China Food

Dilemma and breaking: how does the new protein industry help the reform of the food system| 2021 annual inventory

where will the new protein industry upgrade in 2022?

The past year was a year when capital poured into the new protein industry. Since 2019, with the listing of beyond meat, the new protein industry has begun to receive the attention of innovation forces and capital. According to GFI estimates, alternative protein companies have raised nearly $6 billion in investment over the past decade (2010-2020). Since 2019, a large number of plant meat start-ups have emerged in China, and traditional food enterprises have also sought industrial upgrading through this storm.
In 2021, the new protein field attracted the attention of many media and investors, and various innovative products were gradually launched at the b-end and C-end. In 2022, we will witness how to optimize and upgrade the new protein industry. In the past year, we interviewed many new protein enterprises and investment institutions, and they provided us with very valuable information. In this paper, 35 Dou will count the investment events of the new protein industry in 2021, analyze the problems faced by the new protein industry and the optimization scheme, and then analyze the portraits of practitioners in the new protein field. Finally, we will provide three innovative cases for practitioners’ reference. The following table shows 35 financing events in China’s new protein field in 2021. (if there is any omission, please contact the author of this article)
Table: 2021 investment and financing events in the new protein field (in no order)

dilemma | why are capital sought after but consumers do not pay?
According to the data of Boston Consulting, by 2035, the market scale of alternative protein is expected to reach US $290 billion, of which plant-based products will account for 69%, followed by microbial fermentation protein (22%) and cell culture protein (9%). With the development of the new protein industry, some problems have gradually surfaced. Below, we will disassemble these problems one by one and analyze the solutions.
The most fundamental question – will the meat industry be replaced?
People in the era of scientific and technological innovation still can’t forget the delicious meat. If we want to compete with traditional meat products and bean products, we must provide competitive products. “Delicious” is the first driving force for generation Z people to buy, and it is also an important driving force for food enterprises to innovate continuously. Enterprises can optimize the oil, flavor substances and adhesives of products.
① Oil: at present, most enterprises in the market use coconut oil as a substitute for fat. Due to its single physical and chemical properties, it is difficult to compare with real animal oil in taste and flavor. The market is looking for innovative solutions without animal fat. Yali Yali biology mentioned below is the innovator of this track.
② Flavor substances: plant-based products will have bitter or beany taste under hydrolysis. Li Jian, a professor at Beijing University of technology and technology, believes that activated carbon adsorption, cyclodextrin embedding, heating treatment, flavor masking and other methods can be used to remove them. At the same time, he also puts forward the solution for the raw material end – selecting new soybean varieties with lack of lipoxygenase.
③ Binder: binder is very important for the taste of re engraved meat. According to Gu Fu, at present, there is relatively little research on plant meat binder in China, and many directions can be explored, such as developing new adhesives that can better inhibit thermal degradation, so as to maintain the integrity of plant meat products during cooking.
When it comes to whether the new protein will replace the traditional meat products industry, some people think that the taste of meat has been engraved in human genes and can never be changed, while some people think that with more and more human contact with plant base, people’s taste preference will change, more inclined to the taste of plant diet, and finally completely replace the traditional meat products industry.
Xie keying, vice president of strategy and operation of “plant home”, has a moderate view. She believes that “in the end, it will be a coexistence system, not a complete replacement”. At present, the whole food system is developing in a sustainable direction, and the traditional meat industry is also constantly optimizing its own management mode.
Yang Ziliang, an entrepreneur in the field of cell meat and CEO of cellx, also believes that people’s eating habits are difficult to change, so he turned to cell culture meat entrepreneurship. He told us: “compared with plant meat and fermented meat, I think cell meat is the ultimate solution, because changing people’s eating habits is difficult to change our production mode.”
What are the limitations of environmental narrative?
One of the reasons for the emergence of new protein industry is the unsustainability of industrial breeding. Chickens and pigs eat 75% of the world’s processed feed, and an average of 5 to 6 kg of feed can be converted into 1 kg of live pigs or chickens. Cattle and sheep emit a lot of methane through burping and farting. Animal husbandry contributes 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions and occupies more than half of the world’s agricultural land.
