Bloomberg Businessweek

THE VEGANS WILL FEED YOU NOW

Chris Kerr is building an empire of plant-based private equity

• During a busy lunch service in the cafeteria of one of Silicon Valley’s largest cloud-computing companies, the vegan chef Chad Sarno turned up a gas burner and slowly poured a bottle of white wine into a steel saucepan filled with chopped onion, capers, vegetable stock, and al dente linguine. He tossed the mixture with a flick of the wrist, lowered the heat to a brisk simmer, and added a handful of flakes of Good Catch, a plant-based tuna substitute made of chickpeas, soy, lentils, beans, and oil flavored with an algae extract. After letting the pasta absorb the sauce for a minute, he plated a snack-size portion for a petite, dark-haired woman named Maisie Ganzler, who was waiting at a corner table to taste the results.

Sarno, who founded Good Catch two years ago with his brother, Derek, was visibly anxious as he presented the dish. Ganzler is the head of strategy at Bon Appétit Management Co., a high-end subsidiary of Compass Group Plc, a catering giant that feeds more than a million people daily, including at Apple, Facebook, and Google. A nod from her would be huge for Good Catch, potentially bringing its food to the palates of some of the world’s most influential eaters.

Ganzler’s expression was inscrutable as she tried the linguine, followed by a salad topped with more of the imitation tuna, which has a taupe color not unlike that of the real thing. Then she smiled. When, she asked, could Bon Appétit get its first Good Catch deliveries? She was also interested in Numu, a no-milk mozzarella Sarno had melted convincingly onto a pair of margherita pizzas a half-hour earlier.

While Ganzler chewed, Chris Kerr, who’d organized the August tasting, was watching intently from across the table. Kerr is the co-founder and chief investment officer of New Crop Capital, a New York venture firm with stakes in 33 vegan food companies, including Good Catch, meal-kit producer Purple Carrot, and Beyond Meat, which sells pea-based burgers that “bleed” on the plate. As the locus of vegan eating shifts from musty whole-foods stores to, well, Whole Foods

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