From start-up to international player: Wamame Foods taking Canadian plant-based meat alternatives to the global market

Photo provided by Wamame Foods.

Wamame Foods is a relatively new player in Canada’s plant-based food and ingredients ecosystem, but the company has seen significant growth and success in its short lifespan.

“The ability for us to access new [investments] has been the biggest stepping stone that we've been able to achieve so far,” Wamame Foods’ founder Blair Bullus said. “Now we are in the process of deploying that capital to scale our operations, both domestically and with export partners, so we're seeing the fruit of the partnership with Protein Industries Canada come to fruition.”

In November 2021, Wamame Foods launched a project in collaboration with Protein Industries Canada, and in partnership with Merit Functional Foods, Wismettac Asian Foods and Crush Dynamics (formerly Winecrush Technologies), to turn Canadian plant-based protein ingredients into plant-based meat products that rival the highly regarded Japanese wagyu beef. Since launching the project, the company has not only been able to develop their new products, but also to gain attention in both North America and abroad. Recent success includes product partnerships at the 2022 TED Conference in Vancouver, with the likes of Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Al Gore having the opportunity to test the product, as well as listings with JW Marriot and Shangri La hotel chains in Singapore.

Alongside this success has come new and increasingly important opportunities for the Wamame Foods team.

“The project itself is a really great building block in terms of the overall company profile. By developing a long-term project roadmap through the Protein Industries Canada application we were able to build and finance a strategic plan that sets the course for the next two years,” Bullus said. “Because we have that initial lead financing on such a major project for the company, it de-risks and incentivises additional investors to partner with Wamame to build a stronger, well-capitalized plant-based business. Without Protein Industries Canada we wouldn't be where we are today, because it really was the catalyst in terms of starting the project in the first place. We are miles ahead of where we would be without Protein Industries Canada.”

These initial investments and product development are only the first step in Wamame Foods’ scale-up strategy. Bullus explained that the company is looking to expand its research and development efforts in the future, broadening both their product offerings and market footprint. This will allow them to introduce their products to consumers across Canada, as well as to other countries around the globe. Significantly, this includes an expansion into Singapore, where the company has established operations and sales and plans to add a subsidiary by the end of 2022.

Photo provided by Wamame Foods.

Bullus added that the company’s current Protein Industries Canada partnership and other future collaborations will be key to accomplishing these goals.

“Leaning on that consortium of partners is really the way that we're looking to achieve these goals … The process of bringing together a consortium of companies and financing the project as a whole, rather than just having individual siloed companies working on their own, has really given us a roadmap to scale this.”

This collaborative model has been so successful that it’s the path Bullus recommends other companies take in their efforts to scale up operations.

“If there are opportunities out there for companies to work with Protein Industries Canada and to work with a consortium of companies to put together a great application and a great concept and then have the investment de-risked, I think that is a huge opportunity for any company,” he said.

By working with, and building on, each others’ expertise, Bullus believes those companies can develop their product lines and step into new markets at a quicker pace than working alone. And such scale-up, he said, isn’t just good for individual companies—it’s beneficial to the Canadian plant-based food and ingredients sector as a whole.

“We're trying to build world-class products, and we're really trying to innovate a new kind of space within the protein sector, so what [our consortium] allows us to do is take the time and the energy and the resources to develop the best products possible… it allows us to kind of create products that are going to pave the way for the industry, but it'll also really put Canada on the map in terms of what kind of quality ingredients we have and what kind of quality manufacturing we need to have in order to compete against global competition.”

Photo provided by Wamame Foods.