Meros was thrilled to be invited to the final pitch event of Plug and Play Japan‘s Food and Beverage accelerator program, with Meros’ managing director Chisa Ogura on stage as a commentator. Plug and Play Japan is a subsidiary of Plug and Play Tech Center, the global innovation platform headquartered in Silicon Valley.
The 10 start-ups on stage on September 13th were the members of the Food and Beverage accelerator’s first cohort and included both Japanese and international start-ups.
The event was an exciting chance to see the strong interest in food tech among the Japanese industry, as well as the high level of interest in the Japan market among overseas startups.
Here are some of the highlights!
1 There is a high level of interest in sustainable packaging and bio-plastics
Of the 10 companies showcased by Plug and Play, four were related to sustainable packaging. Among the various fields related to food tech, the growing focus on sustainable packaging over the past year or two is very interesting, especially considering the interest from food-related companies in Japan.
Interesting start-ups included Phaxtec, which uses biogas powered by microorganisms to produce PHA, allowing high production efficiency and low emissions. The end product has high biodegradability but the high price remains a bottleneck for the company. The company says they are addressing this issue. From our chats with visitors at the event, we could sense a high level of interest in sustainable packaging and bioplastic technology.
2 From upcycling to precision fermentation?
There were four startups working on upcycling using fungi and bacteria, utilizing by-products of the food industry. They produced end-products ranging from bioplastics to food ingredients and alcohol.
However, the biggest challenge for these companies in scaling up is securing sufficient volumes of raw materials.
One company, Mi Terro, is looking to overcome this challenge by avoiding a focus on sourcing a specific food waste as it scales up its protein film/fiber products, and instead produces protein from microbial cultures. This is potentially a very interesting direction.
3 It all comes down to health!
Out of all the interesting companies in the Plug and Play lineup, the pitch winner was….. was Tait Labs!
Taking inspiration from the dried mandarin orange peels used in Chinese medicine, Tait Labs has developed a prebiotic supplement that reduces inflammation in the digestive tract and promotes digestion. They have a patented extraction technology and utilize mandarin peel waste from juice and canning factories. They are planning to link this with digital-based health management.
Tait Labs’ concept was easy to understand and its potential for future development as a medicine was also interesting. Importantly, this business concept seemed to resonated with the broader audience, beyond just those in food-related fields.