Hong Kong and New York-based alternative protein venture capital fund Lever VC and Asia venture accelerator firm Brinc have announced a new joint investment fund and accelerator to support plant-based and cultivated meat and dairy meat and dairy food techs across China. The news comes as food security reaches top of mind awareness amid the coronavirus pandemic, particularly in China where the industry is still in its nascent stages but the need has never been greater.
The fund will be supported by Lever Foods, a Shanghai-based alternative protein consultancy, alongside other corporate partners and F&B leaders, including China’s largest and state-owned food processing company COFCO, dairy giant Yili, national industry trade group China Plant-Based Foods Alliance as well as global big names such as Givaudan and Cremer.
While the Lever China Alternative Protein will invest 40 million RMB (US$5.65 million) over the next for entrepreneurs and early-stage food techs focused on the mainland Chinese market, Brinc will provide the cohort with support through a three-month accelerator program, which will be stationed at the firm’s new 3,300 square-metre Guangzhou space. An additional 160 million RMB (US$22.6 million) will be available from the Lever VC Fund for follow-on funding.
Both Lever and Brinc are now accepting applications for funding and accelerator support on a rolling basis.
“With the right backing and support, alternative meat startups can bring forth fundamental and lasting change to our global food system,” said Brinc CEO Manav Gupta in a statement.
Brinc has previously backed some of Asia’s leading food tech startups and pioneers, including Hong Kong’s cultivated fish maw company Avant Meats and Malaysian plant-based pork makers Phuture Foods through its Food Tech Accelerator program launched in collaboration with impact investment firm Artesian in 2019.
“We will now be extending that platform to domestic focused founders who will be able to make a difference with localized products in what is bound to be the world’s largest alternative meat market, thanks to our partnership with Lever VC,” explained Gupta.
Lever VC has also been a core player supporting the emerging alternative protein ecosystem, with its partners Lawrence Chu and Nick Cooney being early investors in some of the biggest Silicon Valley food techs today, including Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods, Memphis Meats and JUST. Headquartered in Hong Kong with offices in New York, the venture capital is now focused on driving much-needed food tech innovation in Asia.
“China is already the world’s largest market for alternative protein products, and consumer interest is rising quickly,” said Lily Chen, program manager at Lever Foods.
“We look forward to supporting great entrepreneurs as they launch and scale innovative and delicious products — be that plant-based meat and dairy products, or real meat and dairy protein produced from fermentation or cell cultivation.”
Interest in alternative proteins in China and other Asian markets has been steadily growing in recent years due to raised health, safety and supply concerns prompted by the ongoing African swine fever (ASF) outbreak, but the coronavirus pandemic and the resurgence livestock outbreaks such as avian flu and Div1 shrimp virus has no doubt further raised calls for more sustainable and crisis-resilient protein solutions.
China’s domestic plant-based meat and dairy market alone is predicted to attract more than 120 billion RMB (US$16.9 billion) in annual sales. Over the past few weeks, the country’s food scene has been awash with new plant-based announcements, perhaps most famously Beyond Meat, Omnipork and Oatly’s landmark partnership with Starbucks nationwide.
Representing a huge business opportunity, multiple other projects have been launched focusing solely on developing China’s alternative protein space. Dao Foods, a cross-border impact sustainable protein investment venture, recently partnered with New Crop Capital to launch a new incubator project for Chinese plant-based startups.
Meanwhile, a new platform called the China Food Tech Hub has been set up to link existing food industry giants including General Mills, Danone, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo with emerging startups that are developing food solutions for the Chinese market.
Lead image courtesy of Unsplash.