Plant-based opportunity? “The time for food tech is now,” says venture capital investor

Plant-based opportunity? “The time for food tech is now,” says venture capital investor
Click here to view original web page at
636848706412207033growing money coin sustainable business.jpg

04 Feb 2019 --- Plant-based alternatives to animal proteins and crop gene editing tools are among the most promising areas for food technology investment right now, but the highly exciting field of cellular agriculture may be just too far down the horizon for traditional venture capital investors. This is according to Niccolo Manzoni, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Five Seasons Ventures, a Paris-based venture capital firm focusing on the food and agricultural technology space. He also singled out pet food and personalized nutrition as platforms that the investment company, with a fund size of more than €75 million, is looking towards.

“The area that we are getting excited about is the shift away from animal-derived proteins, whether meat, dairy or both,” Manzoni tells FoodIngredientsFirst in a detailed interview.

He lists three main approaches when it comes to any non-animal derived protein.

Niccolo Manzoni, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Five Seasons Ventures

Relatively speaking, the most simple platform is plant-based alternatives, says Manzoni, who has been investing in Food Tech since 2014, and created and managed a portfolio of 10 high-profile Food Tech companies, including Impossible Foods, Clara Foods, Beyond Meat, JUST, Perfect Day and Clear Labs, as part of a leading European family office.

“This is a super exciting area that we are looking at very closely. We are seeing companies emerging across Europe and the world as a whole, who are coming up with meat or dairy mimicking products and appealing to consumers. Companies such as Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat have proven that you can make delicious products at the right price,” he claims.

The second platform, in order of complexity, is the fermentation-based alternative protein space. “You could think of Quorn in the UK, for example, which has expanded internationally. It usually requires high capital expenditure since the fermenters are quite expensive. But the product coming out of the other end is pretty good,” he notes. “Quorn is by far the most successful and perhaps the first to use some outstanding technology and processes to make a plant-based product out of fermentation,” Manzoni adds.

The third platform relates to cellular agriculture, including clean meat, which operates at the forefront of technology. “It’s extremely deep technology that is basically about creating a new body of science. And it is potentially extremely revolutionary, but at the same time you should consider that because it is so asymmetrical, it could be a revolution or go down to zero,” he warns.

Because of the high technological risk and the fact that it is a field where, until very recently, nobody has been active before, cellular agriculture could carry huge rewards for successful innovators and investors. First regulatory and consumer concern constraints need to be overcome, however. “It will be important to have consumer acceptance of a product that gets manufactured in a petri dish as opposed to coming from an animal. Some consumers may find this concept ok, but for others, it may seem like ‘Frankenfood,’ which is not something that consumers are traditionally interested in,” says Manzoni.

Realistically, the first commercial product launch of a “clean meat” product at a small scale, is at least 5-7 years away. “In terms of mainstreaming, we are in my view over 10 years away,” he adds.

Through a leading European family office, Manzoni previously invested in US-based in vitro meat innovator Memphis Meats, where he gained significant exposure to this space. “Because of the time horizons, it doesn’t lend itself to the timeline of a traditional venture capital fund, which is usually 10 years,” he explains. “Having said that, we are seeing a number of funds who are taking an interest in this space. Rounds are happening and there is definitely an investable interest. This is because of the potential for this industry to really turn things upside down,” he adds.

Another promising field in the agricultural technology space is gene editing. Manzoni has a board seat on Tropic Biosciences, which is a company in which his company has invested.

Tropic Biosciences develops “high-performing commercial varieties of tropical crops which promote grower wellbeing, enhance consumer health and improve sustainable environmental practices, using cutting edge genetic editing technologies.”

“Tropic Biosciences is applying gene editing and CRISPR technology to tropical crops to start with, specifically bananas and coffee,” Manzoni explains. “They are working on specific traits which make this product either overcome some specific disease, which is maybe affecting some of these crops, or creating some consumer traits which make the products either tastier or better for the consumers or making some traits which are closer to the producers or processors of coffee,” he says. This could, for example, include lengthening the shelf-life of these products.

The investor believes that the time for food tech is now. “I think there has never been a better time for food and agri-tech to raise money than the current environment for food tech entrepreneurs and start-ups within the space,” he says. Manzoni notes evolving consumer demands, the slow response from the major incumbent food & beverage companies and the reduced cost in scientific discovery as key factors in this.

A recent report that Five Seasons authored with DealRoom on The State of European Food Tech 2018 found that an estimated investment of €1 billion was made in “next generation” food tech companies in 2018. There was 63 percent annual growth in investment in “next gen” since 2013, in 1,241 companies. Europe produced 9 unicorns (companies with a value of €1bn turnover or more) in Food Tech, in the Food Delivery segment in the past five years, for example, according to the report. You can download it here.

