Plant-based in Russia: Region’s ‘first’ incubator for animal-free food tech prepares to launch

By Flora Southey

- Last updated on GMT

GettyImages/Ekaterina Prokosheva
GettyImages/Ekaterina Prokosheva

Related tags Russia Belarus Ukraine Kazakhstan plant-based

The newly formed Association of Alternative Food Producers (AAFPP) is preparing to welcome its first cohort of start-ups in the plant-based space. The incubator is an industry first for Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), say its founders.

This year, AAFPP will open what it claims is the first Russian and CIS start-up incubator for food companies that produce or develop alternatives to food of animal origin.

Start-ups eligible for the programme fall into a number of set categories. Makers of plant-based alternatives to foods of animal origin (meat, fish, poultry, dairy, desserts etc.); cultivated meat, fish, poultry or dairy; plant-based cultivated hybrid products or related products and technologies, such as scaffolds production or 3D bioprinting; or plant-based food ingredients, such as animal protein replacements or functional ingredients, are all invited to apply.

With the help of professional mentors, AAFPP aims to help its cohort elaborate their business ideas and enhance their market positioning over a four-module programme. In that way, AAFPP will be ‘directly contributing’ to its start-ups’ development, noted founders Tim Ponomarev and Julia Marsel.

Plant-based trailblazers

Greenwise makes a plant-based beef alternative / Image source: Greenwise

Ponomarev and Marsel come to AAFPP and its soon-to-be-launched incubator from industry player Greenwise.

Founded by the duo in 2019, Greenwise is one of Russia’s ‘very first’ plant-based meat alternative producers. Selling into retail chains across the country, and abroad to Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan, the business also works in B2B – exporting to Hungary, Estonia, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

In its finished product range, Greenwise makes chilled, ready to eat pieces of chicken and beef fillet alternatives from ‘textured vegetable protein’. It also sells plant-based jerky and is preparing to launch new plant-based patties and cold cuts.

Greenwise also has its fingers in other (plant-based) pies. The company describes itself as a ‘high-tech’ business that develops ‘modern solutions’ for the food tech market.

“We started as a plant-based brand, but over the years we broadened the scope of our activities and now we call ourselves drivers of Russian food tech,” ​co-founder Marsel explained at ProVeg Incubator’s Startup Demo Day last week.  

“We cooperate with 3D bioprinting companies and cultivated meat and fish companies creating technologies for the production of [cell-based and plant-based] hybrid products using our plant proteins as scaffold.”  

ProVeg inspiration

Having established its position in Russian and CIS markets, in 2020 Greenwise decided it could do more, Marsel’s business partner Ponomarev told delegates at the event.

Describing this last year as one full of challenges, as well as opportunities, the duo observed the region had ‘shown a tremendous shift’ towards plant-based.

Image source: AAFPP

“The alternative food market is young and needs support. We decided to unite enthusiastic, likeminded people to collectively help each other develop the market for alternative products in Russia and Russian-speaking countries” - AAFPP

“That’s why we decided to create an association that will, together with ProVeg, rise up new start-ups and also work on…the goal of…a successful future without using animal ingredients,” ​said Ponomarev.

Indeed, having undertaken the ProVeg Incubator programme themselves under the Greenwise label, the co-founders are now partnering with the not-for-profit – which was also Marsel and Ponomarev’s for the new projects – for AAFPP.

Announcing the collaboration last week, International and National Head of ProVeg Incubator Albrecht Wolfmeyer said it will ‘get on board’ as mentors. “We’re really excited to work on this.” ​ 


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