Eat Just eyes public market float after QIA-led $200m round

Founder Josh Tetrick says becoming a public company ‘makes sense’ for Eat Just as it seeks to change global food value chains and attracts sovereign wealth funds.

Plant-based protein and cultured meat provider Eat Just aims to achieve operating profitability by the end of the year and enter public markets soon after, founder Josh Tetrick told Agri Investor.

The company has multiple options through which it can enter public markets, he said, that go beyond a traditional IPO and the increasingly popular special purpose acquisition company mergers route. Tetrick mentioned direct listings and highlighted changes approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission in December 2020 that expand how companies can use such listings.

“All those options are available to us,” Tetrick said. “There’s a reason Spotify chose direct listing and Airbnb didn’t. It’s always good to have more options, because every company has its own nuance. We’re heading towards being a public company because that’s what makes sense.”

Tetrick added that Eat Just is not open to being acquired by larger interests.

The San Francisco-headquartered company was established in 2011 and previously operated as Hampton Creek. Its offerings include a mung bean-derived egg replacement sold under the JUST Egg brand and meat made from animal cells rather than livestock sold under the GOOD Meat brand, the world’s first to receive regulatory approval for sale in Singapore late last year.

Tetrick said entering public markets sometime after achieving operating profitability, which is expected later this year, is the best way to provide a return to existing investors while continuing progress toward large-scale change of the industrial food system. Such change, he added, will ultimately require a variety of technology and capital types.

The company has raised more than $650 million from investors including Menlo Park, California-headquartered Khosla Ventures, Hong Kong-headquartered Horizon Ventures and Los Angeles-headquartered PowerPlant Partners. It raised $200 million in a late March round that included Boston-headquartered Charlesbank Capital Partners, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen-backed Vulcan Capital and was led by the Qatar Investment Authority.

Sovereign wealth investors are increasing their exposure to foodtech, Tetrick said, with an eye toward building their own economies and addressing food security concerns seen as more acute after covid-19. He declined to disclose additional details about local production plans related to QIA’s investment beyond confirming production in the Middle East is envisioned as part of Eat Just’s future.

“Qatar specifically and the MENA region generally; we’re not going to solve the problems that we’re trying to attack in the food system if we are not both serving those markets domestically and also ensuring that we have significant manufacturing capacity there,” said Tetrick. “That’s definitely fundamental to our plan.”

Eat Just’s relationship with the Singaporean government began with an investment by Temasek in 2014, according to Tetrick, and evolved to include direct support for a $120 million protein separation facility being constructed in co-operation with Minneapolis, Minnesota-headquartered Proterra Investment Partners.

Tetrick added that Eat Just’s relationship with Singapore has helped demonstrate to the company that policymakers and entities advising them worldwide are well-attuned to food policy as a nexus connecting sustainability, energy and economic planning.

“Both Singapore and Qatar are very clear-eyed about food security and very clear-eyed about wanting to invest in food technologies and clean energy innovations that allow them to both receive a return on their capital and help them mitigate some risk and capitalize on some of these big opportunities, so that’s where the connective tissue is,” he said.

“I live in the United States. I wish the United State had a group like the [Singaporean] Economic Development Board that was so fixated on trying to build a food system for ten years in the future.”