By the year 2050, the world’s population will reach 10 billion people. Natural resources to sustain traditional protein sources will need to be complemented with alternative protein sources to feed that many people. Recognizing this challenge, Bühler, Cargill, Givaudan, and PURIS have joined forces to help accelerate start-ups who are innovating in plant-based proteins. Together, they have created the Scale It Up Innovation Challenge with the aim to bring sustainable, protein food products to market quicker.

The four participating companies are all active in the production of sustainable, plant-based protein food products to meet evolving consumer needs, each focusing on differing parts of the value chain and each bringing their unique expertise to the challenge. The Scale It Up Innovation Challenge will provide resources, mentorship, and expertise to the challenge winners.

During the challenge, start-up companies who register and submit their project will gain visibility to the larger sustainable, plant-based protein ecosystem and be able to network and collaborate with others on a similar journey. The top 15 start-ups selected in the first round will pitch their proposals to the partner companies virtually and five companies will gain access to the partner companies’ testing and scale up piloting facilities in Minneapolis. From there, one winner and one runner-up will be chosen and provided ongoing support that will help them scale their product for market introduction.

“All four companies are dedicated to helping solve the coming protein gap,” says Yannick Gaechter, director of Bühler’s Food Application Center. “The Scale It Up Innovation Challenge is designed to really accelerate those start-ups who are also working to close that gap.”

“Many of these start-ups struggle when it comes the critical stage of getting to market,” says Chris Thoen, Bühler’s North American innovation director. “We created this challenge to help them bridge the gap to commercialization.”

Rahul Shinde, Givaudan’s director of Front End Innovation, reinforces this key aspect. “It’s that last stage,” he says, “where they have a proof of concept, but lack the resources to properly scale their operation. It’s here that this partnership can help.”

The Scale It Up Innovation Challenge is taking idea submissions until August 4, 2021. Companies wishing to enter the challenge can register at On August 6, 2021, the top 15 projects will be selected by a panel of experts from the four partner companies. The top 15 companies will have a week to prepare their pitches to advance, and on August 16, 2021, the top five projects will be selected. From September 13 to November 12, 2021, the top three to five selectees will visit the facilities of the partner companies. On November 12, 2021, the final pitches will be made, and a winner and runner-up chosen. The two selected companies will get varying degrees of support to help scale their product for market introduction.

“Aside from the incredible possibility that the winners have as a result of the challenge, all entrants will benefit from the collective experience of industry experts along with gaining great exposure into the alternative protein innovation ecosystem,” said Anshuman Bhatia, North America Plant Protein product line lead at Cargill.

“This challenge, and this partnership between our companies, is unique in this industry,” says Julie Mann, PURIS chief innovation officer. “Innovating a sustainable food supply is at the core of the PURIS mission. This challenge provides an excellent opportunity for a start-up to work alongside a like-minded leader in the food industry.”

Start-ups wishing to participate in the Scale It Up Innovation Challenge should visit and sign up before the August 4, 2021 deadline.