We have been in the FoodTech space for more than ten years and never have felt that much energy coming from large corporations and investors. A few years ago, an entrepreneur was given the means to experiment at a tiny scale and grow little by little. Nowadays, we observe such huge deals with startups raising hundreds of millions on unproven business models or risky technology. We also observe less and less space (notable funding) for entrepreneurs who want to go slow and take fewer risks.
This trend, which we identified as the third wave of FoodTech startups in our report on the investments with startups scaling and raising funds faster than ever, is here to stay, at least a couple of years. Is it finally the tipping point where FoodTech changes the “food system”, or is it the sign of some irrational exuberance? I am not sure about the answer. However, it conveys one clear and bold message to the entrepreneurs: go big or go home!
ALTERNATIVE PROTEIN STARTUPS ARE BUILDING THEIR PILOT PLANTS
While investments in alternatives proteins (if you need an update on the technologies, we just covered that here) keep rising at an impressive pace (from $1B in 2019 to $3.1B in 2020), we can wonder where all this money is going, notably for startups and technologies that don’t have products on the market yet. It seems that this influx of cash is more and more oriented toward the development of pilot plants where these startups will be able to prove their ability to reach scalability:
- The protein brewery, a Dutch startup focusing on biomass fermentation (producing protein out of micro-organisms and using it to create food products such as meat analogues), has completed its pilot plant. The startup had raised $22M last November.
- Motif, one of the most looked at startups, has raised a new round of $226M to scale up the production of its ingredients used to improve the taste of plant-based meat and dairy products.
- Mycorena, a Swedish startup, announced last month that it would build a plant to produce several thousand tons of fungi proteins.
- Upside Foods (formerly known as Memphis Meat) plans its pilot plant to produce chicken using cellular agriculture.
These pilot plants are much more important than a simple experiment. Hence, if these pilot plants deliver on their promises and offer a clear path for profitability and scalability for biomass fermentation, precision fermentation and cellular agriculture ecosystems could attract much more money. We could see investments in the order of dozens of billions in the ecosystem in the coming years. Indeed, alone the meat market is huge, with more than $1.4 trillion of sales each year globally.
GROCERY DELIVERY WARS
We are trying to keep up with the announcements in the grocery delivery space (with our table of the fundings and markets served here). We also try to experiment with most of the services available on the market before reviewing them. In the meantime:
- Gorillas is looking for a $1B round that could be closed in the coming month. Interestingly, the company would be in discussions with Softbank, which is also a backer of US-based GoPuff (which raised itself a few billion and may soon be venturing in Europe). Could that lead to some gentleman agreement between the two companies to avoid competing against each other or even a larger deal?
- Getir (Turkish Dark Store startup) has raised a new round of capital of $550M and is now valued at $7.5B
European grocery delivery startups have now raised more than $2.9B in 2021.
SINCE YOU’RE HERE
- Interesting: eating plant-based could lower your risk of severe COVID-19 by 73%
- Robots are coming and they may hurt hundred of thousand of jobs in the gig economy
- While raising billions, Gorillas faced worker protests in Berlin. Was hiring riders and not using gig economy workers such a good idea?