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The Forbidden City, Beijing. Image credit: rabbit75_ist / iStock

Data Snapshot: Alt-protein is now in China’s 5-year plan. Here’s how much funding it raised in 2020

February 9, 2022

Data Snapshot is a regular AFN feature in which we analyze agrifoodtech market investment data provided by our parent company, AgFunder. Click here for more research from AgFunder and sign up to our newsletters to receive alerts about new research reports.

Foodtech social media was set ablaze last week after the China highlighted cultivated meat and other “future foods” for the first time as focal areas for economic development under its top-level five-year plans.

A policy document published by China’s Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Affairs, outlining its objectives under the country’s 14th Five-Year Plan, specifically named technologies such as cell-cultured meat, synthetic egg analogs, and recombinant proteins.

Given the sheer size of China’s economy and consumer base, the inclusion of these “future foods” under its latest five-year plan — which represents its highest level of long-term socioeconomic policymaking — is seen by many in the alt-protein space as marking a major milestone for the segment.

So it seems timely to take a look at how much funding China’s “future food” startups have raised recently…

China’s Innovative Food startups scored $127 million funding in 2020

AgFunder’s most recent China Agrifood Startup Investment Report — published in partnership with Bits x Bites — covers venture funding during 2020 (somewhat fittingly, the last year of the previous 13th Five-Year Plan.)

AgFunder includes cultivated meat, plant-based proteins, and similar technologies in its ‘Innovative Food’ category.

Here are 2020’s top 10 Innovative Food deals in China (including the semi-autonomous territory of Hong Kong):

China’s biggest Innovative Food deal in 2020 went to Hong Kong’s Green Monday, which raised $70 million in a round co-led by The Rise Fund — a unit of US private equity giant TPG Capital — and Swire Pacific, an arm of Hong Kong trading house Swire.

Green Monday produces plant-based meat products under the OmniFoods brand, and also operates a grocery chain, a foodservice business, and its own VC fund.

Shenzhen-based Starfield closed no less than three funding rounds during the year, cumulatively raising around $26 million for its plant-based protein offerings.

Hong Kong’s Avant Meats scored $3 million for its cell-cultured seafood tech, while Nanjing-based Joes Future Food — the only other cultivated meat company in the top 10 — is working on pork products.

Let a hundred flowers bloom

While Innovative Food was among China’s most active upstream categories in funding terms during 2020 — raising $127 million across 26 deals — it had one of the lowest median deal sizes at just $1 million. This suggests that, while a fair number of deals were being made, most were small ticket sizes involving early-stage companies.

2021 saw several bigger deals at later stages, including for cultivated meat; Joes Future Food raised $10.9 million in October, while Avant scored an unknown amount from Vietnamese fish export giant Vinh Hoan in January.

And since the start of 2022, funding into China’s Innovative Food startups has stepped up yet another gear: Starfield banked the country’s biggest alt-protein deal yet, raising $100 million for its Series B round last month.

With the government putting its weight squarely behind the category in alignment with the 14th Five-Year Plan, we can expect plenty more dollars and deals to come.

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