Brabant: the Scale-Up Plant of Europe

Within 5 years, Brabant will be the leading scale-up hotspot for foodtech startups. A bold ambition that we will collectively strive to achieve. Why do we believe Brabant is the place to scale up your startup?
28 June 2024

Thanks to a wealth of breeding-, agricultural-, and food processing knowledge, Dutch agri-food products are exported worldwide. Much of this food production and technology excellence is centered around Brabant.

In the past, the primary focus was on conventional animal proteins and plant products. Today, there is a rapid transition underway and a quest to find new foods and food components or ingredients for the food of tomorrow. Brabant provides the perfect ecosystem for scaling up operations in order to achieve these ambitious goals.

Transition
ambition

Brabant is working on creating sustainable proteins by focusing innovation mainly on plant-based ingredients. These ingredients can be mixed in combinations to make affordable alternatives to animal proteins. The existing value chains for the production of animal and plant-based proteins are well-established in the region. This is underpinned by numerous knowledge institutions and well-established pioneers in plant-based alternatives, such as the internationally renowned Vegetarian Butcher, now a Unilever company. Another local pioneer in microbial fermentation is The Protein Brewery, a spin-out from BioscienZ, an incubator within Brabant’s advanced biotech and pharmaceutical sector. Peel Pioneers is an innovative company creating new food ingredients from citrus peels. These are just a few of the companies that have scaled up their operations within the Brabant plant-based ecosystem.

These companies see a growing desire from consumers for healthy alternatives that are also better for the planet. However, when consumers look for alternative products, they still often demand that elements such as texture, aroma, bite, and appearance echo the products they are replacing.

The standard approach for new plant-based products is to adopt a consumer-friendly approach, i.e., creating direct substitutes in the same form as the original, such as burgers that look like burgers. Another option that is becoming increasingly prevalent and popular is hybrid products—a combination of conventional proteins and plant-based ingredients, such as the addition of Jackfruit fibers to minced meats. The consumer feels that they are taking a responsible option, and the producers help the supermarkets fulfill their targets and requirements for plant-based alternatives.

The producers of plant-based alternatives not only have to contend with the judgment of critical consumers in coming up with viable alternatives to animal proteins, but they also need to overcome considerable challenges, once they have developed successful products, in scaling up their production to cater to demand. They encounter challenges on many fronts.

Knowledge network

Brabant’s central location, connecting leading food technology universities like Wageningen, Delft, and Ghent, is key to its development as a scale-up ecosystem. The blend of industry knowledge and academic R&D drives product development from small to large-scale production. Collaboration is ingrained in Brabant’s culture, extending to academia, offering numerous opportunities to innovate with local expertise. Open knowledge networks welcome new connections, crucial for developing plant-based proteins.

The chasm from pilot to large-scale production is a huge gap to bridge and one fraught with challenges. A rapid jump to full-scale production carries inherent risks with significant financial consequences. Consequently, a step-by-step, or phased approach, is the safe and sensible way forward.

Thankfully, in Brabant there is a depth of experience and a network of expertise available to entrepreneurs to help develop their products and businesses and to navigate the challenging scale-up journey. In addition, the presence of multiple value chains for the existing food, agri-, and pharma sectors provide an excellent framework to leverage. Several successful plant-based pioneers have already established themselves in the region whose knowledge and expertise contribute significantly to the momentum being generated here.

Outwith the region, Brabant also has long-standing connections and collaborations with plant-based producers in other parts of the world, such as Redefine Meat. Some of these companies, looking to expand beyond the limited scope of their domestic market, have set up operations in Brabant. Additionally, Brabant’s central location and excellent logistics and infrastructure allow rapid and efficient distribution throughout the European marketplace. So, whether for a start-up from Wageningen or a scale-up from further afield, Brabant provides the ideal conditions to scale and grow. The region has a clear ambition to become the leading European plant-based accelerator within the next five years, and the pace of development is gaining momentum.

Whitepaper: The Scale-Up Plant of Europe

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Our sector specialist

Thijs Taminiau

Teamleader Foreign Investments
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Guido Leestemaker

Project Manager Foreign Investments IT & Data, Israël, India
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Project Manager Foreign Investments Life Sciences & Health, UK, Nordics
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Senior Project Manager Foreign Investments High Tech Systems & Materials
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Maarten Brouwer

Teamleader Foreign Investments