- Clara Foods, a California-based manufacturer of animal-free protein products, recently closed a Series B financing round led by Ingredion. Other investors included Grupo Bimbo strategic partner B37, Hemisphere Ventures and SOSV. The company hasn't provided a final investment figure, but AgFunder News reported sources close to the deal said it was $40 million.
- The company also announced a global partnership agreement with Ingredion in which the companies will work together to develop, market and distribute highly functional protein ingredients to increase protein levels and lower costs without using products from animals.
- "We see extraordinary value in partnering with Ingredion to distribute our products globally and look forward to jointly transforming the status quo," Arturo Elizondo, founder and CEO of Clara Foods, said in a release. "Ingredion has been a global supplier to the food industry for more than a century and is as committed as Clara to satiating the massive unmet consumer demand for animal-free proteins."
Clara Foods launched in 2014, raised $1.7 million in seed funding in 2015 and then $15 million in Series A funding in 2016 led by The Production Board. It spent the past few years developing its protein production platform, Food Business News reported, and now is poised to start commercializing its egg proteins, expand R&D capabilities and move into developing other products.
Clara Foods' main product now is a foamy egg white alternative for baking use. The company said it uses a proprietary yeast fermentation process that cuts down on the cost of functional proteins made from chickens or other animals, and delivers clean-label ingredients.
It's easy to see why a startup like Clara Foods would want to partner with Ingredion, a global company with a long history of expertise in developing, marketing and distributing a wide range of ingredients. The deal could greatly expand Clara Foods' reach, but it would also help Ingredion.
"This latest investment will further drive our growth strategy, expand our portfolio of protein solutions and introduce novel ingredients to consumers who are looking for sustainable, animal-free and healthy alternatives," Jim Zallie, Ingredion's president and CEO, said in a release. The company added that the move complements Ingredion's recent $140 million investment in plant-based proteins, including pulse flours, concentrates and isolates.
Ingredion and other manufacturers such as InnovoPro — which is making a 70% protein concentrate sourced from chickpeas — know that getting behind more plant-based proteins is a smart and on-trend investment. Protein add-ons to foods and beverages are in snacks such as thinkThin cakes, RXBAR and Halo Top ice cream. There are even protein-infused water products such as biPro, Trimino Protein Infused Water and Protein2o.
Protein has been added to so many items that Research and Markets projected the global protein ingredients market could hit $48.77 billion by 2025. More widely available vegan protein sources could help that grow faster.
Now that it has this new cash infusion, Clara Foods could go to market as early as next year with an ingredient that CEO Arturo Elizondo described to Food Navigator as having "incredible foaming properties that allow us to make next generation egg replacers in baked good applications in particular." If manufacturers are receptive to the concept, Clara Foods could soon have a number of other vegan protein products on the market both here and in other countries, thanks to Ingredion's extensive distribution network.