Marc Coloma, Co-founder of Heura, cuts an unassuming figure as he walks, smiling, into the restaurant. He stays smiling the entire time and is overall super approachable and laid back. Marc is not a CEO, he is a food activist. This is a man who, at the age of just 29, says he has developed a system that will revolutionise the food industry.
It’s late in the evening and he is tired, he hasn’t had a holiday in years. “In certain moments you can’t stop – if you stop, the door will close behind you.”
This is a man who, although is exhausted from a long schedule of interviews and has clearly answered the same questions repeatedly, his lines well-rehearsed and perfected to a T, there is a fire in the stomach and a glint in the eye, because this is a man who knows that he has achieved something special, and is about to do a whole lot more.
A vehicle for social change
Marc dots the conversation with lofty statements about his work, each as impressive and as quote-worthy as the last. He is a man with a mission. “I see Heura not as a plant-based meat company but as a vehicle for social change.”
Coloma has been an activist since high school. Upon meeting other vegan students in Barcelona, he became involved in Animal Equality and ended up leading the Catalonia division after a short time.
Instead of finishing high school he became a full-time activist – he was not interested in enrolling in university but through his own sagacious nature managed to attend the classes that were useful to him in his mission and effectively created his own curriculum, choosing lectures in social psychology and learning about effective altruism.
Alluding the need for change and the imminent futility of animals in the food chain to the evolution of the horse and cart into the modern car, Marc says it will be the same concept with the move of humans taking protein from animals. This is something he is sure of and is the most fundamental part of the Heura mission – the protein transition.
Consumers as partners in mission
“We will keep creating solutions for consumers in a way that creates freedom, and to use the food that people eat every day as a tool for change.”
And these consumers he sees as “partners in mission. Rather than “Us and them” – we will get there together.
“We are going to change how we think about food. In the past, the most important factor in food manufacture was productivity, but now instead of a consumerist approach we will put the consumers’ values at the centre.”
The ultimate mission here is about removing animals from the food industry and sees his business as a kind of swiss army knife – one tool with the capability to change a lot of things, to fix a host of problems.
While we are talking, Heura has just launched a ground-breaking ad campaign in Madrid highlighting the pollution caused by the livestock industry. The billboard soaring above the centre of the city says, “One beefburger pollutes more than your car,” and as we speak it is already attracting attention. He shows us a photo and is excited – this is food activism in action.
A fat system that will revolutionise the whole industry
But the main reason why we are here is to talk about last month’s revelation that Heura has developed an innovative fat analogue that transforms extra virgin olive oil into a solid fat. They have created the world’s healthiest burger.
Along with food scientist Lorena Salcedo, they worked on an innovation to reduce the amount of fat in a burger using the best quality type of fat – olive oil. Marc explains that olive oil is the healthiest lipid but has not been used in the food industry due to the fact that it sinks. Together with Salcedo, Heura has developed an extra extra virgin olive oil, a monounsaturated fat that behaves like a saturated fat, and with this new technology has created what it says is the healthiest burger in the world.
The Heura Burger 2.0 has 64.25% less fat, 85.6% less saturated fat, 11.3% more protein per calorie compared to beef, and the highest protein intake per calorie compared to its peers.
In essence, they are transforming olive oil, a monounsaturated fat, with an innovative and proprietary technology which makes it behave like a saturated fat, in order to provide the juiciness that saturated fat brings.
“It’s a fat system that will revolutionise the whole industry.”
We are non-conformists and we want change
“We need to empower a change to create an impact and look at how to start the domino effect to move forward. If we increase the category by making it accessible and healthy, we break the barriers of entry.”
What does he mean by barriers of entry? As activists, they intend to work towards the omission of any argument against progressive change, against making meat obsolete. To negate any possibility of argument against plant-based foods.
In 2021, the company has plans to expand its staff from 35 to 100 team members. Why such a huge employment drive? “Because we are non-conformists, and we want change,” he enthuses.
“We are changing our mindset in order to think like a global company that happens to be based in Spain.”
But why Spain? Why is it so important to stay put in your home country rather than relocate as with many producers which start local and become international?
“Longevity!” – the essence of the Mediterranean diet. The fact that he is from Barcelona was the very seed behind the creation of this new fat. Olive oil is integral to the Mediterranean diet and was the motivation driving this new approach to the use of fats in food, an approach that may indeed prove to be revolutionary.
“It’s important to keep the heart in Spain and the values will always be Spanish … even if I move to the USA….”
A move to the USA???
“We are changing the organisational structure and adding global channels in order to become an international company by 2022.”
Marc says that plans are already in place for Heura to be truly international in the next year. Production is already taking place in Holland, France and Spain. Heura’s entrance into the UK through The VeganKind sold out immediately, there will be additional distribution channels announced in Q1 of 2021 and he is already in talks with several outlets in the UK.
Disrupting the status quo
What’s next for Heura? “What we have done in Spain, we will do on a global scale. Europe, Mexico, USA… In order to boost the path of consciousness. We are going to create meat 2.0.”
What about the distant future? We discuss the issue of corporate plant-based, of any exit strategy, of vegan startups being acquired by corporations. “Time will put us all in our place. When we jump, if we do it well, it will make an impact. We are trying to make something big and we have to be a vehicle of change. We have to take decisions that will be most impactful.”
It’s getting late and Marc is tired, he has to go back to his hotel in Valencia to get some rest before more conferences then engagements in Madrid and back to Barcelona.
Before leaving, he says, “We can create something really transformative.”
And he has already done so.
Since our meeting, the Spanish magazine Emprendedores España awarded Marc with the award for Entrepreneur of the Year 2020.
He stated on social media upon receiving the award “The companies of the future are the ones that integrate the social and the economic, and transform society […] Traditions need to be updated and we are making a better meat that responds to global challenges.
“Nothing has more strength than an idea whose time has come and now is the time for vegan meat.”