MATR Foods has developed a new generation of plant based meat alternatives based on fungal fermentation technology. We chatted with Randi Wahlsten, CEO of MATR Foods, to get more acquainted with the company’s mission and what the company aims to achieve by participating in BII’s Venture Lab program.
What is the key driver for MATR Foods?
MATR Foods has the ambition to revolutionize the food industry. Today, we have a food system that cannot sustainably feed the whole world’s population, and we drastically need to reduce the CO2 footprint of food production. Furthermore, food production takes up a large land mass, and we need to do something radical to deploy less land mass for food production.
We are trying to come up with a completely novel alternative to regular meat-based production by using the side streams of the food industry to make delicious plant-based food. Besides being more sustainable, our approach is more attractive to consumers in various parameters.
What is your background, and what is the scientific foundation for MATR Foods?
We have a diverse group of founders. Some of us have a strong scientific interest in microbiology and a deep knowledge of mycelium, its potential, and its scientific composition. Others enter with a gastronomical perspective and see a clear need to produce something more appealing to consumers to attract more people to plant-based foods.
I have a background in the food industry, with more than ten years in Arla Foods. All the big players work to become more sustainable, but efforts are not radical enough to create the change needed in time, and that was my call to act and involve myself with MATR Foods.
In the meeting between these different perspectives and backgrounds, we find great potential to develop more sustainable products and meet consumers’ demands.
How do you address issues with texture, flavor, and taste that plant-based food often meets?
Our product is unique from a consumer perspective since our product is made from fungal fermentation. This fermentation approach offers significant advantages compared to protein extrusion processing since the mycelium fungi form a specific filament structure similar to regular meat. Thus, our plant-based alternative gets deep umami notes and a juicy texture with bounce and bite similar to meat without needing any additives to achieve that.
How do you see the current market?
It is an interesting time right now. If you look at the last three to five years, plant-based alternatives have experienced double-digit growth rates across the Western World, but during 2021 and 2022, it seems like that development changed. I believe that is due to various reasons, and corona also played a role, but people also have higher expectations of the products. They are not satisfied with the current plant-based options.
While the most ideological consumers have probably already transitioned, there are still a large group of consumers we should focus on targeting with delicious products to make an impactful change in our food production and consumption. All surveys suggest that up to 50 percent of the population in European countries would like to transition to a more plant-based diet. Still, they are dissatisfied with the selection they find in supermarkets regarding taste, texture, and endless ingredient lists. We believe that we have developed a product that can address these doubts and give people a satisfying eating experience with a clean, simple product with only a few local ingredients.
A common challenge for start-ups in this field is scalability. How do you cope with scalability?
That is one of our main focus areas right now. We are working with all steps of the process to create a streamlined industrial pilot for our solid-state fermentation process. Currently, we can produce 200 kilos per production. We can get up to 1000 kilos and beyond with the scalable approach we are working on.