What Will the Future of Plant-Based Meat Look Like?

The future of plant-based meat willlook nothing like the traditional meat industry that came before it.

By: Jenny Stojkovic

Future Farm

Inlate 2021, Impossible Foods announced a record-breaking $500 million investmentround to fuel the future of plant-based protein ahead of an anticipated IPO inearly 2022. The decade-old startup is gaining ground on rival Beyond Meat, apublicly traded company that’s experienced some stock market fluctuations dueto the pandemic. But with such impressive dollars being spent in theplant-based meat category on just two companies, will the future of vegan meatbecome a Coca-Cola vs. Pepsi situation?

Frommy perspective, it’s unlikely. Amidst the backdrop of the vegan meat duel inCalifornia, exciting up-and-coming plant-based startups across the world arequietly amassing millions of dollars, innovating on novel technologies andgetting ready to take the future of food by storm. As the founder of a globalplatform focused on innovation, food and biotechnology, I’ve seen firsthand theplant-based meat trend gather serious traction over the last few years. Let’stake a closer look at the “new crop” of vegan meat companies and what couldbecome the next Beyond or Impossible.

NextGen Foods, launched by Brazilian food engineer Andre Mendez and German founderof LikeMeat Timo Rekker, was founded less than two years ago in April 2020 inSingapore. Since their founding, the duo has built a diverse team of folksacross the world and launched their first product, TiNDLE plant-based chicken,in Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates and is noweying a U.S. launch for 2022. With a proprietary ingredient known as “lipi,”which gives a similar taste and smell to that of chicken according to thecompany, TiNDLE is tackling the sought-after poultry market, which is one ofthe world’s fastest-growing markets for meat. While most brands are focused onprocessed nuggets, TiNDLE’s flagship product is a “chicken whole cut,” whichposes a unique entry in a market like the U.S. where 62 percent of all poultryconsumption is chicken breasts.

Anotherstartup with South American roots is Future Farm, founded in 2019 in Brazil byCPG veteran Marcos Leta and Alfredo Strechinsky. With less than three years ofoperation under their belt, Future Farm has already raised $89 million andclaims a valuation of over $400 million. Focused on non-GMO and “cleaner”ingredients, Future Farm currently boasts an extensive line of products,including burgers, grounds, sausages, and seafood, with plans of expanding intoplant-based milks and dairy. Eying North American expansion, Future Farm’sstrategy of not using novel ingredients could certainly give other plantprotein companies like Impossible or JUST — which have struggled withregulatory approval across numerous regions — a run for their money.

Anotherplant-based company that has scaled rather quickly is Daring Foods, aCalifornia-based vegan chicken startup, which originally launched out of theU.K. in 2019. Led by CEO Ross Mackay, the company recently announced its thirdround of funding within 12 months, bringing its total investment to $120million. Unlike other plant-based meat startups, Daring remains focused on thegrowing chicken category, which has increased in demand in the last sixtyyears. Only time will tell if Daring and other vegan poultry producers canconvince meat-eaters to make the switch.

Perhapsthe newest upstart in the plant-based chicken category, Sundial Foods, led by21-year-old CEO Jessica Schwabach, is set to launch in 2022, after initiallybeing created as a school project in the Alternative Meats program at UCBerkeley in 2019. Focused on creating hyper-realistic chicken drumsticks,including the coveted skin texture, Sundial Foods participated in a Nestleincubator in 2020 before receiving over $4 million in investment in their seedround of investment. Interestingly, the company’s proprietary process requiresonly eight simple ingredients, which would make it one of the cleanestplant-based protein products on the market when launched.

Originallyfounded as NUGGS in 2018 by serial tech entrepreneur Ben Pasternak, SIMULATE isa decidedly unconventional competitor in the plant-based meats category. With alaser focus on Gen Z consumers and direct-to-consumer (DTC) distribution,SIMULATE has already raised over $60 million with a valuation of $260 million.Backed by tech titans like Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, SIMULATE has seenmassive growth, no doubt due to their early focus on DTC marketing, whichexploded with growth during the pandemic. SIMULATE plans to roll out newplant-based meats, including sausages, to accompany their signature NUGGS line,and focus on ramping up engineering support in the coming year. It will beinteresting to see how SIMULATE’s heavy DTC strategy plays out, as the worldreopens and consumer habits begin to shift post-pandemic.

Withover half of Americans agreeing that the plant-based trend is here to stay,it’s certainly early days for the world of plant-based meat. Diversity of founders,emerging markets and a record year for investment are certainly wild cards inthe space, as the burgeoning industry seeks to upend the traditional foodmanufacturing industry model. While it’s too soon to tell how the market sharewill shake out, one thing is for certain: The future of plant-based meat willlook nothing like the traditional meat industry that came before it.

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