17 tech moguls and celebrity investors in plant-based businesses: Chris Smalling’s VC firm ForGood invests in The Vurger Co

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AUTHOR: Stef Bottinelli

With global warming, environmental issues, animal welfare and public health being more urgent than ever, it’s no wonder many people are switching to a vegan, vegetarian or flexitarian diet, and tech moguls and celebrities are taking note by investing in plant-based start-ups.

The plant-based market has boomed in the last few years, with demand – and offer – skyrocketing.

In 2019 the plant-based food sector grew by 11% (whilst the overall food market grew by 2%) and in 2020 was worth $15.4 billion.

In 202043% of overall plant-based meat was sold in Europe, according to the Good Food Institute, and its global value was of $4.2 billion, up 800 million from the previous year. 

Investment companies are pouring money into vegan start-ups. It’s not just companies who are keen to get a return from the plant-based food sector. Tech moguls, sport personalities and celebrities have all made some substantial investments in companies such as Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat and many are parting with their money to help start-up grow.

Leonardo DiCaprio is not just known for acting, but also for his environmental activism. The 48-year-old has invested in vegan fast food chain Neat Burger. He has also invested in Beyond Meat, British vegan chickpea puffs brand HIPPEAS and plant-based milk company Califia Farms. DiCaprio also sits on the sustainability board of plant-based dairy ingredient company Perfect Day.

Natalie Portman, already an investor in Oatly and vegan bacon company La Vie, has backed Boston-based start-up Tender Food, makers of whole muscle cut plant-based meats. The start-up uses a spinning fibre technology, allowing it to create a texture similar to animal meat. Tender Foods has raised £12 million in the seed round, which it will use to scale production and expand its product range. The start-up intends to launch its vegan chicken breasts, pulled pork, and steaks at the end of 2022.

Jeff Bezos-backed plant-based dairy and meat start-up NotCo reached Unicorn status after their latest funding round raised $235 million. Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton and tennis champion Roger Federer were two of the investors.

Former Manchester United footballer Chris Smalling launched the VC firm ForGood earlier this year, which invests exclusively in start-ups and entrepreneurs that are tackling urgent environmental challenges. The firm has already backed several big names in food, including allplants and Matthew Kenney Cuisine. In June 2021 Smalling invested in Spanish vegan meat brand Heura, after investing in Food Matters Live 2020 Awards winner plant-based company THIS.

Through his company Marcy Venture Partners (MVP) rapper Jay Z recently backed dairy-free cheese brand Misha’s Kind Foods, just one of several of the music mogul’s investment in vegan companies.

Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian are just some of the tech magnates who are heavily investing in the plant-based sector, and they are just a few of many, many more public personalities who want a slice of the (vegan) pie.

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