WASHINGTON — New data released March 2 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 percent 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 percent 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 percent 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 percent 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 percent 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 percent 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 percent 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 percent 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.
GFI senior investor engagement specialist Sharyn Murray: “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.”
GFI vice president of corporate engagement Caroline Bushnell: “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.”
To quantify this investment activity, GFI used its company database to create a custom list of global plant-based meat, seafood, egg, and dairy companies; cultivated meat and seafood companies; and fermentation companies devoted to alternative proteins tracked by PitchBook Data Inc. This yielded a list of more than 740 companies. GFI’s analysis excludes the many companies involved in alternative proteins but not as their core businesses. GFI was also unable to include some qualifying plant-based, cultivated, and fermentation companies — namely, those in the early stages of development — because they do not yet have profiles on PitchBook. Companies focused primarily in plant molecular farming are included in the fermentation company data. Please note that the figures published in this release may differ from prior figures published by GFI as we continuously improve our dataset. For the purposes of this release, “investment,” “investment capital,” and “invested capital” are used interchangeably to refer to deals including accelerator or incubator funding, angel funding, seed funding, equity or product crowdfunding, early-stage venture capital, late-stage venture capital, private equity growth/expansion, capitalization, corporate venture, joint venture, convertible debt, and general debt (but exclude mergers, acquisitions, reverse-mergers, buyouts and leveraged buyouts, IPOs, subsequent share offerings, and private investment in public equity). 2021 data pertains to the 52-week period ending December 31, 2021. This data has not been reviewed by PitchBook analysts.
The Good Food Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit working internationally to make alternative proteins delicious, affordable, and accessible. GFI advances open-access research; mobilizes resources and talent; and empowers partners across the food system to create a sustainable, secure, and just protein supply. GFI is funded entirely by private philanthropic support.