Clean Food Group

Source: Laurie Lapworth - University of Bath

Clean Food Group produces a bio-equivalent palm oil alternative using microbial fermentation

Biotech start-up Clean Food Group has completed a £1.7m seed funding round to bring its yeast-based palm oil alternative to market.

It is hoped the lab-grown, cellular-based alternative could help reduce the detrimental environmental impact of palm oil production, with the edible vegetable oil found in almost 50% of all packaged products on supermarket shelves across food, personal care and beauty.

Clean Food was co-founded by CEO Alex Neves and co-chairman Ed McDermott in 2021, but the foundational technology has been developed over eight years at the University of Bath by professor Chris Chuck.

The company recently acquired the intellectual property from the university for the technology platform, which produces a bio-equivalent palm oil alternative using microbial fermentation. It also secured a two-year collaboration with the university to scale the technology and bring its palm oil alternative to market.

The proprietary technology also produces a by-product that can be used as a rose fragrance and flavour, which will also be commercialised.

Clean Food is currently identifying partners to work with and intends to submit a novel foods dossier for market approval of its palm oil alternative product to the European Food Standards Agency and UK Food Standards Agency in 2022.

Cultivated meat investor Agronomics led the seed financing round to broaden its portfolio outside of lab grown meat, with a £577,500 investment giving the Isle of Man-headquartered company a 35% stake.

Other early backers joining Agronomics included AIM-listed life sciences and tech investment firm Seed Innovations, as well as venture capital investors.

Robust palm oil alternatives

Professor Chris Chuck, who joined Clean Food Group as technical advisor, said: “Our dependence on palm oil comes at a great environmental cost.

“We’ve worked over many years to create robust palm oil alternatives that give us a real chance to cut the impact of a range of products that until now have only been possible to produce with palm oil and the deforestation, pollution and emissions that come with it.”

Agronomics executive director Jim Mellon, who also joins Clean Food as non-executive co-chairman, added the move was “an important and exciting development”.

“The technology has huge scale potential, and we look forward to being part of the company’s next stage of growth.”

Clean Food CEO Alex Neves said the funding round left the company well capitalised and well positioned to bring the palm oil alternative to market.

“We will also be investing in the development of a large-scale pilot plant which will allow us to enter into meaningful collaborations with commercial partners and to demonstrate our palm oil alternative within finished products,” he added. “We have already received significant market interest with regards to this.”