Our daily ritual of consuming meat contributes to 18% of global carbon emissions, takes 77% of agricultural land, while only contributing to 18% of our daily caloric needs. With climate change advancing at a rapid pace and the world population forecasted to reach 11 billion by 2050, radical solutions are needed.
One potential solution is to source the nutritional qualities of meat from plants. Plant-based meats require 98% less land, 94% less water and emit 98% fewer carbon emissions.
This is the solution Dan Tang at Radiant Foods was working on when she joined our London AgriFood Innovation Clinic (LAFIC) in June 2021.
Radiant Foods makes healthy plant-based meat using only simple ingredients.
“Academia has the technical knowledge. Start-ups like us have the risk appetite to test those academic ideas in real life.”
Why plant based?
Coming from a small town in China, Dan grew up a meat lover.
“I still remember how delicious the Chinese pork belly my grandma used to cook. It's so crispy outside, soft and juicy inside.”
In 2018, when she came to the UK, she realised that her diet was having a huge impact on animals’ wellbeing and the planet. She decided to make a change and made her own diet plant based.
Having made the switch though she discovered a distinct lack of protein alternatives outside of tofu. She tried some of the more common meat substitutes from supermarkets but quickly found that those brands trying to mimic meat often used artificial additives, processed ingredients and refined sugars.
Dan and her friend, Satya, teamed up in 2021 to found Sow Foods, now Radiant Foods. Their aim is to provide a plant based, protein-rich product that is genuinely good for you, with ingredients you can understand.
Why did Radiant Foods come to LAFIC?
Although Dan had a great product she lacked the technical knowledge on food safety, such as hazard analysis and critical control point (HACCP), shelf-life and packaging.
When Radiant Foods came to LAFIC, they had a product that had a shelf-life of around seven days. Through their work with Food Technologist Iyabosola (Yabby) Miedzianowska, they were able to develop a HACCP plan and extend the shelf-life to a proven six-months using various packaging modes, methods and materials.
This made it suitable for retailers who need at least 30 days.
We loved working with Yabby! She was patient and kind. She calmly guided me through the process and enabled us to achieving our desired shelf-life of 3+ months.
How did LAFIC support Radiant Foods?
A knowledge transfer was the first port of call.
This began with a HACCP appropriate, food safety management system. The system must address the whole process from raw material purchase, production and handling, through to manufacturing and the distribution of the finished product. It can do this through the analysis and control of biological, chemical, and physical hazards, as well as allergens at all stages.
A review of the production process also examined the traceability of the production activities. By making these more understandable, Radiant Foods developed a more consistent product.
The product also went through a nutritional analysis. This provided and supported marketing claims that the ‘Oriental Spices’ product is a high source of protein and fibre. The product was also analysed and deemed suitable for a gluten free claim provided the agreed process was followed through.
What was it like working with LAFIC?
The opportunity to share knowledge and develop her product with an academic was not lost on Dan.
According to Yabby:
Dan has a can-do attitude which made her push for more and explore ways of doing it better. She didn’t give up when things were not going as planned, but rather went back to the drawing board and re-strategised in coming up with a refined product.
This approach made supporting Radiant Foods to achieve new heights even easier despite the issue of COVID-19 still being present in 2021. Yabby’s only regret with the product was not being able to provide face-to-face support.
Dan came away from the experience having learnt the importance of having good relationships with her co-founders and a desire to test new products in the market as soon as possible. It’s also made her hungry for more academic support.
You need both parties [academics and businesses] to work together to achieve greater things.
For Radiant Foods the opportunity to keep building and growing their product range is stronger than ever. Dan’s final piece of advice to other businesses is:
Go out there and test your hypothesis. You will be surprised how far you can come once you launch your product.
We have loved being a part of Radiant Food’s story and wish them every success. Hopefully we’ll be able to bring you an update in the future.
As for LAFIC, sadly this programme has come to an end but there’s still more to do and many more ways we are collaborating and bringing our experts at London South Bank University together with businesses and individuals.
To start your development journey why not connect with us today.
The LAFIC programme was created to support and promote research and innovation in London's food businesses. It was funded by the European Regional Development Fund.