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.
Meros once again teamed up with the US Embassy Japan’s Agricultural Trade Office (ATO) to develop a new revised version of well-received series of export guides originally developed in 2019. The series details the regulatory requirements for 24 specific products, from cheese to chocolate, seafood to spirits. While the aim of these guides is to support American SMEs who are interested in exporting food products to Japan, the detailed guides can be of interest to food exporters of all backgrounds.
Within the first month of their release in March 2022, the revised guides were downloaded over 1000 times.
The revised guides have added sections on new Japanese policy related to agricultural biotechnology as well as updated tariff schedules for each product to reflect changes that have come about since the US-Japan Trade Agreement came into effect on January 1, 2020. Other changes include updated product labeling regulations as well as some product-specific changes.
Exporting to Japan can seem daunting with numerous required forms and official resources not always available in English. In these guides, we take potential exporters step-by-step from pre-embarkation to import clearance and lay out the expected forms and preparations necessary at each stage.
For new food exporters to Japan, common challenges include differences in food additive standards which may mean a product that is allowed for food products in the home country may not always be allowed in Japan. Japan’s strict, low tolerance standards for agrochemical residues (MRLs) also trips up some potential exporters. These guides aim to point out some of these common pitfalls in advance, so exporters are better prepared. They are not meant as “do-it-yourself” guides but as a tool to help exporters better navigate the export process together with their Japanese importers and distributors.
We provide examples of required ingredients lists, manufacturing process charts as well as labeling for each type of product – but it is important for exporters to always keep in mind that requirements can change without notice – especially whenever sanitary or phytosanitary risks are involved. Ultimately, a successful export business to Japan requires ongoing vigilance for regulatory changes, as well as strong relationships with importers and partners in Japan.
On May 11, 2022 Agfunder co-founder Michael Dean and John Friedman, Director of AgFunder Asia, will be coming to Tokyo for the launch event of the new AgFunder SIJ Impact Fund. The Fund had its first close in March 2022 at $10 million USD, with Meiji Holdings and Asahi as the anchor investors. The launch event will include a discussion of the rapidly growing global and Japanese food and agritech investment scene, as well as a chance to meet and socialize with agrifood tech enthusiasts. The event will be held in person at CIC Tokyo with online participation also welcome. Please join us! Register at the link below.
Accelerating Sustainable Food and Agriculture Innovation for the Future
Time: May 11, 2022, 18:00-20:30（Seminar 18:00-19:30, Networking 19:30-20:30）
Location:CIC Tokyo (Online participants will be able to join the seminar by Zoom link.)
Capacity: The in-person event is limited to 50 participants but online participation is always welcome
Seminar Topics: The global agritech and food tech scene, Japan’s position in the global market, AgFunder’s activities in Asia and the role of its GROW Impact Accelerator, the development of the AgFunder SIJ Impact Fund
This event is hosted by SDG Impact Japan with the support of AgFunder and Meros Consulting.
About the AgFunder SIJ Impact Fund: The AgFunder SIJ Impact Fund is a joint vehicle of sustainable investment company SDG Impact Japan and Singapore-based VC AgFunder Asia Pte Ltd. (AgFunder Group. The agritech and foodtech investment fund will invest globally in promising agrifood tech start-ups who are addressing the most critical sustainability challenges in the global food system. Start-ups of interest include those advancing a more sustainable food system by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, mitigating food loss, improving soil and crop monitoring and increasing efficiency and productivity through biotechnology and digitalization. The Fund also aims to connect Japanese agri-food start-ups with overseas investors and will assist overseas start-ups in expanding their businesses into Japan and throughout the Asia Pacific. The fund made its first close in March 2022 at $10 million USD, with Japanese food conglomerate Meiji Holdings and brewery major Asahi Group Holdings as the anchor investors.
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