‘Produce food in a way that is good for humans, animals and the planet’

About organic plant protein

  • Founders: Ulrich Kern-Hansen and Fie Graugaard
  • Founded in: 2016
  • Employees: –
  • Money raised: 10 million euros
  • Ultimate goals: –

Every year, thousands of new entrepreneurs across Europe register with chambers of commerce over sixty years. Innovation Origins spoke to a number of these gray innovative starters and asked them about their motivations. This week we portray them in a special senior edition of the series Dagens Opstart. Read all the stories about the ‘silver start-ups’ here.

The Danish entrepreneur Ulrich Kern-Hansen and his wife Fie Graugaard will not retire after building a million company in organic pork. Having just passed the seventies, they are now focusing on healthy and affordable meat substitutes.

“We had Denmark’s first pig farm, where the animals stood outside all year round,” says Ulrich Kern-Hansen (71) with pride.

Delicious animals

“Pigs are wonderful animals,” the entrepreneur immediately admits. “But they are not too good for the climate. They destroy the soil and were once thought of as a last resort in case of crop failure. A farm used to have a maximum of two before industrialization. The scale we keep them on now is not future-proof. ‘”All those decades in the meat industry were the reason why Kern-Hansen and Graugaard looked elsewhere. And thus the pair is already quite far. They sold their stake in the pork company Hanegal and started Organic Plant Protein with a profit of around 10 million euros.

Sitting on the top floor of the modest factory, Kern-Hansen has just presented a tasting of what can replace pigs in the short term: kebab pieces, chicken cubes and burgers – but made from peas and fava beans. “We are working on further perfecting the burger so that it can also contain more fat. And we want to start offering chicken nuggets. ”

Without exception, the products taste good. The consistency is rich and the taste – especially in a curry sauce or richly spicy – is very close to real meat. The burger is indeed on the lean side and does not yet come close to now famous pendants like Beyond Meat, which became famous for its juiciness.

Need

“Peas and beans contain very little fat, which is what makes meat burgers so delicious. There is still a lot to gain for us, ”admits Kern-Hansen. On the other hand, the current meat substitutes are full of chemical tricks, and it is not always clear what substances are in a soy burger.

Fie Graugaard
Fie Graugaard and Ulrich Kern-Hansen

Kern-Hansen’s inspiration came in 2015. While his pork business Hanegal was organic and organic, the climate summit in Paris revealed to him the need to reduce the consumption of all types of meat. “In the beginning, it worked fine for pâté, for example, but it’s much harder when it comes to sausages or meatballs.”

Via via he heard about a promising innovation from the Danish Technological Institute. “They had found a way to create texture from dry protein. It is a huge breakthrough, because most meat substitutes revolve around wet proteins, which means that you get a wet product that costs a lot of energy. ” The dry method also requires no artificial additives.

Cheaper

Organic plant protein is currently sourced from peas and fava beans in Latvia. In Norway, another company processes them into pulp and sends them to Denmark, which otherwise has 8,000 hectares of potential for growing beans and peas – a demand that Organic Plant Protein hopes to stimulate. Kern-Hansen and his team then make the chicken pieces or other varieties, with or without ready-made sauce or recipe. Graugaard, co-owner of Organic Plant Protein, comes up with these recipes. Food brands bring these products to the customer through the supermarket. “The vegetarian butcher could be one of our customers”, flashes Kern-Hansen.

According to the entrepreneur, organic plant protein meat substitutes are cheaper to make and healthier to eat than the meat itself. Only 900 grams of CO are produced per kilo of replacement2-equivalent free, compared to 7 to 12 kilos for a kilo of pork or 60 kilos for beef. The high temperature in our production process unlocks the proteins very well and makes them more digestible. “

With the routine of decades of entrepreneurship, Ulrich Kern-Hansen convinces: The idea behind both companies is actually the same. “To produce food in a way that is good for humans, animals and the planet. When I started with organic food, there was a lot of focus on local responsibility. You have to take good care of the ground, keep an eye on the groundwater. ”

The seed for his turn lies in advancing insight: “Nowadays, far from the desert, we also think of desertification or harmful fertilizers. We must make this planet habitable for our grandchildren, that is my main goal. “

Political activism

The car parked in front of the factory of his company is therefore a Tesla, but a striking one. Instead of deep red or dark blue, this Tesla is covered in a kind of children’s drawing. Two child figures report with speech bubbles: “For our future!” and the license plate also stands out: ECOLOGICAL.

Running a company like Organic Plant Protein is a form of political activism for Kern-Hansen. “Some people sign up for a party, I do it like this and try to use my platform this way. And my age does not matter: as long as I can still run a marathon, I just want to keep going. ”

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