Start-up nation? A round-up of France's top food start-ups

By Niamh Michail contact

- Last updated on GMT

GettyImages/MaximZarya
GettyImages/MaximZarya

Related tags: start-up, Foodtech, app, Clean label

From plant-based sweeteners to clean label additives; urban farming to healthy eating apps, we round up some of the most interesting start-ups to come out of France in recent years.

Click on the headline to read our full interview with each company.

ScanUp: The app that tells consumers if food is 'ultra-processed' and helps manufacturers reformulate

The developers of ScanUp, an app that allows consumers to scan food products and see just how ‘processed’ or ‘ultra-processed’ they are, are working with manufacturers to develop simple products that score more highly.

The duo launched the app in 2017 so that consumers could “make the right food choices​ ”. One year later, ScanUp launched a second service – a platform for product co-creation between consumers and brands so that consumers can find the unprocessed products they are looking for.

“Manufacturers may choose to reformulate their products to remove ultra-transformation markers such as additives or purified and denatured ingredients,” ​founder Caroline Pechery said. “Once the product is reformulated, the Siga score is then recalculated and updated on the application.”

ScanUp has been working with a number of manufacturers, including French retailer Franprix, to clean up their products.

Superfruit sea buckthorn is top natural preservative for clean labels, says Superfruiticals

Whole sea buckthorn is a natural preservative that has an even cleaner label than rosemary (which must be listed as an extract) for foods ranging from meat to confectionery.

"It's the most powerful superfruit that gets the least amount of attention​," said Superfruiticals' CEO and founder Jos de Koning said.

The sour-tasting sea buckthorn berry grows on a thorny and hardy shrub on coastlines. With 30 times more vitamin C than an orange, as well as around 17 amino acids, 14 fatty acids, seven sterols and 24 trace elements, it is a true superfood, said the Lyon-based company, which supplies premium meat companies in the UK, Denmark and Sweden.

In addition to being used by the cosmetics and nutrition industries, the high antioxidant content of the berry makes it a one-for-one replacement for certain preservative E-numbers, such as benzoates,  ascorbates and rosemary-based antioxidants.

Alkion CEO on biostimulation to scale up sweet proteins: 'Our technology massively amplifies what nature can do'

Thanks to a patented biostimulation process, Alkion BioInnovations produces sweet-tasting proteins, high-value flavours and plant proteins in a cost-effective way that (for now at least) can be labelled as organic. “This is a real advantage [over] our competitors in fermentation​,” says the CEO.

Alkion BioInnovations’ team of five develops and produces three types of ingredients for food manufacturers: natural intense sweeteners, flavours and plant-based proteins with a production process that involves hydroponics and 'robotised' (or connected) bioreactors.

The company is focussing its technology on high-value ingredients that have scale-up issues. 

Its sweetener portfolio currently includes the sweet proteins mabinlin, thaumatin, brazzein and pentadin as well as stevia, while its flavour range includes vanillin, saffron, nootkatone and valencene. Duckweed (Lemna) features in its plant protein portfolio.

‘Urban farming is becoming a reality’: Agricool completes €25m funding round

French urban farming company Agricool has completed a €25m funding round that, the company says, will help it make “the dream of urban farming” a reality.

The group, which currently grows strawberries in urban farms that are converted shipping containers around Paris, said the $28m capital injection comes on the back of $13m previously raised to support development.

The company claims its urban strawberries, grown in old shipping containers, use 90% less water than traditional agriculture and contain more vitamin C.

“Our mission is really to be able to grow locally tasty fruits and vegetables, that have a high nutritional value,”​ Agricool chief marketing officer Josephine Ceccaldi said.

Better than bouillon: Carrés Futés blends cocoa butter & vegetables in healthy 'flavour bar'

CarréLéon has created a culinary aid that blends cocoa butter and vegetables in a bar that consumers add to sauces and other dishes to make them more healthy and tasty.

The product, Carrés Futés (which translates as ‘Smart Bars’) keeps the cocoa butter as the oil base but replaces cocoa beans with whole,  dehydrated vegetables.

Free from preservatives, colour, salt or flavour enhancers, the bars contain three to five ‘kitchen cupboard’ ingredients, have a smooth consistency like chocolate and are available in three flavours: tomato, pepper, basil & shallot; leek, celery & fennel; and carrot, beetroot & garlic.

“The bars can be used like stock cubes in sauces, tarts and savoury foods but also in dips and salads. They’re also a lot healthier as the average stock cube contains between 60 to 70% salt," ​ co-founder Maxime Thery.

French start-up puts a modern spin on sauerkraut with lactofermented vegetables

La Note Bio is tapping into the fermented food trend with its ready-to-eat, lactofermented and unpasteurised vegetables.

We use an ancestral technique to make the product, and the sauerkraut factory where we are based has been in existence for three generations so we have plenty of experience,”​  co-founder Jacky Biard said. 

“What we wanted to do was take this method and apply it to different vegetables as well as seasoning it differently so that people don’t have to eat it cooked.”​​

The firm made a conscious decision not to use the name ‘choucroute’ (French for sauerkraut) on pack.

“Most of the time people eat it cooked which destroys the lactic bacteria that have beneficial probiotic effects,” ​said Biard. “They also only know choucroute when the fermented cabbage is served as an accompaniment to the meat. We want people to discover these vegetables for their own sake.”​​

Time is ripe for aged vegan cheese, says French 'fauxmage' start-up

Tomm' Pousse swaps cow's milk for cashews to make its vegan Camemvert that is aged (and mouldy) like traditional Camembert. "Our product is for everybody - including the French," it says.

The start-up uses fair trade and organic cashews sourced from India and Vietnam to replace dairy milk, which give a firm texture and neutral taste.

The manufacturing process, however, is the same as traditional cheese-making, which is what allows Tomm’ Pousse to create a product that it believes resembles traditional Camembert, it says.

“The only ingredients are cashew, water and salt, and then we use the same yeast and acidifiers as traditional cheeses​ ,” said the company’s chief cheese-maker Kalyn Burns.“After about a week into the aging process, that’s when the penicillium camemberti actually starts to grow and it covers the entire surface. It’s the exact same mould that you find on a traditional Camembert.”​​

Vegg’Up app in Biocoop tie-up to help people cut meat consumption

Vegg’Up has developed an app designed to help people reduce their meat consumption.

The group, which began life in 2017, has entered a partnership with French organic retailer Biocoop to develop functionality to support the application's users and shoppers in-store, enabling them to discover new products to adopt for a “gourmet​ ” vegetable diet.

“We think that it is not difficult for a consumer to learn how to cook recipes and meatless ingredients if [they] are well accompanied, which is exactly why Vegg'up was created,”​ communications director Clara Bellanger said.

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