Kellogg and South Korea-based food group CJ CheilJedang have backed Plantible Foods, a US start-up developing plant-based protein made from duckweed.

The two food giants were investors in the Californian start-up’s Series A funding round. Terms were not disclosed.

Plantible Foods said the round had raised US$21.5m for the business, taking the funds it has attracted so far to $27m.

Set up in 2018, the company is making ingredients from lemna, more commonly known as duckweed. Plantible Foods says “the natural, plant-based protein emulates the functional characteristics of widely-used animal-based proteins”. It claims the ingredient “enables food companies to match the taste and texture of animal-based products with more sustainable plant-based ingredients”.

The company also points to the environmental benefits of using lemna. It says “the majority” of plant-based proteins are derived from crops with “annual crop cycles and are therefore vulnerable to climate change”.

It says: “Grown in a controlled environment, lemna doubles in mass every 48 hours, enabling a consistent daily harvest throughout the year. Lemna is considered to be one of the most protein-efficient crops in the world, yielding ten times more protein per acre than soy, while requiring ten times less water.”

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The firm, which employs 16 staff, said it would use the Series A funds to build its first “commercial facility” to launch and sell its product next year.

“Plantible is not competing with other plant proteins, our goal is to remove chickens and cows from the food supply system,” Tony Martens, the company’s co-founder and CEO, said. “We are cultivating a new plant to change the broken food supply chain that was exposed during the pandemic. Currently available plant proteins don’t pull their weight when it comes to competing with animal-based products on taste and nutrition.”

He added: “By combining plant science, biochemistry and engineering, we are able to create drop-in replacements for these widely used animal-derived proteins without forcing consumers to sacrifice on either taste or nutrition, paving the way for an accelerated transition towards a healthier planet.”

Kellogg made its investment through the breakfast-cereal giant’s corporate-venture arm Eighteen94 Capital launched in 2016. Just Food has asked Kellogg to comment on why it has backed Planitble Foods. Previous investments made through Eighteen94 Capital include MycoTechnology, a US firm that produces ingredients for food and beverage products using mushrooms as a base.

CJ CheilJedang has made investments in up-and-coming firms developing alternative protein sources, including Israel-based cell-meat business Aleph Farms and Singapore cell-based seafood start-up Shiok Meats.

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