Highlight: 18 Corporates Investing in High-Impact Foodtech Startups

Anna Ottosson
Feb 15, 2021 · 6 min read

There’s no shortage of large corporations looking to work with startups in one way or another. For high-impact foodtech startups considering working with The Big Guys; in this post we’ve highlighted 18 of the world’s largest corporates with a history of investing in the space.

Photo by Benjamin Child on Unsplash

The urge from large corporates to work with high-impact foodtech startups is illustrated by CVC deals, corporate sponsored accelerators and other type of startup collaborations. Just in the last few weeks we’ve for example seen PepsiCo team up with Beyond Meat to make plant-based snacks and drinks, and food and ag giants like Tyson Foods and ADM participate in Future Meat Technologies’ latest investment round.

For high-impact foodtech startups out there considering working with The Big Guys we’ve put together this post to highlight 18 of the world’s largest corporates with a history of investing in the space.

Bayer: a German multinational pharmaceutical and life sciences corporation, which is about to start manufacturing the mRNA Covid vaccine, and has made several high impact investments through its venture capital arm, Leaps By Bayer. In January, it was part of a series B funding round for Ukko, a biotech firm working towards eliminating food allergies and sensitivities, plus vertical farming specialist Unfold in August 2020. It has otherwise focused on the biotech and medtech sectors.

Bel Group: the French cheese producer behind brands such as BabyBel and Boursin ventured into impact technology through its investment in plant-based yoghurt startup Yofix in 2020.

Bell Food Group: one of the leading processors of meat and convenience products in Europe, has made a couple of investments into cultured meat startup Mosa Meat, most recently in September 2020.

Campbell’s: the US food and snack corporation has a venture capital arm, Acre Venture Partners, investing in the future of food and agriculture. Its portfolio includes Boston-based Spoiler Alert, which received funding in 2016 and 2018 to develop its food waste-reducing agtech technology platform, and Mori, whose food coating made with protein extracted from silk extends food shelf life, which received funding in 2020.

Cargill: this US giant has made many investments into the future of food through its venture arm Cargill Ventures. It’s poured funding into California cell-based meat tech Memphis Meats several times, most recently in January 2020. It backed Israeli cultivated meat firm Aleph Farms in 2019, and has participated in several funding rounds for North American pea protein producer PURIS just to name a few.

Danone: the French dairy giant has made several major investments in recent years through Danone Manifesto Ventures, its corporate venture arm, whose mission is to create a healthy and sustainable future of food. In 2020 it backed food waste-resolver app Hungry Harvest, which “rescues” fruits, vegetables and other grocery items that would otherwise be thrown out due to surplus or retail cosmetic standards, and delivers them directly to its subscribers’ homes. In the same year, it also invested in French food waste management startup Phenix, and Nature’s Fynd, a company that develops microbe-based proteins for meat substitutes, having earlier been part of its series A funding round in 2019.

General Mills: a CPG corporation which manufactures well-known branded products, while its venture arm, 301 INC, invests in emerging food brands to elevate them to the next level. Many of these make great products, such as NextFoods, whose probiotic food and beverage brand GoodBelly received funding from 301 INC in 2018. But some of them are high impact, such as Urban Remedy, a premium plant-based retailer based in California, which received funding in 2018, and plant-based seafood startup Good Catch, which received funding in 2020.

Kellogg’s: the cereal company’s venture capital arm is called Eighteen94 Capital, after the year Kellogg’s was founded. In 2020, it invested in sustainable plant protein startup Plantible Foods and took part in a series D funding round for fermented funghi firm MycoTechnology, in which it had previously invested several times.

Kraft Heinz: its investment arm, Evolv Ventures, seeks to fund emerging technologies across the food value chain. It started with Grubmarket, a startup that connects local farmers directly with restaurants and businesses to sell their wares, in 2019. It then moved swiftly into investing in alternative protein through New Culture, which creates animal-free dairy in a lab, followed by other lower-impact investments.

