Record year for alternative proteins as ‘griddle parity’ nears

Alternatives to conventional animal-based foods attracted almost €2.6bn (£2.24bn) in investments in 2020 – more than three times as much as the €830m (£714m) raised in 2019, according to data produced by the Good Food Institute.

Across Europe, plant-based, cultivated meat and fermentation companies raised a record €441m (£379m) in 2020 – more than four times the €101m (£87m) invested in 2019. European companies raised almost 17% of the total invested worldwide in 2020.

The new figures “signal a growing appetite for climate-friendly investments with returns beyond the bottom line”, GFI noted.

However, far more investment is needed – particularly later-stage growth funding. “Access to these transformative investments will be essential for companies to be able to grow and build out the large-scale production capacity we need to make sustainable proteins accessible to all,” said GFI corporate engagement manager Carlotte Lucas.

This week the FT reported how the price gap between plant-based and beef burgers was shrinking fast (perhaps meat is too cheap?). “It’s going to surprise people how steeply costs are being driven down,” Alastair Cooper at VC ADM Capital told the paper.

Even cultured meat could soon reach what some analysts are calling “griddle parity” – in reference to the phrase ‘grid parity’ when renewable energy falls to the market price of electricity. The cost of the growth medium used on the process has fallen dramatically, Foodnavigator reported in December.

Future Meat Technologies, an Israel-based company developing innovative technology to produce cultured meat, recently announced that it had cut the production cost of a cultured chicken breast to $7.50 (£5.50). “We are proud to be within reach of cost parity with traditional agriculture without any need to resort to genetic engineering,” said Professor Yaakov Nahmias, the firm’s founder and chief scientific officer.

Fellow Israeli lab-grown meat startup Adelph Farms has claimed its products could reach price parity with conventional meat sooner than the plant-based products made by the likes of Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat.

There is still a little way to go though. Singapore recently became the first country to approve sales of cultured chicken. The nuggets went on sale at a private club and four of them cost $23 (£17). And maker Eat Just said each one was being sold at a loss. “This business is not for the faint of heart,” CEO Josh Tetrick told Politico. “It requires a ton of upfront capital before you see revenue.”

The rewards could be considerable. “A large-scale shift toward alternative proteins will be critical to mitigating the environmental impact of food production, meeting the Paris climate agreement, and sustainably feeding a growing global population,” said GFI director of corporate engagement Caroline Bushnell.

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