VWS Pathfinder 2023 pitch competition announces top 10 finalists

By Deniz Ataman

- Last updated on GMT

Source: Getty/Richard Drury
Source: Getty/Richard Drury

Related tags women in business plant-based alternative proteins

The virtual pitch competition on Nov. 1, 2023 is an opportunity for women founders in the plant-based and animal-free industries to gain more visibility and funding.

VWS Pathfinder​ finalists will present live virtually on Nov. 1, 2023 in front of a global jury of industry investors, including Caroline Cormier, Upfield; Heather Courtney, Alwyn Capital; Noramay Cadena, Supply Change Capital; Beatriz Franco, Vita Vera Ventures; and Marilis Holm, Sustainable Food Ventures. The event is sponsored by plant-based CPG brand, Upfield.

The winning finalist will win a trip to speak at the 2024 Vegan Women Summit​.

The competition has received over 1,440 pitch applicants across 40 countries since its inception in 2020. Previous competition winners have raised over $20 million in investment and featured in prominent media outlets like ABC’s Good Morning America, Fast Company and MSNBC, among others, according to a press release from VWS.

VWS founder and partner at the social-impact emerging fund, Joyful Ventures​, Jennifer Stojkovic emphasized in the same press release the competition’s impact on promoting women founders from diverse backgrounds particularly as investments for women-owned startups have declined.

“Despite a 20% drop in investment in women-led startups, from 2.4 to 1.9 billion, the women in our program continue to defy the odds and build groundbreaking companies. The landscape may be challenging, with investment declining, but the level of innovation and new companies emerging is inspiring," she said.

VWS Pathfinder finalists range from ingredients and solutions to packaged food products

Fei Luo, Liven Proteins Corp.​ of Toronto Canada uses precision fermentation to produce animal-free functional proteins from up-cycled agriculture and food byproducts.

Asha Wheeldon, KULA Foods​, of Vancouver, Canada, features “ready to heat and eat” plant-based marinated meats and sauces inspired East African flavors.

Jasmine Byrne, Big Mountain Foods​, of Vancouver, Canada develops packaged plant-based veggie burgers, links, crumbles and grounds from plant-based proteins like fava, tofu, soy-free tofu and lion’s mane, among others.

Michelle Lee, Lypid​, of San Francisco, California uses the brand’s proprietary plant-based, clean label fat, PhytoFat, to enhance mouthfeel in plant-based foods. More recently, Lypid launched a plant-based pork belly available in foodservice. 

France Emmanuelle Adil, Tiamat Sciences​, of Durham, NC partners with biotech companies to develop custom alternative proteins, including growth factors for cultured meat and plant-based cytokines, among others.

Majbritt ByskovBridges, Alver​, of SaintAubin, Switzerland fortifies its line of high protein snack bars, granola, powders and capsules using micro-algae, golden chlorella.

Julia Kirouac, nud fud Inc.,​ of Toronto, Canada uses whole, organic fruits, vegetables and seeds like flax seed and sweet potato for its line of plant-based crackers.

Sònia Hurtado Piñol, Poseidona​, of Barcelona, Spain develops sustainable alternative proteins from algal waste and biomass found in oceans.

Sharon Cryan, FoodNerd Inc​.​, of Buffalo, NY creates nutrient-dense packaged snacks for kids and parents. The company uses organic and non-GMO ingredients like sprouted flax seeds, sprouted sunflower seeds, spirulina and fresh algae DHA for its line of fruit and vegetable puffs; while its pudding features ingredients like sprouted buckwheat, chia seeds, flax seeds, goji berries, among others.

Saskia Tersteeg, Time Travelling Milkman​, of Wageningen, The Netherlands addresses texture in formulations with its ingredient, OleoCream, which contributes to a creamy mouthfeel, added protein and vitamin content and a clean-label claim for a wide range of plant-based dairy applications including plant-based ice cream, yogurt, spreads and beverages.

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