Where We Are Investing Now: Food and Drink

As funds that focus on health and happiness (Social Starts) and delightful moments (Joyance Partners), we see food and drink as fundamental.

After all, health starts with food, not only in terms of survival and nutrition, but increasingly as an active mediator of biological or microbiome processes that underpin proper body operation. And, food and drink, in their myriad forms, are certainly sources of delight.

We have delineated a number of areas in food and drink as investment targets for this year:

Lab-grown fish protein. Creating human food in the lab is challenging, likely to take a long time, and extremely expensive. The type of food we think has the best chance of reaching the market from the lab relatively soon is fish.

First, fish has an easier regulatory path than lab-based meat does. More importantly, fish can be brought to market initially in the form of pastes and other mixable materials in a way that meat cannot. So we’re looking to invest actively in lab-based fish, but taking a cautious approach to lab-grown meat products.

Non-lab alternative proteins. We are seeing remarkable things being done with many forms of natural non-meat sources for meat-like proteins. We already have the Impossible Burger. We’re now seeing similar products derived from mushroom fibers, collagen, whey, and eggs. We think these new proteins are likely to reach market far sooner than lab-based meats; plus, we feel the eating public is ready for these products now.

Microbiome-focused food. The importance of the microbiome in human gut health and in many other bodily processes—including mood-impacting interactions with the brain—continues to grow. We’re now seeing the emergence of “medicinal food”—ingestible products derived from, and interacting with, the human biome to improve body functions and potentially forestall and treat disease. We have high hopes for startups in this area.

DNA-based nutrition. This category is in its infancy, but labs already exist to support this market. We aren’t sure food that is optimized for particular genomes is ready for prime time. But we certainly intend to keep our eyes open here. Personalized food is a classic big idea.

Coffee and tea. These beverages are universal experiences, supply constrained, and crying out for innovation and change. We see enormous potential in new ways to deliver coffee and tea-like experiences, new chemistry producing these products and derived from them. We also see new ingredients emerging with the potential to be the next coconut water. And, we see beverages as a potential delivery path for probiotics and other health compounds.

Water. In addition to our focus on water as a beverage, we will actively explore deeper tech for water efficiency, capture, transformation to drinkability, and other long-term impacts. We’ll invest sparingly, if at all, but recognize the unmatched scale and criticality of this area and work to increase our knowledge and access worldwide. We think a climate-altered world will face increasing water challenges. This will make water an increasingly valuable resource in the years ahead. We want to be ready.

Innovation in Food and Drink abounds, and we're hungry to discover and invest in new companies that will fuel the generations of the future.

By Managing Partner Mike Edelhart