Cargill enters JV with vegan fat and blood innovator Bflike for 'virtually indistinguishable' plant-based meat and fish alternatives
The Cargill investment in Bflike will be realised through a 50-50 joint venture with Blue Ocean Xlerator NV (BOX), the Dutch private incubator and accelerator that created Bflike. Cargill declined to reveal financial details of the agreement.
The ingredient giant said the deal comes in response to the growing global appetite for plant-based products that deliver a ‘meat-like’ experience.
Innovation for ‘virtually indistinguishable’ analogues
Bflike has developed patent-pending fat vegan fat and blood platforms that, it said, deliver plant-based meat and fish alternatives that are ‘virtually indistinguishable’ from their animal-based counterparts.
The company noted its formulations are able to produce finished products with a similar cooked and raw visual appearance, texture mouthfeel, melting behaviour and cooking performance.
“The crux of Bflike’s products is the combination of ingredient composition, patent-pending technologies, and the fact that our products can be manufactured on standard machinery. Two patent applications have been filed; one for a proprietary vegan blood composition (applied in 2021) and one for a vegan fat analogue platform (applied in 2020),” Bflike CEO Koos van Haasteren told FoodNavigator.
Bflike will license its proprietary technology and premix ingredient solutions to food manufacturers and retailers, supporting them to commercialize their own meat and fish alternative products.
“Bflike offers a technology that utilizes machinery that is commonly used for meat products. The licensees do not need to buy expensive equipment or use expensive technologies,” van Haasteren noted.
“It is the unique combination of their proprietary processing methods and their premix ingredients formulation that sets Bflike products apart from other meat analogues. The advantage is excellent texture, taste, and cooking behaviour as well as cost reduction.”
Cargill offers speed, scale and sourcing expertise
The partnership combines Bflike’s recipes and technology with Cargill’s extensive food ingredient solutions, commercial reach and sourcing know-how.
“Cargill is gaining access to a scalable, cost effective technology and a distinct product pipeline that could be leveraged by any of our customers in any part of the world, as part of a licensing model,” Belgin Köse, Segment Director Enrichment & Renewability for Cargill Starches, Sweeteners & Texturizers, Europe, noted. “Bflike comes to the table with great innovation and product pipeline. On the other hand, we bring our strengths in ingredients and global supply chain structures,” she continued.
In this way, Bflike will be able to bypass some of the barriers that typically slow start-ups on the road to scale, Köse told us. “Today’s start-ups face a number of issues when trying to scale up. Partnering with a global company like Cargill removes a lot of these hurdles when it comes to critical ingredients availability and multi-country supply chain deployment.
“We will truly provide increased supply availability and reliability for critical ingredients. When both benefits are brought together, you create a real solution for the final customer.”
Plant-based expansion ‘a complement’ to animal protein
The investment, he added, comes as ‘another illustration’ of how Cargill is ‘teaming up with the start-up world’ to ‘speed the process of bringing innovation to consumers’.
When seeking out such partnerships, Köse revealed the ‘uniqueness’ of an innovation or technology is an ‘important filter’. “We are always looking for partners who can help us better support our customers. We believe this joint venture will enable our customers around the globe to offer next generation of nutritious and delicious meat and fish alternatives. Whether they are alternative protein brands or foodservice operators expanding into plant-based, this is truly an enabling technology for our customers.”
Nevertheless, Cargill’s expansion into plant-based ingredient solutions should be viewed as ‘a complement to animal protein’, which remains one of the company’s core business areas.
“Our purpose – to nourish the world in a safe, responsible and sustainable way – requires us to help meet the nutritional needs of a growing population. Global demand for protein is expected increase by more than 70% over the next 30 years. Plant- and cell-based protein, as a complement to animal protein, will help meet growing demand for a range of protein products – as well as consumers’ desire for options as part of a balanced diet,” Köse predicted.