Executive summary 

The global fermentation industry continued to innovate on animal-free alternatives to conventional proteins in 2023. In 2023 alone, the number of fermentation companies globally grew by 16 percent, seven new fermentation-focused facilities opened their doors, and funding milestones were reached in Europe and Africa. 

The year also delivered scientific advances, new products, more manufacturing facilities, and notable partnerships. All this progress brought the world more meat, seafood, eggs, and dairy made via microorganisms than in any previous year. While challenges in manufacturing capacity and reaching cost parity remain, this nature-inspired technology is primed to transform the future of food.

158total fermentation companies that were focused exclusively or predominantly on alternative proteins by the end of 2023
$4.1 billionall-time investment in companies focused on fermentation for alternative proteins
$515 millioninvested in 2023 in companies focused on fermentation for alternative proteins

Report highlights

  • Industry associations
  • New facilities
  • Strategic partnerships
  • Product trends
  • Private investment data and insights
  • Research updates
  • Public support and regulation
  • Industry outlook

Key developments

The State of the Industry Report: Fermentation provides a comprehensive global analysis of the fermentation-enabled alternative protein industry including the commercial landscape, investment data, science and technology developments, and public funding and support. Highlights featured in the report include:

Commercial landscape

New industry associations, facilities, and partnerships

  • In early 2023, nine precision fermentation companies co-founded the Precision Fermentation Alliance, which will focus on regulatory engagement and consumer messaging. Food Fermentation Europe, working to address several issues, including labeling and nomenclature for animal-free proteins, was also formed in 2023.
  • Seven new fermentation facilities opened globally in 2023, and several more were announced or began construction.
  • In 2023, 19 new partnerships focused on end products and bioprocess scaling were formed, adding to the 21 partnerships established in 2022.

Investments

All-time investment reaches $4.1 billion

  • According to our analysis of data obtained from the Net Zero Insights platform, fermentation companies raised $514.7 million in 2023, a year-over-year deceleration mirroring similar trends across markets amid challenging macroeconomic and other global factors.
  • Funding grew in Europe, totaling $179.4 million, a 22% increase from 2022 (and the highest annual total for the region to date). 
  • The number of unique investors in fermentation globally grew by 22% to 693 unique investors.

Science and technology

New ingredient and process research

Government and regulation

Public funding and support 

  • The White House released “Bold Goals for U.S. Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing,” which proposed supportive policies for the domestic biotechnology sector and called for more research on alternative proteins, public-private partnerships, and an ecosystem of agriculture-focused biomanufacturing facilities. 
  • The White House released a Building the Bioworkforce of the Future report that named precision fermentation explicitly as a growing sector in the American bioeconomy that will benefit from government investment. 
  • In the United States, precision fermentation startup Liberation Labs received a $25 million loan guarantee from USDA to accelerate the construction of a facility in Indiana.
  • We estimate total Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) funding for fermentation at around $40 million over four years—nearly matching the United States’ all-time investment in alternative proteins before 2023.
  • The government of South Africa allocated what may be the first public investment in precision fermentation on the continent, with a grant of ZAR 11 million ($700,000) to South African startup De Novo FoodLabs.

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Hear from our experts

This webinar covers the commercial landscape, investments, science and technology progress, regulation and public funding, and industry forecasts for the fermentation-enabled alternative protein industry.

Find companies focused on fermentation  

These companies focus primarily on fermentation for alternative proteins. This list is intended to be as comprehensive as possible, but should not be considered exhaustive. You can learn more about these companies in our company database. Are we missing something? Let us know about an update to a company’s record by filling out our company database edits form or submit a new company using this form.

Find production facilities focused on fermentation

These production facilities have fermentation-enabled alt protein capacity. This database is dynamically updated; the total number of facilities may differ slightly from what has been reported in the State of the Industry Report as we continuously improve our dataset. This list is intended to be as comprehensive as possible, but should not be considered exhaustive.
 
Are we missing something? Let us know by filling out this form to add a fermentation-enabled alternative protein-focused production facility to the database.

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Download our at-a-glance summary

Don’t have time to read the full report? Check out our summary for a quick view of the highlights and key data points from our 2023 State of the Industry report for fermentation.

Meet the authors

View all experts

Adam leman

Adam Leman, Ph.D.

LEAD SCIENTIST, FERMENTATION

Adam is focused on engineering a new paradigm in food production.

Areas of expertise: microbial fermentation, precision fermentation, molecular biology

Daniel gertner

Daniel Gertner

BUSINESS ANALYST

Daniel identifies market opportunities and analyzes the alternative protein industry landscape.

Areas of expertise: research and analysis, economics

Lucas eastham

Lucas Eastham

SENIOR FERMENTATION SCIENTIST

Lucas Eastham is focused on analyzing fermentation technologies, and progressing their applications in the alternative protein industry.

Areas of expertise: microbial biotechnology, upstream strain and process development, downstream process development, bioprocess product commercialization

Michael carter

Michael Carter

POLICY SPECIALIST, DIPLOMACY

Michael supports the Policy and Government Relations team by providing original writing and analysis in support of alternative protein development and deployment.

Areas of expertise: research and analysis, original writing, multilateral fora, global public investment

Taylor leet-otley

Taylor Leet-Otley

CONSUMER RESEARCH LEAD

Taylor Leet-Otley oversees GFI’s consumer research, keeping the organization and the industry in touch with consumers’ needs & beliefs in the fast-moving alternative protein category.

Areas of Expertise: Consumer insights, market strategy, branding & marketing

Liz fathman

Liz Fathman

DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS

Liz leads the editorial and engagement team within Comms to steward and strengthen GFI’s owned and social channels, earned media work, and events and community engagement.

Areas of expertise: strategic communications, content creation and storytelling, publishing, ethnography, small-scale agriculture, regional food production

Jessica colley clarke

Jessica Colley Clarke

LEAD WRITER-EDITOR

Jessica Colley Clarke crafts stories that resonate with readers and inspire action to rethink our global food system.

Areas of expertise: storytelling and content creation, thought leadership, media engagement, strategic messaging, persuasive writing

Mackenzie battle

Mackenzie Battle, J.D.

REGULATORY ATTORNEY

Mackenzie Battle supports GFI’s litigation efforts and works on regulatory and policy issues affecting alternative proteins.

Areas of expertise: regulatory advocacy, legal research and analysis, litigation

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