Devotion Foods is a startup developing vegan meat substitutes to create a sustainable environment, joined by CEO Park along with nutritionists. The company differentiated its product from existing meat substitutes by developing its own meat-like texture and adjusting nutrition as desired. The product is also low in calories but high in protein, thus drawing attention from and collaborating with many food corporations. CEO Hyung Su Park has also been featured in the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia 2021.
Let’s meet CEO Hyung Su Park of Devotion Foods!
Please briefly introduce Devotion Foods.
Hello, we are Devotion Foods, a startup developing and manufacturing plant-based meat substitutes. Devotion Foods aims to contribute to society by developing meat substitutes. In addition, we work to reduce environmental pollution problems caused by producing animal meat and improve food nutrition for people.
Devotion Foods consists of 14 members – 4 in management, 4 in research, 3 in marketing and 3 in factory management. Experienced as CDP (Chef de Partie) at a Michelin molecular gastronomy restaurant in Chicago, I entered KAIST SE MBA while studying the properties of plant-based meat alternatives and established the company. CTO and COO Yongmin Lee gained experience at a 3-star Michelin restaurant in Chicago and has been in charge of developing plant-based meat alternatives. He has also been researching plant-based fat composition and plant binding technologies.
Devotion Foods develops plant-based meat alternatives with similar taste and appearance as real meat for people accustomed to animal meat. With CEO Park and CTO Lee at the lead, Devotion foods consists of professionals in food engineering, nutrition, and chemistry.
How did Devotion Foods decide on this specific product as its startup item?
I became interested in environmental effects of the livestock industry when I was in the U.S. Thinking that distributing the high demand of the livestock industry could reduce environmental pollution, I began researching plant-based meat alternatives. Many meat alternative products have been released in the market, but I discovered that existing products lack nutritional value. Thus, I selected plant-based meat alternatives as the startup item with strong confidence to simultaneously solve environmental issues as well as customers’ health problems.
So, the idea of meat alternatives stems from your experiences in the U.S. and environmental issues caused by the livestock industry. Vegan culture is not so familiar in Korea, but Devotion Foods makes me more interested in plant-based meat alternatives.
What is unique about Devotion Food’s meat substitute?
Our strength lies in the nutritional value. Real beef contains about 290 calories per 100g, and other companies’ meat alternatives has about 20 to 30 more calories than beef. On the other hand, Devotion Foods’ meat has about 210 calories. In addition, our product contains 30~40% less sodium than other products and 0% cholesterol.
Compared to existing plant-based meat alternatives, our product has the most real meat-like taste, smell, texture, and color.
I naturally thought that meat alternatives would be healthier and much lower in calories, but I was wrong! Contrastingly, Devotion Foods’ Devotion Meat is low in calories and has similar taste and texture to real meat, thus drawing more attention.
Meat alternatives is becoming a food culture trend in overseas markets, but a majority of people in Korea are not interested in such alternatives. How can Devotion Foods illuminate the advantages of meat alternatives and expand to B2C while considering the costs?
Initially, we decided to proceed with the B2B2C business model. As you mentioned, the meat alternative market in Korea is in the early stages, so we decided it was necessary to accustom customers with meat alternatives by providing Devotion Meat to foods that consumers frequently consume. Therefore, Devotion Foods plans to release various products by collaborating with companies that sell HMR, retort pouches, and meal kits. Moreover, ‘X Devotion Foods’ will be printed on the product packages.
The first product that will be released uses high quality ingredients and is high in nutrition, thus forming a price range similar to that of overseas products. However, B2C products will have ranging prices since we developed the meat alternative material itself.
Devotion Foods has received a lot of attention from large food corporations. What synergy can we expect from the collaboration with such companies?
As I mentioned earlier, we currently lack the funds and work force to do marketing and expand our products. By collaborating with companies that manufacture and sell various products, we expect to meet the customers’ expectations that Devotion Foods’ meat alternatives has high qualities.
It is time for people to recognize the need for meat alternatives, and collaborating with food companies is expected to raise awareness. Once consumers become familiar with meat alternatives and Devotion Meat, more and more customers will become interested in and trust Devotion Foods.
Companies like Beyond Meat are already well-established in the meat alternatives market. How will Devotion Foods overcome this company and endeavor to succeed in the global market?
No company researching or developing plant-based meat alternatives in the world have yet shown products perfectly similar to real meat. So, we have measured and quantified the texture, smell, and taste of the ingredients to efficiently develop and research a perfect meat-like product. In addition, we aim to create a healthy product and provide clinical data by adding extra nutrients not contained in real meat.
Lastly, the best form of the product currently available is ground beef. We are researching a type of meat that can be cooked using convergence technologies and plan to release it as soon as possible. Since meat alternatives are still in the process of being developed, it is crucial to develop a real meat-like product as quickly as possible.
Devotion Foods will soon draw more attention than Beyond Meat once Devotion Foods develop more real meat-like products through systematic research and data. There are many things to consider when developing foods, but Devotion Foods will soon gain an edge in the global meat alternative market.
Devotion Foods has recently been established but has already received series A funding and accumulated high investment. What do you think is the reason?
First of all, I believe that plant-based meat alternatives have high potential. Our company started research in 2017 and became a corporation in 2018. Until then, people asked us why our company was developing alternative meat. However, Beyond Meat’s listing in 2019 changed people’s perceptions, and our company who was researching in advance also gained attention.
Additionally, our company’s biggest competitiveness is our technology – quantitatively analyzed research indicators. We quantitatively analyze real meat from various aspects, digitize, and graph the data. Then, we conduct research by comparing all ingredients of Devotion Foods to real meat based on the quantitative data. Based on this data, we were able to develop the technology to create plant-based alternatives, which led to our success and funding.
While Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) emerges as a hot topic, Devotion Foods will be appraised for its vision and consideration of the environment and health. The alternative meat market starting in the U.S. is slowly developing and changing people’s perceptions. Especially, since there is no company that can compete with Devotion Foods in Korea, the company will be able to achieve its competitive edge in the market with its technology.
What is Devotion Foods’ short-term goal?
Our first product will be launched in October. Along with our product release, we hope to be acknowledged for our technological excellence. In addition, we plan to create products using plant-based meat alternatives such as dumplings, short rib patties, and steak. Through the process, we plan to go through series B funding rounds, so our current goal is to expand the company and build confident financial statements.
I look forward to Devotion Foods’ first product. Series B funding will be in no time if Devotion Foods appeal to customers with the products’ taste and texture similar to real meat.
What is Devotion Foods’ ultimate goal?
Devotion Foods has the technology to develop products such as pork, chicken, tuna, and egg in addition to beef. We do not simply sell food but aim to change customers’ perceptions on the food materials. Through the perception change, we will aim to contribute to society through the development of plant-based alternative meat, reduce the environmental problems caused by producing animal-based meat, and achieve improved nutritional values for people. Furthermore, Devotion Foods will soon expand to overseas and supply Korea’s high quality plant-based alternative meat, as we have already developed a production process line to produce Devotion Meat.
Devotion Foods is a startup that has been established recently, but has gained a lot of attention from large corporations and received funding from multiple investors. Also, Devotion Foods’ CEO Hyung Su Park was been featured in the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia 2021. Although the culture of vegan meat is not widespread yet in Korea, Devotion Foods has potential to develop as ESG emerges. Additionally, the company does not simply develop alternative meat, but focuses on creating the ingredient themselves, and collecting and quantifying data to develop the entire production process. Devotion Foods – a company considering the environment and people’s health. We hope the company captivates consumers around the world with its products and through collaboration with other corporations.