- Tyson Foods has launched Tyson New Ventures LLC, a venture capital arm that will focus its investments on innovations in technologies, business models and products that contribute to sustainability of the food supply, according to a news release.
- Tyson will invest $150 million in the fund, and the company said its VC efforts will complement the investments the company will continue to make itself.
- The fund will focus on three areas of food entrepreneurship: "Commercializing delicious, safe and affordable alternative proteins; tackling food insecurity and food loss through market making and other commercial models; and tapping the internet of food to promote more precise and productive resource application, safety, and consumer empowerment in the food chain," according to the news release.
Tyson inadvertently hinted that the company could launch a VC fund with these goals when it announced in October that it had acquired a 5% stake in meat alternatives producer Beyond Meat, which uses alternative proteins to create meat-like products. That investment made Tyson the first major meat manufacturer to invest in a plant-based protein company.
With the fund's announcement, it's clear that Beyond Meat won't be Tyson's last alternative protein investment, even though such products could threaten Tyson's own meat-based portfolio. Since Tyson can't beat alternative proteins, the company is going to join the movement.
This move may also stimulate more investment in the alternative protein industry and protein startups in general. Other major meat companies could follow in Tyson's footsteps, particularly if this effort is successful.
To remain competitive, meat companies must continuously pursue innovations that make their products stand out, such as removing hormones or antibiotics from the supply chain or providing value-added meat products. But if it's too challenging or costly to make those changes to existing portfolios, the next step is often to look to startups that could be meat's biggest competition in the near future.