Tyson Foods is expanding further into the plant-based protein sector. The company nnounced Monday that it has set aside $150 million to help develop new food startups; and if past investments are any indication, the world’s largest producer of meat, chicken, and pork, may be using this fund to support more plant-based protein companies.
In October, Tyson announced a five percent stake in Beyond Meat, a company that makes products including burgers, meat crumbles, and “chicken” strips from plant-based protein including peas and carrot fiber.
“This fund is about broadening our exposure to innovative, new forms of protein and ways of producing food,” Monica McGurk, executive vice president of strategy and new ventures for Tyson, says of the new venture.
McGurk notes that the stake in Beyond Meat is “just the first” of many investments that Tyson has planned with the new venture capital fund, which marks the largest investment in the sector by a major food company thus far.
The venture capital company’s investments will reportedly be focused on alternative proteins, food insecurity, reducing food waste, and improving food supply chains.
“As we look around at the landscape, there’s been a huge influx into food innovation,” McGurk said of Tyson’s decision to develop the fund.
Plant-based proteins such as the products developed by Beyond Meat are rapidly joining plant-based milks in the realm of commercially successful plant-based foods. The Star Tribune reported Sunday that dairy farmers continue to struggle with declining business as dairy milk alternatives gain in popularity.
According to Nielsen, almond milk is currently experiencing an eight percent growth rate, and Mintel reported in April that sales of dairy milk had decreased by seven percent in 2015 and would likely fall another 11 percent through 2020.
The development of this new venture capital fund is only one of Tyson’s recent changes; the company announced last month that Donnie Smith, CEO of Tyson since 2009, would be stepping down in 2017, and Tom Hayes, President of Tyson Foods, would be succeeding him.
Tyson follows companies like General Mills, Campbell Soup, and Kellogg in its development of a venture capital fund dedicated to food startups, joining the trend of evolving past a simple commodity provider into broader food company.
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