MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA, US — Nowadays was selected as the winner of the Scale It Up! Innovation challenge with the goal of helping plant-based protein start-ups accelerating bringing their products to market.

Nowadays will continue to work with Bühler, Cargill, Givaudan and PURIS to accelerate product development and scale up production for a plant-based protein alternative with the taste and texture similar to poultry.

The Scale It Up! Challenge included more than 130 people from 22 companies competing in a six-month long contest. 

"Winning the Scale It Up! Innovation Challenge means everything to me personally, and to Nowadays as a business,” said Max Elder, chief executive officer and co-founder of Nowadays. “It’s an incredible validator of the hard work we’re doing and it’s an amazing opportunity to access really unparalleled resources, expertise, and technological capabilities to help our business to scale.”

Nowadays is creating large, label-friendly, full cuts of alternative protein that resemble the taste, appearance, and mouth feel of poultry when rehydrated. Using sustainable pea protein and produced via dry extrusion, their chicken-like full cuts would have a two-year shelf life at ambient temperature and would be comparatively priced to poultry counterparts.

As first-place finisher, Nowadays will receive six months of mentorship from the partner companies, which amounts to more than $100,000 in technical expertise and access to state-of-the-art testing facilities.

Plant Ranch was selected as first runner-up for their line of Mexican-flavored, sustainable plant-based proteins. They will receive three months of mentorship from the partner company of their choice.

“This is a great chance for us to work, not just on flavorings or proteins, but really focus on the technologies that will help build up our company,” said Gary Huerta, chief executive officer, Plant Ranch Foods. “This is a prime opportunity to work with people that have so much more expertise than we do.”

Plant Ranch is combining the authentic flavors of Mexico with plant-based proteins for a healthy dining experience. With products already in retail on a small scale, they are developing additional SKUs, including gluten-free options. Plant Ranch believes their products offer a real Mexican food experience on par with dishes served by Latin American families.

“The passion and drive these contestants have for helping find solutions to feeding a growing population was admirable, which made selecting the winner and runner-up from even the top-five group a challenge in itself, said Ian Roberts, chief technology officer at Bühler Group. “I hope others are inspired by this challenge, and we see more acceleration of these innovators.”

Based on the success of the Scale It Up! Innovation Challenge, the four companies spearheading the unique challenge intend to expand it beyond North America in the coming months, starting with Europe.

“This platform makes a lot of sense for start-ups that have a very good proof of concept but lack the resources to clear that last hurdle before going to market,” said Julie Mann, chief innovation officer, PURIS Holdings.

To learn more about the Scale It Up Innovation Challenge, visit scale-it-up.org.