The ReThink Protein Challenge is gearing up. On 22 April, students participated in online speed dates to discuss their ideas, opportunities and obstacles with coaches. Time to catch up with some of the participating teams. Team Blue Chitin and Team ProScrappers share their experiences. ‘Sometimes you get stuck, but the coaches will help you to get moving again.’
Blue Chitin consists of five members: Pim, Peter-Melvin, Gijs and Daan from the Netherlands, and Steven from Indonesia.
There are seven ProScrappers: Wingkie (Dutch), Ngoc (Vietnamese), Divjyot, Kalyan, Vedant, Shiwani (all from India), and Reynard from Indonesia.
What is your impression of the ReThink Protein Challenge so far?
Daan, Blue Chitin: ‘When we first started, it was surprising to see how professionally everything was organized. I was really amazed.’ Teammate Pim adds: ‘it’s great to see how the Challenge throws you head-first into the entrepreneurial process. You encounter a problem, you discard something, you start something new.’
Wingkie, ProScrappers: ‘I’m really happy with the Challenge so far. I’ve broadened my horizon and my knowledge. It has been an immense experience for all of us.’ Divjyot agrees, adding that the pitch and business model workshops were very helpful. Ngoc: ‘I also really liked the events, and I liked connecting with people who have the same passion.’ The team members are all, as Divjyot puts it, ‘big-time foodies.’
What concept are you working on?
Peter-Melvin, Blue Chitin: ‘We started out with insect proteins. But that’s not very original, and this Challenge requires innovative ideas. So we switched from insects to something completely different: shrimp. You see, there is a lot of chitin (a carbohydrate found in insects, lobsters and other animals) in the exoskeletons of shrimp. But in most cases, those shells are just peeled off and thrown away! We would like to have them.’
‘We’re processing the shells into a feed additive for the aquaculture sector,’ explains Pim. ‘In the form of a powder that can be fed to fish. As a result, the fish won’t need as much other feed and they will be healthier too. And all that from a waste product.’
Wingkie, ProScrappers: ‘We came up with the idea to make a breakfast item aimed at millennials in India. It has to be tasty and affordable, but also friendly to people and the environment. So the product that we’re working on now is a porridge that will be sold as a dry ingredient, in powder form. Consumers can add hot water or milk to it.’
Divjyot adds: ‘Indian millennials lead a fast-paced life. For their breakfast, they need something that is high in protein and rich in fibre.’ Kalyan: ‘And we were looking for ingredients that Indians are used to. That’s how we came up with millet (a type of grain) and pumpkin seeds. The latter is actually a bystream. Oil is extracted from pumpkin seeds, and the bystream is not utilised.’
How did you experience the speed dates on 22 April?
Pim, Blue Chitin: ‘Actually, we didn’t participate. But that’s because we’re already working very closely with two of our coaches. We speak to them at least twice a week.’
Divjyot, ProScrappers: ‘We were quite enthusiastic about the speed dates. We spoke to several coaches: Atze Schaap and Henk Wymenga from the Wageningen Ambassadors, Robin from the potato company Avebe and Yvette Müskens from Dalco Food.’
Wingkie: ‘Some of the coaches told us that they were just like us, once. It’s inspiring that they are willing to guide us, that they see potential in us.’ Shiwani agrees: ‘I find it amazing that these companies are willing to help us.’
In what ways have the coaches helped you during this Challenge?
Peter-Melvin, Blue Chitin: ‘Without the coaches, we would not have gotten this far. There are so many things that you can’t google. Marc van Wanroij (Pop Vriend Seeds) knows exactly how to make a startup work and Fred Beekmans (Darling Ingredients) pointed us in the right direction. He put us in touch with a company in his network that knows all about food processing.’
Gijs completely agrees: ‘The help of the coaches is great. Their feedback has been really useful. And every company we contacted has responded with great enthusiasm, which is very motivating.’
ProScrappers made good use of each coach’s expertise. Divjyot: ‘We discussed our customer survey and the visibility of our product with the Wageningen Ambassadors.’ Kalyan: ‘Robin talked to us about the technical side of things: starches, flavours, but also patents in India.’ Wingkie: ‘Yvette helped us with marketing: is 18 rupees a realistic price for our product? And she guided us to a company within her network.’
What are your next steps?
Blue Chitin is in high spirits. They are in touch with companies that can help them with processing. Jokingly, Pim estimates that their company will be on the stock market by 2025. The group of friends fantasizes about going to Bali if they win the ReThink Protein Challenge. ‘But in all seriousness, we just really like how everything is going right now. Maybe we can keep it going after the Challenge is over, we’ll see,’ concludes Peter-Melvin.
The ProScrappers are also looking forward to what comes next. They are working on kitchen trials to learn how their very own product looks, feels and tastes. After that, they will share their results with the coaches and look for companies or institutions that are willing to lend them their lab. Wingkie: ‘we want to spread the word and establish our network. Let’s make this happen!’
Teams Blue Chitin and ProScrappers are two of the semi-finalists of the ReThink Protein Challenge’2. Would you like to know if they will make it to the finals? Join the online event on 3 June to find out.
Bonus: during this event Gerda Feunekes (The Netherlands Nutrition Centre) and Marleen Onwezen (Wageningen Economic Research) will discuss the consumer perspective on protein transition. They will reflect on factors that influence consumer readiness to buy alternative products, discuss strategies to motivate people to change their diets and explain why we want to eat vegan but fail to eat less meat.