Lever VC’s RMB200M Lever China Fund Closes First Investments in Alternative Protein Startups

The Lever China Fund supports local Chinese innovators targeting the alternative proteins market

The Lever China Alternative Protein Fund (Lever China Fund), run by U.S.- and Hong Kong-based alternative protein-focused venture capital fund Lever VC, has completed its first five investments, according to a statement released today.

The funding was channeled towards five Chinese early-stage alternative protein companies including plant-based meats and cultivated meats startups, the statement said.

The five investments include pre-seed rounds for plant-based meat startups from Shanghai HERO Protein and HaoFood, and Beijing-based cultivated meat start-up LIKE Foods, as well as seed rounds in plant-based seafood company from Tianjin New Singularity and cultivated meat company Avant Meats.

Of these, the Lever China Fund acted as the lead investor for HaoFood, LIKE Foods and New Singularity, and participated in funding rounds for the remaining two companies, the statement noted.

“In addition to looking for outstanding entrepreneurs, we prioritize companies that bring innovative and delicious products and novel food technologies to China,” Investment Director of the Lever China Fund Nina Ju said in the statement.

“Our first five investments support pioneers in China’s alternative protein space, including the first dedicated plant-based seafood company, a plant-based meat company pioneering high moisture extrusion in China, and the country’s first cell-cultivated meat company,” Ju also said.

The Lever China Fund is targeting a burgeoning alternative protein market in China

Lever VC announced the Lever China Fund in June this year as an RMB200 million joint investment fund and accelerator for plant-based and cultivated meat and dairy companies in China.

Through the Lever China Fund, Lever VC will be investing RMB40 million in Chinese alternative protein companies over the next four years, with additional RMB160 million available as potential follow-on funding.

In addition to the financing, startups funded under the Lever China Fund will gain access to a three-month foodtech accelerator program.

These investments are a second win for Lever VC this year. The alternative protein venture firm had earlier announced the first close of its Lever VC Fund I in August, with $23 million in capital commitments from Asian family offices and conglomerates.

The Lever China Fund is supported by Shanghai-based alternative protein consultancy Lever Foods, and run in partnership with Brinc. A venture capital firm and accelerator backed by Lever VC, Brinc will be operating the Guangzhou-based foodtech accelerator program for funded startups.

Lever China Fund also counts Chinese companies COFCO, and Yili, the China Plant-Based Foods Alliance, and European corporates Givaudan and Cremer as corporate partners.

“In addition to the capital the Fund provides, Lever Foods leverages our broad network of contacts in the food and investment sectors to provide our portfolio companies with hands-on support in areas like R&D, fundraising, supply chain, distribution channels and strategic guidance,” Program Manager of Lever Foods Lily Chen said in the statement.

“We are very excited to see the accelerating growth of alternative protein in China, with industry giants like Starbucks, KFC, Cargill and Nestle adding plant-based meat and dairy products in recent months,” Chen added.

Triggered by a spate of substantially sized IPOs and funding rounds by U.S. companies, the popularity of alternative protein is rising in Asia.

In China alone, sales for plant-based meats great to $9.7 billion in 2018, and the market for vegan food is expected to be worth $12 billion by 2023, a Euromonitor report suggests.

Albeit still a nascent market, the alternative protein segment is growing rapidly in Asia, creating a need for more local innovators to provide homegrown solutions catering to this market, even as Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat set their sights on China.

The Lever China Fund is will be hosting a webinar on 8 October discussing opportunities in China’s alternative protein sector with presentations from alternative protein startups for international investors, the company noted in the statement.

Header image by jcomp on Freepik

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