IWD 2021: Celebrating the Queens Of Alt Protein

The two biggest plant-based protein startups in the world are run by men. The majority of the rising cell-based protein startups are also run by men, alongside most of the vegan investment groups that fund them. The leader of the NGO think tank, which represents the interests of both, The Good Food Institute, is also a man, though admittedly he has a lot of women on his Board of Directors.

Did you know that less than 3% of all investment dollars go to women founders? Research from  a VWS survey of female founders  published last year showed as much. The same report underlined that 48% of female founders face bias in fundraising, while 30% – nearly a third – have experienced harassment or discrimination. Beyond the food tech world, the numbers aren’t any better. For example,  only 37 of the Fortune 500 list of companies  are run by women. In early 2021, Whitney Wolfe Herd, the founder of the women-make-the-first-move dating app Bumble,  became only the 22nd woman  ever to take a company she founded public. For minority and LGBTQI women, the stats are even more stark. This must change. We do a disservice to humanity when we hold women back.

March 8th is set aside every year as a date to celebrate the social, cultural, economic and political achievements of women, so, with that in mind, we’re here to celebrate some of the women across the globe who are killing it in the alt protein space so we’ve put together a list of innovative, influential and inspiring female leaders (founders, activists, investors), who are changing the future of food. Could you, or someone you know, be next?

APAC’s Super Pack

IWD 2021 Alt Protein

Jenny Ng  is co-founder and COO at  Green MondayOmniFoods, and  Green Common, Asia’s pioneering plant-based meat company.

Kai Yi Carrie Chan  is the founder of Hong Kong first and only cell-based seafood startup  Avant Meats, which debuted  Asia’s first cultivated fish fillet.

Helga Angelina Tjahjadi  is the co-founder of Indonesian startup  Green Rebel Foods, Indonesia’s first plant-based meat company and  Burgreens, the country’s leading healthy meat-free restaurant chain.

Dr. Sandhya Sriram  and  Dr. Ka Yi Ling  are the co-founders of cultivated seafood tech  Shiok Meats, which has pioneered cell-cultured lobster, crab and shrimp.

Fengru Lin  is the co-founder and CEO of award-winning tech firm TurtleTree Labs, a cultivated animal dairy and human breastmilk company.

Vinita Choolani  is founder and CEO of Singapore’s  Float Foods, which recently unveiled  Asia’s first plant-based whole egg substituteOnlyEg, where 65% of global egg production is based.

Also in the Lion City, Reena Sharma, Ph.D.  is the founder of  Shandi Global, a startup working on whole cut plant-based chicken and  Yashaswini Balaraju, PhD  is co-founder at  Mycovation, Asia’s first mycoprotein food tech company.

Over the past year there has been an explosion of Indian alt protein companies and reassuringly, many are helmed by women.

In the plant-based meat arena, we have Bollywood star  Genelia Deshmukh, co-founder of  Imagine MeatsRoma Roy Choudhury, founder at  Evolved FoodsPranjuli Garg, co-founder at  ProMeatAkanksha Ghai, co-founder of  BVeg FoodsNikki Arora Singh, founder of  Blue Tribe FoodsShruti Sonali, co-founder and COO at  GoodDO; and  Sadhika Agarwal, co-founder at  Sudo Foods.

On the plant-based milk side, there’s  Parini Kapadia, founder and Chief Scientific Officer at  Zero Cow Factory, which is India’s first precision fermentation dairy company;  Sweta Khandelwal, co-founder at  alt foodsAshna Goel, founder and MD at  MilkinOats; and  Radhika Datt, co-founder at  Goodmylk.

Shraddha Bhansali  is co-founder of India’s first plant-based egg startup  Evo Foods, which  launched its first liquid egg alternative  in 2020. Also in the liquid vegan egg arena is  Smitha Devigere, founder & CEO at Pulse Pro.

Ravali Amba  is CEO at  Demolish Foods  (previously Brew51), which is pioneering whole cut plant-based meats in South Asia, while  Anushi Patel  is working on vegan cheese as the founder of  Soft Spot Foods.

Astrid Prajogo  is the founder and CEO of  HaoFood, a Chinese startup making meat alternatives from peanut protein.

