- Kellogg’s Eighteen94 venture capital fund was a return investor in the latest funding round for Plantible Foods, which makes its Rubi Protein product from lemna, also known as water lentils or duckweed. The $21.5 million Series A funding round was led by Astanor Ventures.
- Plantible says Rubi Protein emulates the functional, taste and texture characteristics of widely used animal-based proteins. The California-based company, which has raised a total of $27 million since it was founded in 2018, will use this latest funding to build its first commercial facility to launch and commercialize its product in 2022.
- This marks the second time in just over a year that Kellogg's venture arm has invested in Plantible; it also participated in an April 2020 seed round. Duckweed has interested entrepreneurs thanks to its fast growth cycle — the plant doubles in mass every 48 hours and grows year-round — ability to grow in a hydroponic system and its amino acid profile, which is said to be comparable to whey and superior to soy.
As sustainability concerns continue to drive interest in plant-based protein, duckweed has a lot to offer.
Since duckweed is grown in a controlled environment, it can be harvested consistently on a daily basis, making it a cheap source of protein. Techcrunch reported that Plantible says it will be cost-competitive with animal egg whites.
This aquatic plant is also considered to be one of the most protein-efficient crops in the world, yielding 10 times more protein per acre than soy, while requiring 10 times less water, according to Plantible. Research has also found that it emits less carbon dioxide than soy. And duckweed offers a viable, more digestible alternative to soy, pea or algae, according to Plantible.
Not only is this water lentil incredibly efficient in its production, but Plantible also calls its aquatic proteins “drop-in replacements” for animal-derived equivalents. The company says it can use it to match the taste and texture of animal proteins used in a variety of applications such as burgers, shakes and bars.
Parabel is another producer of duckweed-based plant proteins. This past December, its Lentein protein debuted in its first bar product, Nectis' Green Super Protein Bar, and in 2019, it announced a patent-pending water lentil milk.
Duckweed is a relatively new entrant into the plant-based protein space. In 2017, researchers at the University of Jena found this aquatic plant had the potential as a protein source for humans, and it didn’t take long before innovative entrepreneurs as well as big brands in the food and beverage space began investing in making this research a reality.
Kellogg has repeatedly shown interest in investing in alternative proteins. In 2017, the company’s venture capital arm backed an investment round in Kuli Kuli, a company that makes bars and other products containing moringa, a complete plant protein that is produced by trees grown in semiarid and tropical areas. That same year, Eighteen94 Capital invested in the mushroom protein company MycoTechnology.
In total, Kellogg's venture capital arm has made five investments in plant-based functional food or protein products, and Plantible may prove to be a profitable one. According to Transparency Market Research, the water lentil protein industry, while still developing, is predicted to expand at a 4.8% compound annual growth rate from 2020 to 2030.