“We have an urgent responsibility to rethink and redefine agricultural yield and efficient utilization of crops and plant-based sources,” says Taly Nechushtan, CEO of ingredients startup InnovoPro.
For the last 25 years, she has launched products and worked in marketing and management across energy, communications and the food industry, including for leading food companies such as Israel’s Strauss.
Now, alongside the Israel Export Institute, she’s also steering B2B chickpea-based ingredient production at InnovoPro. She is very much aware of the growing consumer base demanding more sustainable food sources and clean-label products.
The startup itself was founded on the belief that food could cure and prevent diseases.
InnovoPro closed an $18 million series B round in 2020. This year, it showcased its “All American burger with a twist” at IFT first. The burger included a patty, cheese toppings and aioli, which InnovoPro claims were made from its own vegan and clean-label ingredients.
“It was incredible to see how people reacted when they realized how versatile our chickpea protein is,” she remarks.
Below, Taly (TN) shares her about her journey building InnovoPro, the challenges involved and why she believes plant-based protein is a necessity in our current food systems along with some tips for founders in this space.
AFN: How did you wind up in foodtech and with InnovoPro?
TN: Throughout my career, I’ve worked in various fields, from marketing management for food corporations to founding a renewable energy company. This journey allowed me to gain a better understanding of why prioritizing sustainability and how we grow and process our food is so important.
As the first employee of InnovoPro, the first few months were dedicated to understanding the ecosystem and learning as much as possible about global consumer behaviors.
I realized that what we do at InnovoPro – extracting a protein from chickpeas in a sustainable way – will significantly impact the future of food.
AFN: How did your time in marketing support you in the transition to foodtech and biotech?
TN: Throughout my 25-year career, I have worked in various management roles for a variety of global corporations.
At Strauss, Israel’s leading food company, I led the market launch of its innovative food products.
At Shikun & Binui, a global infrastructure company, I founded a renewable energy business called Solaria and turned it into a leading solar contractor that eventually made a successful exit.
Today, at InnovoPro, I work alongside our experienced and highly professional team. I have the unique opportunity to combine my experience, values, and leadership to create a nurturing, innovative and productive working environment that fosters the creation of a sustainable world with tastier, healthier clean-label food choices.
AFN: Explain your product development process using chickpeas for meat alternatives.
TN: InnovoPro developed a proprietary extraction process for a 70% chickpea protein concentrate. Our flagship product, CP-Pro 70®, is produced by using a green process and has a lower environmental footprint. Our breakthrough technology enables us to formulate clean-label products with a short ingredient list and zero additives. CP-Pro 70® is a high-quality plant-based protein that doesn’t compromise taste, texture, or appearance.
In 2022, we evolved from a single product company to a chickpea protein platform by unveiling two new products designed to revolutionize the global food and beverage industry. One of them is CP-XTURA 65™, the first-ever chickpea-based textured protein for meat-alternatives.
Thanks to its functional benefits and essential nutritional values, CP-XTURA™ 65 delivers great-texture, bite, and mouthfeel. This helps the food industry to formulate non-Allergenic foods that meet the rising demand for both tastier and more sustainable food choices.
While the market for egg replacement ingredients has been gradually expanding, there is still a gap within the industry for alternatives that are able to maintain the same shape, texture, and taste that egg whites provide and consumers crave. This year, InnovoPro launched CP-FOAM 1001, an egg white replacement that can be used for meringues, mousses, and other vegan desserts.
AFN: What sets InnovoPro’s products apart from others in the market?
TN: Taste is the biggest driver in the food and beverage industry, and that remains equally true in the plant-based market. The neutral taste of our chickpea protein gives our product a major advantage. It also a non-allergen and non-GMO ingredient.
Nutritionally, InnovoPro’s CP-PRO 70 contains 70% protein concentrate and low levels of carbs and sodium. CP-PRO 70 can also be easily incorporated into food recipes due to that fact that it is highly soluble, can be turned into a foam, and is a strong emulsifying agent.
AFN: Have you already hit the market?
TN: InnovoPro’s chickpea protein is commercially available and has strong traction with dozens of customers across 12 countries. Our customers range from large corporates like Migros, the giant Swiss retailer to medium size local companies, to innovative CPG startups.
To create the best chickpea protein solutions, we have joined forces with Givaudan, a world-renowned flavor-house. We also recently announced an investment from Ingredion, the world’s leading global ingredient solutions company.
AFN: What has been InnovoPro’s go-to-market strategy?
TN: As a B2B company, we supply ingredients to global food companies directly or through local distributors and strategic partners.
We started our journey in the dairy alternative category to help customers develop a variety of plant-based products ranging from yogurt, beverages, cheese, ice creams, smoothies, and protein drinks. The next category was the egg replacement demonstrating applications like mayonnaise and different bakery products.
Currently, we are focusing on the meat alternative market with our chickpea Texturized Vegetable Protein.
AFN: What are your target markets?
TN: Because InnovoPro is based in Israel, we started our journey nearby – in Europe, where our initial customers and sales came from. Currently, the US market is rapidly growing under the leadership of Michael Kreutzer, Our CCO for North America. We expect the US to become a major market in the upcoming year and we are planning our expansion to Asia in the near future.
AFN: What major challenges have you faced so far in this space?
TN: The main challenge in today’s protein market is the limited source of reliable, scalable supply chains that are available to serve this fast-growing environment. The production of innovative functional ingredients such as chickpea protein requires the development of an efficient and sustainable supply chain that is located close to both the area of growth and the customers.
AFN: What kind of support do entrepreneurs in this industry need?
TN: Entrepreneurs usually come with unique innovative ideas and technologies, as well as a great passion to change the world for the best. What they need is mentoring regarding business methodologies, connections with relevant ecosystem influencers, and most importantly, the funding that comes with relevant and supporting investors.
AFN: What would be your advice for entrepreneurs venturing into the biotech and foodtech space?
TN: One of the most powerful advantages in the foodtech industry is the supporting ecosystem.
It’s important to get to know the startups in the field, the pilot plants and research institutes, the NGO’s, the suppliers, and the customers.
It’s also imperative you find our best positioning in order to make a real difference.