The new investment fund is dubbed Better Bite Ventures, which recently announced the first 10 companies in its portfolio that will benefit from its $15 million fund. Of these, four are cell culture companies, three are plant-based and two use fermentation technology, meaning the fund aims to cover all the bases.
“We will invest in 20 to 30 start-ups in total for this fund, and these top 10 companies in the portfolios [are a good representation of what we want to do] as they come from diverse geographies and technological approaches, [all of which] we believe it has the potential to transform the food system for the better,”Michal Klar, General Partner of Better Bites Ventures, said FoodNavigator-Asia.
“We believe that all of these technologies have a role to play in transforming the protein market, so we decided to support them all – plant-based products are obviously here and now and growing rapidly, [whereas] it’s earlier for fermentation and cultured products, but they’re also gradually coming to market, like in Singapore, the first country to approve cultured meat products.
“Ice cream made with fermentation-derived, animal-free precision whey protein is [also already] available for purchase in Hong Kong, [and] in the years to come, many more of these products [made with these various technologies] will be launched across the APAC region.
“There are great founders creating start-ups in each of these areas in APAC, [and] a strong talent pool [so we believe] great founding teams will come from here, both on the side of plant agriculture and cellular agriculture.
In order to have the most impact, Better Bites Ventures first focuses its investments on companies that are striving to change the most “massive” animal protein categories.
“We believe true impact and returns can only be realized in a large enough market, which is why we are investing in alternatives to massive categories like meat, seafood, dairy and eggs,”Klar added.
Many of the names in the fund are very familiar to FoodNavigator-Asia, including Change Foods and Fable Food in Australia, Green Rebel Foods in Indonesia and Next Gen Foods in Singapore which have been around for some time, in addition to new players such as CellX in China (meat grown from cells) and Blue Canopy (biomass fermentation) and the Australian Me& (cell-based milk).
Several of these companies also received backing from Klar and the fund’s other general partner, Simon Newstead, even before the launch of Better Bites Ventures, such as Green Rebel Foods. When we spoke to the company’s co-founder, Helga Angelina, in February last year, the company had just closed its seed funding round and was only focused on local expansion, but a bit more. a year, it is now targeting international markets.
“We maintain a strong focus on authentic Indonesian and Southeast Asian flavors as well as a strong nutritional profile [as our main value proposition because] these can help boost the appeal of plant-based foods here,” Angelina told us.
“Michal and Simon believed in us and our potential from day one, through all the ups and downs. Having their support and guidance has really helped us as we have grown and now expand internationally [to more markets such as Singapore and Malaysia]”.
In addition to its locally inspired plant-based meats, Green Rebel also has vegan cheese in its portfolio and has signed partnership deals with several big names in Indonesia such as Starbucks, Domino’s, Pepper Lunch, IKEA and more.
“Successes like these [show that] these products are starting to spread in Jakarta and other major SEA cities as well, [and] we believe that alternative proteins will eventually become mainstream in all APAC markets, but of course some will be faster than others,”Newstead told us.
“This development is generally tied to demographics, and so far we see consumers in Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand most interested in these products – Consumer research in these markets shows that a third or more consumers identify as flexitarians and the number is growing – but we also see great potential in China, India and major markets in Southeast Asia.
An early stage for maximum impact
In addition, the fund also focuses on investing in the early stages of a start-up and encourages all alternative protein companies in the APAC region to apply.
“We invest in the very early stages, often before a product is available or only a first prototype”,Clar said.
It’s about laying the foundation for future growth – depending on the technology profile, cultured meat or seafood start-ups can use [the funds] for [boost] their R&D, for example making the first prototype; while plant-based start-ups can use it to scale up production and fund early sales and marketing efforts to get their product to more consumers.
“Simon and I were founders and operators [so in addition to the monetary support]we also have an extensive network and relevant relationships [that can help] the companies in our portfolio are fueling their growth, whether it’s media, partners or additional investors for future funding rounds.
When asked what the next stage of development for the alternative protein industry is likely to be at this point, with plant-based products already in the lead and on retail shelves, but cell-cultured and fermented products a little further from becoming mainstream, Newstead said the next phase will likely be hybrid plant-meat products.
“We believe that hybrid products – for example, plant-based meat with cultured fat – will take current products to the next level in taste and mouthfeel,”he told us.
Better Bites Ventures is also funding a still-unnamed molecular farming startup as part of its first round of investments.