10 Reasons Why Partnerships are Critical to the Alternative Protein Sector

At next month’s Future Food-Tech Alternative Proteins Summit, investors, brands and start-ups will come together to unlock new partnership opportunities and showcase innovation across plant-based, cell-based, and microbial fermentation.

Ahead of the summit, we asked 20 industry pioneers just why partnership is so important to them, and 10 clear messages emerged:

Facilitating Open Innovation and Investment

“As the saying goes: ‘Two heads (or more) are better than one.’ This also applies to business partnerships, especially in Open Innovation. Although larger companies have their in-house innovation and research departments, being open to external innovations is always beneficial to both the corporate and the start-up. It’s a win-win partnership as we ​complement one another and fill the missing gaps. In this way, the teamwork enables us to commercialize the innovation as quickly as possible to benefit our consumers,” explains Lalana Thiranusornkij, Head of Innovation and New Product Development at CPF FOOD

“I view interactions with start-ups as important or mission-critical for our innovation process at ICL.  These partnerships take a range of forms including investment, incubation, acceleration, pilots and other contracts. Such collaborations infuse our organization with the methods, tools and mindsets to increase the empathy, risk-taking and agility that drive disruption from within. Long term, these partnerships may lead to a deeper relationship such as an acquisition, joint venture, or follow-on investments,” adds Hadar Sutovsky, VP External Innovation & General Manager, ICL PLANET

Accelerating Production and Scale Up

“The heart of our work lies in the partnerships we create. As a premium ingredient supplier enabling food company partners to formulate animal-free real dairy products, Remilk’s strategy involves the formation of mutually beneficial partnerships with food production companies, other ingredient suppliers and more, to ensure we deliver on our mission of transforming the traditional dairy production system to a far more sustainable, animal-free version of itself,” shares Jason Rosenberg, Head of Business Development at Remilk

“As an industry, and to make the new protein evolution a reality, we need all hands on board. planetary is doing its best to contribute to the 30bn liters of additional bioprocessing capacity required to enable a fermentation-based food system at scale. Along the journey, we hope to be a trusted partner and production platform for fermentation frontrunners and CPG innovators,” notes David Brandes, CEO at planetary

“We believe that partnerships are absolutely critical to our strategy to speed up the development of better tasting, better for you, better for the planet, non-animal-based food options. Partnerships are important because we all need to combine our strengths and work together to make this ‘futurescape’ for food a reality.” Steve Matzke, Senior Manager of Pioneering Innovation at CP Kelco

“Creating animal-free cheese that melts, stretches, and tastes like conventional cheese is a team effort, which expands beyond the bounds of the core New Culture team. We couldn’t do it without our industry-leading, innovative partners across a range of domains, including scaling up our bioprocess and conducting product tastings, to engaging with the culinary community and refining our analytical tools,” explains Matt Gibson, CEO and Co-Founder at New Culture

“Partnerships are fundamental to project development and we are partnering with alternative protein companies to help develop engineering solutions for commercial production. This involves developing every part of the facility design including process definition, equipment supply, wastewater testing, GMP facility design,” explains Crystal Bleecher, Sr. Bioprocessing Engineer, Merrick & Company

“At Eclipse, partnerships are integral to our innovation. Through our micelle technology platform, we create plant-based dairy products with the taste, texture, and functionality of conventional dairy. Whether we are partnering with a multinational food company to co-create a plant-based version of their iconic dairy product or partnering with a national restaurant chain to create a custom formulation for their menu, our innovation focuses on meeting our partners’ and their customers’ needs.” Aylon Steinhart, CEO, Eclipse Foods

“Part of Bee-io’s business plan involves a “Bee-io inside B2B Model”, in which we aspire to provide our bee-less honey as a high-quality raw material to leading food companies worldwide. By providing sustainable, diverse, and competitive raw material, we hope to revolutionize the honey market on a global scale,” reveals Ofir Dvash, CEO, Bee-io

Gaining a Competitive Advantage

“Partnerships are crucial for our innovation process since they allow us to respond to market needs in a timely and efficient manner. Every partner brings in their specific resources, capabilities, and know-how to allow us to focus on those parts of the value chain we excel in and have a strong competitive edge. In this way we can establish a winning formula for solving today’s most pressing issues in the food industry and accelerate the transition to a healthy and sustainable food system for all,” details Paul Schierz, Chief Commercial Officer, Arborea

