In South Korea, a country known for its meat and seafood delicacies, the trend of vegetarianism and veganism is picking up pace as more and more Gen Z, and millennials find vegan options healthy and environment friendly. According to Korea Vegetarian Union, 1 to 1.5 million Korean consumers, or about two to three percent of the population, are estimated to be vegetarians and about 500,000 vegans who do not eat any animal products at all.
Some of the popular K-Pop, K-Drama, celebrities like Lee Hyori, Im Soo-jung, Claudia Kim, and Lee Ha-nui, are openly promoting their vegan lifestyle, luring their fans to go in for the ‘meatless diet.’ With demand for healthy and sustainable food increasing, the market for plant-based meat is also getting new entrants. Korean startups and entrepreneurs are bringing in a variety of plant-based vegan food to the table.
In 2020, US-based plant-based meat company, Beyond Meat, launched its food produce in South Korea, local grocery chain Lotte Mart too launched its Gogi Daesin (“instead of meat”) line. Korean Venture Capital firm Mirae Asset has invested in American plant-based company Impossible Foods. Lotte’s Lotteria chain introduced a plant-meat “Miracle Burger” at the beginning of 2021.
KoreaTechDesk checks out some of the startups leading in providing a variety of plant-based meat products and promoting a healthy, sustainable planet.
Zikooin has positioned itself as one of Korea’s leading plant-based meat brands. Its flagship brand Unlimeat, is plant-based meat made from upcycled grains. Unlimeat offers beef slices, Dumplings, burger pulled beef, vegan cheese, and sausages.
Zikooin makes various food products out of ugly, un-sellable fruits, a plant-based meat alternative made from brown rice and nuts, and uses biodegradable food packaging. Zikooin has patented its innovative technology called Protein Compression. Zikooin’s UNLIMEATED products are available in several retailer food stores and 400 Subway stores across Korea. Zikooin has also entered the Hong Kong market by partnering with Green Monday. Unlimeat has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration and the startup has partnered with Ploma in the US, for its distribution.
The food tech startup is one of the fast-growing healthy alternative food products company. The PlantEat focuses on producing data-based plant materials. The startup aims to resolve problem of global malnutrition through its sustainable plant-based products. Its products are vegan certified by the UK vegetarian society. Founded in 2017 by Jaesik Yang, The PlantEat’s first product is yakkong mayonnaise, a pure vegetable mayonnaise made with Korean yakkong bean (a Korean black bean) and soy milk replaces the need for eggs in mayonnaise.
The PlantEat researches different applications of plant-based ingredients. They also create functional plant-based food by using their own patented processes. The PlantEat is also focussing on developing new products using DNA analysis. The startup is in the process of launching plant-based vegan Krackers and Ketchup. The PlantEat has also signed an agreement with the Korean Agriculture Tech Company EzFarm to develop technology to produce plant-based meat alternatives. The startup has been backed by funding from Stone Bridge Ventures, Lotte Accelerator, and Future Play.
This Seoul-based startup is an eco-friendly alternative food company that develops and produces vegan foods such as substitute meat made with vegetable protein.
Founded in 2016, Viomix Tech, has been producing and selling vegan-friendly meat alternatives in the domestic market. It has an exclusive line of vegan products, ‘Better Than Meat’ created using its low-moisture high-temperature technology. Viomix meat alternatives are made from ingredients like soybeans, wheat protein, konjac, and mushrooms. Its alternative meat products range from vegan pork cutlets to burger patties and chicken nuggets.
Viomix has also launched in international markets in the US and the Middle East. The startup plans to double up its domestic market presence where its vegan-friendly meat range has a strong presence across major supermarket chains and e-commerce platforms. In March 2021, it got its Series A funding from South Korean early-stage venture capital firm Atinum Partners, Californian tech-focused private equity firm Altos Ventures, and Paris-based Otium Capital.
Founded in 2018, this Korean startup develops alternative vegetable-based meat. Devotion Foods meat is made using grains and natural additives and claims to have more protein than beef. The food-tech startup uses proprietary technology. Its innovation has won its founders CEO Park Hyung-su and CTO Lee Yong-min, a place on the Forbes 30 Under 30 Enterprise Technology list.. Park and Lee got the idea to develop vegan meat products from their own experiences working with US-based Impossible Food and as chefs de partie at Michelin-starred restaurants in Chicago in 2016.
Their first commercial product, set to be released in July 2021, comes after 18 months of R&D in collaboration with chefs from two Michelin star restaurants.In November 2020, the startup raised $4.44 million in a Series A funding round from Kakao Investment and Samsung Venture Investment companies.
Devotion Foods also aims to solve the environmental problems caused by traditional meat consumption through their plant-based alternative meat and provide healthier and safer food to people. In an interview with local media, the founders said, “Producing one kilogram of beef results in 13 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions and 100,000 liters of water use. But with Devotion Foods alternative meat, we can save 90 percent of air pollution and 88 percent of water, and we can also free ourselves from animal-transmitted diseases.”
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