JETRO Global Connection -Accelerate Innovation with Japan-
Plant-based Miracle Meats for Every Taste
February 9, 2023
Today we're introducing the plant-based startup DAIZ and learning more about the development of plant-based proteins from CTO Prof. Koji Ochiai and CEO Tsuyoshi Ide. DAIZ is focused on the significant problems of the environmental crisis and an increasing population. The startup has developed a new protein food product to help address these challenges. Their mission is to create a new source of plant-based protein or "miracle meat".
The Story of DAIZ
Prof. Ochiai and Mr. Ide met when they were both attending a trade and business event in Japan. Mr. Ide was very interested in soybeans as a food product and agricultural crop. On the other hand, Prof. Ochiai had experience germinating bean sprouts and previously had a business extracting resveratrol from grape skins. They started discussing the possibilities of their overlapping interests, which led to the creation of DAIZ. Since then, they have grown to a company of 60 people.
Prof. Ochiai's curiosity and experimentation led to the start of DAIZ and its main product. The startup produces plant-based meats based on a process he invented called the Ochiai germination method. Special custom-built germination tanks are used for making DAIZ miracle meat. It's the result of 30 years of experience in the science of food manufacturing. He's also very passionate about creating nutritious and delicious products without the fillers and byproducts used in processed foods. His vision is to create original raw materials for plant-based foods of unparalleled quality, so the process starts with whole soybeans or peas.
CTO Prof. Koji Ochiai and CEO Tsuyoshi Ide (Photo provided by DAIZ)
Germination of an Idea
The Ochiai germination method came from the idea that seeds within the same plant species can give rise to different properties when germinated under different conditions. Seeds are usually hard to digest and don't taste appealing, but as a plant germinates, one can control the water, oxygen, and other factors like temperature. These variables allow the cultivation of food products with good taste, fiber, vitamins and easier digestion.
Prof. Ochiai explains, "I used to work at a mung bean sprout company while I was an engineer, so I was doing 100 metric tons of germination every day. I saw many, many germinated seeds." It was there he saw the distinct opportunity that came during germination. "I changed their CO2 balance and O2 balance, and then I could change their taste. It's a very unique technology. I can change it to be like the taste of milk, pork or beef," he says.
CTO Prof. Koji Ochiai (Photo provided by DAIZ)
The Technology of Germination
Soybeans are an excellent alternative protein source for nutrition but can be hard to digest. Soy has been eaten for a long time in Japan as miso or natto, and it’s also commonly used for plant-based foods. The nutrition content of soy products could be improved even more by taking a different approach to germinating soy seeds. This way, it has different nutritional properties than other soybean foods. It’s not merely a soybean paste.
DAIZ has been working in the food tech sector for five years, and they are in an advanced stage of food technology R&D. Primarily, they are a raw material company. They can imagine many applications, like a plant-based hamburger. However, their main focus is to develop a process to create plant-based meat material with delicious flavors and aromas.
Focusing on technology for germination might have other applications in the future, such as drug development and agriculture. Studying the effect on soybeans has intriguing possibilities. Soybeans don't like fungi or bacteria, so they make a new secondary metabolite to kill them when they encounter them. According to Prof. Ochiai, “we are aiming to construct a library of natural secondary metabolites produced from cellular metabolism and synthesis in germinated plants. I think this will be the world's largest new chemical space. For that, we need AI technology and analysis methods of the best kind, so we are creating a team to face these challenges.”
MIRACLE MEAT (Photo provided by DAIZ)
Taste, Texture and Customization
By working with the raw material components of plant-based foods, DAIZ can imitate various textures and flavor profiles. They can work with food manufacturers who use textured vegetable protein (TVP) as ingredients for their plant-based meat products. They can also apply their technology to partnerships with major food companies with their own raw materials and supply chains.
Although plant-based foods can taste and appear like animal meat in many ways, there are still a few puzzles to figure out. One such dilemma is that the molecule size of plant-based meat is bigger than the molecule size of real animal meat, making plant-based proteins less useful for food manufacturing as opposed to egg or milk proteins. For example, for eggs, the plant-based alternatives do not always easily solidify when heated. Prof. Ochiai is highly focused on these questions as an engineer and a scientist by background.
Global Food Trends
With sustainability a top concern for many people, interest in plant-based meat is increasing. Awareness and interest in these foods are already established in countries like the US, Canada and Europe. When the founders of DAIZ visited different overseas markets, they found no need to explain the benefits of plant-based proteins because a plant-based diet had already become commonplace. DAIZ recently announced a partnership with Roquette, a French family-owned company and a global leader in plant-based ingredients with strong expertise in pea protein. The partnership aims to meet the rising global demand for innovative and sustainable plant-based ingredients combining great taste and high-quality nutritional value.
Southeast Asia is a new market they are exploring for different reasons. The increased population in the region has led to higher demand for affordable protein sources, and a product that combines plant-based protein and animal meat might be a better fit there to complement an animal-based diet.
Because the idea behind DAIZ is a food technology and raw material company, they are not limited to one brand or category of products. Currently, the company produces plant-based products in Kumamoto, Japan, but they are looking at other options for the future. With the popularity of plant-based meats around the world, they would like to explore other options. like partnering with global food companies or setting up production outside of Japan as demand grows.
(Photo provided by DAIZ- Meeting with Roquette team in Canada)
- Profile of Koji Ochiai
- Mr. Ochiai, the Director and CTO of DAIZ, serves as a professor of Advanced Pharmaceutical Sciences at the School of Pharmacy at Kumamoto University. Before being appointed to his university position in 2019, he founded a bio startup in Napa, California, in 2002, following his career at a leading food manufacturer in Japan. Born in 1967 in Aichi, Japan, he earned his degree in Molecular biochemistry from the Faculty of Agriculture at Kindai University. He enjoys talking about his dreams as a scientist over beer and yakitori.
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