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Alternative Proteins Raked in $5 Billion in Investment in 2021

Signals sustained interest in plant-based, cultivated proteins
The Good Food Institute
Photograph: Shutterstock

As consumer interest in plant-based dairy, meat and egg alternatives grows, new data from The Good Food Institute (GFI) in Washington, D.C., suggests there's a growing investor appetite for plant-based innovations, too.

According to GFI's recently released annual report on alternative proteins, investors poured $5 billion into alternatives to seafood, meat, eggs and dairy items in 2021—a 60% increase from 2020.  Alternative protein companies have raised almost $11.1 billion in invested capital since 2010, according to GFI, with 73% of that ($8 billion) raised since 2020. 

"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," said Sharyn Murray,GFI senior investor engagement specialist, in a statement.

Analysis of alternative-protein investment activities was conducted using the PitchBook Data platform. GFI looked at three primary product categories: cultivated meat and seafood; fermented plant-based products; and plant-based meat, seafood, eggs and dairy.

Cultivated meat and seafood companies secured $1.4 billion in investments in 2021, according to GFI—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, and more than 70% of this was raised in 2021 alone,” GFI stated.

GFI data found that fermentation companies devoted to alternative proteins secured $1.7 billion in investments in 2021, nearly three times the $600 million raised in 2020. The industry’s investor base grew 43% from 2020, as well, GFI noted.

Plant-based meat, seafood, egg, and dairy companies secured $1.9 billion in investments in 2021, according to GFI. California-based Impossible Foods, one of the industry's highest-profile players, secured approximately $500 million in its latest funding round. Since its founding in 2011, the company has raised close to $2 billion.

GFI pointed out that public health and environmental crises that gripped the world throughout 2020 and 2021 have called into greater focus the role that alternative proteins can play in promoting public health and more-sustainable food production.

"Against this backdrop, the prospect of meat produced with zero risk of contributing to zoonotic disease transmission and dramatically less emissions than conventional meat has even greater relevance," GFI said.

"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 Caroline Bushnell, GFI's VP of corporate engagement. Ramping up investments in sustainable alternative proteins, Bushnell said, would "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."

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