Chichi Hong  is the founder and CEO of  Hey Maet, a Chinese startup that makes pork and beef meat alternatives, and recently  raised a multi-million US$ pre-Series A  to double down on their high-moisture extrusion technology.

Binlu Huang and Ning Xiang are co-founders at  CellX, a Chinese cultivated pork startup that has received over  $4 million  in funding.

Shama Sukul Lee is founder & CEO at  Sunfed Meats, the New-Zealand based alt protein pioneer making chicken free chicken, beef-free beef and boar free bacon from pea protein. The company was one of the world’s first plant-based chicken startups and one of the first APAC alt protein makers ever, making Sukul Lee, an engineer by training, one of the region’s first ever women founders in the industry.

Bree Gaudette  is the founder of  Hello Friend Foods, an Australian alt dairy company that is making waves with their vegan cheese, a selection which includes halloumi.

Alice Shopland, founder and MD at New Zealand’s  Angel Food vegan cheese company.

Irina Miller  is the co-founder and CEO at  Daisy Lab, New Zealand’s first precision fermentation dairy company.

Esha Saxena  is the co-founder at  Me&, an Australian startup working to create cell-based human breastmilk.

Anna El Tahchy  is co-founder and CTO at Australia’s  Nourish Ingredients, a precision-fermentation company making animal-free fats.

European & Middle Eastern Evangelists

IWD 2021 Alt Protein

Philippine Soulères and Sheryline Thavisouk are co-founders of Le Papondu,  a French plant-based egg startup.

Magdalena Kozłowska  is the co-founder of  NapiFeryn Biotech, which makes a sustainable alternative to animal-based protein that has the same nutritional value as soy by extracting protein from the waste created by rapeseed oil production.

Eva Sommer  was co-founder and CPO at  Peace of Meat, a B2B supplier of cultured fat, which was  recently acquired  by Israeli cultivated meat startup  Meat-Tech 3D. She is now the co-founder and CEO at Austrian startup  Fermify, which domesticates microorganisms and helps build automated production platforms for scaling milk protein production. 

Dr Martina Miotto, co-founder at British biotech  CellulaREvolution, which recently  raised £1M  for its novel cell culturing technology.

Anja Leissner  is co-founder of Swedish food tech  Stockeld Dreamery, which makes plant-based cheese from legumes.

Benjamina Bollag  is co-founder and CEO at British alt meat startup  Higher Steaks, which debuted the  world’s first lab-grown pork belly prototype  and the second cell-based bacon last year.

Clémence Landeau  is the co-founder of  Update Foods, a new French alternative dairy company disrupting the category with their vegan  faba bean protein and algae M!lk Update.

Liron Nimrodi  is the co-founder and CEO of  Zero Egg, the Israel-based shelf-stable plant-based egg startup that has already launched in food service in their native country, Europe and across the U.S.

Kaisa Orgusaar  is founder and CEO at  ProProtein, an Estonian precision fermentation dairy startup.

Theresa Rothenbücher PHD  is co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer at  Revo Foods, a plant-based seafood startup.

Deniz Ficicioglu is the co-founder of Berlin-based  BettaF!sh, known for their range of seaweed-based tuna alternatives.

Also in Germany is  Formo, a microbial fermentation alternative dairy company co-founded by  Dr. Britta Winterberg, also the startup’s Chief Scientific Officer.

Laura Gertenbach  is the co-CEO of  Innocent Meat, a German startup that helps traditional meat processors transition to cultivated meat.

Bryony Tinn-Disbury  and  Jennifer Pardoe  are co-founders and CEO/COO at  Jack & Bry, a UK based jackfruit meat alternative brand.

Judy Nadel  is also the co-founder of  The Pack, a  celebrity-backed plant-based startup  looking to disrupt dog food.

Nathalie Rolland  and  Maya Bendifallah, PhD  are co-founders at  Nutropy, a French startup working on precision fermentation dairy cheese.

Mercedes Vila Juárez  is the co-founder and CTO of  BioTech Foods, a Spanish cellular agriculture technology company that is also behing cell-cultured meat startup  Ethicameat.

