Application to Sustainable Food Solutions
(SFS) Challenge


About the Challenge

Food production and the associated value chain, accounts for c. 25-30% of total Greenhouse Gas emissions, and according to the IPCC, observed climate change is already affecting food security through increasing temperatures, and changing rain patterns, and a greater frequency of some extreme events.

Combining supply side actions such as efficient production, transport, and processing with demand-side interventions such as modification of food choices, and reduction of food loss and waste, can reduce Green House Gas emissions, and help feed the planet’s projected 9 billion population in 2050.

MassChallenge believes startup and corporations can help this effort. Startups can play a unique role in bringing new disruptive ideas to the table. Corporations can play a critical role in scaling these ideas bringing benefits to society quickly.

In 2020 a group of leading global food manufacturers and producers partnered with MassChallenge to find and collaborate with startups, so that together, they could help feed the planet sustainably. Over 800 startups have applied to the challenge, 125 being connected to our partners. Of these, over half were involved in follow up with our partners - check the success stories segment

In 2022 we will open up the challenge again. Our partners - Nestlé, Bühler, Givaudan, Barry Callebaut, LDC, DSM and Südzucker – are looking for startups or SME’s, with proven solutions or technologies in the areas of sustainable food production, ingredients and side-stream utilization

Benefits for the startups selected

  1. A direct pathway to multi-national corporations: If shortlisted by our partners, MassChallenge will introduce you to representatives of the partners, including senior R&D, open innovation managers, sustainability executives and business unit heads. You will talk to the right stakeholders in these organisations, you will have their full attention from the start and will explore ways to collaborate with them.

  2. The ability to scale your technology with them: After the initial meeting we forsee a detailed sharing of information, most likely covered by a Non-Disclosure Agreement, and then the creation of a joint pilot to evaluate the scaling potential of the product. Startups could then become suppliers to the corporation, partners in some form of venture or receive investment. Every step is totally at the corporation and startups discretion, and there is no obligation to proceed unless the startup and corporation wish.

  3. Publicity and more connections: Each corporate partner will invite one of the startups that they shortlisted to our flagship event, the MassChallenge Sustainable Food Solutions Challenge Day, in April 2022. There, the startup invited will present their solution to all of our coprorate partners, resulting in more connections and the potential to work with other corporates. This event will most likely be virtual (e.g. via Zoom) and will be subject to press releases from MassChallenge and some of our corporate partners, providing visibility to the startups.

Eligibility criteria

We are looking for startups or scaleups that:

1) Have a product or idea at the prototype stage or with a working proof of concept backed by data (ie Technical Readiness Level 5, where the technology has been validated in relevant environment) in the areas of sustainable food, sustainable ingredients and side-stream utilization.

  • Sustainable food 
    CPGs - New Food & Beverages which are unique in technology and value proposition for the consumer
    Plant-based and Protein alternatives for meat, fish & dairy products.
    Technologies to improve efficiency, cost or CO2 footprint in the areas of: fermentation, drying, cooling and processing
    Regenerative agriculture that improves crop health & farming productivity, whilst reducing CO2 emissions
  • Sustainable Ingredients
    New and natural food ingredients which are scalable and deliver improved food experience
    Clean label ingredients that are minimally processed
    Low CO2 footprint
    Smart traceability systems
  • Side-Stream Utilisation
    Upcycling of food and agriculture side-streams into valueable ingredients/ materials/ fuels/ packaging

2) Are a strategic fit with our partners. In the application form startups should make a case about how their solution is a strategic fit with a specific partner(s). What’s important is an openness to collaborate and scale your idea.

3) Are from seed to series C+. What’s important is that your product is at least at the prototype stage or with a working proof of concept backed by data. You may already have some sales & traction. This enables us to validate that there is a need for your product and that you’re ready to work with our corporate partners. The next step is to work with the corporate partner to scale your technology.