Most enterprises claim that they are proposing solutions to such problems, and consumers don’t seem to pay. However, the problem should not be simply attributed to insufficient market education. When enterprises describe this, to some extent, they are placing themselves in a commanding position overlooking consumers. Consumers will not recognize enterprises with a good story, but only through products. “Doffer incubator” is an incubator focusing on the early stage of alternative protein, Its founder Zhang Tao once told us: “By ‘turning Chinese consumers into part of environmental protection solutions’, I don’t mean to impose the appeal of environmental protection on them and ask them to buy these products from the moral level, but to think from the perspective of consumers and pay attention to the persuasiveness of the products themselves, because what consumers finally recognize is the taste, price and convenience of the products.”
We also got similar answers from consumer data. According to the article “Chinese consumers’ attitudes and potential acceptance towards artistic mean”, after investigating more than 4600 consumers in China, researchers found that more than half of the population (52.9%) were willing to try to replace protein, mainly because of food safety and nutrition, Not animal welfare and environmental protection. In addition, the article also shows that nearly 90% of respondents said they were willing to try to grow meat if the cost was lower than that of traditional similar products.
Environmental protection is a good reason, but it is not practical, so what the new protein industry should do is to provide more reasons for consumers.
How to balance marketing and R & D—— Good products are fundamental
This is a problem faced by many start-ups. With regard to marketing, Thomas colopoulos once wrote in the book circle effect: “in the face of the strong rise of groups, only by understanding the business logic of the main consumer force and how to gather this generation of young people can the future business succeed.” In the Post Internet era, the marketing war for public attention has lost its appeal. New protein enterprises should explore more strategies to gather consumers.
However, the most fundamental problem has never changed – good products will bring real change. It is gratifying that almost all new protein entrepreneurs emphasize that products are the most important. While constantly exploring new marketing methods, they never relax their research and development of technology. Jiang Tao, the founder of “except meat”, stressed in the interview, “in fact, I think everyone in this industry should first pay attention to product power and technology, so as to have a voice in the industry. Capital pays attention to the field of alternative protein, which is the general trend, but plant meat brands should make their own products, so that more Chinese people can accept alternative protein products.”
In terms of policy supervision, how can enterprises reach a consensus with the government?
Environmental issues are part of government policies, so the government needs the support of enterprises, and enterprises also need the support of the government.
In the past, the most discussed issue in the relationship between government and enterprises was supervision. Most of the disputes in this regard are due to insufficient communication between the two sides, so there is no room for consensus. Lawyer Feng Wenxu once mentioned in the “BIV China alternative protein seminar” that the new protein industry should take the initiative to communicate with the regulatory authorities. “In fact, the regulatory authorities also want to have an in-depth understanding of these latest industry developments, but the regulatory authorities are often not suitable to take the initiative to contact the industry.”
In this regard, perhaps Singapore can provide us with some experience. In 2021, the new protein industry ushered in an exciting news. The cell meat company “eat just” obtained the approval of Singapore’s food agency (SFA) to sell cell meat products locally. Therefore, Singapore, which has always been famous for its strict supervision, has become the first country in the world to approve the sale of cell meat. This is regarded by many as a “new milestone in the history of cell meat” and provides an example for other governments. At present, China has not issued relevant policies, but during the two sessions in May 2020, academician sun Baoguo has proposed to increase investment in R & D of cell cultured meat, establish and improve laws and regulations, and take cell cultured meat as a strategic deployment to solve China’s food security problems.
what are the practitioners in the field of new proteins?
If we want to make a portrait for the practitioners of new protein, these labels will surely come into our eyes: returnees, vegetarians and women.
“Overseas returnees”: through investigation, we found that most practitioners of new protein have overseas study or work experience. The concept of “protein revolution” is no longer a new concept abroad. It is sought after by animal protectors, environmental protectors and people who pay attention to health. Many Chinese working or living abroad see the future food development trend contained in it, so they try to bring these technologies and ideas to China. Those researchers who have worked in large new protein enterprises have naturally joined China’s new protein industry. For example, “vegetarians” include researchers from beyond meat and impossible foods to help promote the application of wet drawing protein processed by high moisture extrusion technology in plant meat products.
