New data released by The Good Food Institute (GFI) reveals that globally, 2021 was a record period of investment in companies creating sustainable alternatives to conventional animal-based foods, including global plant-based meat, seafood, egg, and dairy companies; cultivated meat and seafood companies; and fermentation companies devoted to alternative proteins. Alternative protein companies have raised almost $11.1 billion in invested capital since 2010, 73% or $8 billion of which was raised since 2020 when the coronavirus first disrupted global markets.
As global efforts ramp up to mitigate the climate crisis, address land and water issues, and prevent the next pandemic, the sustained interest in alternative proteins signals a growing appetite for planet-friendly investments with returns beyond the bottom line.
GFI’s analysis of investment activity within these industries was conducted using the PitchBook Data platform and shows that global alternative protein companies secured $5 billion in disclosed investments in 2021, which is 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, and more than 70% of this was raised in 2021 alone. This 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 tally. In 2021, the industry’s investor base grew 62% from the prior year, bringing the total number of unique investors to 458.
• Fermentation companies devoted to alternative proteins secured $1.7 billion in investments in 2021, which is nearly 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 and 60% of this was raised in 2021 alone. This 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 Company’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, which is on par with the $2.1 billion raised in 2020 and 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 and 30% of this was raised in 2021 alone. This included Impossible Foods’ $500 million funding round, which adds to the company’s record $700 million funding haul 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 nearly three times the size of the next largest seed round raised by an alternative protein company. In 2021, the industry’s investor base grew 40% from the prior year, bringing the total number of unique investors to 1,093.
While investor confidence in alternative protein companies is driven by multiple market factors, the public health and environmental crises that gripped the world throughout 2020 and 2021 have illuminated the risks associated with business-as-usual portfolios and practices. 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.
While alternative protein investments have grown at an impressive rate, they remain a miniscule fraction of the trillions of dollars that have been invested globally in climate technology companies as a whole. In 2021 alone, private capital in earlier stage climate technology companies amounted to $47 billion.
Alternative proteins are only just beginning to see a much needed diversification of funding types and sources. As climate technology industries like renewable energy and electric vehicles have matured, they have attracted a wide array of investment beyond venture and private equity capital, including government funding, funding raised through public equity and debt markets, project finance, and more that is not captured in the $47 billion private capital total. Indeed, renewable energy and electric vehicle investments significantly overshadow alternative protein investments relative to the climate mitigation potential of each of these industries, which illustrates that alternative proteins are underinvested in as a climate solution.
Sharyn Murray, GFI senior investor engagement specialist said: “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. 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.”
Caroline Bushnell, GFI vice president of corporate engagement 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. 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.”