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Tyson Creates Investment Fund for Alternative Proteins

By Dave Fusaro, Editor in Chief

Dec 05, 2016

Tyson Foods Inc. today (Dec. 5) launched a venture capital fund focused on investing in companies developing breakthrough technologies, business models and products to sustainably feed a growing world population – which includes non-meat proteins.

Tyson will make available $150 million to the fund, which has been named Tyson New Ventures LLC and will be headquartered in Chicago, home of Tyson's 2014 acquisition Hillshire Brands. The fund will "complement the company’s continuing investment in innovation in its core fresh meats, poultry and prepared foods businesses."

A company statement said the fund will concentrate on three areas: commercializing delicious, safe and affordable alternative proteins; tackling food insecurity and food loss through market making and other commercial models; and tapping the internet of food to promote more precise and productive resource application, safety and consumer empowerment in the food chain.

"Tyson New Ventures will invest in these entrepreneurial food businesses and leverage Tyson Foods’ expertise to boost their development," the statement read. "The first investment involves Tyson Foods’ previously announced (October) 5 percent ownership stake in plant-based protein producer Beyond Meat."

Tyson New Ventures will be led by Mary Kay James, who has been named vice president and general manager. She previously served as managing director of DuPont Ventures, was chairperson of the National Venture Capital Assn., Corporate Venture Group and an advisory board member to Global Corporate Venturing.

James and her team will seek startups that complement Tyson Foods’ existing business and product development efforts. They will focus on the areas of alternative proteins, elimination of food waste and leveraging innovative trends in technology.

“This fund is about broadening our exposure to innovative, new forms of protein and ways of producing food, while remaining focused on our core fresh meats, poultry and prepared foods businesses, which are also experiencing tremendous consumer demand and growth,” said Monica McGurk, executive vice president of strategy and new ventures and president of foodservice for Tyson Foods.