4) Have Impactful, Viable and Scalable ideas:

  • Impactful: to massively benefit society by extracting value whilst reducing the CO2 footprint & emissions of the entire food value chain
  • Viable: be able to demonstrate traction amongst consumers, manufacturers and their supply base (including farmers)
  • Scalable: be able to scale at agricultural, manufacture, distribution or disposal stage of food production

5) Are from any geography. However note that our partner corporations are headquartered in Europe so physical collaboration would be in Europe. Startups should ensure they are able to travel to Europe for discussions. The selection process will be carried out online.

How the Challenge works

  • Relevant applicants will be presented to partner corporations
  • Selected startups will be invited to meet with R&D, open innovation, sustainability execuctives, and business unit heads for further discussion and to evaluate the potential for collaboration
  • We expect that this will result in proof of concepts, partnerships, investments for several of the startups.
  • In addition to the above, each partner will select one start-up to pitch their joint collaboration idea at the MassChallenge Sustainable Food Solutions Challenge Day in April 2022 where all of our corporate partners will attend.
  • It is anticipated that partners and startups will then work together to scale the startups idea through the partners’ business.
  • This will likely be a virtual event, but if we are able to run it face-to-face we will.

How to apply

Submit your application before January 14th. To apply, click HERE.

In the form, select all the partner corporations for which you believe that your technology could be useful, and provide a thoughtful explanation as to why you think that is. The answer will be read by our partner corporations, thus the more specific your explanations, the more likely they will want to engage with you.

Key dates

  • November 16: Program launch and call for applications
  • January 14: Closure of applications call at 23:59 CET
  • W/c March 15Announcement of the finalists
  • W/c April 28: Challenge Day - Pitching session on-line or face-to-face in Lausanne
  • After AprilCollaboration between successful startups & corporates

Success stories  

Fotortec & Givaudan

Rami Jadaa, Founder Fotortec

"Fotortec started as means to prevent more children dying from malnutrition. Our technology is only at the service of this purpose, allowing us to transform any type of vegetable side stream on site into edible mushrooms from which we obtain high quality, fully traceable protein ingredients. Thanks to MassChallenge Switzerland Sustainable Food Solutions 2021, Fotortec’s flavor enhancer was chosen among 400 startups by Givaudan as the most viable substitute to yeast extract, which is the most main stream flavor enhancer, 2nd only to red meat as a source of COin the food industry. So, what has happened after this formidable matching? We have been working with 2 partners introduced by Givaudan, to optimize production and product aspects of our technology with the objective of delivering the solution the industry requires to serve the consumers of today and the future.  This has been valuable beyond expectations because, as a startup, we understand very well the value of focusing on our uniqueness; and now we are backed by 3 leaders and their deep knowledge and capacities in their industries, to impact society, Nature and industry more than ever. "                  


Sophie's Bionutrients & Bühler

Eugene Wang - Founder Sophie's Bionutrients

"Tell you the truth, just right before the SFS, I wouldn't imagine that I would be moving the company to Europe and settle myself there.  Now, it is all clear. I am relocating to Amsterdam next week. And I plan to move most of the team to Europe as well.  This is all thanks to you all. As an entrepreneur, I really have to say it is hard to find big companies to share the impact driven values we entrepreneurs have. But, through SFS, I see that there are indeed quite a few large companies in Europe like Bühler who share the same value and are willing to help promote that shared value. I can only say that I am really grateful for this opportunity. Also thanks to SFS, we found more customers in Europe who share the same vision and want to work with us. I can only say that Bühler and SFS help us see how visionary most of the companies in Europe are when it comes to ESG. And that align with our goal perfectly. Thank you all for this wonderful opportunity!"

Plant Jammer & Südzucker

Michael Haase, Founder Plant Jammer

"Expanding to a B2B market was something we did have in our product roadmap.We knew that we had a product we believed in and one that could make a real impact in fighting food waste, but in order achieve that impact, we’d need to get the product in front many more millions of people than we could as a downloadable app. We didn’t want to spend a lot of time, budget, and effort without knowing we’d have a customer market. MassChallenge alleviated a lot of the risk in our development. The partnership with Südzucker began after the Sustainable Food Solutions Pitch Day by working on a SaaS relationship: we found our  B2B customer, and Südzucker got a dynamic tool that aligned with their brand’s mission in driving sustainability efforts."