Can protein startups and their investors take on Big Cow?

TechCrunch | 8/6/2017 | Joanna Glasner
brunodeuce44 (Posted by) Level 3
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Joanna Glasner is a reporter for Crunchbase.

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Experience - Meat - Tofu - Sneaker - Sole

For many of us, our first experience with fake meat involves rubbery tofu that tastes more like sneaker sole than seared filet. As we forage on, next come the veggie burgers, the soy dogs, the meatless meatballs, the caramel-brown vacuum-sealed lumps called field roasts.

Eventually, we grow accustomed to these chewy, protein-dense, vaguely meat-like foodstuffs. And yet, the dream lives on: What if fake meat tasted and satiated like the real deal?

Days - Startups - Products - Proteins - Venture

These days, startups are developing products that more closely resemble animal proteins. Venture capitalists and strategic investors are piling on, too, collectively putting hundreds of millions of dollars to work in companies developing meatless foods offering high protein and, in some cases, a meaty taste.

Over the past two years, Crunchbase has identified about $250 million in disclosed investments in what we call the alternative protein space. Actual investment levels may be quite a bit higher as strategic investors don’t always reveal round size.

Progress - Work - Marina - Umami - Burger

While progress has been made, there’s work to be done. Heading to the Marina Umami Burger in San Francisco on a weekend afternoon, Crunchbase News ordered an Impossible Burger, a veggie patty heralded for its beefiness, and a regular burger made the same way. We then cut them in half and had each variety in sequence.

Without question, the Impossible Burger was edible. It was not lumpy; it was not an old shoe. But it was also very much not a burger. It remains firmly a substitute, not a replacement.

Plenty - Capital - Meat - Venture - Ecosystem

Luckily, there’s still plenty of capital sloshing around the fake meat venture ecosystem to fuel further innovation. Crunching the numbers, we’ve identified a few noteworthy trends for the alternative protein space. Here’s a quick overview of the key investment themes.

It’s just as well there is no alternative protein unicorn. It...
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