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Has this Taiwanese startup cracked realistic plant-based meat?

Lypid founders tell Startup Island TAIWAN that creating convincing fat is key

Lypid's plant based bacon. (Lypid photo)

Lypid's plant based bacon. (Lypid photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Lypid is a San Francisco-based startup founded by two Taiwanese Cornell PhD graduates, and it has one simple goal: “sustainable, tasty, and healthy at the same time.”

That is according to the company’s cofounder Jen-yu Huang, who recently spoke to the Startup Island TAIWAN podcast with his cofounder Michelle Cheng. Huang and Cheng’s company is working to create more convincingly “meaty” plant-based meat substitutes by focusing on the fat that goes into them.

“There are a lot of alternative proteins on the market right now, but they don’t really taste like real meat,” said Cheng. “Lypid is bridging the gap between the taste of real meats and alternative meats.”

Lypid uses a process called microencapsulation to mimic animal fats using plant-based ingredients. The technology alters the structure of the plant-based fats from a liquid to a solid, making it feel more like real meat when eaten. “It’s not just protein, it’s really fat that mimics that juicy mouthfeel,” Huang said.

Huang said that there are also many use cases for Lypid’s products that are not exclusively for vegetarian or vegan products. Lypid’s plant fats are what he calls a “complementary” meat product that can be sold alongside traditional meat products, and does not necessarily need to act in direct competition with them.

Huang also said that if the plant-based meat industry can leverage the traditional meat industry’s expertise in bringing meat products to market at an industrial scale, plant-based meat products could become widespread much faster. “You can imagine several different approaches, not just vegetarian, or vegan, but …also hybrid approaches,” he said, referencing the possibility of adding his company’s plant-based fats to other meat products to make them healthier.

Huang said that the reason why many think plant-based meat substitutes are unhealthy is because of the belief that they are produced with saturated fats. Cheng said that Lypid’s fats are specifically designed to be healthier than traditional saturated fats, and can have 97% less saturated fat than other plant-based options such as coconut oil and palm oil.

One of the biggest successes Lypid has had so far is bringing its products to the over 500 Louisa Coffee shops throughout Taiwan. In August 2022, Louisa introduced a line of plant-based burgers.

Huang said that Lypid and Louisa went through about six to eight months of development before the product hit the stores. Huang said that for his company, the success of their products at Louisa stores shows that the coffee chain and its consumers have faith in their products, and want to see more of them.