Drum roll, please!

That’s rightthe annual investment totals you have been waiting for have finally arrived and they tell a fascinating story about how APAC’s plant-based, fermentation, and cultivated meat sectors are evolving.

Without further ado, let’s dig in:

The Top Line

1) Globally, alternative protein investments grew 60 percent from 2020 to 2021 to a new record-breaking total of $5 billion (USD)

This upward trajectory is very encouraging, but must also be viewed in context. In 2021 alone, PitchBook shows that a whopping $47 billion of private capital flowed into climate tech (not even including government funding, funds raised through public equity and debt markets, project finance, etc.). So in reality, renewable energy and electric vehicle investments continue to significantly overshadow alternative protein investments relative to the climate mitigation potential of each of these industries.

These new global figures also strikingly illustrate the recent shift towards cross-platform investments, with the fermentation and cultivated meat sectors carving out a much larger slice of the investment pie than ever before.

In fact, plant-based protein only accounts for 39 percent of the total 2021 investments, with both cultivated meat and fermentation hot on its heels at 28 and 34 percent, respectively.

Let’s Talk APAC

2) Zooming in on Asia Pacific, we see similarly robust year-over-year growth on alt proteins, jumping from $162M in 2020 to $312M in 2021 (a 92 percent surge)

Unlike in the global figures, plant-based foods still account for the straight majority of these APAC investments, with cultivated meat and fermentation-enabled proteins playing a comparatively smaller role in the regional investment landscape.

Indeed, among 2021’s most eye-popping hauls were Singaporean startup Next Gen Foods’ record-breaking $30 million seed funding round (which nearly tripled the previous alt protein record) and Australia-based v2food, which raised $110 million in their Series B. 

Asia Moving into America’s Spotlight

3) Looking at the last decade’s investment figures from a different angle reveals another unmistakable trend: North America’s share of the global investment total is rapidly shrinking, as startups from APAC and other regions grow in influence. Where North American companies once accounted for nearly 100 percent of global alt protein investments, their share has now fallen to two-thirds.

Perhaps even more strikingly, within the plant-based and cultivated meat sectors, North American companies only accounted for 58 and 51 percent of the global total in 2021, respectively. 

By contrast, the one pillar of alternative proteins where APAC remains a conspicuously small player is …

4) Fermentation. Unlike with plant-based and cultivated meat, where Asia Pacific is moving fast and turning heads, our region lags perilously far behind on fermentation-enabled proteins, which accounted for more than a third of all alternative protein investments globally in 2021. Last year, APAC and other regions outside of North America collectively accounted for less than 10 percent of all fermentation-enabled protein investments (shown below in yellow).

Given that fermentation-enabled proteins have the potential to almost single-handedly resolve the global protein deficit, APAC startups, policymakers, and investors would be wise to view this rapidly expanding sector as an area for enormous regional growth. As always, GFI APAC stands ready to facilitate that shift.

The Big Picture Looking Forward

The smartest investors in the room will read the tea leaves on these new figures and conclude that APAC has—at long last—managed to crack open the door to becoming an alt protein force on the global stage.

Indeed, 2022 is already off to an incredible start, with Next Gen Foods’ historic Series A round last month breaking world records all over again, and China-based Starfield Food Science & Technology bringing in an astonishing $100M in their Series B.

Will this year be the first one in history that the alt protein center of gravity officially shifts eastward and North America becomes a minority player in the global plant-based meat sector? It’s a distinct possibility.

Asia now has the potential to blow the door off its hinges and become a bona fide hotbed of alternative protein unicorns, but only if investors are strategic about their next moves and dramatically ramp up support for plant-based, fermentation, and cultivated meat manufacturing infrastructure, which is critical for nurturing sector growth.

In short, these figures show more clearly than ever that now is the time for APAC to build, build, build.

Source: GFI analysis of data from Pitchbook Data, Inc. Note: Data has not been reviewed by PitchBook analysts.