7 emerging alternative protein brands you’ve never heard of

  • Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have popularized plant-based meat, but a host of younger startups are trying to expand the types of alternative protein products and ingredients on the market.
  • Investors poured about $1.5 billion into such companies during the first seven months of 2020, surpassing their investments for all of 2019, according to the Good Food Institute.
  • Here are seven companies that have won investment from major players and are tackling challenges ranging from plant-based fish to creating protein from air and water.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Plant-based burgers have become ubiquitous. But cash flowing into a host of startups suggests the next alternative protein hit could come in the form of fish or ice cream — and that it might not even be plant-based.

Companies including Beyond Meat and Impossible helped make meat made from sources other than animals palatable to consumers. Many companies have capitalized on that by introducing rival products, including the world’s largest food makers, such as Tyson, Nestle and Kellogg. 

But some investors are betting that much smaller companies will make progress on either new consumer-facing products or new proteins that other companies could use to do so. Many of these companies are developing new ingredients and manufacturing methods to grab part of the alternative protein market, or filling out the realm of consumer-ready products by manufacturing bacon and sashimi-grade tuna.

Alternative protein companies raised about $1.5 billion during the first seven months of 2020 — an amount already nearly double the $820 million they raised during all of 2019, according to the Good Food Institute. 

Some of that funding has come from S2G, a venture firm and backer of Beyond Meat, as well as CPT Capital, an Impossible Foods investor.

With that money, startups are trying to capture a piece of the fast-growing market for protein that isn’t animal meat. Analysts at UBS estimate that sales of plant-based proteins alone could reach $85 billion globally by 2030. That dwarfs the $939 million in sales that plant-based products reached in 2019, per the Good Food Institute.

Meeting that demand will require new ways of making alternative protein, said James Laird, CEO and founder of 3F Bio, which makes fungus-based protein.

“I do perceive this big gap,” he said. “Either we have to run faster, or there’s some other technology solution” that needs to come into use.

Filling that gap will require new ingredients and techniques for making alternative proteins, said Rosie Wardle, an investor at CPT.

“To build a truly sustainable protein supply chain, we need more focus on diversifying the ingredients available for alternative products, rather than just relying on existing commodity crops such as soy and wheat,” she said. 

Here are seven early-stage companies that investors think could help fill that gap in the alt-protein space, using either novel consumer-ready products or ingredients that could interest larger food companies getting into the space.

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