Plant-based foods are on the rise, and it’s no surprise that startup and tech community is driving the innovation in this sector.
Considered “crazy dreamers” 5 years ago, co-founders Marc Coloma and Bernat Ananos Martinez have grown Barcelona-based Heura, a vegan ‘meat’ brand, into the fastest growing startup in Europe. Having seen 450% growth this year despite lockdown, the company has rapidly taken over the whole of Spain and is now launching to other markets like the UK, with a team of 50+ behind the products. If you haven’t tried it yet, Heura offers two meat alternatives for chicken and beef, with different options like meatballs, burgers and chicken strips, that mimic the texture and taste of meat beyond comparison. So what’s next for this team?
We spoke with CEO and co-founder Marc Coloma, who is also a food activist, about the growth of Heura, the landscape for plant-based innovations and why he thinks creating plant based products is the most impactful way of ensuring a sustainable, green and impactful business.
Hello Marc, thank you for joining us. To get started, can you tell us what drives your entrepreneurial spirit?
Justice is what drives my entrepreneurial spirit. Creating projects that will have a positive impact gives me the strength to passionately engage them.
Can you walk us through the sustainability measures Heura Foods has and any tips you have for founders in ‘greening’ their business?
All plant based startups in essence are already green, so I don’t really like to use the term greening. But happy to share as tips what we also try to apply consistently in every decision we make, if that helps others to keep improving day by day. We all have a long way ahead.
We have launched our new packaging with 80% less plastic that will reduce 13 tons of plastic in one year. Also, our office manager makes every little decision with the conscious mindset. As little examples that at the end of the year mean a lot are: we use 100% green energy, we only have LED bulbs, coffee is with no capsules and is sustainable, plant based milk, recycling bins in every floor, refilling water bottles for workers and no plastic on the water dispenser,..
Nevertheless, I think it is important to highlight that, according to a study of the University of Oxford, livestock and fish farms are behind 52% of gas emissions of the food industry while packaging is only 5% as an example. That means that the scalability of plant based products will always be the priority on our decisions as the positive impact on the whole picture will always be higher.
Heura raised seed funding in February 2020. It seems there are a few VCs set up now just to fund social ventures, and more specifically vegan ventures. Can you shed some light on your funding round and your thoughts on this?
People leading worldwide the protein transition aren’t people who are just there because of the business opportunity, our drive is something bigger: We all wake up every morning for something more important than money, we wake up thinking that we are making this planet a better world.
From my personal experience I can say that with a higher drive, your passion and energy go beyond anything else, giving you the strength to overcome any obstacle. As a mission driven company it is a pleasure to count with mission driven investors to boost the protein transition, it makes the “good guys” unstoppable.
What changes have you seen in the plant-based enterprise community in the last 5 years, and what do you predict for the next?
5 years ago we were considered crazy dreamers and the access to investment and resources to make it real was hard. Not anymore. In the next 5, I think that the capacity to innovate will grow exponentially in the industry offering more and better solutions every day: healthier, more accessible and more sustainable for the planet.
As it has happened to any major innovation as the personal computer or the iPhone; in the plant based industry we will see first generation, second generation, third generation,.. all important for the acceleration of the industry and impulsing the whole segment. Our R&D team works everyday for that. The industry has already solved the sensorial experience of meat and we are currently focused in also delivering the best nutritionals.
How have you been fairing during the current pandemic?
I like to think that every cloud has a silver lining. I think it is one of the keys to be an entrepreneur: seeing opportunities to bring solutions where others only see problems.
Obviously our foodservice business has been highly affected by the pandemic but our POS in retail have been growing and we are following our international expansion plans as expected. On top of it, as a company, working remotely has made us even stronger and it is latent that society has become more conscious of the impact it has the way we eat.
What’s on the cards for the rest of 2020 and 2021? Any exciting projects underway?
We have been working for the last few months in the biggest challenge the industry had: offering the juiciness of animal meat while reducing the amounts of fat. The sensorial challenge was already covered in the industry and we have now focused on offering the best nutritionals in class, something inherent in our Mediterranian roots. Big news coming up. Stay tuned.
Visioning further on what is coming up in the industry, the next challenge will be on accessibility and we are already working towards its solution.