What do Bill Gates, Richard Branson and Leonardo DiCaprio all have in common?
Aside from vast wealth and fame, all three are backing “alt- meat” – a fake meat they say has all the taste but none of the climate problems that come with traditional cattle farming.
“If you’re able to create a product that tastes, smells, feels, looks and costs the same as ground beef, yet is made from plant-based materials, it’s a very large market,” said venture capitalist Samir Kaul.
Kaul is a partner at Khosla Ventures, which along with Microsoft founder Gates, has invested millions of dollars in Impossible Foods, which produces the Impossible Burger.
Impossible because it is not meat, but part of a growing market in products that – unlike bean or Quorn burgers – simulate meat rather than just replace it with a veggie option.
The meat substitutes market will be worth nearly $6 billion by 2022, according to research firm Markets and Markets.
But industry analysts are cautious about the potential.
The United States is a nation of meat eaters – 98 per cent eat it at least once a week, according to Darren Seifer, a food consumption analyst for market research group NPD.
“For success in the food industry you have to be patient. What we eat and drink is culturally based and very habitual. It might take as long as a decade to see if there is any moving the needle,” Seifer told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
There are a handful of international companies like Impossible producing meat that does not involve animals being killed, deforestation or significant production of greenhouse gases. Impossible says its burger creates 87 percent less greenhouse gas emissions than a meat equivalent.
About 80 percent of all agricultural land is dedicated to grazing or growing feed for animals, the United Nations says. The livestock industry consumes 10 percent of the world’s fresh water, while generating methane and other planet-warming emissions, and causing large-scale deforestation.
In December, Beyond Meat, whose products look like meat but are made of plants, announced they had received investment of $55m from two investors with decidedly meaty credentials.
Tyson Foods, which produces a fifth of all animals eaten in the United States, was one; the other was Cleveland Avenue, a venture capital firm run by the former McDonalds Corp. CEO Don Thompson.
“There are many issues that impact upon climate change, but few as negatively as livestock,” Richard Branson wrote in a blog post explaining why he had put his money into Memphis Meats, which is growing meat from animal cells in laboratories.
In the same blog, the Virgin boss revealed he had given up beef because of rainforest degradation.
Gates too has expressed concern for the environment in a blog post entitled: ‘Is there enough meat for everyone?’
“How can we make enough meat without destroying the planet?—one solution would be to ask the biggest carnivores (Americans and others) to cut back, by as much as half,” he wrote.
The two biggest players that have gone to market in the United States – Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods – have now seen investment of more than $300 million.
full story – Reuters