Alice Escorel Boudreau  is co-founder at  Oba! plant-based ice cream, a Swiss startup looking to disrupt frozen desserts.

Julia Marsel  is the co-founder and CMO at Russian plant-based meat company  Greenwise.

Tanja Bogumil  is co-founder and CEO of German startup  Perfeggt, which makes vegan eggs.

Mairi Hilleary  is the founder of  Mergulo, an UK-based vegan butter company.

Maija Itkonen  is the founder and CEO at  Onega Bio, a Finnish startup that makes egg white proteins via precision fermentation.

Anne-Cathrine Preißer i s the co-founder and head of product at  Mushlabs, a Germany company that harnesses mycelium to create meat alternatives.

Annette Granéli  is founder and CEO at  Green-On, a Swedish turning CO2 into sustainable food ingredients.

Julia Zeitlhuber is co-founder at  CULTURED, an Austrian startup that makes nut-based vegan cheeses.

Clarisse Beurrier  is co-founder and CEO at  Animal Alternative Technologies, a British startup developing scalable, end-to-end ecosystem for cultured meat production.

Awesome Africans

IWD 2021 Alt Protein

Oyebola Adeyanju  is the co-founder of Nigeria’s first plant-based food tech,  Veggie Victory, and is “proud of its growing gender-balanced and black-owned shareholder base with a common vision for environmental sustainability, social fairness and free from animal cruelty”.

Taseem Karodia  is founder and CFO at  Mzansi Meat, South Africa’s first cultivated meat startup.

Michelle Adelman  is the co-founder and CEO of Africa’s first plant-based food platform  Infinite Foods. She’s one of the key driving forces behind the plant-based movement in Africa, on a quest to help the continent “leapfrog to plant-based foods”.

Jony Symon  and  Leah Bessa  are the South African co-founders of  De Novo Dairy, the continent’s first precision fermentation dairy company.

Marica Quarsingh  is the founder of Sea-Stematic, a cultivated fish startup based in South Africa.

Ashiaki Tei  is the co-founder at  Talmond Foods, a Ghana-based startup that makes plant-based dairy products and has created the world’s first tropical almond milk.

North American Winners

IWD 2021 Alt Protein

Miyoko Schinner  is probably the most recognisable woman in the alternative protein space and certainly the leading lady of plant-based dairy worldwide. As the founder and CEO of  Miyoko’s Creamery, she is credited with leading the plant-based cheese revolution.

Michelle Egger  and  Leila Strickland  are the co-founders of  Biomilq, a company working on bringing cultured breastmilk to the masses and disrupting the infant formula industry.

Isha Datar  became Executive Director of diverse non-profit organisation  New Harvest  in 2013, to support the cell-based industry through research and funding. Recently, it welcomed a new research fellow, Lisa Musgrove, who is investigating crayfish growth factors and cell-culture. Datar then helped co-found precision fermentation alt dairy tech  Perfect Day  to make milk without cows and  Clara Foods, which is pioneering real molecularly identical eggs without the need for chickens. She is a force to be reckoned with, taking on every element of animal agriculture and finding a tech solution.

Christie Lagally, formerly a  mechanical engineer at Boeing, started Rebellyous Foods in 2017. The brand recently  expanded its product portfolio  of “game changer” plant-based meat alternatives, having been “hard at work creating the next generation of products that taste exactly like one expects when they bite into a chicken sandwich, nugget, or tender”.

Dr Jess Krieger  co-founded  Artemys Foods  in 2019 and developed the cell-based Artemys Burger, then in 2020 founded  Ohayo Valley  to make cultivated steak a reality and empower humanity to eat sustainably. 

Stanford graduate  Grace O’Brien  experimented with ingredients during pandemic quarantine to come up with her  own plant-based egg alternative, a shelf-stable powder named  Peggs, made from a base of chickpeas.

Patricia Bubner  is CEO and co-founder at  Orbillion Bio, a startup on a mission to accelerate the broad availability of a variety of nutritious cultivated meat products, including a bison jerky that is low-fat, low-cholesterol and high-protein.

