Innovative food products require inventive partnerships

Upcycling waste for food calls for brave teams with bright minds – doing it in scale calls for trustworthy partners.

Jumping from lab scale to pilot scale to factory scale is a tough journey for any food producer. For newcomers turning side streams into delicious food products it is a real adventure. Hence, you need a bunch of punks and mushketeers to make it happen and solid partnerships to pull it off!

The former bunch, startup Five Letter Foods (5LF) consists of Jere Vento, Patrik Erävaara, Anna Hielm-Björkman and Erdogan Peckan Erkan. They make real food for dogs, meaning low processed whole foods, raw meats, and high variety. 5LF’s novel portfolio is based on fermented brewery by-products combined with cultivated reindeer meat creating the first hybrid product (20% of lab-grown meat) in the market by 2025. Their “lab run by punks” is now developing into a pilot factory, where not only equipment, but also working methods, routines and reporting start mattering alongside the punk attitude. Luckily, this is where the Germinator programme’s sponsor-mentor Foodwest’s expertise resides. Thus, the field trip to their premises at Seinäjoki was a true learning journey for 5LF and the rest of the Germinator and Pre-Germinator teams, who got to see how a modern, pilot sized food production is set up and handled. A further aim was to discover how exactly can Foodwest help the startups in their piloting phase, and get these plans underway with the courtesy of the Germinator programme and the Helsinki University’s Ruralia institute.

"It is always inspiring to be take part in the journeys of new and inventive startup companies", says Harri Latva-Mäenpää, the CEO of Foodwest.

"We see that the innovation platform including food development, piloting and commercial production infrastructure built in Seinäjoki by Foodwest, is truly an effective way to bridge the gap between the lab scale and industry. Consumer and market understanding services can also be integrated to the projects", Harri says about Foodwest’s approach.

Another upcycling team in the Germinator this year is Three Mushketeers, founded by two brave scientists and a courageous technologist, Emma Kynkäänniemi, Ida Nikkilä and Emmi Korjus – all graduates from the department of food and nutrition at the faculty of agriculture and forestry at the university of Helsinki. They are turning mushroom side streams and waste into a novel ingredient for the food industry. With their unique process this material gets a new meaty taste and texture for creating tastier end products. Through prototyping in the Viikki Food Design Factory’s demo lab, the demo phase is soon over, and next up is piloting in a bigger scale. For this, the team is happy to connect with the Germinator sponsor-mentors, such as Valio and their seasoned R&D professionals.

The opportunity for discussions between the Germinator teams and Valio was arranged in the programme’s visit to Valio’s R&D center at Pitäjänmäki in Helsinki. The topics included, among other things, piloting collaboration and procurement. Getting to know the people and the grocery sector’s ways of working is crucial for startup teams looking to collaborate with bigger companies. The connections founded through Germinator are a major part of the programme’s value for both the startups and established companies. When these partnerships lead to new upcycled food solutions, we are all a tad closer to a more sustainable food system.

Are you interested in joining the food system transformation? Looking to find collaboration or job opportunities with pioneering food system and circular economy startups? Look no further, but come to the Mix&Match event in Viikki on March 1, 2023.

AgriFood & Circular Economy Mix&Match info and registration
  • An event for networking, where startups pitch their collaboration and recruitment offerings
  • Takes place on Viikki campus in Helsinki, Agnes Sjöbergin katu 2, on March 1, 2023 at 15:00 (registration starting at 14:30)
  • Organized by the Viikki Food Design Factory and Helsinki incubators
  • See programme and registration instructions at the Mix&Match event website. The event is free of charge but registration is required.