The alternative protein industry raised a record $3.1 billion in investment capital in 2020—which is three times as much as it raised in 2019—according to new data released by nonprofit The Good Food Institute (GFI). The data includes major players in the plant-based protein sector making animal-free alternatives to meat, cheese, and eggs (which raised $2.1 billion in investments in 2020, three times the amount raised in 2019); the cultivated meat sector using a small amount of animal cells to grow meat without the need to slaughter animals (which received $360 million in investments, representing six times the amount the industry raised in 2019); and the fermentation industry using microbial fermentation to create animal-free alternatives to animal protein (which amounted to $590 million in investments, double what the sector raised in 2019). 

According to GFI, the record capital raise signals investor confidence in alternatives to animal products amid the various challenges presented during 2020, including growing awareness of the climate crisis and its link to animal agriculture, health issues tied to zoonotic diseases, and economic factors brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. “The investor community is waking up to the massive social and economic potential of food technology to radically remake our food system,” GFI Senior Investor Engagement Specialist Sharyn Murray said. “Early trend setters like Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat, Memphis Meats, and Mosa Meat continue to perform well, and there are more and more entrepreneurs who see the potential of alternative proteins to succeed in the marketplace while having a positive global impact on food sustainability and global health.”

2020’s biggest investments in alternative protein companies

In the past decade, plant-based protein companies have raised $4.4 billion, with nearly half ($2.1 billion) raised last year alone. In 2020, the largest capital raise in this sector went to Impossible Foods, which pulled in $700 million in two funding rounds. In the cultivated meat industry, Memphis Meat clocked in the biggest investment with $186 million, while the fermentation industry’s biggest player was Perfect Day, which raised $300 million in July to advance its mission of replacing dairy with “microflora” created outside of the cow.  

“2020 was a breakout year for alternative proteins, with record investment flowing into all segments of the industry. This is yet another signal of the significant potential the private sector sees in this rapidly growing global industry,” GFI Director of Corporate Engagement Caroline Bushnell said. “While the amount is record-breaking, more investment is needed—from both the public and the private sectors—to meet the urgency of this moment. A large-scale shift toward alternative proteins will be critical to mitigating the environmental impact of food production, meeting the Paris Climate Agreement, and sustainably feeding a growing global population.”

Photo Credit: Impossible Foods

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