Innova Market Insights recently listed “Small Player Mindset” as a key trend for 2019, where small players are shaking up the food & beverage industry by taking on the classic FMCG giants in an increasingly high-tech arena. Their role as thought leaders has driven multinational companies and legacy brands to invest in them – and learn from them. “Many of the big boys are venturing into the funding space or setting up investment competitions. Kombucha, cellular agriculture, clean meat and insect proteins are just some of the on-trend platforms in this golden age of creativity,” the market researcher notes. A 2018 Innova Market Insights trends survey found that two in five consumers in both the US and UK prefer small brands “because they are more dedicated to their products and have a personal story.”

So what else will Five Seasons Ventures be investing in this year and beyond? “We have a few themes that we are going after,” Manzoni says. “We think that in the food tech space, there are a few areas where there is a combination of factors making it investable. Also, there are many start-ups making it exciting,” he notes.

One of them is pet food. “This is an exciting area where there hasn’t been a huge amount of innovation in recent years. Now we are seeing interesting early stage companies, using a combination of new product formulations, personalized pet food, direct-to-consumer distribution models and a number of other innovations,” Manzoni explains.

Secondly, Five Seasons is also looking closely into personalized nutrition as a theme. “This is the ‘holy grail’ of the food industry. It is about giving a consumer exactly what they need from a nutritional standpoint to feel well and to lead a positive life. In that sense, we are seeing some companies with several business models that can deliver either personalized supplements to consumers, or even personalized meals and nutrition solutions,” he concludes.

A detailed interview with Niccolo Manzoni, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Five Seasons Ventures, including advice for food and agri-technology start-ups will appear in the February issue of Innova Food & Beverage Innovation.

By Robin Wyers

To contact our editorial team please email us at

Super Bowl Sunday: Plant-based snacking rises, while cheese and chicken reign supreme

01 Feb 2019 --- Plant-based snacks are gaining traction as an alternative go-to snack this Super Bowl Sunday as more Americans than ever before shift to vegan or vegetarian food choices. However, chicken (particularly buffalo-style wings) and cheese are still dominant snacking staples as American football lovers gather for the sporting event of the year, a day that has become just as much of a food-centric holiday as Thanksgiving and Christmas. The Super Bowl food surge is on – so what will be in the snacking starting line-up for the big game when the Los Angeles Rams take on the New England Patriots in Atlanta, Georgia?

Food Ingredients News

Funding success: MycoTechnology raises US$30m in Series C financing round

01 Feb 2019 --- Food-tech company MycoTechnology has raised US$30 million in new investments after closing a Series C funding round co-led by S2G Ventures Fund II, L.P., Middleland MT Holdings, LLC, ADM Capital's Cibus Fund and TML-Invest S.a r.l. Further participation in the round came from Tysons Ventures, Bunge Ventures Limited, Continental Grain Company, Eighteen94 Capital, LLC (Kellogg's) and DNS-Hiitake LLC. The investments will take the company’s total funding to over US$80 million and are expected to fuel expansion and accelerate R&D. According to the company, this funding round will open up an opportunity to explore consumer demands and bring novel ingredients to the market.

“Concerning levels” of arsenic, cadmium and lead discovered in fruit juices, reveals Consumer Reports

31 Jan 2019 --- Non-profit US organization Consumer Reports (CR) has found “concerning levels” of heavy metals in almost half of the 45 popular fruit juices it tested. In a follow-up to previous tests in 2011, CR looked at four flavors (apple, fruit juice blends, grape and pear) from 24 national, store and private-label brands. Following the tests, CR is calling on the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to set “aggressive targets for cadmium, inorganic arsenic, and lead, in all fruit juices.”

Low alcohol beverages offer opportunities to paper-based packaging suppliers: Smurfit Kappa

31 Jan 2019 --- Saxon Packaging (which is owned by Smurfit Kappa, one of the world's largest manufacturers of paper-based packaging products), has revealed a 61 percent increase (compared to 2017) in demand for packaging solutions for low and non-alcoholic beverages from its customers. Additionally, the company notes a staggering 377 percent increase (compared to 2017) in the quantity of drinks packaging manufactured for use in the low and non-alcoholic beverage market. Saxon Packaging believes the rise of Generation Z (16-25-year-old) consumers is a driving factor behind this type of behavior.

Resilient barley: AB InBev partnership harnesses predictive breeding to create sustainable varieties

31 Jan 2019 --- The world’s largest brewer, Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev), has joined forces with a US crop improvement company to employ a cutting-edge platform to improve barley yields, diversify crops and bolster barley breeding. By tapping into the predictive breeding methods of Benson Hill Biosystems solutions, the Belgium-based brewers will be using technology that accelerates the development of higher yielding and sustainable barley varieties which require less water and fewer natural resources.

More Articles

What do you think?

0 points
Upvote Downvote

Total votes: 0

Upvotes: 0

Upvotes percentage: 0.000000%

Downvotes: 0

Downvotes percentage: 0.000000%


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *





Investors are hungry for meat-replacement technologies

Investors are hungry for meat-replacement technologies

he Disruption in Food and Sustainability Summit (DFSS)

Disruption in Food & Sustainability Summit 29 MARCH, 2019, SINGAPORE