Finding new protein alternatives to substitute meat – Interview with Eslam Salah, Founder of Lupinta, and Madeleine Linins Mörner, Director for Future Food Program at Axfoundation

Have you ever wondered how plant-based businesses are growing so fast lately? This Summer, Judit Olofsson and I, as Fairforce Student Ambassadors got the great chance to interview Eslam Salah, an award-winning entrepreneur who founded and manages Lupinta, a startup developing meat substitutes from locally farmed lupin beans; and  Madeleine Linins Mörner, a professional who has developed her career in sustainability and now is the director of Future Food program in Axfoundation, where they plan to change the way food is produced nowadays.

“If we replace 15-20% of the total land used today for animal farming in Europe with lupin farming, then, we will have enough plant-based protein for animals, human consumption and we will free space in the rainforest to replant 30 billion trees.” One of the interesting facts Eslam talked about was how much environmental impact they could make by switching from animal farming to a plant-based one. In addition, he affirmed that we will not need to transport 32 million tonnes of raw material from outside the EU. On the other hand, Madeleine pointed out the issue regarding plant-based protein crops in Sweden, affirming that it is not easy to grow soy crops because of the weather conditions and the climate disadvantages the bean presents nowadays. – “there is a big gap in the infrastructure around handling, particularly protein crops. We are lacking in infrastructure: there is an infrastructure in Holland, Germany… but in Sweden, we don’t have it in the same sort of way. Like, to isolate the protein and get the sole protein out of it, that sort of proteins we don’t have here.” As soy is an increasing seller crop nowadays, she is worried Sweden can not produce itself and the negative environment it has when importing it. She believes businesses would be the fastest ones to fix this issue, as soon as they are aware of the financial and operating benefits it brings them. “For us, business is the best vehicle. If you get a business to realise they can either make money, save money or build the brand; if they decide to take a sustainable stand, the change will come quickly.”, as time is an issue and we do not have much left. The key is showing companies how benefiting it is for them to switch to a more sustainable way of working, according to Madeleine. She also mentions the customer influence in plant-based food consumption. “Showing them that healthy soil will produce healthy superfoods and it will also be good for our planet would be great, but there is a lot of research to be done so all of that can be proved.”

Moreover, these green professionals shared the view that there should be a better connection among the food value chain “There are great silos in the agriculture and food sector chain: every part of the chain encloses itself in its little world: you have to get the value chain to work together” declared Madeleine. She believes in bringing together at the table the farmer, the scientist, the chef, the professor and the market. They discuss who needs to do what, for them to be able to move from here to there and you get the value chain to work together and realise the reality that they are all facing. Because “the silos are so intact that this part might not have any idea of what is the part over here. So, just realising the reality that all the different chains are facing helps a lot. If you want change to come about quickly you have to make the value chain work together.”

Eslam relates how satisfying it is when they bring a sample of their finished product to the farmer who has grown the lupin crop and the farmer sees what has become of the crop. Eslam also discussed how important it is to get a diverse team to work together and provide different ideas – “We don’t want to have a formal discussion on what is the team culture going to be like. I think our culture is to be genuine, to be ourselves. Our culture is to accept the diversity within the team.” Madeleine also supported this idea: “There is a great movement in the right way. When we talk about young professionals, when companies are trying to recruit, they have realised if they don’t have a vision larger than just selling, they won’t attract the top candidates. Because the younger people now want a reason bigger than themselves, they want to contribute, I can see that clearly. That brings a lot of hope.”

The last part of the interviews consisted in asking a personal point of view on being green professionals. Both interviewees showed interest in the human-related topic. Eslam declared “I’m doing my business because I am very interested in people. If you are interested in sustainability, you are interested in people.” Madeleine appeals for everyone to add that sustainable way of seeing things no matter what our job is “If we get everybody to just start thinking like that, there will be a big change. Do it where you are, add that perspective and run with it!”