For a good cause: Good Startup’s commitment to the sustainable protein consumption

Gautam Godhwani, managing partner at Good Startup

What does it take for an alternative protein company to succeed? Is it flavour or finesse? Sometimes, the product is only half the story – Good Startup is dedicated to helping the best and brightest of upcoming alternative protein start-ups, delivering not only investment but also expertise, operation scale-ups, and cross-border opportunities.

Alternative protein start-ups and companies have been making their mark on the food and beverage industry in recent years. With the emergence of options such as plant-based and cell-based meats, alongside a growing demand for sustainability and accountability in the global food consumption market, alternative protein has seen a surge in both its demand and ecosystem, offering unique technologies to the market.

Good Startup, a Singapore-based venture capital firm, has been key in guiding many of these alternative protein start-ups. As written in the company’s manifesto, Good Startup is committed to removing animals from the food system through investing in alternative protein companies.

“We started the venture firm based on our observation that the current way of producing food is unsustainable, and as the population grows, animal agriculture will not be able to meet this demand.

“Our focus on the alternative protein industry reflects its potential to transform the global food supply chain by giving us the same food we enjoy today but without the unsustainable cost to the environment,” said Gautam Godhwani and Jayesh Parekh, managing partners at Good Startup.

Jayesh Parekh, managing partner at Good Startup

Means and ends

Through wielding a combination of entrepreneurial, investment, and cross border experiences, the firm seeks to help their portfolio companies accelerate and scale their business models across the American and Asian markets. This is done so across operational areas, which include Intellectual Property protection, organisation design, hiring, scale-up, and fundraising technology.

Thus far, Good Startup’s boasts an impressive portfolio of emerging alternative protein start-ups in both the United States (US) and Asia, all of whom are promising exciting changes in the industry. The firm’s portfolio includes: Eat Just, Motif FoodWorks, TurtleTree, Rebellyous Foods, Nowadays, Lypid, Avant Meats, Cultured Decadence and Novel Farms.

“By leveraging cutting-edge alternative protein technologies such as plant-based and cell-based meat production as well as microbial fermentation, our portfolio companies produce foods that consumers love without the cost to the environment and the suffering of animals.

“For instance, TurtleTree aims to produce infant milk using a proprietary cell-based process to retain the same taste and composition as milk derived from natural means. Rebellyous Foods produces plant-based chicken using leading-edge technology to deliver a great tasting product at a competitive price,” said Gautam.

Breaking borders

A further example of Good Startup’s effort is the Good Protein Fund I, a cross-border, multi-stage fund focused on inspiring innovation and growth in the alternative protein sector. The Good Protein Fund I, which attracted participation from investors such as Anil Thadani, chairman of Symphony Asia Holdings; and Tan Kim Seng, chairman of Kim Seng Holding, managed to raise US$25m.

Of the funding, Gautam commented: “Through Good Protein Fund I, we invest in companies in the alternative protein sector across plant-based, cell-based and microorganism-based technologies, both in the B2C and B2B segments. Our aim is to accelerate and scale the efforts of these innovative start-ups to help them achieve their goals, and in the process, create a better and more sustainable future for everyone.”

With their portfolio companies spread over the US and Asia, Good Startup also aims to build an alternative protein ecosystem across these two regions. This is compelled through the North Americas being a leading figure in alternative protein technology, and Asia as its projected largest market. Alongside the growing flexitarian movement – which has seen consumers exposed to a greater variety of alternative proteins in local flavours – alternative proteins could provide variety and choice in the existing mock meat culture in Asia.

According to Gautam and Jayesh, the Good Startup team has decades of work experience across the US and Asia markets. In addition to making investments, the firm connects stakeholders whenever it is relevant and impactful, such as enabling North American companies to expand to Asia, should they wish to do so.

They added: “We also bring Silicon Valley operational best practices to our portfolio companies around the world. Additionally, our advisory board comprises leading names from the US and Asia, with expertise in animal welfare, agriculture, engineering, venture capital and alternative proteins, who offer our portfolio companies with the deep knowledge and mentorship to grow, scale and expand.”

An alternative future

As a firm with both first-hand experience and insight into the alternative protein industry, Good Startup anticipates the evolution of the market into a new phase where substantial improvements to the quality and price of current alternative protein products will be offered; and products with “clean labels” will be comprised of simpler ingredient lists and better nutritional profiles, amongst other development. Citing Nowadays – one of Good Startup’s companies which uses just seven ingredients to create a healthier version of chicken nuggets as an example – the firm foresees an advancement of the supply chain, using much broader ingredients and better upstream formulations to improve manufacturing.

“Broadly, we will see products that will reach both taste and price parity utilising plant-, cell- and microorganism-based technologies. Once this occurs, we will move from the early adopter to the mainstream consumer, which will significantly increase the market size for alternative proteins. We will then see a much broader set of products on the market catering to local tastes, that is also healthier to eat,” said Gautam and Jayesh.

These changes are expected to disrupt the largest traditional protein markets, such as pork in China or dairy in India. However, before these changes happen, alternative proteins need to gain mainstream prominence, which, Gautam stated, is possible only through these products gaining taste and price parity.

He concluded: “At present, prices of alternative proteins are higher than conventional protein sources, and alternative protein companies are catering more to niche consumers. Many consumers are willing to tolerate a price premium to create diversity in their diet by eating more plants and trying novel foods. However, as prices of alternative proteins consistently become lower and eventually reach price parity, there will be a significant increase in demand for alternative protein options in the region.”

This article was published in the October/November 2021 issue of Food & Beverage Asia.