Veronica Fil  is the co-founder and CEO of alt dairy firm  Grounded Foods, which  secured $1.74M for its fermented vegan cheese made from hemp seeds and ‘ugly’ cauliflower.

Stephanie Michelsen  is co-founder and CEO at  Jellatech, a new biotech startup specialising in creating animal-free and slaughter-free collagen and gelatin by growing cells in a bioreactor.

Courtney Boyd Myers  is co-founder, CEO and CMO at  AKUA, a company that makes seaweed burgers from sustainable ocean-farmed kelp and was recently named one of  Fast Company’s  World Changing Ideas for Food in 2020.

Hailey Swartz  is co-founder of  Actual Veggies, a NYC-based startup that bills itself as the chef’s crafted veggie burgers, made from sustainably sourced crops from regional farmers.

Canadian scientist  Sujala Balaji  is the founder and CEO of  Rainfed Foods, a food tech company making plant-based milk from millet.

Monica Talbert  is the co-founder & CEO of  The Plant Based Seafood Co, an all-female, family-owned brand making fish-free and crustacean-free crabcakes, scallops and shrimps.

Pernilla Turner Audibert  is Chief Scientific Officer and co-founder at  Bond Pet Foods, which makes plant-based and cultured animal-free pet food.

Kerry Song  is founder and CEO at plant-based meat brand  Abbot’s Butcher.

Laura Katz  is founder and CEO at  Helaina, the first precision fermentation startup dedicated to making breast milk.

Brittany Chibe (CGO) and  Anne Palermo (CEO) at  Aqua Cultured Foods, which pioneers fermentation-based seafood alternatives including whole cut fish and  mycoprotein calamari.

Siwen Deng, Ph.D.  and  Jessica Schwabach  are co-founders at IndieBio-backed  Sundial Foods, a plant-based chicken meat company.

Nieves Martínez-Marshall, PhD (she/her)  is the co-founder and CEO of  Novel Farms, a cellular agriculture that produces 3D scaffolds that can be tailored to improve the texture and taste of any type of meat. 

Jalene Anderson Baron  is founder & COO at  Future Fields, a Canadian company that makes growth factors for the cellag industry using recombinant proteins.

Jennifer Côté  is CEO and co-founder at  Opalia Foods, Canada’s first whole milk made from mammary cells.

Fei Luo, PhD, is co-founder and CEO at  Liven Proteins, which develops animal-free protein ingredients aimed at the plant-based food industry using precision fermentation.

Stephanie Michelsen  is the co-founder and CEO of cell-based collagen and gelatin-maker  Jellatech. Her sister  Nikita Michelsen, is the co-founder and CEO at  Pearlita Foods, the world’s first cell-cultured oyster and mollusk company. 

Michelle Lee  is co-founder at  Lypid, a vegan fat company.

Magi Richani  is the founder and CEO of  Nobell Foods, which raised  $75 million to pioneer casein for cheese from plant proteins.

Jess Krieger, PhD  is the co-founder and CEO of cultivated beef company  Ohayo Valley.

Lisa Dyson  is the founder and CEO of  Air Protein, which makes meat from air.

Kathryn Cook  is the CEO and co-founder of chickpea protein company  NuCicer.

Samantha Edwards  is founder and CEO at plant-based meat brand  New Breed Meats.

Iona Campbell  is CEO and co-founder at  Renegade Foods, a plant-based smoked deli meats brand. Also working on vegan deli meats and pates is  Kati Ohens, co-founder and CEO at  Plantcraft.

Beth Zotter  is co-founder and CEO at  UMARO Foods, a vegan bacon company.

Hema Reddy  is founder and CEO at  Crafty Counter, which is behind the Wunderegg, a vegan hard-boiled egg.

Sonia Hurtado  is co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer at  Current Foods, a plant-based, sushi-grade seafood company.

MacKenzie DeVito  is founder and CEO at  No Bones Beach Club, a vegan meat alternative company whose products are made from whole foods.

Nicole Sopko is co-founder and VP at  Upton’s Naturals, a plant-based company that makes meat alternatives out of jackfruit, seitan and banana blossom.

