Imagine a world where innovation has removed animals from our food supply chain. This is the future CPT Capital invests in.
CPT Capital, the investment arm of Jeremy Coller’s family office, backs creative businesses that develop groundbreaking replacements for animal products. The firm supports innovators focused on plant-based protein, cell-based meat, and recombinant proteins, from seed stage to sale, IPO, and longer-term. CPT Capital’s portfolio currently includes more than 35 companies, including Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods, Memphis Meats, Perfect Day, and Good Catch.
We’re honored to count CPT Capital among the generous sponsors of next week’s Good Food Conference, where two experts from their team will speak. Investment director Costa Yiannoulis has overseen the handling and expansion of their food and materials tech portfolio. At the Good Food Conference, he will discuss how investors are accelerating the plant-based and cell-based industries. Investment associate Rosie Wardle will join a panel exploring how animal-free foods can help mitigate the environmental and public health risks of the global agricultural system.
We got the chance to ask the CPT Capital team a few questions about their work in alternative protein ventures. Keep reading for a little taste of the ideas they’ll be discussing at the conference!!
Julia: Of all the causes you could invest in, why did CPT Capital decide to focus on the future of protein?
CPT Capital: Business as usual for the food sector is no longer viable. From climate change and water scarcity to demographic shifts and changing consumer preferences, there are huge macro trends at play here. Because of this, feeding the world within planetary boundaries is one of the greatest challenges facing humanity today and the global food system is under increasing pressure to meet this challenge. This backdrop means there is a significant opportunity for both impact and financial returns in reshaping protein production through new technologies.
How large is CPT Capital’s portfolio, and how many companies does it include?
We have been investing in the alternative protein space since 2013, with our first investments being Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods. Our portfolio now includes over 35 companies across three technology categories, namely: advanced plant-based, recombinant protein, and cell culture (which includes both cell-based meat and non-animal cell cultures such as algae and mycoprotein). Most of our investments are in US-based companies given the considerable amount of innovation coming out of the Bay Area in particular. However, we also have a number of Israeli and European companies in the portfolio and are starting to see more opportunities develop in Asia.
How would you describe CPT Capital’s role in the growth of your portfolio companies?
Firstly, given we are one of the longest-standing dedicated investors in the alternative protein space, we believe we have a great deal of expertise to offer companies, especially in the early stages of their growth. Whether we lead the round and take a board seat, or help with connections and advice simply as a shareholder on the sidelines, we are always trying to help our portfolio companies at whichever stage they may be. Secondly, given we are a family office, we are different from traditional VCs in terms of our ability to provide long-term capital to support the growth of companies—we don’t have a set time horizon to exit, as we aren’t constrained by needing to give back cash to investors in five years’ time. This means we can back companies from seed all the way through to sale or IPO and beyond.
Apart from plant-based proteins and cell culture, CPT Capital also invests in recombinant proteins. Can you please explain what recombinant proteins are and how they fit into the development of animal-free food?
Companies employing recombinant protein technology use a fermentation process where yeast, microbes or other host organisms are programmed to produce a desired protein. These proteins can be identical to those produced by animals (e.g., those found in milk, cheese, gelatin or egg white); can be identical to those found in plants (e.g., through this process, Impossible Foods produces their soy leghemoglobin that makes their burger so meat-like); or can be tailored to exhibit specific characteristics (nutritional or functional) that unlock new and improved properties for food. Fermentation is a long-standing process, which has been used to create specific food ingredients and enzymes such as rennet in cheese for decades—but now that the reading and writing of DNA is readily available and cost-effective, this technology has been unshackled and can be used to revolutionize animal-free protein.
What’s one food innovation you’re particularly excited about funding through CPT Capital?
The entire space is incredibly exciting to us—and it’s amazing to see how quickly it has evolved from nascency only 6 years ago when we first got involved. However, one example of innovation we are particularly excited about is the potential for 3D printing to process and structure protein products with applications across plant-based and cell-based meat—we believe this technology has the potential to deliver us the holy grail of the animal-free steak. Over the last 9-12 months, we have seen some very interesting developments in this space, in particular, an Israeli company called Redefine Meat that has recently emerged from stealth mode.
What can the average person who doesn’t have the capital to become a private equity entrepreneur do to support the budding market of alternatives to conventional animal products?
There are lots of things an individual can do to support this emerging industry. First, everyone can exercise their personal choice to buy these products instead of conventional animal products—vote with your dollar. Secondly, approach GFI who are the clear leaders in connecting the whole alternative protein space, and can provide guidance on how individuals with different expertise and skillsets can get involved and add value to help propel this space.
The Good Food Conference is sold out. But we’re livestreaming the whole event for free. Sign up to tune in!