Nordic Umami Company: Waste to Taste – Building Circular Food Industry

Nordic Umami Company

This article is part of a blog series introducing the startup teams of the EIT Food Accelerator Network Helsinki 2023 programme.

We all know that the environment needs our actions to stay sustainable. There are many ways to be part of a positive turn – ours is to speed up the consumption of plant-based ingredients and make sure that no edible food is wasted.

Umami is the full, delicious, and satisfying sensation present especially in animal foods such as ripened cheese, meat, and seafood. It indicates the presence of protein in food, and we get our first taste of it in mother’s milk. Its absence makes loving plant-based alternatives a little harder – they are simply not as satisfying as their animal-based counterparts. Umami literally means deliciousness, and it is what alternative proteins need to appeal to the masses.

Globally 14% of food industry side streams, totally edible food, goes wasted before it even ends up on the retail shelves. We have decided to tackle these often-difficult side streams and turn them into delicious umami products, that again bring taste to vegetable-based food.

Nordic Umami Company's team picture: CTO Outi Mäkinen, CEO Kaisa Karhunen, and COO Mikko Vasamo

From left to right: CTO Outi Mäkinen, CEO Kaisa Karhunen, and COO Mikko Vasamo

Our solution is to create new value for these sidestreams by turning them into flavours. Our multistage fermentation process can release flavours hidden in underutilised biomasses, especially easily spoiled high moisture sidestreams like plant milk press cakes, vegetable processing waste, and brewer’s spent grain. Our range of umami broths is completely natural and clean label. We already operate in Food Service, industry, and retail. Based on feedback from our customers, our products are used to make plant-based foods so delicious you’ll never miss eating meat again.

We took part in the EIT FAN program to find corporate partnerships that want to make the food industry more sustainable with our technology. We are looking to find partners who have a lot of side streams and are willing to partner with us, to achieve an industrial scale.

So far, we have had interesting discussions with corporates as well as the other start-ups. We believe we will find what we came to look for and, even more, a wide network of various fields and even customers. The role of the professionals has surprised us positively – these experts are here for us during the program, offering high-quality support and guidance to make an impact on our business. It really is an investment for the future. The only advice to those wondering whether to apply or not would be to make sure that you can actively attend the program to get the best out of it. If you are thinking of applying, do it!

Written by Kaisa Karhunen, CEO at Nordic Umami Company

Find out more information on how to make waste to taste by visiting Nordic Umami Company’s website, and follow their journey on LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook. Learn more about the EIT FAN Helsinki programme here.