St. Louis becoming focal point of the plant-based food industry
“I think there is something very interesting and very exciting to play a role in promoting the city of St. Louis.”
ST. LOUIS – It started out as a mission-driven endeavor.
Siblings Todd and Jody Boyman had spent decades eating a plant-based diet and were confident that plant-based foods could provide an alternative to an existing food supply that they believed was adversely affecting people and the planet.
Building on that belief, they began researching a plant-based food company in St. Louis around 2004. It was a speculative effort with few consumers even knowing about vegetable meat. For this project to work, the boymans had to be patient and wait for the market to emerge.
“If you want to improve personal and planetary health, you have to find out how we can improve our food system. That’s where it started,” said Todd Boyman. “But at that point there wasn’t anyone out there suggesting that plant-based meat would be a thing or that there was a consistent term for it.”
Now your patience is paying off.
Boymans’ Hungry Planet, which makes nine different types of plant-based protein products for retail and food service customers, closed a $ 25 million financing round last month to expand operations and meet explosive demand for plant foods to satisfy.
In the past five years, more than $ 4 billion in venture capital has been invested nationwide in companies like Hungry Planet, which develop alternative protein products like plant-based meat and bring recognition to such well-known brands as Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat. Additionally, U.S. plant-based sales increased 27% year over year in 2020.
And in the past few months the movement has made its way into St. Louis. Alongside Hungry Planet, corporate giants like Anheuser-Busch and Post Holdings and Agtech newbies like Benson Hill have started making their own claims on a sector that is rapidly becoming a $ 7 billion industry.
In doing so, they stand up for St. Louis as the one stop shop for the industry, given the cluster of agtech startups and plant science professionals, food and beverage manufacturing ability, and proximity to farm producers.
“I think there is something very interesting and very exciting to play a role in promoting the city of St. Louis and looking for new ways that the city of St. Louis can shine,” said Cesar Vargas, US Secretary of State Anheuser -Busch, who is investing $ 100 million in a Soulard facility to convert spent grain into food products. “If this emerging industry can prevail and we can help build something in St. Louis that has an impact beyond the borders of St. Louis, then that is exactly the role we want to play.”
After years of planning, the boymans began quietly launching their products about four years ago. In recent years, activities have been scaled as plant-based meat gained visibility and market share.
With a range of products including plant-based burgers, chicken, sausage, and pork, the 35-person Hungry Planet is in growth mode.
“If you are based in St. Louis and you are not part of Silicon Valley’s ability to fund hundreds of millions of dollars, you have to decide when to get into the market,” Todd Boyman said of exactly what we did to have. “
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