There’s no doubt that it’s been a record-breaking year for the alternative protein industry, from the world’s first regulatory approval for cell-based meat to enormous rounds of funding despite the economic downturn amidst the pandemic. To round up 2020, we’ve rounded up the ten most exciting headlines and milestones that took the alternative protein world by storm.
1. Eat Just makes history with world first regulatory approval and first-ever commercial sale of cultured meat
Shortly after winning the race to become the first to gain regulatory approval for cultured meat in Singapore, San Francisco food tech Eat Just made the world’s first-ever commercial sale of cell-based meat for human consumption to a restaurant in Singapore. The restaurant, 1880, served up cultivated chicken dishes on December 19, in what industry watchers describe as a landmark moment for the cell-based meat and wider alternative protein industry.
2. Alt protein startups in Asia-Pacific raised more than US$230 million this year
In an exclusive report compiled by Green Queen Media and alternative protein investor Michal Klar, alternative protein startups based in Asia-Pacific have over the course of 2020 managed to raise a whopping US$230 million – by far the largest amount for the region to date. The figure represents the first-ever total funding estimate for the space in Asia.
3. Israeli prime minister eats cultivated steak
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has tasted cultivated steak developed by food tech Aleph Farms, becoming the first head of a government to do so. The taste test was a part of Netanyahu’s national policy plan to propel Israel as a leader in alternative protein and pledged to support the country’s fast-growing industry.
4. McDonald’s says it will launch own line of plant-based meat
The world’s biggest fast food QSR chain made headlines when it revealed that it is launching its own plant-based meat line dubbed “McPlant”. Currently under development, McDonald’s says that the new plant-based McPlant Burger will be launching as soon as next year. The line, which food tech giant Beyond Meat says it was a co-creator for, will eventually include other meatless menu items such as chicken alternatives and more – a strong show of the mainstream demand for plant-based options.
5. E.U. votes to keep veggie burger labels
The E.U. voted against proposals that would have banned plant-based products from being labelled with “meaty” terms such as burgers and sausages, in what was hailed a win for plant-based meat makers against the continued attempts from the big meat industry and their lobbyists to slow down the mass consumer shift away from animal-based foods.
6. OmniFoods becomes first startup to land long-term partnership with McDonald’s
After launching its groundbreaking vegan “spam” substitute OmniPork Luncheon, OmniFoods, the food tech arm of Hong Kong-based Green Monday, became the first startup to launch a long-term collaboration with the Golden Arches – the “holy grail” when it comes to tapping into the fast food industry. OmniPork Luncheon is now available in six dishes across all Hong Kong and Macau McDonald’s locations.
7. Unilever sets a bold €1 billion sales target for plant-based category
In a true show of the surging demand amongst mainstream consumers for plant-based foods this year, the Anglo-Dutch consumer goods behemoth has set an ambitious headline-making global annual sales target of €1 billion (US$1.19 billion) for its plant-based meat and dairy category within the next five to seven years. To achieve its goal, Unilever will aggressively roll out more vegan-friendly alternatives amongst some of its most famous portfolio brands, from Hellmann’s mayonnaise to Magnum ice cream.
8. Impossible Foods says it will move beyond its famous bleeding burgers
Plant-based food tech Impossible Foods announced that it has plans to move beyond making its beef burger patties and create an entire technology platform to make alternatives for all types of animal-based proteins. As a part of its plan, the company is going to double the size of its R&D team, and will develop everything from fish to dairy milk.
9. Perfect Day leads the way for the explosive growth of fermentation industry
California-based food tech Perfect Day made headlines this year when it closed an incredible US$300 million Series C funding round for its fermentation dairy. The round stands as the largest venture capital fundraising in the fermentation industry’s history. It marked a turnkey point for the sector, which is now considered one of the three main pillars of alternative protein, alongside plant-based and cell-based.
10. Alt protein investment in U.S. reached US$930 million in Q1 alone to top entire 2019 total
The coronavirus didn’t stop the alternative protein industry. In fact, it saw record-shattering levels of funding pour into food techs. A report by the Good Food Institute (GFI) documented that within the U.S. alone, investment in alternative protein startups reached US$930 million by the end of the first quarter of the year – exceeding the US$824 million invested in the segment in the whole of 2019.
Lead image courtesy of Impossible Foods.