Looking Ahead to the Future of Food in 2021
By Roger Lienhard, Founder & Executive Chairman of Blue Horizon
2020 has been an unprecedented year. COVID-19 brought uncertainty to countless lives and businesses. I could not be prouder of the progress that has been made here at the LIVEKINDLY Collective. We completed a total fundraise of $335 million this year, which we will use to accelerate our mission of pivoting away from the global meat-centric food system. The LIVEKINDLY Collective acquired Swedish plant-based meat brand Oumph!, which joins our heritage brands, South Africa’s The Fry Family Food Co. and Germany’s LikeMeat. It’s mindboggling that this is the same year that the LIVEKINDLY Collective was formed — and just look at the progress that has been made. It makes me feel even more optimistic about the upcoming opportunities in 2021.
Food technology will define 2021. We already have word from Singapore that Eat Just’s cultured chicken meat Good Meat will be served at a restaurant next year. I don’t think that it will be the only time in 2021 that we see cultured meat make it to a menu. Governments that realize the positive impact it will have on the environment will approve its sale, just as Singapore’s food authority has.
The environment has been one of the major drivers globally for people eating less meat. This will continue to grow as world governments adopt ambitious climate targets. China notably pledged to reach net-zero emissions by 2060 and food must be part of that plan. Food policies would greatly aid nations in meeting targets outlined by the Paris Agreement.
For years, burgers have dominated conversations in the plant-based food space. But, 2021 will be the year of plant-based chicken. I predict that KFC, which has been working with Beyond Meat to develop vegan fried chicken, will make it a permanent part of its menu. And other fast food restaurants will follow. On the retail side, plant-based chicken will be given the food technology treatment, putting taste and texture — the two most important factors in making plant-based meat appealing to consumers — front and center.
Dairy will also be a big part of 2021. Blue Horizon’s venture fund did its final close at $220 million. It already invested in 16 companies and took a stake in Mexican plant-based dairy startup Heartbest, which is innovating new ways to create vegan milk and cheese using ingredients like peas and amaranth. On that note, one of the most notable ingredients that we see enter the mainstream space will be plant-based whey and casein, which companies like Brave Robot are creating through fermentation. Now that this technology is becoming more accessible and affordable, other brands will be quick to enter the market.
Let’s not forget about eggs, either. The Just Egg is certainly the most prolific vegan option on the market due to its versatility. But it will soon have competition from other brands that have cracked the code on vegan eggs that you can cook and bake with.
Plant-based seafood will increasingly become part of the conversation in 2021 as consumer awareness of the industry’s impact on the planet grows. We saw the start of this in 2020, when leading tuna manufacturer Bumblebee Foods entered a joint distribution venture with vegan seafood brand, Good Catch Foods.
With over 60 companies within our Blue Horizon ecosystem, I welcome as always all new plant-based alternatives with open arms and I see every brand as a friend. While the meat industry (and let’s not forget dairy or seafood, either— there’s so much room for growth) is competition, we share the mission to create a more sustainable food system. One that embraces plants and innovation in a shift away from conventional animal products.
Mark my words, 2021 is going to be a good year.