“Vegetarianism”: this deeply reflects “how a small number of people promote world change”. Hong Xiaoqi, the founder of “shining power”, once told us that she saw a documentary called “earth citizen” in high school and felt deeply about the harm of industrialized farming to animals. Since then, she has adhered to vegetarianism and began to explore the plant-based business model after graduation. We also found some people who entered the industry because of their love for meat. “Haofood” is such a team. They love the taste of meat, but are aware of the dangers of traditional animal husbandry from the perspective of health and environment, so they want to help gourmets reduce meat consumption without losing the fun of eating familiar dishes. Although many entrepreneurs start from the perspective of vegetarianism, their products are not limited to vegetarians, but hope to be promoted to a wider group, which is also in line with the definition of communication power of consumer goods.
“Women”: the vegetarian women’s summit (VWS) released a shocking data in March 2021. Less than 3% of the investment funds went to female founders. Fortunately, in China, we have seen many influential female entrepreneurs in the field of new protein, such as Wu Yanzi of “zero”, “Hong Xiaoqi of” shining power “, and Carrie Chan of” Avant “. Zhu Jiahui, founder of the plant yogurt brand “yeyouge”, said in a conversation with 35 Dou: “Women do have their own way, but perhaps because the framework given by the society allows them to take less steps in entrepreneurship, there are less entrepreneurial resources around us than men. If more women can take the first step, we can grow together and gradually become more level with men.” It is expected that more female entrepreneurs will emerge in the new protein industry in the future.
breaker 𞓜 high-profile start-up
In 2021, many innovators poured into the field of new proteins. Below, we select three new protein enterprises as cases to see the innovation trend of the new protein industry. Among them, “cellx” develops cell culture meat, hoping to realize protein production in vitro without slaughtering animals through bioengineering; “Lanjia biology” aims to develop delicious and high-quality natural mushroom mycelium and precision fermented meat protein; “Yali bio” aims to use synthetic vegetable fat products to solve the taste problem of plant-based products.

Figure: cell culture meat developed by cellx
“Cellx”, founded in 2020, is a start-up company in the field of cell agriculture. It hopes to realize protein production in vitro without slaughtering animals through bioengineering. At present, a variety of cell meat products have been developed, including structured lump meat produced by scaffold and 3D bioprinting. Its founder Yang Ziliang told 35dou that at present, its R & D focus is on China’s bulk consumer goods – pork, which will gradually migrate to other high value-added products in the future.
According to the prediction of blue horizon Corp, the cell-based meat market is expected to reach $140 billion by 2030. “Zhouzi future” in Nanjing, “cellx” in Shanghai and “Avant” in Hong Kong are the only three cell meat companies in China. These three companies received tens of millions of yuan of financing respectively in 2021. Foreign companies with remarkable achievements in the field of cell meat include future meat, meatable, Aleph farms, bluenalu, etc. At present, domestic and foreign top enterprises and start-ups mostly focus on plant protein, and the marketization of plant-based products is obvious, while cell culture meat is relatively small, and most of them are still in the stage of laboratory research and development.
In terms of the cost most concerned by the public, Yang Ziliang, CEO of “cellx”, responded that the cost can be reduced by developing serum-free culture and synthetic biological technology to manufacture growth factors. At present, the team has reduced the cost by five times, and plans to reduce it by another 10 times in 2022, which will be the same as the price of animal meat by 2025. The whole process of cell culture meat is a super clean and sterile environment, and the growth factor used is also microgram level, which will not involve the hormones, antibiotics and infectious diseases of traditional meat.
The team currently has 25 people and is composed of scientists from interdisciplinary backgrounds in biomedicine and food science. Its CEO Yang Ziliang is a former consultant of Boston Consulting Company, and the product leader Xiang Ning is a doctor of Purdue University. He once carried out research and development of cell culture meat in David Kaplan laboratory, an academician of the American Academy of engineering, and has more than 10 years of experience in the field of food research and development. Huang binlu, head of cell research and development, is a doctor of Tsinghua University. Before joining cellx, he had 6 years of post doctoral and immunotherapy industry experience, and more than 15 years of experience in the field of cell biology. Liu ran, MBA of Stanford University, is a continuous entrepreneur in the field of science and technology.
