The plant-based food space has taken huge strides in the past few years. Whether it’s for personal health, climate change, human rights issues, or animal welfare, an estimated 30 percent of Americans have been cutting back on their consumption of meat and dairy and bringing vegetables to the center of their plate. One-third of Americans now identify as flexitarian and there’s been a huge increase in the demand for “clean” plant-based protein. Thanks to growing awareness that meat is not the healthiest or the most sustainable source of protein, demand for alternative protein sources are at an all time high. According to some estimates, the plant-based meat market is set to reach $5.2 billion by 2020 and could make up one-third of the market by 2050. In that light, it’s no wonder that even meat companies are investing in this growing market.
Back in October, the world’s largest meat processor Tyson Foods Inc, the parent company of brands like of Jimmy Dean, Ball Park Franks, and Hillshire Farms, announced they would be investing in Beyond Meat. Beyond Meat has been a front-runner in the space and has gained notoriety for their use of pea protein, a clean, soy-free, and gluten-free protein source. This company is also known for creating the first veggie burger to be sold next to meat in the frozen section of the grocery store. If that wasn’t enough of a shocker from America’s largest meat producer, Tyson Foods also recently announced the launch of Tyson New Ventures LLC, a $150 million venture capital fund. According to Forbes, the fund will “complement its existing investments and will focus on companies that are developing ‘breakthrough’ technology and business models.” Considering that his is a smart business move on Tyson’s part. According to a statement by Tyson’s executive vice president of strategy, Monica McGurk, “this fund is about broadening our exposure to innovative, new forms of protein and ways of producing food.”
Some may be hesitant to embrace meat industry giants like Tyson getting involved in the plant-based sector, but we are reaching a time where the question of how we are going to feed a growing population that is set to reach nine billion by 2050 cannot be ignored. Demand for protein in the developed and developing world is at an all-time high, with the average person in the U.S. consuming 103 grams per day, around double the actual recommended amount. The animal agriculture system already covers over 45 percent of the world’s land mass, uses a majority of finite freshwater water resources, and is responsible for rampant air and water pollution – not to mention is the largest singular source of global greenhouse gas emissions. Even with all the resources that this industry uses, nearly one billion people still go hungry. The fact is, we need venture capital firms like this one from Tyson to get involved in shifting our broken food system away from animal agriculture and towards a more sustainable one centered around plant-based proteins instead.
If there’s any indication that the future of food is here, it’s Tyson’s focus on expanding their protein portfolio to center around new innovative brands in the planet-based space. Hopefully, this will mean faster growth for plant-based food, making it readily available to more consumers.
Lead image source: Beyond Meat