The next shawarma can be made from pumpkin seeds

When I first met Leonardo Markowitz at FoodTechIL in September 2019, he was preparing to introduce the world’s first meat alternative based on yeast by-products to the food production business.

Last March, Markowitz already launched a plant-based protein alternative under the More Foods brand.

But in lieu of yeast, these meat-like shredded strips, small chops, and fine steaks are made from another “side-stream” by-product: pumpkin and sunflower seeds after being pressed to make vegetable oil.

Piled over vegetable shawarma in dabush. Amir Menachem’s photo

“We had some technical challenges using yeast as an important source of protein to make alternative meat products, so we tested different types of side streams,” Markowitz told ISRAEL21c, “and now we have a patent for our method of using side streams related to pumpkin and sunflower seeds to make high-protein products.”

The pivot from the yeast to the seed bears fruit.

More than 30 restaurants and food service companies in Israel are already incorporating More Foods products into their menu items.

This includes, among others, popular fast food chains such as Pita Basta and Mexicana, and catering for Israeli offices such as Facebook, Apple and Samsung.

Eight branches of the Mexicana chain offer meat alternatives from More Foods. Photography by Noam Pressman

After raising seed funding (no pun intended) from the Biomeat Fund last year, More Foods is now raising money to expand its operations and launch in Europe over the next year.

With corporate and research and development offices in Tel Aviv, More Foods obtains its seeds from European oil manufacturers and produces meat substitutes with Swiss production partners.

Pumpkin seed flour is the main ingredient in More Foods products. Photography by Noam Pressman

Oil makers typically sell leftover “pressure cake” from the ground seeds to companies that make protein powders, fertilizers, or animal feed.

“There is no other company that we are aware of, anywhere, that uses seeds as a platform to make the kinds of products we make,” Markowitz says.

More fine-grained steak products are sizzling in the pan. Amir Menachem’s photo

Press cakes like the ones used by More Foods have great nutritional properties, he says, “but no one knew how to give them value in the food industry. We are able to give more value to these by-products.”

More foods, alternative meats, certified kosher, have 27% protein, 7% more fiber, more iron than beef, more calcium than milk, more potassium than bananas and 1% saturated fat and a small amount of sodium.

More complex protein foods make your pasta dish vegan. Amir Menachem’s photo

The product line’s “clean label” lists just seven ingredients: pumpkin seed and sunflower seed flour, nutritional yeast, carrot and apple extracts, natural flavors and salt.

I asked Markowitz how More Foods managed to enter the market so quickly after its pivot.

He replied, “Passion and the right team can get you very far, very quickly.”

The product is multi-use. There are restaurants that use “meat” more foods in sandwiches, dishes, and Mexican, Asian, and Mediterranean dishes.

Buti sandwich shop in Tel Aviv uses “More Foods” protein for its vegetarian options. Photography by Noam Pressman

Pita Basta (a seven-branch sandwich shop) uses the pulled product as a vegan alternative to shawarma, and restaurants associated with Jem’s brewery serve bar food. Dabbush, a well-known shawarma chain, will soon start a pilot.

I’ve noticed that quite a few brewpubs are included in their menus. This may be because “pubs attract a younger demographic, and many young people are interested in reducing their meat consumption,” Markowitz said.

A vegan sandwich made with a cut-meat substitute from More Foods at Schnitt Brewing Company, Tel Aviv. Amir Menachem’s photo

Next year, Markowitz hopes to enter the retail market and debut new items including lamb and pork-like products of various cuts and textures.

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