Food tech startup Clean Food Group has raised £1.65m to develop a yeast-based lab solution to replace palm oil, a substance widely used in food manufacturing and the beauty industry but is a major driver of deforestation.
Clean Food Group has acquired intellectual property from the University of Bath for the lab alternative, where more than £4.4m was invested to commercialise the tech.
“Our dependence on palm oil comes at a great environmental cost,” said Christopher Chuck, technical advisor at Clean Food Group and professor of bioprocess engineering, Bath University.
Venture capital firm Agronomics led the £1.65m seed investment. The London-based startup said it will use the funding to develop a large-scale pilot plant, where it can make products with its yeast-based alternative.
“We’ve worked over many years to create robust palm oil alternatives that give us a real chance to cut the impact of a range of products that until now have only been possible to produce with palm oil and the deforestation, pollution and emissions that come with it,” added Chuck.
Despite the harm caused to biodiversity by chopping down palm oil trees, its prevalence in products means it is a global market valued at $50.6bn in 2021 and is expected to grow to $65.5bn by 2027.
Alex Neves, co-founder and CEO, Clean Food Group, said: “In addition to our acquisition of the intellectual property for the palm oil alternative technology and our collaboration with the University of Bath to scale the technology, we will be investing in securing regulatory approval for our palm oil alternative ingredients in multiple markets.”
Climate-conscious investors have increasingly been backing startups using novel science to develop environmentally alternatives to widely used products.
For example, Magical Mushroom Company wants to replace plastic and cardboard in packaging with the root structure of a mushroom, recently securing a £3m investment.
Image credit: Laurie Lapworth, University of Bath