Probitat interview

Biotope startup Probitat makes plant-based foods tastier and healthier through fermentation. The Finnish company supplies the food industry with ready-to-use starters for plant-based drinks, cheeses, and baked goods.
Read more about Probitat's food innovation in this interview with CEO Carme Plumed-Ferrer and CSO Atte von Wright.

Carme and Atte - Probitat interview - Biotope Incubator

Can you tell me about your background and the problem you’re trying to solve?

Atte von Wright (CSO): “I’m a professor emeritus of food biotechnology and was Carme’s PhD supervisor before she founded Probitat.

The company is based on Carme’s (post)doctoral research on the microbiota of fermented foods, focusing on quinoa, which led her to discover a promising bacterial strain for plant-based fermentation.

In 2019, Carme created Probitat, as spin-off from The University of Eastern Finland, kindly inviting me to join the endeavor.”

Carme Plumed-Ferrer (Founder and CEO): “I have always worked with plant-based materials, studying different bacterial strains responsible for fermentation. Public interest in plant-based foods is on the rise, and we see fermentation as a natural solution to many of the challenges associated with developing these products. Plant-based foods struggle to match the flavor, texture, and nutritional content of conventional animal-based products.

With fermentation, we can improve the flavor and texture, while also providing additional health benefits. It is well known that fermented foods help to balance our gut microbiome.

So, this is Probitat’s mission: make plant-based foods tastier and healthier through fermentation!”

Probitat makes plant-based foods tastier and healthier through fermentation!

Carme Plumed-Ferrer

Can you tell me about your bacterial strains?

Carme Plumed-Ferrer: “Food companies face a significant challenge as the microbial strains used for animal-based products are unsuitable for plant-based foods. For instance, microbes used for dairy yoghurt don’t work well for nice creamy yoghurt based on soy.

To address this issue, we studied alternatives and selected strains that work well with plant-based materials and offer additional benefits for nearly 20 years.

Nowadays, we have about one hundred well-characterized strains in our catalogue – a whole library that we can use depending on the application, with the expertise and capacity to screen for more strains as needed .”

Atte von Wright: “We even have one bacterial strain for which we will soon be granted a patent, which is very rare. Usually, IP is only granted for the method you use, but the bacterium we found is so unique and has such a multitude of benefits that the strain itself meets the requirements for a patent.”

What products are you developing?

Carme Plumed-Ferrer: “The company’s first product was a fermented quinoa smoothie created for a food competition featured on a Finnish reality TV show.

The challenge was to launch a product on supermarket shelves in just three months and people really loved the smoothie.

However, selling our own food product had never been the plan for Probitat – it was an accidental success.

We intend for the company to be a technology provider for partners, using our understanding of bacteria to create solutions for other companies’ foods.

We focus on supplying partner companies with the fermentation starters to create the best plant-based products.”

We focus on supplying partner companies with the fermentation starters they need to create the best plant-based products

Carme Plumed-Ferrer

Atte von Wright: “We’re creating ready-to-use fermented food ingredients that don’t require any microbial expertise from our customers.

Currently, we have three main categories of starters.

The first is our liquid plant-based starter, for products like milk, smoothies, yoghurts, and ice-creams based on oat, quinoa, and soy.

The second is a cheese starter for products using a base of cashew or almonds.

And the third is a sourdough starter for baked goods, where we tackle specific challenges, such as the added difficulty of working with whole grain instead of white flour.”

“We also help companies with product development. If a partner comes to us with a specific problem, we can leverage our expertise to identify strains that might solve their issue and develop the basic recipe they need.

We primarily work in Europe, but also have one customer in the US and are currently in discussions with a Chinese company.

With biotope’s support, we intend to develop the business aspects of the company further, get more proof on the health benefits of our cultures and connect with a broader ecosystem to get ready for seed funding next year.”

More News

Think you've got what it takes?

  • Take part in our program to rapidly advance your technology
  • Grow the confidence of you and your team
  • Turn your startup into an investment-ready business
Apply now