This is the web version of our weekly Future Food newsletter. In it we cover the alternative protein landscape, from plant-based meat to cellular agriculture to insects. Subscribe here!
Who’s investing in alternative protein?
Last week the interweb was all abuzz with Beyond Meat’s wildly successful IPO. This week, Impossible Foods raised $300 million and began selling the hotly anticipated Impossible Whopper in three more cities (besides the OG: St. Louis).
But a girl cannot live on plant-based meat alone, no matter how good it may taste. Plus, any news from Beyond/Impossible this week is really just a continuation of the trajectory we’ve been seeing:
- Consumers are demanding more plant-based protein options at a variety of price points
- Alternative meats are heading into more and more retail channels, including prepared meal delivery
- Investors are hustling to get more involved in the white-hot plant-based meat space
Let’s take a closer look at that last one. We don’t often spend much time peeking behind the curtain at the companies doling out funding to these startup darlings making bleeding burgers or cultured steak. But they’re the ones dictating the pace of innovation in the space.
One company of particular interest is the newly-minted Big Idea Ventures (BIV). The hybrid venture/accelerator firm is backed by Tyson and Temasek, a holding firm owned by the Singaporean government. BIV’s goal is to be the largest accelerator dedicated entirely to the alternative protein space. It made its first investment a few weeks ago, in Singaporean cultured shrimp startup Shiok Meats.
BIV may be unique in its laser focus on animal-free proteins, but there are quite a few other VC firms investing in the space, like Stray Dog Capital and New Crop Capital. Big Food corporations like Cargill and Tyson are also reading the cards and investing in plant- and cell-based startups, expanding their portfolios and gradually reframing themselves as generalized protein companies.
If you’re interested, you can read my piece on BIV’s new protein fund and upcoming accelerator programs here.
Media holds the key
One of the costliest parts of making cultured meat is the media — essentially, the food that scientists feed animal cells to help them multiply enough that we can eat them. As of now a lot of cell-based companies rely on Fetal Bovine Serum. Since this is extracted from the necks of baby cows in slaughterhouses, it’s a) super controversial, b) not vegan, and c) expensive.
This week we also wrote about Canadian startup Future Fields, which is developing a media completely free of any animal products. Their solution could help cultured meat companies bring their product to market sooner, and with a more appealing price tag.
Impossible gets into dairy?
Okay okay, I know we said no more Impossible Food news. But one more tiny thing: this week FoodNavigator reported that Impossible is currently developing a suite of “dairy” products. This isn’t exactly surprising. When we spoke to Impossible CEO Pat Brown at CES this year he made it clear that Impossible wasn’t stopping just at burgers.
We asked Impossible if they had any updates in the dairy department, and they responded that it’s their mission to “make all meat, fish and dairy products that consumers love directly from plants as soon as possible.” No word on when, though I’m guessing Impossible will focus on meat for a while longer. What we do know is their next product: steak.
For now, flexitarians thirsty for plant-based dairy alternatives can opt for a creamy glass of Oatly — that is, if they can find it.
Protein news ’round the web
- This week JUST, maker of plant-based and (soon) cell-based animal products, officially launched its JUST Egg in China. Their product uses mung bean to replicate scrambled eggs’ signature texture.
- Iconic Canadian fast-food joint Tim Horton’s is testing out breakfast sandwiches featuring Beyond Meat’s vegan sausage patties in 60 restaurants across Toronto.
- Chick-fil-A is exploring adding plant-based meat options to their notoriously small menu.