Artisanal. Handmade. Small batch. These terms have become the favored monikers for the foods that many of us are proud to eat. They signify a welcome departure from artificial ingredients, unhealthy additives, questionable ingredient sourcing, and flavors that taste anything but natural. This preference signifies a massive change in consumer behavior that has driven many of the investments in our portfolio, and we’re proud to work with founders who want to change the future of food.
We feel strongly that what we put in our bodies in the years to come must be more sustainable, healthier, and as locally produced as possible.
We also feel strongly that the only way to make that vision a reality is to welcome technology and progress. A return to farming and food distribution that mimic that of the early 1900s won’t feed the growing world population. Plus, it’s too easy for us in California to promote eating only locally and seasonally when everything grows here, practically year round. While I have a beloved collection of Chez Panisse recipes covering my kitchen walls, it’s always stuck with me how Anthony Bourdain criticized the local food movement by pointing out that it’s not really fair (or realistic) to expect people who live in the upper peninsula of Michigan to subsist on turnips and rutabagas for many months of the year. And as wealth accumulates in places with low historical meat consumption, we have to expect that animal protein will make up a larger share of diets.
Our thesis is that the best way to shift the food ecosystem is by marrying technology with artisanal, sustainable principles. This is why we’ve invested in Beyond Meat alongside Porter Road Butcher, Sweetgreen as well as Spyce, and Good Eggs in addition to Daily Harvest.
Endless West, profiled in the WSJ last week, is an investment we’re proud to make within this thesis. No food and beverage category places as much emphasis on provenance (“terroir”) as that of wine and spirits, so Endless West instantly got our attention. It is a challenge for sustainability that truly great wine and spirits are traditionally made in a few select regions of the globe using wood barrels, and glass-encased liquids are resource intensive to ship. While nothing’s replacing Petrus any time soon, we need a compelling alternative for the vast majority of wine and whiskey that is consumed immediately after purchase for its flavor, not its history.
Endless West has developed a process by which to make wine and whiskey at a molecular level, meaning they can be produced close to the point of consumption in a far less resource intensive way. By using molecules extracted from plants and yeasts, Endless West makes a clean and sustainable product using small batch production – but without using large quantities of water for farming and processing, fertilizers, sulfites, oak barrels, or other resource-intensive inputs typically required for great beverages.
In addition to being sustainable, it’s delicious. Endless West’s first whiskey, Glyph, will be coming out this winter. The WSJ liked it better than Pappy Van Winkle, which sells for >$1600. Endless West has also developed a large pipeline of other delicious beverages that you’ll hear more about in the coming years – we’ve had the fortune to taste them along the way, and we can’t wait for you all to try them too.