Cell culture meat company “cellx” has completed an angel round financing of tens of millions of yuan in early 2021, led by Zhenge fund, followed by Yunjiu capital, Xianfeng, lever VC, etc. This is the second round of financing of “cellx” in half a year after the round of financing of millions of RMB seeds last year.
Lanjia biology
Established in May 2021 in Qingdao, Shandong Province, Lanjia biology aims to develop delicious and high-quality natural mushroom mycelium and precision fermented meat protein. It is the first company in Asia to combine real meat protein without animal cells with single-cell protein. It is understood that Lanjia biology has a complete set of pilot fermentation equipment, from 2L to 200L fermentation tanks. In addition, it has independently developed a new patented solid-state fermentation tank.
LV CHENFENG, CEO of the company, has a doctorate in food microbiology from the University of Wisconsin and has more than 10 years of experience in synthetic biology and commercial fermentation products in Cargill and yield10. He told us that the technical path of fermentation was chosen because fermented meat has better taste and nutritional value than plant meat; Compared with cell culture meat, fermented meat has lower cost and faster marketization. In general, fermented meat has the advantages of low cost, high safety and short growth cycle.
Figure: diagram of Lanjia biotechnology path
Lanjia biology is positioned as a B2B platform company, selling animal protein and mycelium protein manufactured in its proprietary laboratory to downstream food manufacturers, pet food companies, chain restaurants, etc. It is planned to become the leader of fermented protein in China within 2 to 5 years. It will start mass production of fungal mycelium meat products and fermentation based pet food ingredients from 2022 to 2023. It is expected to have positive cash flow in 2025.
Yali Bio
“Yali bio Yali biology” was founded in Silicon Valley in March 2021 to solve the taste problem of plant-based products by using synthetic plant fat products, get rid of the dependence on products such as coconut oil and palm oil, and optimize the plant-based industry.
In September 2021, it was announced to join the third round of global financing cycle of Illumina accelerator of American head sequencing company Illumina (NASDAQ: ilmn), becoming one of the seven new genomics companies selected. “Yali bio Yali biology” is the only food technology company selected.
Lu Yulin, founder and CEO of “Yali bio Yali biology”, is a doctor of Purdue University and has worked in the field of alternative protein for more than 10 years. From 2015 to 2020, he worked as senior engineering director of American plant meat company imposible foods to develop plant derived artificial meat and eggs. Xu Peng, co-founder and chief scientific adviser, is a doctor of chemistry and bioengineering at Rensselaer Institute of technology and a postdoctoral fellow at MIT. He served as an assistant professor (independent PI) at the University of Maryland from 2016 to 2020. At present, he is an associate professor in the Department of chemical engineering at Guangdong Israel Institute of technology.
The plant-based market has been popular in China for more than two years, but it has not formed a certain audience in China due to the problems of taste and price. Plant based enterprises usually use coconut oil and palm oil as the main substitutes for animal fat, but these substitutes themselves have many problems. On the one hand, the collection of these tropical products itself faces problems such as deforestation and forced labor, which is contrary to the concept of new protein practitioners; On the other hand, the vegetable meat made of these two oils will seep out of the product during cooking, resulting in dry meat and poor taste, which can not well replace animal oil. At present, there is no good solution in the market.
This is the pain point that “Yali bio Yali biology” wants to solve. Lu Yulin, the founder, said: “we hope to break through this pain point with technology as the driving force and provide high-quality animal meat substitutes and dairy substitutes for the plant-based industry.” The core technology of “Yali bio Yali biology” includes synthetic biology and metabolic engineering, developing oil products by strain fermentation, and developing different strains for different markets and products. Founder Lu Yulin disclosed to 35dou that “Yali bio Yali biology” is still in the stage of product and strain R & D and process optimization, and is expected to be listed from 2023 to 2024.
In April 2021, the company announced the completion of multi million dollar pre seed round financing, with investors including accelerator program, quiet capital, uphonest capital and third kind venture capital. This round of financing will be used for early product R & D.
Table: financing of Yali bio Yali Bio
Gu Fu consulting, insight into innovation direction in 2021 new protein era, April 2021





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