Member of the month – Devon Garden Foods
Devon Garden Foods aims to create highly nutritious products using sustainable crops, completely free from animal ingredients, while at the same time developing its own protein extraction methods and data analytics platform to come up with great plant-based ingredients.
Devon Garden Foods is committed to developing its own protein extraction methods and using advanced data analytics (e.g. AI) to accelerate the discovery and exploitation of plant-based proteins to create milks, creams, yogurts, ice-creams etc – without compromising taste, texture or any of the characteristics that we all love from dairy products.
With an explosion in the market of dairy and meat alternatives, there are many ventures coming up with plant-based alternatives in many different markets. As consumer brands, most, or all, dairy alternatives, lack adequate nutrition, have high levels of salts, sugars, fats, carbs, etc. and their sources, even though they are plant-based, are not sustainable at all (e.g. almonds, cashew, palm oil, avocados). As businesses, they are all easy to replicate since there is no barrier to entry and they all lack proper or any research and development capability, and therefore their ability to create more innovative products is limited.
Although in the early stages of development, Devon Garden Foods have already developed a very rich, creamy and highly nutritious milk made from yellow split peas and are currently in the process of getting it manufactured and prepared for market launch. Similarly, the start-up also developed a highly nutritious meal in powder form made from sustainable crops, which can be mixed with your favourite plant-based milk and heated to be consumed as breakfast to keep you energised throughout the morning or simply mixed with water or your favourite milk and consumed as ‘protein’ shake or meal replacement whenever you are in a rush.
In addition, the business is working on the development of its proprietary process for protein extraction from British-grown pulses/legumes. Most people do not realise that the UK produces very high-quality pulses but sadly these are not exploited. This will allow the business to create other products and offer this service to other food companies that wish to exploit the power of plant-based proteins, always with a focus on maximising the value of sustainable British agriculture.
MEET THE FOUNDERS: Cesar Torres and Marina Leadbetter
Marina and Cesar met whilst studying on the One Planet MBA at the Exeter Business School, where they both shared an interest in sustainability and veganism. They both knew the damaging impact the meat and dairy industries were having on our planet and were excited to provide alternative solutions through the power of plants with emphasis on peas and other pulses.
Main Challenge of being an entrepreneur
“There have been several challenges. At first it was mainly related to support and many complementary areas to get a business started! We did not have any access to resources or support on how to get the right accountant, bank account, solicitors for any IP issues, NDAs, how to recruit (legal options), funding for prototyping, market research, product validation and market fit or how to set up a website. We learned all those along the way. The other challenges we have encountered are related to manufacturing. Contrary to what you might think, manufacturing capacity in the UK is very limited or too expensive. Because we are producing food, you cannot just make it at any facility; health and safety always comes first. For instance, manufacturers must have the right equipment for processing and packaging, ensure their facilities are free from potential cross-contamination (e.g. nuts, gluten or dairy products), and ultimately the capacity to accommodate further production into their already busy schedules. Finding the right partners and suppliers continues to be the biggest challenge for us.”
On working with Farm491
Cesar said: “We were introduced to Farm491 by SETsquared Bristol. I contacted them as we wanted to be part of their programme and also, we wanted to be based in Bristol. I am personally based in Bath, and although we founded the company in Exeter, ultimately Bristol (as well as London and Norwich) are the main vegan clusters of the UK. We were introduced to Farm491 as they thought they would be a better match for us at this stage. So, I got in touch with Luke and Sarah and immediately felt that Farm491 was a good place for us. We haven’t exploited all the benefits yet as we are trying to solve a few pieces of the puzzle first (such as manufacturing of our project) before we can proceed with some more detailed or tailored support.”