Faux Meat and Dairy Draw Whallops of Real Deals

It’s a match made in Silicon Valley — alternative investing meets alternative protein.

According to new data released by the Good Food Institute, venture capital firms pumped in a record $3.1 billion into alternative protein startups in 2020, 3x more than 2019’s tally.

Volcanic Fungus Bourguignon?

The lion’s share of the capital was funneled into plant-based meat, egg, and dairy ventures. Relatively pedestrian ventures. But so-called “cultivated meat” companies (which grow meat from animal cells) and fermentation companies (which use microorganisms to make meat and dairy products) also attracted attention.

Let’s look at a few of the more adventurous ideas:

  • A team of former NASA scientists raised $33 million to convert microbes taken from a Yellowstone volcano into sweet, savory and liquid foods. Backers include Gates, Bezos, and Branson.
  • San Fran-based startup “Air Protein” is pulling protein right out of the ether. The company plans to convert carbon dioxide into protein powder. With $32 million in funding, who knows.

The biggest alternative protein capital raises of 2020 came from familiar faces: Impossible Foods pulled in $700 million while Sweden’s Oatly nabbed $300 million.

The Why: The start-ups behind alternative proteins aim to offer consumers a familiar culinary experience while creating products that are climate, animal rights, and supply chain friendly. Alex Money, an expert at University of Oxford, said other methods of trimming agricultural emissions “are like rearranging the deck chairs.”

the takeaway

One thing seems certain: the days of dry bean burgers are a thing of the past.

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