Last August they won the pitch competition on the occasion of our 80th anniversary and, since then, Rival Foods has been busy developing and recording their innovation. If all goes according to plan, we will be able to try Birgit Dekkers' and Ernst Breel's meat substitute at the better restaurants before the end of the year. We talked to them about their next steps after their €10,000 win, good patent protection and great dreams for the future.
What has happened since Masters of the Future?
We have been busy developing the production line of our meat substitute, a large chunk of unprocessed vegetable meat. On top of that, we have been talking to lots of people - investors, restaurants and, of course, our patent attorney Thomas Remmerswaal. I think we would have looked at patents differently if we had not won the award. We have now filed a patent very quickly. If it had been up to us, we would perhaps have waited a bit longer, but we are glad we did it.
We are noticing the benefits especially when we talk to investors. When you say you are working on technology and development, the first question they often ask is: have you got a patent? When I tell them that we have filed a patent application, you notice that this helps, that you come across as more reliable and are taken more seriously.
What are you hoping to protect and how will that help with the development of Rival Foods?
We are patenting part of the production process, so it is about the process. The idea we use is a well-known phenomenon in the world of rheology that we are applying in a slightly different way. Up until now, we have been using research equipment from Wageningen University for this, but we will actually only be able to start production for customers once we have our own production equipment.
What is the competition like in the meat substitute market?
The sale of vegetable products is increasing sharply and the corona crisis is also making people more and more suspicious of the meat industry. Although there is a lot of processed vegetable meat around, such as burgers, sausages and mincemeat, there is still plenty of room for fillets; especially among chefs, caterers and other food professionals.
To them, our product is more of an ingredient. A chef wants to be able to add his own thing; marinate and cut. As you go further down the food chain, it has to be shaped in a way that looks natural. This is one of the follow-up projects we are working on.
What role can EP&C play in projects like this?
What do you and do you not want to protect? How can you work towards something? These are the things we are brainstorming about. Some patented technologies are very important for the process but can also be done relatively easily in a different way.
How do you get these projects funded?
We have received funding from a philanthropic organisation. We are also engaged in talks with investors, but we want to achieve a number of goals first: finish the production process and deliver the first products. We expect to be able to do this by the end of the year. Then we can take the next step: a production process that can produce ten times the volume.
What does that mean for the protection of intellectual property?
The protection of this and subsequent processes is particularly important. If we get it right, we will eventually be able to issue licences. Initially we will produce the products ourselves, but the big dream is that at some point there will be so much demand for our products that we will no longer be able to make them ourselves.