Why I Think the Future of Food Will Be Led by Women

A new crop of founders in the futureof food is emerging around the world: women.

By:Jenny Stojkovic

Lastyear, less than three percent of all venture capital was invested in womenfounders — and less than a single percentage of all venture capital went towardwomen founders of color. In spite of these record lows, however, the data showsthat women founders often outperform their male counterparts. Recent data showsthat investments in women-led founding teams performed 63 percent better thaninvestments in all-male founding teams.

Atthe same time as this record low for investment into women founders, the futureof food, specifically alternative protein, has smashed records with more than$3.1 billion of investment into space in 2020, compared to $1 billion ininvestment from the prior year. The majority of the funding in the alternativeprotein industry, an industry focused on animal alternatives using plant-based,cell-based or fermentation technology, largely went to male founders fromindustry leaders.

Yet,as press attention and capital continue to be paid to this group ofheavyweights, a new crop of founders in the future of food is emerging aroundthe world: women.

Seizingon the monumental rising tide of alternative protein, these women founders arelooking beyond niche burgers and oat milk, and scaling companies faster,effectively and strategically. A once-in-a-century opportunity, the open marketspace of the alternative protein industry represents a unique opportunity forwomen founders, particularly women founders of color, to become industryleaders. And it’s happening all over the world.

InSingapore, Dr. Sandhya Sriram, CEO of Shiok Meats, is readying her team for thepublic debut of commercialized cell-based shrimp by early 2023 (registrationrequired), making her one of the first movers in this space to take cell-basedprotein to market, behind Eat Just’s cell-based chicken debut in late 2020. Asissues of global overfishing come to the forefront, Shiok Meats, a companyfounded only three years ago, aims to tackle the most consumed seafood in theworld: the nearly $20 billion shrimp market.

Similarly,Carrie Chan, CEO of Hong Kong-based Avant, recently debuted cell-based fishfillets, while plant-based seafood counterparts led by women founders continueto make strides, such as the recent nationwide U.S. debut of tuna from Kuleanaand shrimp from New Wave Foods. And, there’s even progress being made onfermentation-based calamari.

Oftenoverlooked in conversations around the future of food, the race to feed ourgrowing population is shaping up to take a more direct approach under theleadership of women founders: infant nutrition. Covered in my last article, the$70 billion global infant formula category is an unsurprising area of focus forwomen founders. With a mission of empowering mothers, founders all over theworld are tackling the underserved infant nutrition category with bothplant-based and cell-based innovation.

Onthe plant-based side, CEO Hamutal Yitzhak of Israeli-based Else Nutrition,dubbed “Oatly for Babies,” recently took her company public and debuted theworld’s first plant-based, soy-free infant formula. Meanwhile, in thecell-based space, the race to develop a human milk alternative to infantformula is heating up, with Michelle Egger, CEO of U.S.-based BIOMILQ, recentlydebuting the world’s first breastmilk grown in a lab. Fengru Lin, CEO ofSingapore-based Turtletree Labs, announced plans to commercialize their humanmilk product.

Aswe are now seeing in femtech and other industries addressing the needs ofwomen, and despite exponential growth in demand, the infant nutrition categoryhas taken much longer to draw the attention of investors than its othercounterparts in the food system. I believe this is a likely result of years ofgender bias in investing from the male-dominated venture capital space.

Lookingto the broader food categories, in a surprise twist, plant-based meats andnon-dairy milks are no longer industry leaders for growth and are now beingoutpaced by cheese and eggs alternatives.

Thecheese alternatives category is seeing growth, led by renowned CEO MiyokoSchinner of U.S.-based Miyoko’s, whose company has grown at 100 percent yearover year for over six years, as well as recently funded upstarts likeU.S.-based Grounded Foods led by CEO Veronica Fil.

Lastyear, less than three percent of all venture capital was invested in womenfounders — and less than a single percentage of all venture capital went towardwomen founders of color. In spite of these record lows, however, the data showsthat women founders often outperform their male counterparts. Recent data showsthat investments in women-led founding teams performed 63 percent better thaninvestments in all-male founding teams.

Atthe same time as this record low for investment into women founders, the futureof food, specifically alternative protein, has smashed records with more than$3.1 billion of investment into space in 2020, compared to $1 billion ininvestment from the prior year. The majority of the funding in the alternativeprotein industry, an industry focused on animal alternatives using plant-based,cell-based or fermentation technology, largely went to male founders fromindustry leaders.

Yet,as press attention and capital continue to be paid to this group ofheavyweights, a new crop of founders in the future of food is emerging aroundthe world: women.

Seizingon the monumental rising tide of alternative protein, these women founders arelooking beyond niche burgers and oat milk, and scaling companies faster,effectively and strategically. A once-in-a-century opportunity, the open marketspace of the alternative protein industry represents a unique opportunity forwomen founders, particularly women founders of color, to become industryleaders. And it’s happening all over the world.

InSingapore, Dr. Sandhya Sriram, CEO of Shiok Meats, is readying her team for thepublic debut of commercialized cell-based shrimp by early 2023 (registrationrequired), making her one of the first movers in this space to take cell-basedprotein to market, behind Eat Just’s cell-based chicken debut in late 2020. Asissues of global overfishing come to the forefront, Shiok Meats, a companyfounded only three years ago, aims to tackle the most consumed seafood in theworld: the nearly $20 billion shrimp market.

Similarly,Carrie Chan, CEO of Hong Kong-based Avant, recently debuted cell-based fishfillets, while plant-based seafood counterparts led by women founders continueto make strides, such as the recent nationwide U.S. debut of tuna from Kuleanaand shrimp from New Wave Foods. And, there’s even progress being made onfermentation-based calamari.

Oftenoverlooked in conversations around the future of food, the race to feed ourgrowing population is shaping up to take a more direct approach under theleadership of women founders: infant nutrition. Covered in my last article, the$70 billion global infant formula category is an unsurprising area of focus forwomen founders. With a mission of empowering mothers, founders all over theworld are tackling the underserved infant nutrition category with bothplant-based and cell-based innovation.

Onthe plant-based side, CEO Hamutal Yitzhak of Israeli-based Else Nutrition,dubbed “Oatly for Babies,” recently took her company public and debuted theworld’s first plant-based, soy-free infant formula. Meanwhile, in thecell-based space, the race to develop a human milk alternative to infantformula is heating up, with Michelle Egger, CEO of U.S.-based BIOMILQ, recentlydebuting the world’s first breastmilk grown in a lab. Fengru Lin, CEO ofSingapore-based Turtletree Labs, announced plans to commercialize their humanmilk product.

Aswe are now seeing in femtech and other industries addressing the needs ofwomen, and despite exponential growth in demand, the infant nutrition categoryhas taken much longer to draw the attention of investors than its othercounterparts in the food system. I believe this is a likely result of years ofgender bias in investing from the male-dominated venture capital space.

Lookingto the broader food categories, in a surprise twist, plant-based meats andnon-dairy milks are no longer industry leaders for growth and are now beingoutpaced by cheese and eggs alternatives.

Thecheese alternatives category is seeing growth, led by renowned CEO MiyokoSchinner of U.S.-based Miyoko’s, whose company has grown at 100 percent yearover year for over six years, as well as recently funded upstarts likeU.S.-based Grounded Foods led by CEO Veronica Fil.

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