By Lynda Kiernan, Global AgInvesting Media
Global food tech company Bühler is the latest investor in Big Idea Ventures’ $50 million New Protein Fund, joining existing investors Tyson, Temasek, and others.
With offices in New York and Singapore, and headed by managing general partner Andrew Ive, Big Idea Ventures is looking to invest in the best emerging plant-based food, ingredients, and alternative protein startups across three pillars: plant-based food products; plant-based food ingredients and technology; and cell-cultured meats.
The emergent alternative protein category is one of the most active across the food industry,” Andrew Ive, founder, Big Idea Ventures and the New Protein Fund, told FoodIngredientsFirst. “In Q1 2020, Crunchbase identified more was invested in plant-based food and cell-based food companies than the entire previous year in its entirety. As a data point, we recently invested in our second cohort of seed stage companies and they have been able to secure strong investors in the last four to six weeks.”
With backing from Singapore’s state venture capital fund Temasek, Tyson Foods, and now Bühler, the firm is planning to invest $250,000 in approximately 100 global companies, half of which will initially be based in Asia, and the remaining half in North America. Then, within the following two to three years, Big Idea plans to widen its geographic scope to include the EU and China.
And although the fund plans to allocate a minor percentage of its capital to cell-cultured meat startups, that is precisely where it committed its first investment – in Singapore-based Shiok Meats.
Aside from reducing the pressure on the global seafood harvest, Shiok sees cellular aquaculture as a means to also counter the overuse of antibiotics in animal protein production – an issue highlighted in a recent Canadian study that found that 17 percent of shrimp imports entering the country, mainly from Asia, were resistant to one or more types of antibiotics.
Bühler comes to the fund bringing expertise that touches upon multiple points in the plant-based value chain from the primary processing of pulses, peas, lentils, soy, oats, quinoa, and traditional grains, to work with shaping, texturizing, fiber formation, and cooling of both dry or high-moisture meat analogs, as well as its Food Application Centers that span three continents.
“This new partnership benefits from our global network of Food Application Centers across Europe, Asia, and the US,” said Johannes Wick, CEO Grains and Food, Bühler Group.
“However, it is particularly timely, given that we are opening our Food Application Center in Minneapolis on June 19 and introducing new technologies, such as the Filtrex solution, specifically for this sector, and will open our joint innovation facility with Givaudan in Singapore later this year.”
Big Idea Ventures noted that this new Food Application Center in Minneapolis will focus on innovative ways to process peas, beans, corn, oats, pulses, ancient grains and other crops into products such as pastas, cereals, snacks, flours or extruded products, while another Bühler center – the joint Givaudan Bühler innovation facility, which will be run by both companies in Singapore, will focus on combining the flavor and formulation expertise of Givaudan with the processing expertise and technological experience of Bühler to advance sustainable protein-based products.
A recent report, “Meat Substitutes: Will you Survive or Thrive the Disruption?” issued by OC&C noted the massive potential for growth in the Chinese market, which the Good Food Institute estimates is currently valued at $910 million, and has been growing at a rate of 14.3 percent since 2014. Additionally, Euromonitor estimates that China’s meat-free market will be valued at $12 billion by 2023.
This growth in China is being driven by health concerns and growing considerations for the environment and animal welfare, mainly by younger consumers. COVID-19 is also a strong new driver, as it brings to light the need for stronger food safety measures and reinforces the connection between health and the food we eat.
“Retailers were focused on ensuring supply of staple foods were available and were less concerned about stocking new plant-based foods,” Ive told FoodIngredientsFirst. “However consumers have been increasingly demanding more plant-based foods as concerns about food safety and the virus have contributed toward a shift to more plant-based food options.”
Since that first investment in Shiok Meat in 2019, Big Idea Ventures has made 25 investments, from plant-based cheese companies such as Grounded Foods and Pleese Foods, to plant-based egg product producer Evo Foods, plant-based pork and crayfish producer Phuture Foods, as well as the first vegan honey company in the world, and the first cell-based foie gras producer in France.
“Together, we can support the growth of the new generation of leading plant-based companies in North America, Asia and ultimately, the planet. Bühler and BIV will work together to build great companies responding to the consumer,” said Ive.
Ian Roberts, CTO, Bühler Group, echoed this sentiment saying, “There is an urgent need for wide-scale collaboration if we are to make an impact on the climate and nutrition challenges within the next decade. Academics, start-ups, and established companies need to come together to innovate and find more sustainable ways to produce food. This is why we are partnering with Big Idea Ventures: to accelerate the journey for promising start-ups, to reinforce partnerships and start-up ecosystems in Singapore and the US, and to do this with a clear focus on creating a more sustainable food supply for the future.”
– Lynda Kiernan is editor with GAI Media, and is managing editor and daily contributor for Global AgInvesting’s AgInvesting Weekly News and Agtech Intel News, and HighQuest Group’s Oilseed & Grain News. She is also a contributor to the GAI Gazette. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org