Looking Beyond Meat, the future of food investment looks pretty cheesy

Looking Beyond Meat, the future of food investment looks pretty cheesy

As Beyond Meat continues its reign as one of the kings of this year’s IPO mountain and Impossible Foods serves up impossibly good numbers for Burger King, venture capitalists seem ready to feast on new food deals.

And judging by market size and the returns that some companies have already realized by targeting the dairy aisle, the next big wave in food tech might just come with a whiff of Camembert. Meat alternatives and cultured meat may be grabbing headlines, but a wave of early-stage companies are looking at the dairy business for the next big thing.

There’s nothing cheesy about the size of the check that Danone wrote for WhiteWave Foods. That over $10 billion payout for WhiteWave’s dairy alternatives was one of the single biggest acquisitions in the new food space. And consumers spent a whopping $61.9 billion on cheese in 2018 — a number that’s expected to reach $99.4 billion by 2024, according to data just published by the research group, iMarc.

But before determining which venture capitalists are going to be moving the cheese (or cutting it), it’s worth examining what’s driving the latest food tech craze right now.

VC interest remains huge in foodtech as major IPOs outperform

Investors have long been eyeing a slice of the food business for the simple reason that it, along with healthcare, is one of the largest industries in the world. U.S. consumers, businesses and government services will shovel $1.62 trillion down the giant gaping maw of food and beverage businesses — spending more in a year on food and drink than they will on either healthcare or personal insurance, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (as CNBC noted).