The Alt Protein Sector In Asia Pacific Is Taking Off – And Women Are Playing A Big Part

While US companies including Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have been the recipients of the lion’s share of global investment into plant-based meat businesses, often accompanied by a fanfare of media headlines, an alternative protein revolution has been taking place in the Asia Pacific (APAC) region.

Investment into APAC alt protein startups over the past 12 months, between November 2019 and November 2020 was just over US$230 million – a whopping 350% (4.5X) more than total funds raised over the previous three years combined, according to data compiled by impact media platform Green Queen and Future Food Now newsletter publisher Michal Klar.

Hong Kong-based Green Queen – the largest plant-based media platform in Asia – cites a perfect storm of consumer awareness during the Covid-19 pandemic about the precariousness of our food systems, our over-reliance on animal proteins, and the devastating impacts of animal agriculture on the environment as reasons for the dramatic increase in funding.

Angel investors and venture capitalists are investing tens of millions of dollars into what they see as a massive impact opportunity to create ethical, healthy and sustainable food products.

Out of 70 startups in the APAC region identified by Green Queen and Future Now, plant-based companies took out the largest investment (86% of funds). Cell-based and fermentation-based startups received 14% of funds.

This latter figure is set to increase as cell-based meats become commercially available – something that’s likely not too far away given the recent approval by regulatory authorities in Singapore of Eat Just’s cultured chicken as an ingredient in chicken bites.

Infographic by Green Queen Media & Michal Klar

As with the US, the APAC alt protein sector has a couple of star players: Green Monday and v2food.

Green Monday, which has pioneered plant-based meat in the region with its OmniFoods arm (manufacturer of the OmniPork product series) and its retail, F&B and distribution arm Green Common, raised a record-breaking US$70 million over the past 12 months.

Meanwhile Australian startup v2food raised a total of US$80 million, earning it the title of best-funded APAC alt protein startup of the year.

Women are making waves in the space

In even more positive news, women are playing a big part in the growth of the APAC alt protein sector.

In addition to the women-led team at Green Queen, headed up by publisher and sustainability expert Sonalie Figueiras, female-founded cell-based startups have made strong in-roads.

Shiok Meats has raised US$20 million in investment dollars.

Turtle Tree received grants and funds from competition wins to develop its lab-grown human breast and animal milk.

And Avant raised US$3.1 million for its cell-based seafood company.

Women are also making an impact in plant-based innovation. We spoke to three female founders in this space:

Jenny Ng, executive director, Green Monday (Hong Kong)

Jenny Ng, executive director, Green Monday.

While Green Monday’s founder David Yeung is typically the face of this market-leading company (which raised $70 million this year), behind the scenes is a quiet yet powerful woman: executive director Jenny Ng, who heads up all operations and product development.

“Green Monday is the catalyst for social change,” she tells VWLN. “Getting people to embrace this mindful habit is what I love most. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

Bree Gaudette, co-founder, Hello Friend Foods (Australia)

Bree Gaudette, co-founder, Hello Friends.

Two years after creating her first vegan cheese product, Bree Gaudette, co-founder of Hello Friend Foods in Australia, recently raised $670,000 in an equity crowdfunding campaign.

The company currently has three products – a vegan halloumi, mozzarella and a cheese sauce – which are stocked in more than 50 outlets across Australia.

With her eye on the growth of the sector, Gaudette knew now was the time to raise funds to take the company to the next level.

“The recent boom we’ve seen in these sectors has been so encouraging to small startups, as it reflects what we knew was coming – a growing demand for high quality, delicious and ethical dairy and protein alternatives,” says Gaudette. “Consumers are making conscious choices about what they’re purchasing, which allow us to bring to market superior products that take up less resources and are ethically sound.”

Shradda Bansali, co-founder, Evo Foods (India)

Shradda Bansali, co-founder, Evo Foods.

Interest in the alt protein sector in India is piquing. Next year sees the launch of a new investment fund through a partnership between New York and Singapore-based venture capital firm Big Idea Ventures and Indian retail finance services firm Ashika Group. Supported by the Good Food Institute (India), it’s set to support alternative protein innovation in the region.

Shradda Bansali, co-founder of Evo Foods, which makes a vegan egg product, is excited about the potential to scale her startup.

“We’re experiencing a mammoth interest from Indian investors,” says Bansali. “The industry itself is a nascent one so it will take some time for the interest to convert into actual cheques. Indian investors, especially those who have funded emerging brands, understand the market dynamics and product positioning better.

“Within a year or two, alternative protein products will pop up everywhere in major cities in India and with that there will an uptick in investments. We hope to be on the forefront of that and we are providing many investors the necessary information to create a thesis around alternative protein.”

Read the full data from the APAC Alt Protein Funding Update 2020 by Green Queen and Future Now.

Featured image at top: Via Omnipork


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