Louis Dreyfus Company has named a former Blackstone executive as the head of a new unit that will look to invest in alternative protein companies, one of the biggest consumer trends of recent years.

The Dutch-based group, which is one of the world’s biggest traders of agricultural commodities, said it had appointed Kristen Eshak Weldon as head of food innovation and downstream strategy.

Ms Weldon joins after 13 years at private equity group Blackstone, where she was most recently co-head of the London office for hedge fund solutions. Before that Ms Weldon was a banker at JPMorgan.

After three years of consolidation, LDC is looking to grow and has identified food innovation as one area where it would like to invest. LDC also wants to move closer to its end customer by pushing further into processing, as margins in its core trading operations are squeezed by fierce competition and more transparent markets.

One option under consideration by LDC’s new chief executive Ian McIntosh is to join forces with other investors and create a private-equity style fund that would look to invest in start-up companies and try and pick the Elon Musk of food.

There are a growing number of alternative protein companies, including plant-based meat start-ups Beyond Meat and Impossible foods, that are tapping into rising concerns about the health and environmental impact of eating meat. Other entrepreneurs are turning to insects and worms as alternative sources of food and protein.

“I’m very pleased to welcome Kristen to LDC, as the most recent member of our Executive Group,” said Mr McIntosh, who used to run LDC’s hedge fund business before it closed last year.

“She brings a wealth of experience in global asset management and as a strategic adviser, and I am confident that her appointment will contribute to LDC’s successful implementation of our strategic plans and projects to innovate in food and move further downstream, as we strive to meet global demand for food and sustain a growing population.

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