Connecting the Supply Chain

“Partnerships are critical to the bioeconomy going forward, given the complexity of the entire system from the initial gene discovery/screening through full scale production and distribution of novel protein products. In today’s distributed economy, finding and aligning with key partners through the entire value chain is more critical than ever as companies tend to focus more on what they are really good at, versus trying to be everything for everyone. Working across the entire chain with multiple experts within a given discipline is the fastest way, with the least risk to market,” shares Neal Jakel, Managing Director at Fluid Quip Technologies

Strategizing and Decision Making

 “We rely heavily on the opinions of partners, advisors, farmers and offtake customers in making direct, tangible decisions on process scopes, water use and GHG emissions to allocate capital to transformative technologies that yield a sustainable and resilient protein isolate. We call it ‘Sustainability-Adjusted Return on Capital Invested’ as part of our goal of developing sustainable proteins for a heathier planet,” details Chris Theal, Founder, President and CEO at Phyto Organix

“At Morrison & Foerster, innovation is rooted in our collaborative, comprehensive approach through the full business life cycle for the food & agriculture industry. We work with start-ups, investors, and global brands on strategies to mitigate climate risk, reduce carbon, maximize social and environmental impacts, and ensure that technologies are implemented at scale and safeguarded by global intellectual property protection,” shares Michael Ward, Partner and Co-Chair, Food & Agriculture Industry Group at Morrison & Foerster

Integrating and Developing Technologies

“Developing cultivated meat requires many innovative technologies to be integrated, including cells, media, scaffolds, and bioprocessing technologies. It is important that all technologies are compatible and optimized, to reach price parity with conventional meat faster. We seek to partner with cultivated meat producers, other input providers, and academics to make our cells compatible with their technologies,” details Ernst van Orsouw, CEO at Roslin Technologies

“Partnerships are at the core of Nutreco’s innovation strategy, both in our efforts in animal nutrition and aquaculture feed, as well as alternative food proteins. Our in-house capabilities are highly relevant to enable ‘Feeding the Future’, yet we don’t hold all the pieces to this complex puzzle and therefore rely on partnerships to jointly develop effective solutions,” adds Susanne Wiegel, Head of Alternative Protein Program at Nutreco

Fast-Tracking Innovation

“The ‘W’ in our company name, Wilk, stands for ‘we’ and represents how, by collaborating with industry partners, we can join forces to innovate faster and more efficiently, leading the way to sustainable means of production that can guarantee the continual supply of milk and dairy-based products for future generations,” details Nurit Argov, CSO at WILK

“Through collaboration, companies across the value chain can build off each others’ expertise, strengthening their skillsets and creating a valuable farmer-to-retailer feedback loop. This allows not only for faster product development, but also easier and quicker product changes and enhancement,” adds Bill Greuel, CEO at Protein Industries Canada


Reducing Time to Market

“We see partnerships as essential in our business. ‘Time to market’ matters and inevitably no one company has all the internal resources needed to innovate and lead in a new space. Therefore, bringing products to market in a timely manner is greatly facilitated by collaboration, external orientation and partnerships while providing validation and risk reduction,” says Manoj Kumar, Vice President Plant Protein Business at LDC

Solving Customers’ Issues

“At Edlong, we focus our innovation strategy on solving issues that our customers may not even realise they have. We do this by understanding new emerging processing techniques and ingredients and solving associated taste and mouthfeel issues. To successfully achieve this, we must partner with a variety of innovative suppliers, often working on ingredients which have yet to launch so that when they do, we are familiar enough to be able to solve customers’ issues within a variety of applications,” says Anne Marie Butler, Global Director – Innovation and Commercial Development at Edlong

Navigating Regulation

“True innovation and success are seldom achieved if you´re not prepared to adopt a collaborative approach with key partners. Successful navigation of an often-challenging regulatory landscape can be achieved with the right mix of regulatory expertize, planning, awareness, and collaboration,” notes Laura Payo Lewis, Regulatory Affairs Director at Pen & Tec Consulting

If partnership is important to you and your business, join us at Future Food-Tech Alternative Proteins and meet with hundreds of visionary leaders and decision makers in New York on June 21-22.


By Laura Hodgkiss, Marketing Manager, Future Food-Tech