Two Taiwanese Scientists Revolutionize the Mouthfeel of Vegan Meat | Taiwan News

Two Taiwanese researchers from Cornell University, Huang Jen-Yu and Michelle Lee, saw the plant-based meat trend and became the first to use the encapsulation technique to produce an “alternative fat”, which allows to vegetable meat to taste like real meat. . They created Lypid and were selected by global accelerator IndieBio, and plan to go into mass production next year.

Vegetarian diets are gaining popularity around the world. As more people adopt vegetarian eating habits, now you can order a veggie burger at Beyond Meat and Impossible, and more.

Famous fast food brands in the United States like Carl’s Jr., Del Taco, White Castle and Quiznos also serve vegetarian meals, while other big names like McDonald’s and Taco Bell prepare to enter the world of food. plant-based meat, too.

Research suggests that the global plant-based meat market size was worth around NT $ 92 billion (US $ 3.3 billion) in 2019, which is expected to reach US $ 13.8 billion in 2027, or 19, 4% at a compound annual growth rate (CARG) within seven years. Herbal products are winning favor with consumers and investors.

Investors invested money in alternative proteins during the first half of 2021, securing more than 350% more funding than all of 2020. Startups that focus on improving mouthfeel for dairy alternatives such as milk, cheese and eggs have also attracted significant investment.

Vegetable meat

However, to completely replace real meat, there has always been one major flaw with vegetarian meat – it just doesn’t taste as great. Texture and flavor are what primarily distinguish meat from plants.

Muscle tissue is very flexible, while plant cells are more rigid. Real meat tastes like butter and chewy while vegetarian meat can taste powdery or sloppy. To solve the problem, both entrepreneur and scientist Huang Jen-Yu investigated the reasons.

As it turned out, “fat” is the essence of mouthfeel and taste, and in response, Huang asked her classmate Michelle Lee to found the fat vegan start-up. Lypid.

Fat is the essence of mouth feel and taste, and that’s why Huang Jen-Yu asked his classmate Michelle Lee to found the fat vegan start-up Lypid. (photo lipid)

Funded by IndieBio

Although a PhD student at Cornell, Huang’s entrepreneurial talent shone long before he left Taiwan for the United States.

“I have always explored the opportunities in the market and the means to commercialize different advanced technologies. Frankly, one of the reasons I come to the United States is that I want to start my own business, ”said Huang.

When an undergraduate student in Taiwan, Huang founded Readmix, which promoted independent bookstores. Its next startup, Clipo, has been chosen to enter the Plug & Play accelerator in Sunnyvale, California.

Over time, he began to discover more innovative business ideas. However, he discovered that he was not well equipped with scientific and technological knowledge to assess the quality of these ideas.

Therefore, he decided to pursue a doctorate. degree at Cornell University to consolidate his knowledge, a decision that led him to meet his company co-founder, Michelle Lee.

Lypid co-founders
Jen-Yu (right) decided to pursue a doctorate. degree at Cornell University to consolidate his knowledge, a decision that led him to meet his company co-founder, Michelle Lee. (photo lipid)

“Before graduation, I envisioned my future. Since I have mastered some high-level technical skills, why not go ahead and give it a shot? Lee said, recalling the time Huang asked him to start a business.

Lee has a master’s degree in food science and is an expert in encapsulation, a technique that puts materials like food ingredients or enzymes into small capsules. Both spirits immediately clicked. As a result, two Taiwanese Cornell Ph.D. students, one with an entrepreneurial spirit, the other with remarkable technical skills, both with practical experience, started their journey at Lypid in 2020.

Due to the great potential of the technique and the business idea of ​​Lypid, Lypid was selected in one week by IndieBio, the largest biotech startup accelerator managed by the company Global VC SOSV. Besides funds and equipment, IndieBio provided network and mindset.

“The best help IndieBio gives us is the change of mindset, from scientists to entrepreneurs,” said Huang. This helped them to include more perspectives, from technical aspects to market needs.

“They also offer valuable and diverse connections. We have met over 100 companies and investors. The people of IndieBio are doing all they can to help Lypid grow, ”added Huang.

Lypid co-founders
IndieBio is helping change the mindset, from scientists to entrepreneurs, says Huang. (photo lipid)

Juicy vegan meat

Food scientists around the world have searched for the best formula to mimic real meat. That was until Lypid found the secret sauce for the alternative fat – water.

Traditionally, animal fats have been replaced by vegetable oils, such as coconut, canola, and sunflower oil. However, their melting point is very low, resulting in the fat in the pans melting or a greasy piece of vegan meat that smells like plants.

Other scientists have tried using cultured animal fat, but this clearly does not fit strict vegan diets. Lypid’s breakthrough is the encapsulation technique.

Lee’s specialty, the encapsulation technique, in addition to some special processing technologies, allows liquid vegan oils to withstand heat up to 165 degrees Celsius and contain more aqueous components.

With the fat that still sticks to the meat, the feeling of smoothness, softness and juiciness is preserved. “If you look at animal fat, it’s not just lipids. It also contains water. If you always try to mimic fat, the steering is wrong and it will never taste like real fat, ”Huang explained.

Future food manufacturer

Lypid has adopted a B2B business model to sell its vegetable fat to vegetable meat suppliers. They have been in contact with over 10 companies and plan to mass produce next year.

Nevertheless, they also aim to develop and sell their own products, like vegan bacon. Their main target market will be the US market while Taiwan is another potential market.

“Taiwan makes very tasty vegan meat. It’s just that no one sees it as a real industry, ”Huang said. This is also one of the reasons why they recently founded a lab in Taiwan and are now recruiting employees.

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