The start-up world continues to do interesting things in the world of lab-grown food. Meat (“Fake meat is all the rage”, newsletter #14) and dairy, including the seemingly insoluble problem of vegan cheese (see, “More on animal-replacement startups”, newsletter #38), have come a long way — but they’re still just the tip of the iceberg. Last week, New Wave Foods raised an $18mm US Series-A round to go after the shrimp market. Their product is “plant based”, using a combination of plant proteins and seaweed, so it’s not completely lab grown (seaweed farming, by the way, is a whole other interesting topic, if you want to dive down some rabbit hole). The global market for shrimp is currently $9 billion. Everything in the food space is big, even niches. Today, there are lots of reasons* for people to move to plant-based diets, whether it’s that meat is bad for the environment, that you want to be like a gladiator, or maybe just that you like the Terminator. There definitely seems to be a zeitgeist around plant-based diets, and so if you’re looking for a new wave to ride, this is probably a good time to get on this one. I predict we’ll see lots more start-ups tackling more and more niches from a plant-based perspective. Maybe none of them will be the next Apple, but it’s easy to imagine that one of them could be the next Kraft.
* They don’t have to be good reasons to move the market: there’s a good argument to be made that beef is better for the environment than the plants we grow; Arnie may genuinely be a fan of vegetables, but he might also be shilling for the plant-based movement because he’s a shrewd operator and launched Ladder (a vegan wellness brand) with LeBron James, Lindsey Vonn, and Cindy Crawford back in 2018; and, sure, maybe gladiators ate mostly a plant-based diet, but do we think that’s because they had tremendous biological insight, or because they were slaves (remember Spartacus?)