- Fermented protein company Nature's Fynd raised $350 million in a Series C round, more than tripling the funding it's raised to date, according to Crunchbase. The round was led by SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2. It also includes several new investors: Blackstone Strategic Partners, Balyasny Asset Management, Hillhouse Investment, EDBI, SK Inc. and Hongkou. Existing investors — including Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Generation Investment Management, 1955 Capital, Danone Manifesto Ventures and Archer Daniels Midland — also participated.
- Nature's Fynd will use the money to accelerate growth by expanding production capacity, developing partnerships, laying the foundation for global expansion and adding to its product portfolio, the company said in a written statement. It has no products on the market yet, but plans a limited rollout later this year and a nationwide launch and international expansion — including Asia — in 2022.
- Nature's Fynd, previously known as Sustainable Bioproducts, makes products from Fy, a fungi-derived protein from a microbe that was discovered in a geothermal spring in Yellowstone National Park. The company has said the protein product is suitable for meat and dairy analogs, and it recently received approval from the Food and Drug Administration to use Fy protein in food products.
This funding brings a company with an intriguing scientific backstory closer to the point where its products are on store shelves and restaurant menus. It is the latest alternative protein company to close a mega-investment round worth hundreds of millions, and the largest single investment round so far for a food company in 2021.
Nature's Fynd was born out of an expedition to see what kind of life could survive in harsh circumstances. Fy, the protein fermented from a microbe found in an acidic spring with a pH similar to that of a car battery, was recognized as having the nutritional content, structure and efficiency to be a good food source.
The company has spent the last several years developing Fy protein into different types of products, even selling a limited amount of Fy protein-based breakfast sausage and cream cheese packs on its website in February. This product pack sold out in 24 hours, and provided proof that there was demand for Nature's Fynd's products. The company has also started growing its Fy protein at commercial scale in a state-of-the-art facility in Chicago's Union Stockyards. The facility, according to the written statement, leverages robotics and automation in its production.
CEO and co-founder Thomas Jonas said in the press release that Nature's Fynd has big plans for next year.
"In 2022, we will bring our branded Fy based foods to consumers in the US, expand to new geographies with a special focus on Asia where there is substantial demand and need for sustainable protein and create multiple brand-aligned partnerships for retail, quick-serve restaurants (QSR) and emerging high growth channels," he said.
While the pandemic has left many businesses dealing with tighter finances, food tech in general has seen record-breaking levels of investment. With this recent news, Nature's Fynd has announced three significant funding rounds since the beginning of the pandemic, including a March 2020 round worth $80 million and a $45 million raise through venture debt and equipment financing commitments in December.
In 2020, $3.1 billion was invested in alternative protein companies, according to The Good Food Institute. A total of $590 million went toward companies like Nature's Fynd, which use fermentation to produce alternative protein products. With more funding coming this year, it appears that trend is continuing. So far, this is the largest single funding round for an alternative protein company this year — and the largest for a fermentation company in recent history, beating the $300 million that animal-free dairy maker Perfect Day received in its extended Series C round in 2019 and 2020.
In two funding rounds so far this year, plant-based egg and cell-based meat maker Eat Just has raised a total of $370 million — $200 million for the company as a whole and $170 million for its Good Meat cell-based chicken division. The LiveKindly Collective, which is an international platform for alternative protein brands, closed a $335 million funding round in March. Plant-based ingredients company Motif FoodWorks announced a $226 million funding round last month, and earlier this month Israeli cell-based meat company Aleph Farms raised $105 million in hopes of bringing products to consumers next year.
This funding bonanza shows how much investors are intrigued and invested in the future of food. Many alternative protein companies, Nature's Fynd included, play up their sustainability credentials and low carbon footprint. They often mention the efficient way their proteins can be produced and their nutritional strengths. If these products hit the market and can be a success with consumers, the investment could pay off — both in terms of finances and in environmental impact. Putting this kind of money toward Nature's Fynd, which seems to be nearing the home stretch of bringing products to market, can do more to bring those returns quickly.