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03/03/2022

Record $5B Invested in Alt Proteins in 2021

60% surge since 2020, spurred by health and environmental concerns
Bridget Goldschmidt
Managing Editor
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Alternative Protein
(Courtesy of The Good Food Institute)

According to new data recently released by The Good Food Institute (GFI), 2021 was a record period of investment in companies creating sustainable alternatives to conventional animal-based foods, among them global plant-based meat, seafood, egg and dairy companies; cultivated-meat and -seafood companies; and fermentation companies dedicated to alternative proteins. Alternative-protein companies have raised nearly $11.1 billion in invested capital since 2010, 73%, or $8 billion, of which has been raised since 2020, when the coronavirus first affected global markets. 

As worldwide efforts accelerate to ameliorate the climate crisis, deal with land and water issues, and prevent another pandemic, the enduring interest in alternative proteins indicates a growing appetite for planet-friendly investments with returns beyond the bottom line, GFI’s research found.  

The organization’s analysis of investment activity within these industries, which was conducted using the PitchBook Data platform, showed that global alternative-protein companies secured $5 billion in disclosed investments in 2021, 60% more than the $3.1 billion raised in 2020 and five times as much as the $1 billion raised in 2019.

  • Cultivated-meat and -seafood companies secured $1.4 billion in investments in 2021, the most capital raised in any single year in the industry’s history and more than three times the $400 million raised in 2020. Cultivated-meat companies have raised $1.9 billion in invested capital since the first disclosed investment in the industry in 2016, with more than 70% of this raised in 2021 alone. These investments included Future Meat Technology’s $347 million Series B, Aleph Farms’ $100 million Series B and BlueNalu’s $60 million convertible debt raise. While 2020 saw the first cultivated-meat company raise a Series B funding round, 2021 added eight more growth-stage rounds — Series B or higher — to the number. Last year, the industry’s investor base grew 62% from the previous year, bringing the total number of unique investors to 458.
  • Fermentation companies dedicated to alternative proteins secured $1.7 billion in investments in 2021, almost three times the $600 million raised in 2020. Fermentation companies have raised $2.8 billion in invested capital since the first GFI-tracked investment in the industry in 2013, with 60% of this raised in 2021 alone. These investments included Nature’s Fynd’s $350 million Series C, Perfect Day’s $350 million Series D, Motif Foodworks’ $226 million Series B, and The Every Co.’s $175 million Series C. In 2021, the industry’s investor base grew 43% from the prior year, bringing the total number of unique investors to 434.
  • Plant-based meat, seafood, egg, and dairy companies secured $1.9 billion in investments in 2021, on par with the $2.1 billion raised in 2020 but almost three times the $693 million raised in 2019. Plant-based meat, seafood, egg, and dairy companies have raised $6.3 billion in investments since 2010, with 30% of this raised in 2021 alone. Among these investments were Impossible Foods’ $500 million funding round, which added to the company’s record $700 million funding in 2020; NotCo’s $235 million Series D; v2food’s $110 million Series B; and Next Gen Foods’ record-breaking $30 million seed round, which is almost three times the size of the next largest seed round raised by an alternative-protein company. Last year, the industry’s investor base grew 40% from the previous year, bringing the total number of unique investors to 1,093.

While investor confidence in alternative-protein companies is driven by various market factors, the public-health and environmental crises that preoccupied consumers around the world during 2020 and 2021 have highlighted the risks attendant on business-as-usual portfolios and practices. This being the case, the possibility of meat produced with no risk of contributing to zoonotic disease transmission and with significantly fewer emissions than conventional meat is even more relevant.

Although alternative-protein investments have risen impressively, they’re still a tiny fraction of the trillions of dollars that have been invested worldwide in climate technology companies as a whole. Just in 2021, private capital in earlier-stage climate technology companies came to $47 billion. For instance, renewable-energy and electric vehicle investments considerably overshadow alternative-protein investments relative to the climate mitigation potential of each of these industries, illustrating that alternative proteins are underinvested in as a climate solution.

“The investor community is beginning to see the huge potential of alternative proteins to transform our food system, as well as the strong potential to meet their target returns,” noted GFI Senior Investor Engagement Specialist Sharyn Murray. “With more and more investors acknowledging that climate risk is investment risk, alternative proteins offer a scalable solution that gets the world closer to a more secure, carbon-neutral food system. Managing climate risks is impossible without addressing food, and agriculture and alternative proteins offer us a tool to do that.” 

“Considering the scale of emissions reductions that would occur with a shift to alternative proteins, this is a critical moment to invest in the technologies and innovations that can move our food system to net zero, and fast,” said GFI VP of Corporate Engagement Caroline Bushnell. “Ramping up investments in sustainable alternative proteins will allow companies to fund critical R&D, scale production, and bring down costs to effectively compete with conventionally produced animal protein and ultimately bring alternative proteins to more plates.” 

GFI’s State of the Industry reports, due to be published in April, promises deeper insights on the state of alternative proteins.

Based in Washington, D.C., Good Food Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit working internationally with the goal of making alternative proteins delicious, affordable and accessible. The organization advances open-access research, mobilizes resources and talent, and empowers partners across the food system to create a sustainable, secure and just protein supply. GFI is funded entirely by private philanthropic support.

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