“We see the ranks of people who are reducing their meat intake growing” thanks in part to the promotion of meatless Mondays, celebrities such as Marc Bittman and Michael Pollan who are not vegan but who promote eating more plants, and a better understanding by mainstream shoppers that animal agriculture contributes to resource scarcity, global poverty and climate change, explained Bruce Friedrich, executive-director of the new non-profit The Good Food Institute.
“The big trend is meat reduction,” but to ensure the trend is sustainable and does not fade out, America needs more entrepreneurs who will seize the current momentum and launch companies and products to meet the growing demand for plant-based alternatives to meat, dairy and eggs, he said.
“The real challenge right now is to create vibrant market sectors for each of the plant-based alternatives to conventional animal products so that when people go to the grocery store or eat out at a restaurant they are just as likely to think about plant-based meat and cheese and milk as the animal-based products they regularly consume – regardless of whether they are actually vegan or vegetarian,” he added.
As a model for the potential of such market sectors, Friedrich pointed to the currently booming milk-alternative category, which according to BCC Research should reach $10.9 billion globally by 2019 with a five-year compounded annual growth rate of 13.3%.
To help accelerate the market expansion of plant-based and cultured alternatives to animal products, The Good Food Institute incorporated as a non-profit earlier this year with the ambitious mission of bringing together innovators, investors and companies with a shared vision to make “these market-disrupting products a reality,” according to Friedrich and the non-profit’s website.
Recruiting the next generation of plant-based product inventors
One of the three main ways The Good Food Institute seeks to meet this goal is by “expanding the pipeline of scientists and entrepreneurs who are interested in either starting or joining a plant-based or cultured-alternative company,” Friedrich said.
He explained the non-profit does this by working closely with top universities focused on tissue engineering, food science and entrepreneurship to educate students about the opportunities in the plant-based alternative industry.
For example, he said, the non-profit might show students interested in tissue engineering that the food sector is a viable alternative to the medical space, he said.
It also posts on its website current job opportunities at companies that promote plant-based or cultured- alternatives to animal products, such as Beyond Meat, Purple Carrot, Hampton Creek and others.
The Good Food Institute also supports its mission by supporting startups in the space.
“We operate a bit like an accelerator. We work with plant-based startup companies on any and all aspects of what they are doing. So, that means helping with media strategy, designing pitch decks or figuring out what regulatory hurdles exist or helping them pitch to venture capital firms,” Friedrich said.
He added the non-profit has a “slate of advisers and entrepreneurs in residence to help people who are new to starting companies with all aspects of starting up.”
The companies The Good Food Institute most likely will help are ones that “strike us as the most disruptive and most viable. So, we look at the founders, the specific segment of animal agriculture on which they are focused and what their company is” and the change it could make, Friedrich said.
Friedrich also is a managing trustee on the New Crop Capital, a new $25 million venture capital fund that invests exclusively in plant- and culture-based alternatives to animal agriculture. It is focused on angel, seed and series A investments and shares The Good Food Institute’s goal of creating a robust plant and cultured-based marketplace.
Finally, The Good Food Institute supports its mission by increasing the reach of high quality, plant-based products in the marketplace.
This includes helping with placement in restaurants, grocery stores and food service, according to the non-profit.
With these elements in place, Friedrich said he is excited for the future and the “huge potential” of plant-based products to improve the health of people, animals and the planet.