AFBR recently interviewed Andrew D Ive, Founder of Big Idea Ventures to identify the latest investments within the plant-based category and how does COVID-19 impact on this segment.
The following are excerpts of the interview with him:
Could you tell us briefly what are the 3 upcoming new ventures in the plant-based arena ?
There are 3 interesting new ventures and they include development of plant-based egg using indigenous plants that are found in India. Another investment is into bee-less honey but identical to bee-based honey, using microbial fermentation. The final development is in plant-based growth media that replaces fetal-bovine-serum (FBS) and an edible plant-based scaffold for cell cultured meat.
With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, does this have any impact on the investment plan as well as future potential for the plant-based segment ?
COVID-19 has accelerated the worldwide demand for alternative proteins and plant-based foods both by consumers as well as by investors. With the increasing scarcity of resources like land, water and energy and the disruption to global food supply chain, it has become all the more crucial for countries to improve their independence and food security through innovation.
There are also several speculations that COVID-19 originated from animal sources. This has increased the awareness of adopting an alternative approach to create protein. The cell-based technology is a more sustainable, cleaner and most efficient production method to produce protein. The cells are cultivated in a clean and controlled environment, which significantly reduces the likelihood of cross contamination and zoonotic disease.
During the pandemic, we notice faster growth in the plant-based market with greater consumer awareness. A wide variety of plant-based products is now already available in the market, which allows consumers to adopt a plant-based meal easily. There are several companies that establish innovative and state-of-the-art technology to recreate plant-based products that are nutritious and delicious. Big Idea Ventures is founded to support these companies and build a strong ecosystem of alternative protein.
What is the next step/strategy taken by Big Idea Ventures in view of the existing situation. Are there changes to existing plans ?
Big Idea Ventures will invest in and accelerate up to 100 plant-based and cell-based companies globally. We have 26 companies in our portfolio and we will invest in another 12 great companies in plant-based and cell-based technologies in our January 2021 accelerator program. There is a great opportunity for alternative proteins to address food security and environmental challenges and we will lead the way by finding the best, most innovative global companies in these categories.
Apparently, the pandemic does not slow down investments in this category, instead it has opened a great opportunity for alternative proteins to address food security and environmental sustainability issues.
One major area of consumer concern is on ‘price’ and ‘affordability’ of plant-based alternatives compared to the real thing (meat/product). How can this be addressed ?
If there’s a price difference at the moment, it’s just because of volume. As you manufacture anything in larger volumes, you improve your efficiency, and your ability to source large quantities of raw ingredients. When plant-based and cell-based meats have become less expensive than animal products, we will then see marked increase in consumption volume to match consumption of meat and other products that it substitute for.
Plant-based meat alternatives could be cheaper in the future as it is more efficient to make food directly from plants rather than breeding animals which involve costs like crop feed, land and other resources.
As plant-based meat gains traction, how do you also make that acceptable to the growing Halal consumer movement in this region ?
Some in the Islamic community may have concerns about whether consuming plant-based meat compromises Islamic belief. However, what Islam requires is that what you eat must be Halal and tayyub (Arabic for wholesome and pure). A plant-based diet fits both of these criterions.
Having a plant-based diet has also been proven to have health benefits, and to be of advantageous impact on the environment by reducing our land and water use, lowering pollution and our carbon footprint, and slowing down deforestations amongst other gains.
Plant-based meat however should be seen as an alternative and not a substitute for all meats, and consumers have the freedom to discern for themselves what they can and cannot consume.