Merck: one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, its venture arm, M Ventures, was most recently part of Mosa Meat’s series B funding round in 2020, having also invested in the Dutch cell-based food tech in the few years prior. It has made tonnes of other investments, but mainly sticks to the medtech and biotech sectors.

Müller: the German dairy giant cornered the dairy-free market with its investment into plant-based yoghurt startup Yofix in 2020, and has previously made investments into all kinds of startups in other sectors.

Paulig Group: this Finnish food corporation just invested in Switzerland’s only cultivated meat startup (so far), Mirai Foods in January, having invested in Danish startup Kaffe Bueno, which upcycles coffee waste from Paulig’s Vuosaari roastery into high-value ingredients for cosmetics, nutraceuticals and functional foods, in October 2020.

PepsiCo: the Beyond Meat collaboration isn’t PepsiCo’s only foray into high impact technology. It funds its own Greenhouse Accelerator, in which ten ‘emerging, purpose-driven health & wellness companies’ from across the food & beverage sector receive a $20,000 grant and access to the six month incubator program, and at the end one winning company receives an additional $100,000. In 2018, the winner was Yofix, which develops and manufactures dairy and soy-free fermented plant-based pre and probiotic foods.

PHW Gruppe: this German giant is one of Europe’s biggest poultry producers, and is branching out into the alternative protein space with its startup investments. It partnered with Israeli cell-based meat startup SuperMeat in 2018 to bring its R&D to Europe. In the same year, it also ploughed money into plant-based seafood startup Good Catch and sustainable producer of insect-based animal feed Enterra Feed. In 2019, it backed Redefine Meat, which 3D prints animal-free meat.

Strauss Group: one of the largest food products manufacturers in Israel. So far it has made investments in Yofix in 2017, and in cell-based meat startup Aleph Farms in 2019, which is one of the many companies that has participated in Strauss’ own incubator The Kitchen. Other The Kitchen alumns include food safety startup Inspecto, a mobile device for the immediate detection of toxins in food or raw materials, and vegan egg substitute startup Zero Egg.

Syngenta: an agricultural chemical company with a wide investment portfolio, including some which are undisclosed, focused on improving global food security by enabling farmers to make better use of available resources. It has also made several acquisitions in the same field.

Tyson Foods: this US meat major’s venture capital arm, Tyson Ventures, is all over alternative protein startups. They are one of the backers of Singapore-based fund and accelerator Big Idea Ventures, focused on Asia’s plant-based and cellular agriculture sectors. One of the early investors in Beyond Meat back in 2016, they have also invested in cell-based meat startup Memphis Meats, Future Meat Technologies, and cultivated shrimp startup New Wave Foods.

Vinh Hoan Corporation: the world’s largest fish producer partnered with cell-based seafood tech Avant Meats in January this year.

Otherwise, it’s not uncommon for supermarket chains to partner with accelerators. For example, ALDI partners with Munich based TechFounders, and Coop Sweden was a key sponsor of Bloomer in 2020, focused on startups aiming to reshape he food system for a more sustainable world. In the UK, Sainsbury’s supports startups and small brands with its Future Brands Incubator scheme, and Tesco’s own Incubator mentors sustainable and plant-based brands in both food and non-food.

Trellis Road

A micro fund investing in early stage high-impact foodtech startups globally.

Trellis Road

Trellis Road is a micro fund investing in high-impact foodtech startups globally. It was started in 2020 by Anna & Erik, two ex-founders with a strong focus on impact. They typically invest $200k-$500k in pre-seed and seed rounds of extremely ambitious startups.

Anna Ottosson

Written by

Investor at Trellis Road

Trellis Road

Trellis Road is a micro fund investing in high-impact foodtech startups globally. It was started in 2020 by Anna & Erik, two ex-founders with a strong focus on impact. They typically invest $200k-$500k in pre-seed and seed rounds of extremely ambitious startups.