Photo: Beyond Meat.

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!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (no shame), you’ve heard about how Beyond Meat’s IPO is crushing it. At the time of this post, the company’s shares have more than tripled in price — from $25 to $78 — making it the biggest IPO pop since the 2008 financial crisis. Beyond Meat is now valued at almost $4 billion.

You can almost hear the investors drooling.

Beyond’s IPO success has proven that the plant-based protein craze isn’t just a fad; it’s a radical turning point in consumer preferences. Younger generations are demanding more from their foods — Gen Z especially is seeking out dining options that are ethical and environmentally sustainable. And companies like Beyond, who have a mission to halt climate change by reducing meat production, are reaping the profits.

So how big a deal is Beyond Meat’s IPO? Pretty darn big. In fact, I’m betting it will have significant ripple effects on the protein landscape over the next few months.

  • Beyond’s competitors — notably Impossible Foods — will likely follow suit with an IPO of their own (that is, if Impossible can overcome its recent supply issues).
  • Get ready to see lots of new alt-protein startups bring their animal-free eggs/milk/sushi rolls to market. This is where companies like Motif Ingredients, which provides protein R&D services, will soon be in high demand.
  • Mega food corporations like Nestlé and Unilever will invest more heavily in alternative meat products than they already have, possibly even following in Tyson’s footsteps to develop their own line of plant-based proteins.
  • More fast food and fast casual chains — big and small — will add high quality plant-based alternatives to their menus. Burger King went all-in on the Impossible Whopper last week, and I’m betting McDonald’s isn’t far behind.
A chicken patty that’s two-thirds meat, one-third Better Meat Co.’s protein blend.

Stuff is happening in the cell-based meat space, too. Last week Shiok Meats, the Singapore-based cellular aquaculture startup growing shrimp in bioreactors, raised a $4.6 million seed round. That makes them the third best-funded cell-based meat company in the world, after Mosa Meats and Memphis Meats.

Not too shabby for a company that’s only been on the scene for a year.

Instead of making totally new meat products, others are trying to improve the ones we already have. This week the New York Post wrote a story about food scientists in Australia who are incorporating insects into sausages and the like.

It may be a smart strategy to reduce the environmental footprint of meat while keeping a high protein content, but will consumers be okay with eating hot dogs filled with maggots? Probably not. (Though celebrities and celebrity chefs are working on it.)

This brings up an interesting point, though. People might balk at eating bugs, but the concept of replacing some meat with non-meat protein is sound. For example, startup Better Meat Co. makes a wheat protein that can be blended into processed meats, like hot dogs or bologna. It’s a clever way to reduce meat consumption without asking consumers to compromise or adjust their dining habits, at least until cell-based meat gets to market.

Lightlife’s new plant-based burgers.

Plant-based news ’round the web:

  • Lightlife, a plant-based meat company owned by the Canadian meat giant Maple Leaf Foods, brought its new, more realistic line of vegan burgers and ground “beef” to retail shelves this week.
  • Taco Bell U.K. is experimenting with a new plant-based taco filling made from pulled oats (h/t Livekindly).
  • Future Tense (via Slate) posits that cell-based meat is nothing more than “a cotton-candy bedtime story about making a different world through food.” It’s an interesting read asking if cultured meat will actually create a better protein source, or if it’ll continue to promote harmful industrialized agriculture practices.
  • NPR interviews Lou Cooperhouse of cellular aquaculture BluNalu on whether consumers will take to cultured seafood. FYI, they say it’s about 5-10 years from your plate.

Finally, last week Eater staffers brainstormed a list of hilarious (and hilariously bizarre) names for the next unicorn alt-burger company. My personal favorite: Meat Cute.

Eat well,
Catherine

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