In June 2020, Lever Foundation launched its program-related investment arm to support alternative protein entrepreneurs in China. From its inception, the Foundation’s goal has been to help bring new companies into being that otherwise would not have existed (or not have existed in China.) by providing critical first funding and support.

Impact: Providing Critical Early Financial Support with Program-Related Investments

In the first year, Lever actively supported seven new plant-based, cultivated, and fermentation-based companies, including HaoFood, a plant-based chicken brand Lever helped launch in early 2020. HaoFood uses a novel peanut protein extrusion process to make tasty plant-based chicken products, which quickly launched in regional restaurants.

Lever Foundation funded HEROTEIN, a plant-based chicken and beef company Lever helped launch in late 2019. HEROTEIN is the first Chinese company to use high moisture extrusion—a process all top brands in the U.S. use—that allows for higher-quality products. HEROTEIN is sold in restaurant and retail locations.

Impact: Bringing Key Alternative Protein Technologies to China

On the high-tech side, Lever Foundation provided critical initial funding and support to New Singularity, the first company in China to produce mycelium as a meat alternative. Mycelium, produced by fermentation and popularized by the plant-based meat brand Quorn, has a highly meat-like texture.

Another company Lever provided initial funding and early support to is cultivated pork producer CellX, the first cultivated meat company in mainland China outside of a university. CellX is now the fastest-growing cultivated meat company in Asia, expanding from a team of two to over 25 in its first nine months.

Lever also supported Avant–China’s first cultivated seafood company–which produces cell-cultivated seafood and which Lever helped launch in 2018; and Meat Fresh, which produces pouched meals with plant-based meat.

Avant’s Carrie Chan and CellX’s Ziliang Yang speak at The 2022 Asia-Pacific Agri-Food Innovation Summit.Photo Source: Asia-Pacific Agri-Food Innovation Summit

Lever was instrumental in the launch of Blue Canopy in China in 2021 and provided critical first funding. Blue Canopy produces mycelium and uses precision fermentation to make real animal protein without live animals—the first to bring this valuable technology to China.

The trailblazing work of these companies has drawn recognition. Two were awarded ORIGIN Innovation Awards for being among Asia’s five most exciting Food and Ag startups. Four won awards in the alternative protein category at China’s International Future AgriFood Conference. And two were named among the most innovative food tech companies globally on the London-based 2020 FoodTech 500 list.

Lever Foundation’s work has not gone unnoticed. Lever’s program-related investment vehicle was awarded as one of China’s top 20 innovative funds at China’s International Future AgriFood Conference. It was also named in the Top 7 in 2020 Chinese Food & CPG Investment Institutions by China food media outlet Food Plus Hub.


This work happened because of the support of people like you. Please consider donating today to build a more humane and sustainable protein supply in Asia.