Natasha Dhayagude, founder and CEO at  Chinova Bioworks, a Canadian clean-label preservation technology extracted from white button mushrooms for use in food and beverage applications including plant-based dairy.

Michelle Wolf  is co-founder and CEO of  New Wave Foods, which creates plant-based shrimp.

Deborah Torres is the founder and CEO of  Atlas Monroe, a vegan fried chicken company (she famously turned down Shark Tank).

Vasiliki McInnes  is co-founder and COO at Canada’s  Odd Burger, the world’s first publicly traded vegan fast food chain.

Janay Jones is the founder of  Rooted Delights, a small-batch vegan cheese wheel company made from oat milk.

Carolyn Simon is the founder of  Choose Life Foods, a vegan Jamaican patty company.

Michelle Ruiz  and  Andrea Schoen are co-founders at  Hyfé Foods, which converts food industry waste to protein-rich fungal flour products. 

Stephanie Claudino Daffara  and  Kelly Pan are co-founders at  Impact Food, a plant-based seafood company focusing on vegan sashimi tuna.

Isabella Iglesias-Musachio  is founder and CEO at  Bosque Foods, which makes whole-cut meat and fish alternatives from fungal mycelium.

LatAm Leaders

IWD 2021 Alt Protein

Priyanka Srinivas  is the co-founder of Chilean startup  The Live Green Co. The firm recently added vegan-friendly clean-label ice creams to its line-up, developed using its  AI-powered technology, which uses machine learning and data on plant nutrition, biochemistry and biotechnology to suggest natural plant alternatives to meat, dairy and synthetic ingredients like emulsifiers, food stabilisers and anti-freezing agents, and which shortened the R&D process to just 90 days. 

Joanita Karoleski  is CEO at  Seara Foods, owned by the world’s biggest meat processing company  JBS. The brand recently  entered the plant-based market with a new “Incredible Range” that offers a number of plant-based protein alternatives primarily made from soy. Note; Seara Foods also manufactures meat products.

Mariana Nakaie  is co-founder at  The New Butchers, a Brazilian food tech  creating plant-based meats from ingredients such as pea protein, coconut oil and beetroot. It currently has a presence across 16 states in Brazil, sold in supermarkets and specialty stores, and is working on developing new products for its portfolio.

Sofia Giampaoli  is founder and CEO at Cell Farm/Granja Celular, the first cultured meat company inLatin America.

Marissa Cuevas Flores  and  Fanny Villiers are co-founders and CEO/COO at  microterra, a Mexican startup that cultivated sustainable plant-based protein made from lemna.

Dr Anne-Sophie Mertgen, PhD is the founder and CEO at YCombinator backed  Micro Meat, Mexico’s first cultivated meat startup.

Amy (Bárbara) León Saldías  is the CEO of  POW! Foods, a Chilean plant-based chorizo and sausage company.

Ecosystem Makers, Influencers & Funders

IWD 2021 Alt Protein

There are many non-startup organisations driving change for women in food tech and alt protein and they are a crucial part of the ecosystem, advancing the movement by connecting everyone, hosting events, matching funders to companies and more.

There’s the  Vegan Women Summit  led by founder and CEO  Jennifer Stojkovic (as mentioned above), an events company working towards empowering women to build a sustainable world. It recently began hosting the  VWS Connect event series, the world’s first job networking series aimed at connecting mission-driven employers to underrepresented individuals, building a diverse workforce in the plant-based field.

Ira van Eelen  and  Olivia Fox Cabane  are the co-founders of  KindEarth.Tech (KET)  and anyone on LinkedIn in the alt-protein space will be familiar with their logo-filled maps that have served to document the astronomical speed at which this industry and its many verticals are growing at. They also organize  global KET events  that serve to unite the community and behind the scenes, actively connect founders, NGOs, media organisations and regulators in the space. Most alt proteins roads lead to this dynamic duo. In addition, van Eelen is a cellular agriculture activist, working with governments all over the world to help regulate the nascent industry. As the daughter of  William van Eelen, the Dutch research who pioneered the development of cell-based meat, she occupies a very special position in the alt protein pantheon.

