From CEO Eugene Wang researching on how algae can be transformed into a seafood alternative in 2013, to releasing a algae-based milk product in May of this year, Sophie’s Bionutrients is embarking on a new chapter. The food technology company is setting up shop in the Netherlands and tapping the country’s comprehensive network of alternative protein suppliers.
The Netherlands is home to about 250 plant-based protein manufacturers, with many based in the Food Valley region. Known businesses in the industry, such as AlgaeParc and NIZO, have set up shop in the location as well.
Sophie’s Bionutrients joined and won the MassChallenge Switzerland Sustainable Food Systems Challenge in spring 2021. “Through this pitching competition I came to realize that in this phase, many potential customers, partners and talented future employees for Sophie’s Bionutrients are situated in Europe, maybe more than in Asia or the USA,” Wang said. “Europeans are more receptive to the environmental and health benefits of plant-based foods and are also willing to pay a higher price for novel and healthy food. No wonder that many relevant businesses and investors are situated in Europe as well.”
They were also given a boost further by StartLife, a Wageningen-based agrifoodtech accelerator and Kadans Science Partner so they can establish footing in the Netherlands.
“We were immediately impressed with Eugene and his technology,” said Laura Thissen, Operations Director at StartLife. “Sophie’s Bionutrients fits our agrifoodtech community perfectly. Alternative protein and algae-oriented startups are numerous here in Food Valley, including StartLife alumni like Phycom, Fumi Ingredients, and Time-Traveling Milkman. In fact, Eugene met us through one of our alumni, Willem Sodderland, founder of food startup Seamore, with whom he has partnered up.”
Algae is becoming a popular animal-free source of protein, lipids and micronutrients. It grows quickly in open ponds, without need for additional input, which is why it’s a great starting point for creating new sources of protein. Wang developed a way to grow microalgae through fermentation and using food industry waste as feedstock.
This opportunity to expand in Netherlands will allow the company to expand to other dairy products like yoghurt and cheese, and even plant-based meat.
“There are going to be a lot of different kinds of protein flours we are going to develop,” he said. “For each functionality you’re talking about a different kind of protein isolation process, sometimes even a different kind of algae strain,” he said. “That’s why we need R&D collaborators.”
Sophie’s Bionutrients is a B2B food technology company that aims to discover the potential of nature-based ingredients like microalgae. Utilising these alternative products can not only eliminate food allergies but help save our environment too.