When walking down a city street, if an individual was to ask other people whether or not they know who Bill Gates is, it would be far more surprising to hear that someone would say no, rather than yes. The co-founder of both Microsoft and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is recognizable, at least by name, by billions of people throughout the planet. Known for his work in personal computers, invention and philanthropy, Bill Gates is now venturing into relatively new ground, as he backs two companies that are charging forward in their developments of food alternatives, most recently chicken, mayonnaise and eggs.
In 1999, Bill Gates made his first personal donation towards the opening of a computer lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), totaling $20 million. Since Gates stepped down from full time work at Microsoft in 2008, he has spent the last six years focusing more directly on charity work, specifically in the fields of education and health. It still comes as a bit of a surprise that the business and technology magnate would choose to dive into the field of animal-free food alternatives.
The investors in these businesses are stepping into the opportunity with anything but a lack of focus, however. Bill Gates, along with Evan Williams and Biz Stone, the co-founders of Twitter, have made investments with Beyond Meat, a company seeking to create the world’s most identical chicken alternative in taste, texture, appearance and nutrients.
While Beyond Meat is nowhere near being the world’s first company to attempt a chicken replacement, they are breaking serious ground in respect to the amount of work and attention poured into their craft. The company’s Grilled Chicken-Free Strips boast a hearty 20 grams of protein, 20 percent of one’s daily value of iron, and only three grams of fat per serving.
Gates and his fellow investors are pointing to the fact that Ethan Brown, Beyond Meat’s founder, and his colleagues are setting the stage to rapidly disrupt the destructive methods that the food industry has been sitting on for decades. As a company that is being enthusiastically backed by Bill Gates, and one that the billionaire investor claims will provide massive cost savings in the future all across the board, it is no wonder that he is taking massive action on food alternatives.
Bill Gates has no intentions of stopping his investments with Beyond Meat, however. Hampton Creek Foods is paving the way for a mayonnaise and egg replacement. With the company’s mayo alternative already in a number of grocery store chains across the nation, it is only a matter of time before their “eggs” start elbowing the real thing off of shelves, as well. Hampton Creek Foods’ ratio of energy input to food output is 2-to-1, as contrasted with regular eggs’ ratio that is 39-to-1. When stacking these numbers next to each other, the choice that will enable costs to drop with ease is as plain as day.
When combined, the egg and mayo industries are worth about $54 billion. And to the eyes of investors, that is nothing small, even for Bill Gates. Both Beyond Meat’s Chicken-Free Strips and Hampton Creek Foods’ Just Mayo are available in Whole Foods stores across the U.S., and both companies are progressing more quickly than their respective founders had probably anticipated. While there may be potential for traditional animal-based companies to compete with such progress, it will likely not last long – not with an investor like Bill Gates enthusiastically backing innovative alternatives.
Opinion By Brad Johnson