Snacking 2.0: Startups Shaping the Future of Food

We analyzed startups that have raised funding since 2016 to identify trending ingredients such as pea protein, spirulina, mushroom protein, and more.

CB Insights
Nov 10, 2017 · 4 min read

As new food-focused startups are changing the lineup on grocery store shelves, plant-based ingredients are all the rage.

Using CB Insights data, we analyzed food and beverage startups that have raised investment since 2016 to surface 5 top trending ingredients, which show up on many of their recipes lists:

  1. Probiotics
  2. Pea Protein
  3. Seaweed
  4. Matcha and yerba mate
  5. Mushroom protein

Scroll down to view more detailed descriptions of these ingredients, with infographics highlighting the recently funded startups using each one.


Probiotics are live microorganisms that help support digestive health. Traditionally found in yogurt, kimchi, and other fermented foods, startups have been integrating probiotics into beverages, protein powders, and more.

Food incumbents are leveraging the probiotics trend by forming relationships with startups. General Mills’ venture fund 301 INC has made several probiotic plays, backing probiotic drink and snack startup Farmhouse Culture and probiotic granola startup Purely Elizabeth. Probiotic beverage startup Revive Kombucha, which recently launched a kombucha/coffee crossover product, attracted $7.5M from Peet’s Coffee in August.


Pea protein may not be as well known yet as whey protein or soy protein, but it has gained traction among startups such as Ripple Foods. Pea protein has no dairy, which makes it easier to digest than whey protein for many people. It is also gluten-free.

We see pea protein showing up in protein supplement startups, such as Skoop and Revere; low calorie ice cream, such as Wink; and even in Beyond Meat, which sells its plant-based meat substitutes in dozens of top grocery chains throughout the US. Traditional meat leader Tyson backed Beyond Meat in late 2016 (through Tyson New Ventures), and the startup recently added Leonardo DiCaprio to its list of investors.

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Seaweed is good for more than sushi. Startups are using seaweed, algae, and spirulina (a type of algae high in protein, amino acids, vitamin B, and iron) in a variety of plant-based products. UK startup Oppo even uses spirulina in its high-protein, low-calorie ice cream. Other startups, such as Hum Nutrition and Moon Juice, more directly emphasize seaweed’s nutritive value by offering it in powder form.

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Matcha and yerba mate are meeting consumer desire for healthy energy. Matcha, a powdered form of green tea, combines antioxidants and caffeine with an Instagram-friendly bright green color that’s pushed it onto coffee shop menus over the past few years.

Many beverage startups now offer ready-to-drink matcha lattes, including REBBL. MatchaBar, which recently added singer Drake to its investor list, operates matcha cafes and sells bottled drinks. Other startups, such as detox beverage brand Dirty Lemon, focus on matcha’s metabolism benefits.

Yerba mate, which hails from South America, is a tree leaf high in caffeine. Startup Guayaki aims to introduce American shoppers to yerba mate through flavored energy drinks, while startups like Revive Kombucha combine the ingredient with probiotics.

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Mushrooms aren’t typically associated with sweet foods. However, startups are integrating reishi and other mushrooms into coffees, vanilla protein powders, and drinkable meals. Startup MycoTechnology — recently backed by Kellogg’s fund Eighteen94 Capital — uses mushroom molecules to create a vegan protein source.

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So, feeling hungry yet? As you crack open a Soylent with the boys and nibble on some seaweed chips, check out 8 other trending ingredients on our research portal or see how food industry giants are fighting against well-funding startups eating up their market share.

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