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CSIRO and Jack Cowin venture into plant based meat with v2 Food

Phil Morle, Nick Hazell, Martin Cole, Mary Ann Augustin and Jack Cowin.

Australia’s latest plant-based meat start-up, v2 Food, is primed to take on the retail and food service scenes, with the backing of Government and food industry leaders.

National science agency CSIRO’s Main Sequence Ventures and Jack Cowin’s Competitive Foods, have come together to take a slice of the $6 billion dollar alternative meat pie, with former Masterfoods and PepsiCo research director, Nick Hazell, leading the business.

Cowin’s Competitive Foods Australia, the company behind Hungry Jack’s, also contributed seed funding to help launch the startup, which in the space of just eight months has created a plant-based option that it claims “looks like meat, cooks like meat and tastes like meat”. 

“We’ve seen a huge opportunity for plant-based proteins and the category is set to explode. I’ve eaten beef all my life but I’ve tasted the v2food and it tastes as good as beef. Therefore, we can’t wait to take v2food to consumers with some fantastic new products” ​Cowin said.

With the help of CSIRO’s research and development resources, Hazell, v2food founder and CEO, set about creating a “version 2” of beef mince in January, using legumes, added fibre and nutrients.

“We’ve been working like crazy to try and take the science and turn it into a product, which is what we’ve done. So we now have beef, which tastes the same or better than beef, that will be at a price which is comparable to beef,” Hazell told Inside FMCG at the company launch on Tuesday.

“We know that consumers don’t change their eating patterns, we like to eat the same food that our mothers and our grandmothers gave us. To ask people to change their diet is just too big an ask, it’s up to us, as the food designers if you like, to change the food, so that fits in with what people like.”

Hazell said the v2 Food range will be marketed towards all consumers, with a presence in the meat section so that it can be found by people who are looking for meat, as it fits in to the same eating occasion.

“We’re not focusing on the vegan market, even though our product might be vegan. We’re focusing on the meat lover. Our research suggests that more than 80 per cent of people are looking to do something, even if it’s once a week to reduce their meat intake or do something for sustainability. And I think we’re at very much at that tipping point. It’s for everyday people who just want to do the right thing.”

Hazell told Inside FMCG that the speed at which they have progressed is “unprecedented” and is largely thanks to their small size and access to science and technology through CSIRO.

“I don’t think this could have happened at this speed, if it was done within a large company, I think there’s too many obstacles. Because it’s a startup, we’re focused on the end goal, and can go extraordinarily fast. When you’re really committed, and you’ve got everybody leaning in, it’s amazing what you can achieve change in a short amount of time.”

By 2050 the global population is expected to be at around 10 billion and the team at v2 Food are eager to tackle the growing demand for protein in a more sustainable way. The company is working with grain and meat industries to get producers involved in what CSIRO predicts will be a $6 billion+ industry in Australia by 2030.

Australia doesn’t currently have the capability to process legumes for  plant-based meat alternatives, so with the help of CSIRO, v2 Food is working on developing this capability to create “an all Australian value chain”.

Hon Karen Andrews, Minister for Industry, Science and Technology stressed that the market is big enough to welcome these new innovators.

“This is an exciting opportunity for Australian grain farmers to be at the forefront of this growing  market, which will help them grow and create new jobs. This isn’t about taking a share of the existing meat market, this is an additional opportunity to create a new market that could add $6 billion to our  economy by 2030,” she ​said.

v2food is working with Competitive Foods and Hungry Jacks to begin appearing in restaurants and cafes this year with a leading retail presence expected in early 2020.

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