Interview with Albrecht Wolfmeyer from ProVeg Incubator
Learn about ProVeg Incubator’s selection process, most recent cohort, 50by40 mission, and more.
About ProVeg Incubator
The ProVeg Incubator is the world’s leading incubator for plant-based and cultured food start-ups. Since its launch in November 2018, the ProVeg Incubator team has worked with 40 start-ups from 20 countries, helping them to raise more than €9 million and launch over 40 products.
About Albrecht Wolfmeyer
Albrecht Wolfmeyer has worked as the International and National head of ProVeg Incubator since 2018. In doing so, he actively contributes to helping plant-based products disrupt the food industry. His previous work experience includes Marketing and Communications Management positions at KPMG and the World Association of German Schools Abroad (WDA). Albrecht co-founded donatell UG, a former start-up that supported charitable projects fundraise sustainably.
ProVeg Incubator's prestigious 12-week programme draws innovative start-ups from across the industry. How does your team of experts select which businesses make the cut?
The first step in our selection process at ProVeg Incubator is a screening. We check all of the applications we receive via our website application form and identify the most promising and most innovative start-ups. We then make a long list and invite those start-ups to a phone interview to ask further questions about their teams, their structure, their background, their innovation, technology and so on. This leads us to a shortlist of start-ups that are invited to pitch to the ProVeg Incubator team and other experts that we invite to the panel. After that pitch session, we come to a final conclusion and decide which companies make the cut and join our next cohort at ProVeg Incubator.
Over 40 start-ups from 20 countries have passed through ProVeg Incubator's doors to date. Talk us through one concrete example from a past cohort. What elements of the brand's business did the incubator help the team tackle? And where does the start-up stand today as a result?
Take Greenwise, for example, a startup from Russia. They joined our incubator program in spring 2019 and were part of our second cohort. Greenwise produces plan-based meat alternatives made of soy using extrusion. Their products mimic meat products, like beef jerky or chicken bites, that are really close to the real thing with the same mouth-feel, flavour, and texture as meat. When they were at the incubator, we helped them rethink their business model, work on their go-to-market strategy as well as their branding and packaging, among other things. Being part of this unique start-up and expert community that we provide, Greenwise got a real boost along their entrepreneurial journey. They now sell their products in more than 2,000 stores in Russia and plan to enter European markets, like Germany and Switzerland, soon.
ProVeg Incubator's current cohort is running online. Share some insights into what you've worked through and achieved in recent weeks.
We are really happy and proud that we have achieved to run a fully virtual program and onboarded and engaged with 10 international start-ups from places like India, Australia, Chile and a couple of European countries. These start-ups and founders worked with us and our mentors in workshops, roundtables, fireside chats and so on as if they were onsite here in Berlin. What's most remarkable and perhaps most valuable for everybody is that they also engaged with one another and collaborated and helped each other, which is a great thing.
The food industry has been under tremendous pressure since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak. How have start-ups in your network responded to the crisis? What challenges have they successfully overcome?
The Corona crisis is a test for all start-ups. They were all hit—some harder than others—but everybody was impacted to some extent. Start-ups have to be creative, adaptive, and sometimes also very cautious in difficult situations. So we were really happy to hear from some of our start-ups and learn that they even managed to raise a new financial round in this situation, or managed to launch their product on the market, even though this was really challenging. Some got creative and just came up with new channels—for example direct to consumer channels, online shops, et cetera—to be active and not just wait and see in this unforeseeable and difficult situation.
As part of ProVeg International, you are committed to the 50by40 mission to reduce global animal consumption by 50% by the year 2040. Tell us more about the 50by40mission. How far has it come since it was first introduced? What systemic changes will the food industry need to face if it hopes to meet this goal in the next two decades?
50by40 is the mission to reduce global consumption and production of animal products by 50% by the year 2040. This means a reduction on the 50%-level for all kinds of products and all kinds of animals—be it dairy, chicken, pig, or cow. As for systemic change, the food industry has to reduce its reliance on animals further and come up with new ideas to bring plant-based alternatives along the entire supply chain. The food industry has to support and invest in R&D for alternative proteins. It has to educate consumers and also work with start-ups in this area to innovate. This systemic change is already underway, but there’s still a long way to go. We are working together with start-ups and partners all over the world to make it happen. So it might be a long way but 50by40 is possible and we’re on it.