Have you checked what’s in your hamburger recently? It might be plant-based, made with “bloody” heme, or even grown in a bioreactor. (Just kidding — that last one isn’t here yet. But it will be soon.)
We’re fascinated by the fast-evolving alternative protein space. And clearly, so are you: the plant-based food industry increased by 20 percent in 2018, and is worth over $4.1 billion. In the cell-based (also called cultured) space, companies are doing everything from cheese to steak without the animal.
That’s why we decided it was timely and relevant to devote an entire newsletter to the topic of alternative protein products: meat, sure, but also eggs, dairy, bugs, seaweed, etc. It’s called Future Food, and this is the very first one!
We hope you like it. If so, you should sign up for the Future Food newsletter to get it in your inbox every Thursday. Now, to the news…
Last week Beyond Meat, the El Segundo, California-based startup making plant-based burgers, chicken, sausage, and more, set the terms of its IPO.
The numbers were pretty eye-popping: the company could raise as much as $184 million, and might be valued at a whopping $1.2 billion. Beyond’s sales are also going through the roof, with revenues almost tripling from 2017 to 2018.
Whether Beyond Meat’s impending IPO fails or succeeds will be a be a sort of canary in the coal mine for the plant-based meat industry. It’s set to go public in early May, so keep an eye on this newsletter for ongoing analysis.
But all is not rosy in Beyond’s world right now. News broke that Tyson Foods had parted ways with the plant-based meat startup and sold its 6.5% stake, just days before Beyond goes public.
The news wasn’t shocking, since Tyson had recently announced plans of its own to get into the plant-based protein game. And we all know it’s bad practice to compete with a portfolio company. We analyzed the full reasonings behind Tyson’s exit — as well as the potential effects the move might have on Beyond’s IPO — here.
People are abuzz with excitement over cell-based meat: that is, meat that’s grown outside the animal. But we’re still not sure what it will be called, when it will come to market, or where it’ll first launch.
I have a theory, though: Asia. Specifically Hong Kong. Recently I explored the reasons why Asia is an ideal launch pad for cultured meat, from regulation to consumer interest. Feel free to @ me if you disagree.
A big struggle for all meat alternative companies — both plant-based and cell-based — is texture. They can do burgers, sure. But steak? That’s a lot more of a challenge.
Ecovative, a biotech company in New York, is growing scaffolds for meat alternatives out of mycelium. For all you non-mycologists out there, that basically means mushroom roots.
This method is cheap, quick, and scalable. But will it be enough to make animal-free steak that can fool even the most discerning of carnivores?
But there’s a lot more going on in the protein alternatives world than just meat:
- Clara Foods, a startup developing chicken-less egg white proteins with genetically engineered microbes, just raised an undisclosed Series B financing round led by ingredient giant Ingredion. They’re hoping to have a product to market as early as 2020.
- Using a similar technology, New Culture is creating milk without the cow. Their end game is to make animal-free mozzarella cheese that tastes as creamy as the real thing.
- There’s a nascent group of startups creating proteins not out of plants, sugar, or animal cells — but out of thin air. For real. Called ‘gas fermentation,’ the only inputs are electricity and air, making it a prime candidate for space travel.
Protein ’round the web
I’m off! If you enjoyed this newsletter, be sure to subscribe here (it’s easy) and we’ll send it to you every Thursday. See you next week.