From Family Kitchen to the World: Plant-Based Startup Expands

Fake meat’s move from urban eateries and vegan kitchens to the mass consumer market is accelerating as investors increase their bets on the alternative-protein industry.

Livekindly Collective, a group of plant-based protein brands plus a media platform, has just raised $335 million, making it one of the sector’s highest funded startups. It wants to use that firepower to boost its global presence by making acquisitions and expanding into the U.S. and China.

Steered by a former Unilever Plc executive, Livekindly wants to create a plant-based food giant that can hold its own in an industry projected to make up a quarter of the meat market by 2040. The latest funding round was led by The Rise Fund, a global impact fund founded in 2016 by TPG in partnership with U2 front-man Bono and tech billionaire Jeff Skoll.

“Our mission is to make plant-based eating the new norm,” Livekindly Chief Executive Officer Kees Kruythoff said in an interview. “We need a total transformation of the food system, and size matters when you are talking about impact.”

From Family Kitchen to the World: Plant-Based Startup Expands

Livekindly has acquired a number of plant-based meat brands, including Oumph! in Europe and The Fry Family Food Co., which was founded in a family kitchen in South Africa. Now the company has 470 employees and counts among its directors former Unilever boss Paul Polman and Walter Robb, the former co-CEO of Whole Foods.

The latest fundraising, which includes $135 million from the previous round, also attracted Rabobank Group and S2G Ventures. It brings Livekindly’s total financing to $535 million, making it one of the top three highest-funded plant-based food companies.

From Family Kitchen to the World: Plant-Based Startup Expands

“This is a huge market where the penetration of plant-based meat alternatives is still in the very early stages so we think that there is a real need to move quickly and move at scale,” said Steve Ellis, co-managing partner of The Rise Fund, who joined Livekindly’s board this month.

While more needs to be done to increase production capacity, lower prices and improve the taste of products, alternative protein investments tripled to $3.1 billion last year from 2019, according to data from The Good Food Institute.

One of Kruythoff’s priorities will be to take Livekindly’s Oumph! brand -- whose soy-based products can be transformed into anything from burgers to tikka masala and hoisin taco -- to new regions including Germany, South Africa and later the U.S. It introduced Fry’s and LikeMeat to the U.S. earlier this month, and wants to take the latter brand into China. The company also plans to bolster its manufacturing network.

“Our ambitions are massive,” Kruythoff said. “We believe the momentum behind plant-based living could create even broader opportunities in the public markets down the line.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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