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[US] Venture capital funds meat and egg replacements

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  • Alex@FARM
    http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-01-24/venture-capital-sees-promise-in-lab-created-eco-foods Venture Capital Sees Promise in Lab-Created Eco-Foods By
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 26, 2013

      Venture Capital Sees Promise in Lab-Created Eco-Foods

      By Brad Stone <http://www.businessweek.com/authors/411-brad-stone> on
      January 24, 2013

      Nestled among Internet startups in the bustling South of Market
      neighborhood of San Francisco is an innovator of another sort. The
      year-old Hampton Creek Foods' 2,400-square-foot office is home to a
      state-of-the-art lab, with a stainless-steel triple-shaft mixer,
      restaurant-grade dishwashers, and 17 employees milling around in white
      lab coats. They're developing a plant-based substitute for the hen-born
      egg that's indistinguishable in taste and price from the real thing.

      That, it turns out, is hard work. "We definitely have a new respect for
      eggs," says Megan Clements, a research scientist, as she watches a
      fellow food scientist squeeze oil into a vat of company-made eggless
      mayonnaise. "Every day we are challenged to get better to make up for
      what is not there."

      Hampton Creek is one of several venture capital-backed startups trying
      to engineer dietary alternatives that are better for the planet and
      healthier for people---not to mention animals. The so-called clean-food
      movement follows in the wake of the high-tech industry's disastrous bet
      on clean energy, which resulted in a crop of solar, wind, and fuel-cell
      companies whose fortunes fell dramatically amid the proliferation of
      cheap natural gas and low-cost competition from the Chinese.

      Over the last year, two of the most esteemed VC firms on Sand Hill Road,
      Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Khosla Ventures, have backed nearly
      a dozen startups trying to engineer healthier and cheaper alternatives
      to eggs, chicken, cheese, salt, and candy. The companies, whose
      creations are subject to FDA regulation, "are trying to replicate the
      sensory experience of proteins that we have all eaten," says Amol
      Deshpande, a general partner at Kleiner Perkins who joined the firm from
      the agriculture giant Cargill. "It's not just fake meat. The goal is to
      have a no-compromise solution."

      At a Khosla Ventures conference for investors late last year, Josh
      Tetrick, the 32-year-old CEO of Hampton Creek, gave Bill Gates and Tony
      Blair a blind taste test. He pitted muffins made with real eggs against
      those made with his egg replacement, called Beyond Eggs. Neither could
      tell the difference (nor could this reporter in a later test). The
      ingredients in the faux egg mix include peas, sunflower lecithin,
      canola, and natural gums extracted from tree sap.

      The company's food engineers laboriously test combinations of their
      ingredients, trying to match the egg's taste and its functions as a
      thickening agent and emulsifier in baked goods while also making the
      substitute healthier and with a longer shelf life. Tetrick says he's
      talking to a Fortune 500 company that he won't name about using
      plant-based eggs for its sauces and dressings.

      Beyond Meat, a two-year-old company based in Los Angeles, is making
      soy-based chicken strips based on formulations developed by two
      professors at the University of Missouri. Unlike previous soy-based
      substitutes, Beyond Meat's come remarkably close to replicating the
      taste and texture of the genuine article. Last summer, the company
      received an undisclosed investment from Kleiner Perkins and Obvious
      Corp., an investment vehicle started by two of Twitter's founders, and
      the meatless strips went on sale at Whole Foods Market (WFM
      outlets in Northern California.


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