Food Innovation Centre turns the spotlight on alternative proteins as Better Nature celebrates £1.6m crowdfunding success

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An ambitious plant-based food company supported by the Food Innovation Centre in its infancy has raised £1.6 million via crowdfunding.

Alternative meat brand Better Nature will use the funding to begin a nationwide marketing campaign, launch into major supermarkets, and develop new products.

The company, which specialises in products made from tempeh – fermented plant-based protein made using soybeans or other legumes, nuts, grains or seeds – also plans to launch a whole new meat alternatives range in June.

The news comes as the Food Innovation Centre, based at the University of Nottingham, turns the spotlight on alternative proteins, such as those used by Better Nature.

Experts have created a factsheet dedicated to alternative proteins – highlighting the environmental, health, and animal welfare benefits of meat-free options.

And they are offering free support to eligible Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire food businesses that are exploring the concept.

Richard Worrall, who runs the Driving Research and Innovation project at the Food Innovation Centre, said: “Congratulations to Better Nature on raising £1.6 million via crowdfunding. It’s always wonderful to hear about successful food and drink firms that we’ve supported on their journey of growth and development.

“The Food Innovation Centre has a particular interest and expertise in alternative proteins, just like those used by Better Nature, and we have recently launched a factsheet on the topic to help food and drink businesses consider their options in this growing sector.”

The Food Innovation Centre, based at the Bioenergy and Brewing Science building at the University of Nottingham’s Sutton Bonington campus, offers free support to small and medium-sized food and drink manufacturers in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire under the Driving Research and Innovation project – a three-year project that runs until the end of December 2022. Part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) via the D2N2 LEP, the project is run by the Food Innovation Centre at the University of Nottingham School of Biosciences, in conjunction with the Chemistry Innovation Laboratory in the School of Chemistry and Institute for Advanced Manufacturing and in association with the Midlands Engine. It is a unique collaboration project that provides free specialist innovation support to small and medium-sized businesses.

It has provided free support to almost 200 small and medium-sized food and drink manufacturers in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire so far, with new product development, processing, packaging and a whole lot more.

There are a number of research projects being undertaken by scientists at the University of Nottingham into the utilisation and acceptance by consumers of alternative proteins as a food source. Projects span a wide range of areas from using under used crops like Bambara groundnut to how people would feel about putting edible insects on the menu.

One of Better Nature’s co-founders, food scientist Fabio Rinaldo became interested in tempeh while studying and working at the University of Nottingham under the Erasmus programme, which helps students study abroad.

He later teamed up with food scientist Amadeus Driando Ahnan-Winarno, who had grown up in Indonesia where tempeh originates, marketing specialist Elin Roberts and bio-chemist Christopher Kong, to form Better Nature, which specialises in products made from tempeh.

A traditional Indonesian plant-based protein made by fermentation, tempeh can be steamed, marinated, stir fried and thinly sliced into sauces and stews. Its complex flavour has been described as nutty, meaty, and mushroom-like. Compared with traditional meat products, tempeh products produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions, consume less energy, and are more cost-effective. Tempeh also freezes well, and is now commonly available in many western supermarkets, as well as in health food stores and vegetarian restaurants.

With its registered address in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, Better Nature, which was founded at the end of 2018, was supported by the Food Innovation Centre with advice on sensory testing of products, flavouring and coating combinations, packaging options and other issues.

Now Better Nature has recently secured £1.6 million from over 350 investors, less than 48 hours after its crowdfunding went publicly live – making it one of the fastest funded plant-based crowdfunders in Seedrs’ history.

Fabio Rinaldo said: “At Better Nature, we make all-natural meat alternatives that are just as nutritious as they are delicious, using tempeh. In order to do so, we need access to the best facilities we can find, to work on our pioneering tempeh science and product development. The Food Innovation Centre has given us just that, and we have been and continue to be so grateful for their constant support.”

For more information about the Food Innovation Centre, to access the factsheet on alternative proteins and to get in touch with experts who can help, visit https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/biosciences/facilities/food-innovation-centre.aspx

For more information about Better Nature, visit http://www.betternaturefoods.co

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