“Give peas a chance”

Case study about the Swiss Foodtech start-up Planted by GLOCAL Cohort V students at the University of Barcelona

Meat from plants – what seems impossible to many is made true by the Swiss foodtech start-up Planted with its plant-based meat analogues. As part of the course “Companies in Emerging Sectors” at the University of Barcelona, four students of GLOCAL Cohort V prepared a case study on the Swiss company Planted, after they had already dealt with the emerging industry of plant-based meat alternatives in a first paper. The students had the chance to enrich their research by interviewing the founders of the promising start-up, thus gaining first-hand insights into the dynamic innovative environment.

GLOCAL students analyse the Swiss start-up Planted as part of their second semester at the University of Barcelona. From left: Manuel Löw, Melanie Thut and Nneoma Ezeh (as well as Karlijn Loeven, who is not in the picture).

The market for plant-based meat substitutes is continuously growing and represents a growing industry. In Europe in 2018, the market was still worth, 828 mln EUR, whereas this has grown in two years with 68 percent to 1.4 bln EUR (Smart Protein Project 2021). This goes hand in hand with a growing awareness of sustainability, climate protection and healthy nutrition in society, especially in Europe. The sector is already in the growth phase after its demand-driven emergence with many different market participants such as Beyond Meat, the Vegan Butcher or Rügenwalder Mühle, which have proven economic validity and created social acceptance among consumers.

In this dynamic environment, Planted was founded in 2019 as a spin-off from the renowned Swiss university ETH Zurich. What makes the company so special among meat substitute manufacturers, GLOCAL students found, is the all-natural ingredients and unique biostructuring technology Planted uses. In the interview, Planted itself makes the statement that it wants to revolutionise the food industry with its products and thus contribute to a lower environmental impact, more animal welfare and better consumer health.  But what exactly does Planted technology consist of?

With one of their slogans “We plant our meat instead of butchering it”, the company describes that they skip the animal in the production chain and make meat directly from plants. This is done through a unique technology where a flour from the proteins (yellow pea protein, yellow pea fibre) they use is put into an extruder where it is mixed with water and rapeseed oil, kneaded and heated and then pressed through nozzles and cooled. This creates a cell structure and fibrosity, which is then broken down into the appropriate parts depending on the product. Planted’s most popular products are Planted Chicken and Planted Pulled Pork.

Planted convinces with a unique technology that manages to create a meat-like cell structure from plant proteins (Photo: Planted).

The start-up has enjoyed tremendous success in just 3 years and now already employs over 170 people with offices in Switzerland, Germany, Austria, France, Italy and the UK. All products are currently being produced at their HQ in Kemptthal in a glass factory – the first transparent meat factory open to the public. The company not only chose the retail trade as a distribution channel, but also cooperated from the beginning with restaurants, Michelin starred chefs and other players such as Deutsche Bahn, where the products are offered as the first vegan meat substitute throughout Germany. 

The Swiss start-up is on track for expansion in Europe and has already been able to form important partnerships (Photo: Planted).

What the GLOCAL students learned most during this project, besides the experience of working in an intercultural team with people from Nigeria, the Netherlands and Germany, was how a company with a sophisticated technology coupled with a vision can seize entrepreneurial opportunities and thus drive social change. The chance to work so closely with Planted and explore this interesting topic will remain an important part of the #glocalexperience for the students.