From funky lollipops to vegan cheese, food startups are flocking to Paris | Business | Economic and financial news from a German point of view | DW
Irina Buravtsova and Natalia Afanaseva want to turn iconic works of art into multi-flavored lollipops. One recent morning at a food startup incubator in Paris, they experimented with a new recipe in the professional kitchen, stirring a few drops of a mixture of raspberry, lychee and rose flavors with sugar and water.
They poured the sticky mixture into special 3D printed molds that they had taken months to design. Once he had taken they had a set of lollipops which were perfect mini replicas of the famous sculpture of Venus de Milo in the Louvre museum.
“We want to make art edible and palpable and give it original tastes that sweets in France usually don’t have,” said Buravtsova, sucking on one of the still hot lollipop sculptures. “So it’s surprising and enjoyable for adults who can go back to being kids by licking the lollipops.”
Visitors to Parisian museums will soon be able to suck on an iconic work of art
Parisian entrepreneurs, who created a company called Licone last year, plan to launch their handmade lollipops soon, targeting concept stores and delicatessens as well as museum boutiques.
Navigate a complex market
Irina and Natalia received professional help at the Smart Food Paris incubator, located in a trendy building in the east of the city. Both attend mentoring sessions and workshops on marketing, business strategy and distribution and have access to essential business contacts and networks.
The Smart Food Paris incubator offers a coworking space and a courtyard for entrepreneurs
Like the offbeat “edible art” society, Smart Food Paris has incubated dozens of food sector startups. Business ideas range from the production of organic buckwheat products to the establishment and operation of urban farms, to the creation of edible tableware and smart delivery services, to the manufacture of insect-based foods and vegetable protein to replace meat and dairy products with the implementation of an app to help bakers keep up and improve their operations.
“France, and especially Paris, is renowned for its gastronomy, but in reality, the food sector is difficult to break through. It works in a very special way. There are a lot of actors, public and private, and there are a lot of regulations. said Domitille Dezobry, the head of the incubator.
“For a startup to hit the market, you need a specialized support system that opens the door for them and helps them find the right model to successfully sell their products or services.”
Government assistance for a financial head start
Smart Food Paris is far from being the only launching pad in the French capital dedicated to food startups. In recent years, the city has become a hotbed of culinary technology with at least a dozen clusters, accelerators and incubators focused on supporting innovative food projects.
The government is providing crucial assistance. In 2019, the government of President Emmanuel Macron announced that France had raised 5 billion euros ($ 5.92 billion) of capital from institutional investors in the country to inject it into technology companies, in particular for financing. at an advanced stage, over the next three years to help startups grow. , boost innovation and investment and make Paris a leading tech destination in Europe.
The French public investment bank, Bpifrance, has also played an important role in funding, injecting several billion euros into startups.
Antoine Gillain, who last year created a company, BUBBLe iT !, to sell a product that turns tap water into a healthy soft drink, said he managed to secure up to € 30,000 in seed funding via the bank. The condition was that it be part of an incubation process.
At Smart Food Paris, which is funded by the town hall, he now pays subsidized fees of € 1,600 per month for advice, mentoring and business contacts as well as the rental of three coworking spaces.
“It’s a fair price to pay. There is a lot of support for startups,” said Gillain, who has also raised money through two crowdfunding campaigns. “The biggest advantage of the incubator is that you are in a place where there are 25 or 30 other startups all operating in the food space, so you can also really learn a lot from each other’s experience. “
Food R&D a key factor
For startups wishing to continue developing their products, the Parisian food ecosystem has another key ingredient: a multitude of research institutes and universities focused on culinary sciences, innovation and research.
Nour Akbaraly created a company called Les Nouveaux Affineurs or “Les Nouveaux Fromagers” four years ago to make vegan cheese. Since he only uses cashews, soybeans and water, he had to experiment with scientific inputs to get the crucial correct fermentation and ripening process.
Vegan cheese maker, Les Nouveaux Affineurs, uses only cashews, soybeans and water for its products
It was accepted for incubation at Smart Food Paris and at the same time in a full-fledged scientific food laboratory at AgroParisTech, the National Institute of Technology for Life, Food and Environmental Sciences.
“Here in France we have access to a lot of cheese makers and a lot of food scientists and there is a lot of know-how in making dairy cheeses,” Akbaraly said, adding: “The food lab tells us about it. allowed us to experiment and make prototypes and apply all the best knowledge in the dairy process to the plant to create products with a good nutritional profile.And, the Smart Food Paris incubator allowed us to connect with retailers and institutional partners for the business.
A reputation for good cuisine
It turned out to be a winning recipe. Last year, Akbaraly managed to raise more than 2 million euros in a fundraising round, allowing him to expand his team and invest in a pilot production unit in the south-east of Paris.
Vegan wheels and spreads are available in some stores and bakeries in France as well as in Germany. Its plan is to export to other markets in Europe.
Nour Akbaraly says he drew on the skills and know-how of the French dairy cheese maker for its plant-based version
France’s reputation as a gourmet food mecca undoubtedly helps support its food startups. According to Choose Paris Region, an agency designed to attract investment to Paris, food startups raised a total of $ 700 million (€ 590 million) in 2019, making France the second-largest player in food investments. food technologies in Europe after the UK.