Shaping the Food and Shaking the Cocktails of Tomorrow
Shaping the Food and Shaking the Cocktails of Tomorrow
Three HKUST Engineering alumni have embarked on their tech start-up journey to bring innovation to the menu. They have taken the start-up world by storm with their prospective companies, Meat the Next and XOXO Beverages. While busy making a splash in the food and beverage industry, they often return to the campus for activities such as HKUST Fun Day, Engineering Exploration Day and HKUST Unicorn Day to share their insights and products with aspiring students and the HKUST community.
Introducing new generation food to alleviate food shortage
Markus CHEUNG Po-Kwan (2007 MSc in Engineering Enterprise Management, 2000 BSc in Chemistry) aims to solve food shortage problems and deal with climate change. He founded food tech start-up Meat the Next in September 2020 and develop new generation plant-based protein products, using green and clean-label plant raw materials such as non-GMO odorless soybean, their self-developed protein extrusion machine and advanced fermentation technology. As a proponent of the Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) framework and Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations, the focus is on Asian alternative protein applications in a low carbon footprint to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Every cup of dairy-free ice cream given out by Markus is packed with R&D success, using smart protein locally produced by his food tech start-up Meat the Next.
Affordable luxury powered by passion and friendship
Ricky CHAN Ka-Lok (2021 MSc in Mechanical Engineering & 2018 BEng in Mechanical Engineering) co-founded XOXO Beverages with Peter YAU Sin-Tak (2018 BEng in Mechanical Engineering) in October 2020. They set out to revolutionize the bartending experience. With cutting-edge Artificial Intelligence of Things (AIoT) solutions, their own proprietary cocktail machine makes bar-quality cocktails and mocktails with impressive speed and precision. AIoT features enable seamless remote communication, data driven cocktails suggestion, drinks quality control and enhancement calibration.
With smart automation technology, Co-founders of start-up XOXO Beverages Ricky (left) and Peter (right) shake up the beverage industry with their own smart cocktail machines.
Making a splash in the F&B world
► XOXO Beverages
Ricky believes the technology behind the cocktail machine has the potential to revolutionize the beverage industry. Their first product, the XO1, was specially designed for banquets and came with its unique mixing and dilution control technology for creating high-quality cocktails within 40 seconds.
The machine’s wireless and IoT capabilities can streamline the ordering and preparation process, making it more efficient and convenient for both customers and operators.
“The key to success is doing the task one step at a time, by breaking it down into smaller parts!”
Ricky Chan, Co-founder of XOXO Beverages
Speaking of making positive impact, Ricky sees the potential of the cocktail machine in several ways. “First, its accurate portioning system can reduce waste and promote sustainability. Second, the machine’s customizability and convenience can enhance the overall well-being of individuals by providing a fun and enjoyable experience.” He added, “Finally, by hiring HKUST Engineering interns/graduates, we can support and nurture young talents in the field of engineering, providing them with valuable experience and opportunities for growth.”
“My goal is to automate beverage supply so that we could all have easily accessible cocktails at an affordable price. We all deserve some drinks after work with our loved ones!”
Peter Yan, Co-founder of XOXO Beverages
► Meat the Next
Operating as a social innovator enterprise that specializes in food technology and new generation food, Markus finds his HKUST engineering studies as the ultimate factor that allowed him to get into unique technologies which supports this entire business concept. “With the assistance of our technology, by developing and producing delicious, nutritionally balanced, and affordable smart protein products and solutions, such as dairy-free ice cream, milk, plant-based meat, etc., our aim is to bring about diet change for the sake of individuals’ well-being, as well as global impact to combat climate change and alleviate food crisis.”
“New Generation Food can change the world!”
Markus Cheung, CEO of Meat the Next
“All the food technologies we utilized are also patented by ourselves, including non-GMO odorless soybean and advanced fermentation technology. As a result, with the rise of the plant-based diet and the consciousness of the ESG (Environmental, Social & Governance), our mission and vision is to alleviate food shortages by creating New Generation Food,” Markus remarked.
Seeds of innovation
So, what brought them into engineering? We spoke with Markus, Peter, and Ricky to find out what sparked the light for their journey from engineering to entrepreneurship.
