Through the early weeks of the pandemic, fake meat sales grew some 200% at retail, and that hype helped drive the sector to secure more than $2 billion in funding. A lot of that came from venture capitalists, who continued to pour money into alternative protein startups in 2021, as funding neared a record $4 billion, according to PitchBook.
But last year, actual sales of fake meat stagnated. And, after Beyond Meat’s latest earnings flop, some analysts are worried about the long-term potential for commercial adoption of these tech-enabled foods.
“This market is going to take time to develop on its own,” John Baumgartner, managing director and senior consumer equity research analyst at Mizuho Americas, told me. “You can’t force feed it to people.”
The food industry will need to make necessary changes to how production happens at scale as climate change intensifies, and there’s still not enough time to waste on the wrong adaptions. But a mismatch is emerging. Is too much funding backing too many similar ideas with not enough potential? Technified, plant-based foods only scratch the surface of the kinds of solutions that are being experimented with on farms and beyond to feed an intensifying planet.
— Chloe Sorvino, Staff Writer
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Chloe Sorvino leads coverage of food and agriculture as a staff writer on the enterprise team at Forbes. Her nearly eight years of reporting at Forbes has brought her to In-N-Out Burger’s secret test kitchen, drought-ridden farms in California’s Central Valley, burnt-out national forests logged by a timber billionaire, a century-old slaughterhouse in Omaha, and even a chocolate croissant factory designed like a medieval castle in Northern France. Her book, Raw Deal: Hidden Corruption, Corporate Greed and the Fight for the Future of Meat , will publish in December 2022 with Simon & Schuster’s Atria Books.
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