A rise in private equity-backed startups focusing on food technology is fueled by the goal to change how people eat.
CB Insights Chief Executive Officer Anand Sanwal said, “There’s nothing to indicate that this will be a trend that will end anytime soon. Sustainability and challenges to the food supply are pretty fundamental issues.” The New York firm venture capital investment tracker also added that venture capital firms who had been placing large sizes of investments in early-stage technology companies, appeared to have shifted its focus to food-related startups since last year. CB Insights said venture capital firms poured around USD350 million in startups related to food as compared to less than USD50 million in 2008.
A number of food-tech ventures think we are. Here are some of the products on the shelves or in the works:
1. Modern Meadow
With a euphemistic company name that could have easily been plucked from a George Orwell novel, Modern Meadow was founded by a father-and-son team who are bent on growing leather, and eventually meat, in a lab. Having been focused on tissue engineering for the medical industry, the company is now hard at work on creating cultured animal products that are grown from fetal bovine serum. According to Businessweek, a University of Oxford study of cultured meat estimated a “90 percent savings on resources, including feed, water, land, waste disposal, and greenhouse gas emissions, over the massive environmental costs of animal husbandry.”
2. Just Mayo
Vegans have had Veganaise and other egg-free mayonnaise products for some time now, but Bay Area startup Hampton Creek Foods hopes to bust the market right open with its Just Mayo, which passed Whole Foods Markets strict sustainability standards and is now available at stores nationwide. The company is backed by Gates as well as PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel and Sun Microsystems co-founder Vinod Khosla. (See more about Just Mayo in the video below.)
3. Beyond Meat
Although vegan meat alternatives are not new, Los Angeles-based Beyond Meat made a splash when it promised to offer the best fake meat out there. When the company, also backed by Gates, rolled out its Beyond Meat Chicken-Free Strips earlier this year, the reviews were mixed, but for the most part quite favorable. Famous foodie Mark Bittman wrote in the New York Times that finally, we had fake chicken worth eating. The strips are made of a blend of soy and pea protein and come with 18 grams of protein per three-ounce serving and 120 calories. Plus, no saturated or trans fat, and no cholesterol, gluten, or dairy are involved.
4. Beyond Eggs
Another product from Hampton Creek Foods, this powdered egg product can be used for baking cookies, muffins, cakes and other confections. The company’s mission was to create a low carbon footprint, sustainable, plant-based, healthy, and truly authentic egg replacer. After testing and studying more than 217 kinds of plant proteins (including soy, spinach, and carrot), the company’s team of chefs, biochemists, and food scientists started working with a yellow pea protein that provided “perfect” results. And while it will surely be a boon to vegan bakers, it has broader appeal as well. Along with the animal advocacy and environmental issues at stake, it will be almost 20 percent cheaper than eggs, will have a longer shelf life, and will carry less risk of foodborne illness and contributing to the spread of illnesses like avian flu.