Markus found his passion in solving problems in Mathematics and Science since his primary school days. Later, engineering came as the ideal choice for him in university. “The education I received at HKUST enabled me to develop my creativity and innovation skills by accomplishing various academic projects. Engineering education not only helped me better understand the aspects of engineering such as technology, but also allowed me to be able to think outside the box when solving problems and being persistent when it comes to alleviating a problem,” Markus said. “I am always eager to solve problems efficiently and effectively that are important to society, through creating advanced technologies or even exploring uncharted dimensions,” he added, “HKUST plays a vital role in shaping my approach to different issues. The idea of innovation came into my mind and conversations among HKUST alumni towards tackling environmental problems like climate change and carbon emissions.”
Peter recalled when he had to choose secondary school electives he was first drawn to Physics. He was fascinated by applying theories and Mathematics to know more about the world. Realizing he wanted to dive into something more hands-on, Peter eventually went for Engineering. “HKUST shaped who I am today!” Peter said “The best thing in HKUST is having so much freedom to do whatever you wanted to do. Meeting new friends, going to the library, working part time, running student union, etc. These are real pillars for personal growth.” he added. “I enjoy learning about a variety of topics. I watch videos related to Engineering, Economics, History and Politics. I gained a lot of new knowledge during my university experience.”
Ricky traced three crucial decisions leading to his interest in engineering and sparked his journey as an entrepreneur. After graduation he decided to work in a precision engineering factory where he gained practical experience in managing projects and learned precision engineering at a deep level. He then began his PhD studies at HKUST and worked with a great team of senior colleagues who inspired him and reinforced his interest in engineering. Being driven by his passion for engineering and the desire to address real-world problems with technical expertise, he swapped PhD for MSc and initiated a start-up to fulfill his entrepreneurial ambitions. “These three decisions collectively triggered my start-up journey and allowed me to immerse myself in the field of engineering, gain technical expertise, and pursue my entrepreneur’s ambitions,” Ricky said.
Internship opportunities offered for the next engineers
As a participant of the Co-Op Program with Meat the Next, Joycelyn NG Chi-Ying (Year 4, BEng in Chemical Engineering) had collaborated with Markus alongside a team of research interns in Summer 2022. “I was responsible for developing 3D-printable plant-based meat for Alt Farm, and worked with the rest of the team that were developing some of Meat the Next’s products alongside. It was not only my first exposure to Food Science, but the experience also gave me valuable insight on the cycle of food product development.” She added, “For example, I had a look into how the patent is drafted, which I believe is a rare chance to have as a student and something I found very interesting.”
Speaking of the most enjoyable part, Joycelyn shared, “We often encounter different problems when it comes to developing the paste of the meat since there is a lot to consider like the taste, texture, printability etc. and being able to research and look into possible solutions to these problems, testing the solutions and continually improving the product is something that I find very enjoyable. I find it rewarding because this is the essence of what engineering is, to find solutions to problems, and it is the reason I choose to study engineering. I am grateful to experience this working with Alt Farm, and this is why I am currently taking part in the Co-Op program the company offered.”
Another student, Matey Svetlan YORDANOV (Year 4, BEng in Chemical Engineering) had founded a start-up Food With Benefits which is dedicated to reducing food waste and promoting sustainability. Together with Markus’ start-up Meat the Next, they have been developing innovative recipes to enhance the protein content of their functional breakfast bars that already utilize spent barley grains from local beer breweries and spent coffee grounds from local coffee shops.
Matey very much enjoyed attending in-person events to cultivate meaningful connections with industry professionals, “I love expanding my professional network, and opening doors for potential collaborative opportunities.” Matey said. “Attending such events provides invaluable insights into the operations of the business in real world.”
The opportunities have sparked new inspirations for Matey. “With the invaluable assistance of HKUST and Hong Kong Science Park, we were able to develop multiple solutions in a timely manner.” He added, “Through these experiences and in-person events, I was empowered to further our success and continue to be driven by inspiration.” Matey is currently collaborating with Meat the Next on our business activities, branding and exposure.
Clockwise from the left: Ricky, Peter, Joycelyn, Matey, Prof. Marshal Liu of Chemical and Biological Engineering, and Markus