Today the Good Food Institute (GFI), a nonprofit promoting alternatives to conventional animal agriculture products, released a report on the state of investment in plant- and cell-based meat and dairy companies. You can download the report and read it in full, but here’s the main takeaway: the alternative protein space is on a massive upward trend, with record amounts of capital invested and high rates of new companies and acquisitions.

While it’s important to be aware of the author here — GFI has a clear agenda to promote alternative protein products — the numbers (below) are convincing. And also, not all that surprising. In fact, it’s in line with what we’ve been reporting all year.

Data from the report shows that alternative protein investment began experiencing a real boom in the past 2.5 years. Of the $16 billion invested in plant-based meat, egg, and dairy companies over the past 10 years, GFI reports that $13 billion of that occurred in 2017 and 2018 alone. We can attribute that to a corresponding increase in consumer demand for plant-based food options, specifically dairy and meat, spurred by trendy startups making tasty-in-their-own-right products like Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat, and Oatly oat milk.

There has also been an uptick in acquisitions of plant-based companies: of the 19 acquisitions in the space since 2009, 10 happened in 2017-18. That number could certainly increase as Big Food companies decide to invest more heavily in alternative protein sources (Unilever purchasing The Vegetarian Butcher; Maple Leaf Foods buying Lightlife and Field Roast). Beyond’s over-performing IPO could also entice these big corporations to spend big bucks.

However, acquisition isn’t the only way to get a bigger piece of the plant-based pie, especially going forward. For example, Tyson decided to end its investment in Beyond Meat to focus on developing its own line of plant-based products. And with its aforementioned successful IPO, Beyond has proven that acquisition isn’t the only end game for alternative protein companies.

The reports also covered investment and growth in the cell-based meat space, though products in that space have yet to come to market so there’s less going on overall. GFI notes that a whopping 11 new cultured meat companies were founded in 2018, bringing the total number of companies to 27. Of course, none of those companies have actually made a public sale. But 2019 might be the year that JUST finally makes good on its promise and brings cell-based meat to market — keep your eyes on Asia.

The plant-based/cell-based investment space isn’t about to cool anytime soon. So far in 2019 Shiok Meats, the Singaporean startup developing cultured shrimp, has raised $4.6 million, Singapore is investing over $100 million in cell-based meat (and other food innovations), and plant-based dairy company Eclipse Foods also closed a seed round. Add in Beyond Meat’s wildly successful IPO and it’s no wonder investors are scrambling to throw money at the alternative protein space. And it’s only May.

You can download the full report here.

Psst — want to stay up to date on all the investment trends in the protein alternative space? You’ve gotta subscribe to our Future Food newsletter — we cover it all. 

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