- Tyson Foods invested in New Wave Foods, a San Francisco-based maker of plant-based shrimp, through its venture arm. Details were not disclosed, although Bloomberg reported the company's policy is to stay below a 20% stake.
- New Wave, which launched in 2015, plans to introduce its shrimp alternative in the food service channel early next year, Tyson said in a release.
- The faux shrimp is made with sustainably sourced seaweed and soy protein, contains no allergens or cholesterol, and is lower in both calories and salt than real shrimp, Tyson said.
Tyson's investment in New Wave shouldn't surprise anyone watching the company's increasing forays into the cell-based and plant-based meat segments. In 2016, the company became the first major meat processor to invest in a plant-based startup by acquiring a minority stake in Beyond Meat.
This summer, Tyson Foods launched its own plant-based food lineup with the introduction of its Raised & Rooted brand of nuggets containing pea protein isolate, and its blended burgers featuring a mixture of real beef and pea protein.
Tyson Ventures, a $150 million fund that launched in 2016, hasn't previously invested in faux seafood products. It has put money behind cell-based meat startups with its backing last year of Memphis Meats and Future Meat Technologies. The fund has described its focus as looking to invest in promising entrepreneurial food businesses that are pioneering new products or technology. Tyson's philosophy has been to diversify into alternative proteins when it makes sense, even if some of them could potentially wind up posing competition down the road to the company's pork, beef and chicken products.
There's a lot of money to be made in the plant-based protein space. According to Allied Market Research, global sales of meat substitutes hit $4.18 billion in 2017 and could reach $7.5 billion by 2025, which is likely a big reason why Tyson is increasing its financial involvement in the segment.
New Wave's plant-based shrimp is starting off next year with food service distribution. The company hasn't announced if the products will go into the retail market afterwards. Shrimp are so popular with U.S. consumers that the likelihood of acceptance — if the product tastes like the real thing and is similarly priced — could be quite high. The crustacean tops the list of favorite seafoods, with U.S. consumption hitting a record 4.4 pounds per person in 2017, according to the Global Aquaculture Alliance.
As New Wave and other manufacturers of plant-based protein alternatives point out, sustainability has become a pressing issue. Nearly 90% of the world's marine fish stocks are either overexploited or depleted, according to faux tuna maker Good Catch Foods. Some scientists predict global fisheries may totally collapse by 2048 — a reason in and of itself for consumers concerned about environmental sustainability to try plant-based seafood.
While New Wave's progress toward getting on the market will undoubtedly be aided by Tyson's investment, scale and influence, the company apparently needs additional funding to make the leap. According to the Tyson release, New Wave expects to announce the launch of its Series A round in the near future.
New Wave already has competition. Other plant-based seafood products have also been raising funds. Good Catch Foods received a $8.7 million investment last year. But if New Wave succeeds in its upcoming funding round and sees continued involvement from Tyson, it could eventually lead the pack.