About Revo Foods
- Founders: Theresa Rothenbücher, Robin Simsa, and Manuel Lachmayr
- Founded in: 2021
- Employees: 25
- Money raised: A total of 3 million euros via the Greenstart program from Impact Hub Vienna; Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG), Vienna Business Agency;
- Ultimate goal: To produce a kind of plant-based fish that has never been available before.
Theresa Rothenbücher and Robin Simsa met in a doctoral program under the Horizon 2020 European research program. They came up with the idea for Revo Foods while exploring 3D printing on a biomedical scale. After graduating in the summer of 2020, they considered how to make a deceptively real plant-based fish substitute themselves. Essentially, the process used in biomedicine is suitable for 3D food printing. But it was still necessary to adapt certain components. Together with co-founder Manuel Lachmayr, a proven 3D expert, they were able to overcome this hurdle. With him, they managed to print vegetable salmon that is indistinguishable from real salmon in terms of sensory perception. Here is co-founder Robin Simsa in an interview with Innovation Origins:
What problem does your plant-based fish substitute from the 3D printer solve?
Our biggest motivation is to change the way food is produced to help the climate and preserve biodiversity. Pigs or cattle are bred specifically for food production. Fish, on the other hand, are often caught in the wild and we could be one of the last generations to experience this abundance of fish. With Revo Foods, we want to counteract the further intensification of fishing. People should be able to eat what they love without compromising the balance of the ecosystem. Plant-based fish substitutes are a solution that is already possible at the moment and offer a great taste experience.
What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome?
The most difficult thing is to change consumer attitudes. Meatless products have not yet become mainstream. On the one hand, there are vegans who don’t miss the sensory perception of real fish, and on the other hand, there are the meat-eaters who don’t want an alternative. We want to convince the skeptics with the high quality of our products. And we also hope that the negative effects of aquaculture and overfishing will be recognized.
What was the technical challenge?
We had to adapt the 3D-printing process to our requirements. Printing biomedical products has different requirements than 3D food printing. For this, we brought Manuel Lachmayr onto the team. He is a recognized 3D expert and was previously president of the Austrian Association for 3D Printing. With his expertise, we were able to master the adjustments within our own team.
What does your plant-based fish substitute consist of?
Our first product is an alternative to smoked salmon consisting of high-quality plant-based ingredients: pea protein, algae extracts and vegetable oils. We source the ingredients regionally whenever possible, with 80 percent coming from Austria. The remaining 20 percent is almost entirely grown in the European Union. Like real smoked salmon, our product is ready to eat and must be stored in a cool place. It tastes best on bread, pasta or pizza – just like its fish counterpart.
How did you secure financing?
We were confident that we could raise funding because interested investors approached us early on. In the meantime, we have successfully completed two investment rounds and raised three million euros, including public funding. Now we are going into the third round.
What achievements are you most proud of?
One of the best moments was when we printed our first prototype, seeing that Revo Foods is not just a concept, but something that can be implemented. It was still a lot of work before we had a marketable product, but we did it.
The successful launch of our first product in Austrian and German grocery stores was also a great experience. Within the first month, our smoked salmon became one of the most sought-after products in the meat alternatives category and was soon sold out.
What are your medium-term goals?
At the moment we are in the expansion phase. Our first product is already available in Austria, Germany, Spain and Denmark and soon also in the UK. We are also constantly conducting research and development on new products. Currently, this is a plant-based fish substitute in the form of smoked salmon spread. We are also thinking about a plant-based alternative to sushi sashimi.
We also work with different technologies. Our first goal is to bring delicious vegetarian fish alternatives to the market and if necessary, develop the technologies to do so. This is always with the hope that the market will grow and industrial fishing will shrink.
How does your 3D-printed fish substitute differ from existing products?
This is a completely new product that is no different in sensory perception from a salmon filet. This was not available on the market before. The current range of plant-based fish substitutes consists of products without texture, such as fish sticks or canned tuna. Also, when it comes to nutritional values, there is hardly any product that comes as close to smoked salmon – especially in omega 3 and protein values. Initial customer reactions also confirm that our product really does taste a lot like natural smoked salmon.