This week Manna Tree Partners announced it had led a $12.7 million Series C investment round in Nutriati, a supplier of plant-based base ingredients like beans and grains. Private equity firm Open Prairie also participated. Based in Virginia, Nutriari sells B2B ingredients meant to go into alternative proteins, like meat and eggs, as well as a gluten-free flour replacement out of chickpeas.
Pulses — like lentils, chickpeas, and beans — may not sound all that revolutionary on their own. However, they’re the key ingredients adding protein to buzzed-about plant-based foods like Beyond Meat burgers and JUST Egg. As rising numbers of flexitarian diners have spurred an increase in alternative meats (and eggs, and milk), and finding consistent, good-tasting base ingredients is critical for plant-based food companies.
There are plenty of other plant protein players cashing in on the flexitarian revolution. Cargill has invested $100 million in pea protein company PURIS. Ingredient company Ingredion recently amped up internal investment in plant-based protein. And last year Innovopro raised $4.25 million for its chickpea protein. On the more bespoke side, Motif FoodWorks has raised almost $120 million to ferment tailored ingredients for alternative meat, eggs, milk, etc.
Considering how the popularity of plant-based foods is growing by leaps and bounds, there’s room for all of these players and more. Especially as both Big Food and new startups start creating new products in the space. Going forward, ingredient suppliers would be smart to get into the alt-protein game — if they’re not already.