Start-up Mediterranean Food Lab has developed new flavor technologies aimed at making vegetarians out of the most die-hard carnivores.

The Israeli company, one of three winners in a program run by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) and mentored at the Technion, took home a 100,000 Euro (approximately $123,000) prize for its natural solutions to improving the taste of plant-based foods in general and meat alternatives in particular. This marks the second time in three years that the winner of the EIT Food Accelerator Network, a program aimed at innovation and entrepreneurship in the food sector, was coached at the Technion.

Raising animals for food is one of the major causes of global warming, land degradation, and air and water pollution, according to scientists around the world. While there are many meat alternatives, they typically replace “the large piece of protein that sits in the middle of your plate, such as hamburgers, steaks, chicken nuggets, etc.,” said Mediterranean Food Lab CEO B.Z. Goldberg. But large pieces of meat account for only 20% of the global meat market. The use of meat to enhance the flavor of other foods accounts for 30% of the market. Mediterranean Food Lab focuses on the ability of meat to boost the flavor of other ingredients in a wide range of foods.

Like the Mediterranean Diet itself, the company uses grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds that are rich in antioxidants and other compounds beneficial to our immune and digestive systems. It then combines traditional food fermentation processes with cutting edge scientific methods from microbiology to genomics and metabolomics to develop its flavorings.

Sixty companies were selected from 400 applicants to compete in this year’s food competition, held at the Technion Faculty of Biotechnology and Food Engineering plus five other hubs in Europe. Two outstanding companies from each hub progressed to the final stage, where the three winners were selected.

The Israeli hub was directed by Dr. Avital Regev Siman-Tov, with assistance from Associate Professor Uri Lesmes, and former Prof. Eyal Shimoni of the Strauss Group. “The program reflects the spirit of the Israeli startup nation and the knowledge it has accumulated, and exposes participants to a unique combination of lectures, practical workshops, mentors, and leading industry experts,” said Dr. Siman-Tov.