After selling its stake in Beyond Meat in the spring, Tyson Foods’ next bet is on plant-based shellfish.
Tyson Ventures, the venture capital arm of the meat processing company, is investing in New Wave Foods. Tyson Ventures CFO Tom Mastrobuoni declined to discuss the financial terms of deal but said that Tyson took a minority stake of less than 20% in New Wave.
The start-up, which was founded in 2015, makes plant-based shrimp from seaweed, soy protein and natural flavors.
“I tasted it for the first time in a cafe in Palo Alto, and I had no idea I was eating plant-based shrimp,” Mastrobuoni said.
After shrimp, New Wave is planning to tackle crab and lobster. Shrimp is the most consumed seafood in the world, according to co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Michelle Wolf.
“From a business perspective, it made sense because of the market opportunity,” Wolf said.
While there are a number of companies tackling plant-based fish like salmon or tuna alternatives, New Wave is one of the few trying to sell crustacean substitutes. Mastrobuoni said that the lack of competition made New Wave a more attractive investment.
Tyson will leverage its scale and network to help accelerate New Wave’s growth.
“We’ve said this all along — alternative protein is an ‘and’ concept for Tyson, it’s not an ‘or,’ ” Mastrobuoni said.
For now, New Wave Foods’ distribution is limited to three food-service locations rather than restaurants. CEO Mary McGovern said the company plans to target food service first, in part because 80% of shrimp consumption in the U.S. happens outside the home.
New Wave is Tyson Ventures’ ninth investment since starting the fund in 2016. Mastrobuoni declined to disclose any track record of the fund’s performance.
Before Beyond Meat went public in May, Tyson sold its stake in the company as it prepared to launch its own plant-based meat products, including imitation chicken nuggets. Since Beyond Meat’s initial public offering, the stock has soared 554%.
Tyson is far from the only Big Food company with its own venture arm. Kellogg, General Mills, Kraft Heinz and Campbell Soup have their own investment funds.
Tyson isn’t the only traditional food company branching out into plant-based foods. Hormel and Kellogg announced plans Wednesday to produce plant-based meat brands.