Springdale, Arkansas-based Tyson Foods has launched a venture capital fund focused on investing in companies developing breakthrough technologies, business models and products to sustainably feed a growing world population.
Tyson will make available $150 million to the fund, which has been named Tyson New Ventures LLC, to complement the company’s continuing investment in innovation in its core fresh meats, poultry and prepared foods businesses.
Tyson says the fund will concentrate on three areas in the foods space: 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 first investment involves Tyson Foods’ previously-announced 5 percent ownership stake in plant-based protein producer Beyond Meat.
“We intend to collaborate with promising food entrepreneurs who are pioneering new products and technology that are making meaningful changes and improvement to food systems,” said Monica McGurk, EVP of strategy and new ventures and president of foodservice for Tyson Foods. “We believe we can accelerate the growth of startups through our capabilities in such areas as food and culinary research and development, sourcing, insights, customer relationships and distribution. By doing so, we hope to materially advance the state of the U.S. and global food system.”
Tyson New Ventures will be based in Chicago and led by Mary Kay James, who has been named VP and GM. She previously served as managing director of DuPont Ventures, was chairperson of the National Venture Capital Association, 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,” McGurk said.