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German Chancellor Olaf Scholz honors founder Marco Riess
Marco Riess and Chancellor Olaf Scholz

WHU Start-up Wins at German Sustainability Day

ProteinDistillery honored by the highest political offices

ProteinDistillery, co-founded by Marco Ries (BSc, 2019; MSc, 2022), an alumnus of WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management, has received quite the accolade: In the presence of Chancellor Olaf Scholz and ceremony patron Bärbel Bas, the company won the Next Economy Award (NEA 2.0) 2023, which lauds green start-ups, at the 15th German Sustainability Day in Düsseldorf. “We feel honored to receive Germany’s most significant sustainability award less than 12 months after founding our company. This is a huge compliment for the whole team and shows that our hard work to contribute to more sustainable nutrition in the future is paying off. We are also excited to see the increased public attention on food innovation and alternative proteins, as this will be one of the future’s hottest topics,” says Mr. Ries. Outside of the other honorees nominated in seven different categories, special guests Prince Albert II of Monaco, French singer Zaz, and musician Michael Patrick Kelly were awarded for their social and ecological engagement. The awards are given by the Stiftung Deutscher Nachhaltigkeitspreis, and the ceremony was focused around one central theme: transformation against crisis.

Receiving the Next Economy Award is quite the accomplishment on many levels for ProteinDistillery, founded by Marco Ries, Christoph Pitter, Professor Tomas Kurz, and Michael Baunach: First, the company, following Enpal (founded by WHU alumni Jochen Ziervogel, Viktor Wingert, and Mario Kohle) the previous year, is the second WHU-affiliated start-up to win at the German Sustainability Day ceremony. Second, this win serves as further proof that WHU’s students and faculty have been remarkably successful in cooperating with other schools active in the founding of deep-tech start-ups. Third, ProteinDistillery was also able to win the Sustainability Award at Stage Two, Europe’s largest start-up competition. With their win at the German Sustainability Day, the company now has a chance to garner even more attention and recognition—both nationally and across the globe.

ProteinDistillery was first founded at the end of 2021. By replacing animal proteins with the protein that it sources, the start-up has created the first true competitors to animal-sourced foods—competitors that are healthy, vegan, sustainable, and do not compromise on texture and taste. Additionally, manufacturing ProteinDistillery’s products is friendlier to the environment: Use of their protein would help drastically reduce worldwide water and land consumption and CO2 emissions. The final product that will land on the market—whether in the form of burger patties or egg and dairy alternatives—is currently in development for larger food manufacturers and is scheduled for release in Norway next year. To the judges at the German Sustainability Day ceremony, the company’s eco-friendly and sustainable process was worthy of awarding them the prize. And with that, the founders WHU educates have left their mark alongside other start-ups with a sustainable business model.

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