Today Tyson Foods announced it has made a jumbo investment in plant-based shrimp.
The world’s second-largest poultry processor has invested an undisclosed amount in New Wave Foods, a San Francisco-based startup developing plant-based shrimp made from plants and algae. Exact pricing details were not disclosed but Tyson Ventures CFO Tom Mastrobuoni told CNBC that the company took a minority stake of less than 20 percent.
Founded in 2015, New Wave Foods is part of the new wave of companies leveraging tech to make alternatives to beloved animal products (burgers, chicken nuggets, etc.) that look, cook, and taste like the real deal. Their initial product could have a particularly large reach: shrimp are the most-consumed seafood in the world. But as of now, plant-based alternatives for the popular crustacean are few and far between and a cultured version, which Singapore-based Shiok Meats is currently developing, is still a few years off.
New Wave Foods plans to roll out its alterna-shrimp in restaurants. They haven’t made their pricing public yet, but one thing New Wave Foods is sure they will have is cost consistency — a welcome change when traditional shrimp can vary widely based on the year’s catch and other natural factors. Eventually the startup will move on to make other plant-based crustaceans such as crab and lobster.
Tyson has been investing in a variety of meat alternative companies as it tries to reframe itself as a ‘protein’ company, including cultured meat companies Memphis Meat and Future Meat Technologies. The poultry giant had a 6.5 percent ownership in Beyond Meat until it parted ways with the company back in April and subsequently launched Raised & Rooted, its own line of blended and plant-based meats.
The New Wave Foods partnership is also an opportunity for Tyson to expand beyond land animal substitutes. “There’s a really interesting adjacency,” Mastrobuoni told me. He explained that globally, seafood consumption is great than terrestrial animal (cow, chicken, etc.) consumption. As Tyson expands to become more of a global company it makes sense for them to branch into seafood.
This is quite a week for Big Food investments in meat alternatives. Earlier Hormel Foods announced its Happy Little Plants line, which will be the first products from its new plant-based division Cultivated Foods. The Good Food Conference — the creme de la creme of alternative protein conferences — is happening right now in San Francisco (we’re there!), so odds are there will be even more announcements before the week is out. Stay tuned.