Co.)

Animal-free protein, from cell fermentation to precision fermentation

While the continent’s plant industry is perhaps the most mature of the three main pillars of the alternative protein world, African startups are now leveraging other technologies as well, from cell culture to fermentation.

The first cell-based meat player landed in South Africa last year. Mzansi Meat, headquartered in Cape Town, works on ground beef, burgers and nuggets without slaughter, but also cuts of meat that locals consume. Burgers and nuggets are very common in Western cuisine, but not so much in African dishes.

When the startup first launched last year, co-founders Brett Thompson and Jay Van Der Walt made it clear that they would also be growing “meat that can be used in traditional cooking”, not just vegetables. western style meats. Now the startup is boldly asking the country’s president Cyril Ramaphosa if they can borrow cells from his award-winning Ankole cattle so they can grow South Africa’s most sought-after cut of beef.

The Mzansi Meat team is developing cell-based meat in South Africa. (Image: Mzansi meat)

Sea-Stematic is also based in South Africa, the continent’s very first and only cell-grown seafood company. The woman-run company, founded by Marica Quarsingh this year, wants to deliver fish and a whole range of seafood that has been grown directly from cells not only to African plates, but to diners around the world.

And the region that Sea-Stematic is most optimistic about is Asia, a region that is expected to generate nearly three-quarters of the forecasted 21% of seafood industry demand growth over the next few years. years.

Then there’s De Novo Dairy, a startup that moves away from insect protein and harnesses precision fermentation. The newest player in the block, the young company uses the same technology as Perfect Day to ferment and grow real dairy protein without the cow, and turn it into bio-identical, cruelty-free, lactose-free cheeses, yogurts and ice cream.

Sea-Stematic focuses on farming fish and other seafood species. (Image: Sea-Stematic)

Ecosystem supporters

But beyond all the entrepreneur-led innovations, all of these startups are supported by a budding African ecosystem of alternative proteins, from domestic investors to nonprofits.

The Vegan Africa Fund, for example, is a venture capital firm dedicated to helping grow plant-based businesses across the continent. Based in Mombasa, Kenya, the company aims to close the access to capital gap facing African entrepreneurs, supporting companies that innovate in new alternative proteins made in Africa and helping to build an industry that could become a power of net exporter for the world.

One of the companies he has supported includes Vegan Basket, a 100% plant-based restaurant in Kilifi, Kenya, which started serving diners in 2019. The startup, supported by Vegan Africa Fund, is now embarking on the launch of retail products like ready-made vegan meals.

100% vegetable pojo samoussas from Vegan Basket, black bean curry, potato bhajia, mchicha, guacamole and kachumbari. (Image: Vegan basket)

Part of the reasons why more and more consumers in Africa, like others around the world, are increasingly choosing herbal products, is due to a variety of concerns. One of them, of course, being animal welfare. This is where nonprofits like Animal Advocacy Africa (AAA), an offshoot of the South African organization Credence Institute, come in.

AAA is helping to raise public awareness of the plight of animals, by encouraging more funding for conservation projects and investing in education campaigns to change the perception of animal welfare as a predominantly Eurocentric concept.

The growth of the African herbal industry is also being helped by companies like Infinite Foods, which imports more herbal products into sub-Saharan Africa. The platform, based in Johannesburg, South Africa, provides an end-to-end service for international vegan brands to enter the African market, giving consumers in the region more choices when it comes to foods made from alternative proteins.

In addition to working with more than 800 food outlets across the continent, including Mauritius and Botswana, Infinite Foods also offers e-commerce to bring brands like Beyond Meat and Oatly directly to consumers.

Main image courtesy of VeggieVictory.

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