Plant-based protein companies in the United States have raised a total of $741 million in investment capital within the first quarter of 2020—nearly matching a record $747 million raised in all of 2019—according to a new report compiled by nonprofit The Good Food Institute (GFI). In 2019, companies making alternatives to animal protein—which includes vegan meat, egg, and dairy companies, along with cell-based cultured meat companies—raised a record $824 million in funding and have already surpassed that record in the first quarter of 2020 with an additional $930 million in investments. In the last decade, plant-based protein companies raised $2.7 billion in venture capital—45 percent of which was raised in 2019 and the first quarter of 2020 alone. “There’s been a surge in investor confidence fueled by durable and increasing consumer interest in alternative proteins,” GFI Associate Director of Corporate Engagement Caroline Bushnell said. “Investors have seen the market opportunity and are moving to capitalize on a global shift in the way meat is produced.”
The US is currently experiencing an animal meat shortage after more than 20 major slaughterhouses closed due to the spread of COVID-19 among meat plant workers. Plant-based meat companies—including Beyond Meat (which raised $290 million in net new stock during its record-breaking 2019 IPO) and Impossible Foods (which secured a $500 million investment during the pandemic in March)—are filling the protein void by lowering prices and expanding retail distribution. “This record-level investment will bolster the industry and support continued growth and innovation for the long term, ensuring that alternative protein companies have the resources to grow and thrive, particularly during times of short-term market volatility,” Bushnell said. “The COVID-19 crisis has made bolstering our global protein supply more critical than ever, given the inherent—and now very apparent—vulnerability of supply chains dependent on industrial animal agriculture.”
According to GFI, the cell-based meat industry, including cell-based seafood, is rapidly growing, as well. The emerging industry counted $189 million in investment capital in the first quarter of 2020, the most funding the industry has raised in its history. By the end of 2019, 55 cell-based meat (also known as “cultivated meat”) companies formed worldwide, 20 of which were founded in 2019 alone, representing a 57 percent increase from the 35 companies in operation in 2018.
“Plant-based and cultivated meats give consumers everything they like about meat but produced more sustainably,” GFI Executive Director Bruce Friedrich said. “Most of the conventional meat companies have reconstituted as protein companies, and nine of the 10 biggest have either launched or invested in plant-based meat, cultivated meat, or both. With historic pressures on conventional meat production, we expect to see the large meat conglomerates double down on their alternative protein investments.”