Nobell Foods poaches Impossible executive to head food science and product development

Nobell Foods, Sergey Solomatin, plant-based cheese

Dive Brief:

  • Plant-based cheese company Nobell Foods hired Sergey Solomatin to oversee its food science and product development team, the company said in a press release. 

  • Solomatin joins Nobell after more than 10 years at Impossible Foods, where he helped to develop, scale and commercialize its food technology.

  • Solomatin’s hiring comes as companies in the plant-based space look for any competitive advantage they can muster amid increased competition and, in some cases, slowing growth.

Dive Insight:

As food manufacturers plan for their future, the battlefield is being drawn not only in the products they sell but also in the individuals that they bring on to fill the executive suite. Oftentimes, this means poaching a top executive from another rival or industry altogether.

According to Nobell, during his time at Impossible Foods, Solomatin created a group containing more than 30 scientists that made “key contributions to developing and launching the flagship Impossible Ground Beef products, as well as laying the foundation for future products.” 

Nobell Foods, Sergey Solomatin, plant-based cheese

Sergey Solomatin

Permission granted by Nobell Foods

Solomatin has plenty of experience, bringing a decade of employment at food companies at which he worked in nucleic acid biochemistry, biophysics, polymer chemistry and pharmaceutical sciences. For plant-based food companies, constructing a product that has an identical or similar taste, smell and texture as one that comes from an animal is a key goal in attracting meat-eating consumers. 

Solomatin will undoubtedly be looked upon to use the skills he honed at Impossible, one of the leaders in the plant-based meat category, to help Nobell’s dairy product stand out and potentially grow the company’s portfolio. 

“As we pioneer a new category in food with Plant-Grown Proteins, the innovative work that Sergey and his team are doing will enable us to challenge the perceptions of what animal-free cheese tastes, melts, and stretches like,” Magi Richani, Nobell Foods’s founder and CEO.  

Even though it’s in the plant-based cheese space, Nobell Foods is doing something extremely similar to Impossible. Nobell is focused on creating casein — the dairy protein that gives cheese its trademark stretch — from bioengineered soybeans. Impossible Foods uses bioengineered soybeans to make its plant-based heme — soy leghemoglobin. Heme, Impossible Foods has said, gives meat its signature taste.

While there are several companies in the plant-based cheese space, only Nobell has said it is working on a plant-derived casein. New Culture and Change Foods are both working on creating the protein through precision fermentation.

Nobell hasn’t made many public announcements recently, though it has been seen as a hot startup. It emerged from stealth in July 2021 with a $75 million Series B funding round co-led by Andreessen Horowitz, Bill Gates-backed Breakthrough Energy Ventures and Robert Downey Jr.’s FootPrint Coalition Ventures. 

Today, the company’s website is full of “coming soon” symbols. Richani said in an interview last April that the company’s goal was to launch consumer products in the next 12 to 18 months.

Solomatin started at Nobell Foods on Jan. 13, but the company only announced his arrival publicly this week. He will play a role during what the company described as “a period of strategic growth.”

Nobell Foods is the latest food tech company to bolster its ranks. Last week, precision fermentation egg protein maker the Every Company appointed Nair Flores as the company’s senior vice president, head of legal. Flores has held legal roles at hypergrowth technology companies, including as Facebook’s first patent attorney and head of patents, and first in-house counsel and head of intellectual property at Lyft.

Earlier this month, mycelium meat analog maker Meati Foods hired two operations and supply chain leaders. Elizabeth Fikes is the company’s new chief supply chain officer and Joseph Johnston is the senior vice president of operations and engineering.

— Megan Poinski contributed to this report.

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About the Author

Jervie David Montejar
A food lover who wants to try every delicious dishes around him and spread the news to everyone to try it as well. Finding the latest trends about food and restaurants around Cebu and the rest of the world :) "Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first." -Ernestine Ulmer
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