There’s also  Katrina Fox, founder of the wonderful  Vegan Women’s Leadership Network, a new  global ethical community for plant-based female leaders  featuring great content and events, and  Judy Nadel, the co-founder of  Vevolution, the first plant-based and cell-based fintech investment matching platform, which support alt-protein-based innovators and connects them to like-minded investors. Nadel is also the co-founder of  The Pack, as mentioned above.

There are too many incredible women working 24/7 to make the future of food slaughter-free, cruelty-free and as low emissions as possible to mention them all here but here are some inspiring and hard-working ladies that deserve a special mention:  Natalie Lung, the Food Tech program manager at  VC & accelerator BrincLouisa Burwood-Taylor, head of Media & Research at  AgFunderMirte Gosker, acting Managing Director at non-profit  The Good Food Institute APACDoris Lee and Viola Chen at GFI Consultancy (GFIC)  in China, GFI’s China counterpart;  Pinky Cole, founder and CEO of  The Slutty Vegan, who recently made it to  Forbes ‘Women Of The Next 1,000’ List  and who is helping to galvanise the African American vegan and flexitarian community in the U.S.;  Emma Osborne  founder and CEO of ethical recruitment agency  Citizen KindLouise Cullen, Marketing & Communications Manager at NGO  ProVeg IncubatorDr. Dalal AlGhawas, program director at  VC & accelerator  Big Idea VenturesCamille Bossell  and  Emilie Dellecker, co-founders at food tech community media  FoodHack – shoutout to their Venture builder  Erika HombertBianca Lê, director of  Cellular Agriculture AustraliaElysabeth Alfano, founder of  Plant Powered Consulting  and creator of the  VegTech  index;  Danielle Gould, co-founder and co-CEO of  Alpha Food Labs  and  Food+Tech Connect; and  Aurianne Borremans, the butcher’s daughter who  advocates for alternative meat– she is also the founder of EATENTION and  Alex SpicesTammy Meiron  supports Israeli alt protein innovation as the CTO of the  Fresh Start Food Tech Incubator.  Rachel Dreskin  is a key figure in the US vegan sector as the CEO of trade group  Plant Based Foods Association.

Finally, money talks, and we need more ladies backing ladies, so we  rounded up six women VCs  changing the future of food by investing in the new food revolution and, in most cases, championing racial, socio-economic and gender diversity among founding teams. Hats off to:  Alicia Robb, CEO of  Next Wave Impact, Advisory Board of GFI;  Rosie Wardle, previously an investor at CPT Capital and Senior Advisor at the FAIRR Initiative, as of this January, the co-founder & Partner at  Synthesis CapitalSamantha Wong, Partner at  Blackbird Ventures, Mentor at Startmate;  Ela Madej, co-founder and Partner at  Fifty Years, Y Combinator Alum;  Lisa Feria, CEO of  Stray Dog Capital  and  Matilda Ho, founder & Managing Director of  Bits x Bites and founder of China’s first organic and healthy foods online grocer  Yimishiji. Also worth calling out:  Stephanie Dorsey, co-founder and Managing Partner at  E²JDJ  and  Mariliis Holm, co-founder and Partner at  Sustainable Food Ventures, the  first alt protein rolling fund  on AngelList,  Anna Ottosson, co-founder and Partner at  Trellis RoadKristen Rocca, principal at  Unovis  & New Crop Capital,  Beatriz Franco, partner at Portfolia, Kim Flores at Clear Currrent Capital and Julianne Hummelberg, Investment VP at Plant Power Partners.

This is possibly the longest article we have ever published at Green Queen, and yet, it’s not long enough. Here’s to a future where women thrive they way they deserve to. Happy International Women’s Day!

Editor’s Note:  This list is the result of hours of work, and no doubt we have missed some amazing queens. We will do our best to keep adding. On the startup side, we focused on founders, but many of these startups have incredible ladies on their teams that deserve to be celebrated too. In honor of them, I am listing the talented humans that make up the Green Queen Media team, including  Amy BuxtonNicola Spalding,  Alessandra FrancoJennifer Marston  and  Jill Ettinger, (Ana Perez  and  Sally Ho  you are not forgotten!). Thank you for all that you do to support all the women in this list and to make the world better.

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