Although this pair of CEOs are vegans, they're adamant about not preaching veganism or vegetarianism to the masses. Instead, they say they are part of the sustainable food movement, which includes the existing spate of soy-based meat substitutes as well as organics and free-range animals.
They're among a growing group of global leaders who are making it their business to confront the dramatic growth of the world's population, estimated to exceed 9 billion by 2050, which would require raising overall food production by at least 70 percent, the FAO reports. A huge burden on the planet's livestock, land, water and other resources.
So while Brown and Tetrick decry the global multitrillion-dollar Big Food industry for wreaking havoc on farm animals and the environment, they're also passionate about pioneering better-for-you alternatives that make great business sense—just without proselytizing. And although they're confident that their plant-based products, bioengineered to mimic beef and eggs, will appeal to omnipresent omnivores, like-minded venture capitalists are already voracious.
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"I'm interested in both companies because they're disrupting the food industry, which is long overdue," said Samir Kaul, a partner at Khosla Ventures, the first among numerous VC firms and private investors to have infused $120 million into Hampton Creek and $75 million into Impossible Foods. "Both of them are providing food that is as good if not better, as cheap if not cheaper, and much healthier and more humanely made."
Similarly, socially-minded financial backers of those and other food-tech start-ups—such as Beyond Meat, Modern Meadow, Unreal Candy, Nu-Tek Salt and Bright Farms—include Microsoft's Bill Gates, Peter Thiel of Founders Fund, Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing's Horizons Ventures, and twin brothers and serial investors Ali and Hadi Partovi.
That's because the market these disruptive companies are targeting is ripe for change. "Raising meat takes a great deal of land and water and has a substantial environmental impact," Gates wrote on his personal blog, Gatesnotes.com. "Put simply, there's no way to produce enough meat for 9 billion people. Yet we can't ask everyone to become vegetarians. That's why we need more options for producing meat without depleting our resources."
Dichotomy turns out to be a major ingredient in Hampton Creek's and Impossible Foods' recipes for success. It goes beyond marketing meat replacements to unapologetic meat eaters, beginning with the formulation of the products themselves. Hampton Creek unleashed a team of data scientists and computational biologists to analyze nearly 4,000 plant molecules and build a reasonable facsimile of the chicken egg, using proteins from the Canadian yellow pea and an American variety of sorghum.