Bugs, mushrooms, and native superfoods are three of the six Australian food start-ups that have been selected in Mars Food Australia's inaugural Seeds of Change accelerator program.
The program, launched in May (Food & Drink Business, 20/05/2019), is designed to help early stage start-ups. It is a joint US-Australia initiative selecting 12 start-ups to take part in the program: six in the US and six in Australia.
There were 224 applications in Australia, with 15 finalists shortlisted before the final six were chosen.
Each start-up will receive up to $40,000, with a tailored four-month program involving a wide range of industry experts to help tackle the biggest challenges facing their success and growth. The program also offers a series of face-to-face workshops and access to a team of expert mentors and advisers from within the Mars business and across the wider Australian food innovation network.
Mars Food Australia research and development director and program mentor, Peter Crane said: “The world is changing at a rapid pace with consumer needs evolving and new approaches and technologies transforming business. We hope this accelerator acts as a catalyst to help forward-thinking innovators bring their purpose-driven food-focused visions to life.”
The six start-ups selected are:
Spiralz Fermented Foods, Tuggerah NSW: Michelle Amor and Tracey Rochford create gourmet fermented foods. They use traditional methods to ferment without the use of any starter culture or preservatives. The range is organic, vegan, free of gluten, dairy and nuts. Their products are widely sought after for their probiotic and gut health benefits.
The Australian Superfood Co, Oakleigh Vic: Hayley Blieden and Ralph Wollner produce a range of food products from Australian native bush foods such as native fruit powders, herbs and spices, fruit and granolas. They source their ingredients from indigenous communities and local growers to enhance respect for Australia’s indigenous culture, increase access and affordability and foster the local food movement.
Edible Bug Shop, Sydney NSW: Skye Blackburn runs Australia’s first and largest commercial edible insect farm and manufacturing facility producing insects such as ants, crickets and meal worms. The insects are made into ‘invisible’ ingredients manufacturers can use to enrich everyday food products with safe and nutritious ingredients to feed more people, more sustainably.
Blackburn is a food scientist and entomologist. She said you don’t just have to eat bugs if you are “stuck in the bush” with nothing else to eat. “When prepared properly, and you get over the initial ‘yuck’ factor, bugs are very tasty and are also good for you,” she said.
Your Prep, Brisbane Qld: The focus of Matt Boyce’s business is to bridge the gap between nutritious, healthy meals and anxiety and depression. There is a documented link between gut health and mental health, and his business provides dietician-designed, chef-prepared, cooked meal components direct to the customer to help maximise family time and human connection via easy-to-access nutrition.
Grounded, Melbourne Vic: Veronica Fil and two hatted chef Shaun Quade have produced their first line of plant-based cheese products using all-natural ingredients without preservatives or additives. They are allergen free and lower in fat than traditional and vegan cheeses. Using the same cultures and processes as traditional cheese-making, they taste exactly like real specialty cheese such as Camembert and Roquefort.
Plant-based Meat, Sunshine Coast Qld: Michael Fox is focused on producing plant-based meat products that are healthy, environmentally sustainable and difficult to distinguish from the real thing. Using shredded shiitake mushroom stems as the base ingredient, the product is healthy, sustainable and superior in taste and texture to other vegetable protein products.
Fox has developed slow braised beef and pulled pork products from the stems. He said: “Using mushroom stems as the base ingredient makes the product very healthy and, because they are a by-product of the mushroom production process, we can source vast quantities in a sustainable way.”