Sydney Breakfast: Main Sequence Ventures & v2food
The story behind the Aussie start-up on a mission to solve unsustainable food production…and the VC who’s backing them.
We were treated to a fascinating, and dare we say…meaty discussion earlier this month at Sydney’s Community Breakfast session. We could not have been in better company for our first event of the new decade! This conversation, headlined by Phil Morle from Main Sequence Ventures and portfolio founder Nick Hazell behind plant-based meat company v2food, dove straight into the origin and philosophy behind v2food, dissecting the current food and farming quandaries at the forefront of our impending population surge.
Great minds think alike
v2food is the brainchild of Main Sequence Ventures, Hungry Jacks owner Jack Cowin, and CSIRO, is backed by 100 years of agricultural research, and was founded to solve the rapidly approaching problem of how to feed a population at the 10 billion mark, but in a way that does not “use any more planet earth”.
Main Sequence Ventures, led by Phil, invested in the very early stages of this plant-based vision in January 2019. Over the past year, Phil and Nick have had a grand success rate, partnering with fast-food giant Hungry Jacks to launch the ‘100% Whopper 0% beef’ ‘Rebel Whopper,’ a plant-based alternative to their cult Whopper burger.
The literature predicts the future
In their conversation, references were made to an article from The Lancet which cleanly breaks down our population-feeding-predicament. Food systems can and do support environmental sustainability, but at present, the way we eat is having the opposite effect, causing environmental degradation. This means that a global transformation of our current approach to food and eating is imminently necessary. It is in no way expedient to continue to source our meat solely from animals with our population growing at its current rate and farming area consequently diminishing.
Nick commented however that they know it is not about destroying the meat industry, but about working with the meat industry. In the prototyping phase they broke down the components of meat; learning about the amino acids crucial to creating the unique flavours and aromas that cause the dopamine hit to surge when we eat meat. Consumers are continually surprised that v2 patties truly are plant-based!
- Time is scarce, take the risks
- Don’t expect the product you launch with to be your final version
- Trust the research, science knows
- Read the market and be guided by its trends
- Don’t pull away as it becomes too challenging, that’s the time to commit!
Don’t discount conflicting industry experience
Reflecting on his time working with the multinational corporate PepsiCo, Nick disclosed that with v2food they took educated guesses and rather large risks — things you cannot do in a multinational. Thus Phil claimed that on the back of this investment he built his career “on the combination of the superpowers of large companies and the energy and passion of an entrepreneur”. Prompting him to remark that the biggest mistake startups make is that they “pull away from the edge of the cliff just as they need to leap”. With v2food, Phil and Nick undoubtedly leapt, with the proof quite literally being in the pudding. Well, the patty.
But this doesn’t mean they are finished. v2food launched in 2019 with prototype #56, they are now up to #87 and are still working! Nick announced,
“We are trying to save the planet, we are building our business to make a big, positive impact but we are building it for ordinary people, not just rich vegans”.
Their product seeks to disrupt the market but not to disrupt the routine. It cooks, feels, smells and tastes like meat. For a population exceeding 10 billion, to be sustainable, food production cannot use additional land. Together, Phil and Nick have surpassed this requirement with the success of v2food all leading back to a laboratory, not the land.
From everyone at Innovation Bay we would like to thank Phil and Nick for sharing their VC x founder relationship and for revealing the great story behind v2food. Also a huge thank you to Jason Lang from our sponsor, Macquarie for opening the event, and the ongoing support of our other two sponsors KPMG and AWS.
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