Going for the whole cut: Why we invested in Umiami

Astanor Ventures
3 min readApr 6, 2022

By Madeleine Futterman for Astanor Ventures

Umiami plant-baked chicken breast mimics the taste and texture of whole cuts, achievable through their groundbreaking “umisation” process. (Photo courtesy of Umiami)

Plant-based patties, meatballs, sausages and milks have quite literally taken the world by storm. Sales of plant-based products in the US alone has doubled in the past 5 years (GFI), and the number of startups trying to crack the code on the alternative protein game has followed a similar rapid growth rate. Plant-based alternatives have broken from the “niche” to the mainstream, with much thanks to the big brands such as Beyond, Impossible and Oatly that have scaled their products on the international stage and turned them into household names.

Astanor is first and foremost an impact fund, focused on building a food system that can provide healthy nutrition for generations to come. Alternative proteins are an integral part of this future food system. But an increase in the number of new plant-based protein brands does not directly translate to a positive impact. Impact is dependent on the nutrition and sustainability of these new products. As the number of companies on the market grows, we are increasingly convinced that the next major milestone on this journey will not be marked by the sheer volume of new brands, but by better products.

We need healthier products, with fewer ingredients and a more sustainable supply chain. We need products that can appeal to a broader range of consumers. Umiami has created a technology that can accelerate the development of healthier, tastier and more sustainable products across the plant-based market.

1. Whole Cuts: Consumers in today’s supermarkets have a plethora of plant-based options to choose from. Plant-based bolognese or veggie burgers on the grill are an easy swap for vegans, vegetarians and flexitarians. But what’s markedly missing from grocery aisles is whole cuts: steaks, chicken breasts, whole fish filets — consumers’ favorite meat choices. (Chicken breast sales alone represent 60% of US chicken market today.) Umami’s unique protein texturizing process, “umisation”, provides control of fiber size, direction and thickness, allowing Umiami to produce delicious and convincing whole cuts, unlocking a whole new world of plant-based possibilities.

2. Healthy ingredients, less processed: A major hurdle for many plant-based protein products is the (well-founded) argument that they are overly processed. In an effort to prove that plant-based doesn’t mean flavorless, the very first generation of plant-based products were obliged to choose taste and texture over nutrition and sustainability doing the best they could with the technology available. Umiami’s “umisation” process allows the company to achieve next level taste and texture with minimal ingredients and reduced processing, while maintaining an accessible price point.

3. B2B Approach: We don’t need more brands, we need better products. Umiami’s B2B distribution model allows them to help the brands consumers already know and trust sell better products. The market is over saturated with plant-based brands that all encounter the same challenges to producing healthy and delicious whole cuts. The B2B model allows Umiami to focus on research and development and provides a clear path to scaling the company’s impact across the globe.

Umiami’s technology is the obvious next piece of the puzzle for the alternative protein space. Their B2B model makes them an ideal complementary investment to Astanor’s recent investment in v2food — the Australian leader in sustainable, healthy and nutritious plant-based meat.

The Umiami team is young and impressive, with a laser sharp focus on the hurdles facing the advancement of the plant-based market.

Today, we led Umiami’s € 26.5M Series A round. We’re looking forward to supporting the Umiami team on their journey to lead the next alternative protein companies driving a future of food that is nutritious, delicious and accessible to all.

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Astanor Ventures

Astanor invests where tech meets nature to build a sustainable, nutritious and delicious future of food for all.