BERKELEY, CA: In a $65 million investment round, Goldman Sachs, the US investment bank has placed a significant bet on a little-known company, Ripple Foods, a young beverage startup that specialises in pea milk, in a move that suggests changing American tastes.

The investment, led by Euclidean Capital, was Ripple’s largest injection of capital, which now totals $110 million, according to Bloomberg.

Ripple’s signature product is Ripptein, a pea protein drink extracted through a process that removes the slight funk of plant-based drinks, the company claims.

Goldman’s investment is illustrative of a wider change in the direction of capital. Food and beverage startups attracted almost $2bn in equity financing last year, according to CB insights. The most famous of these was Impossible Foods, known for its red-meat replacement made from plants, and Memphis Meats, which grows chicken cells in a petri dish.

American tastes are changing, and the marketing of these new non-animal products emphasises the health benefits of a reduced meat and dairy lifestyle. According to Statista, plant-based beverages enjoy as much as 33% household penetration in the US.

Following Ripple’s first funding round, which drew interest from both Google and Silicon valley VCs, the company’s co-founder Neil Renninger gave an interview to Bloomberg explaining the reasoning behind the company.

“The food system represents 20 percent of the world’s carbon emissions, and dairy is one-quarter of that […] The impact is massive. More than beef, more than chicken, dairy is actually the largest contributor to emissions by volume. That challenge scratched my sustainability itch.

“We saw huge potential for impact—a lot of white space in the world of food innovation through technology”, he added, noting traditional food companies’ reluctance to create new products in favour of brand extensions.

This has meant that traditional dairy has suffered. In 2015, sales of milk declined 7% according to Mintel, and are projected to drop another 11% through 2020.

“In addition to half of Americans consuming non-dairy milk, our research reveals that nearly all non-dairy milk drinkers also drink dairy milk, revealing that consumers are turning to non-dairy out of preference as opposed to necessity,” said Elizabeth Sisel, Beverage Analyst at Mintel.

Sourced from Bloomberg, Statista, Mintel; additional content by WARC staff