Black, quilted next-gen leather by Viridis

State of the Industry Report

Image Credit: VIRIDIS

2021 State of the Industry Report: Next-Gen Materials

Why we need next-gen materials

Animal-derived materials, particularly leather, are widely used in the fashion, automotive, and home goods industries. Production of animal-derived materials drives climate change, environmental degradation, public health risks, and animal cruelty. The current generation of alternatives – petroleum-derived synthetics – also comes with serious environmental and social concerns. We need more sustainable, next-gen alternatives with optimal aesthetics and performance. A broad ecosystem of innovators is rapidly growing to address this urgent need. 

Our most recent State of the Industry Report covers the growth and investments in next-gen materials through the end of 2021. This report provides an overview of the key players involved, the driving forces accelerating material innovation, and latest investment data for next-gen materials.

Cover of State of the Industry Report: Next-Gen Materials showing a woman with rainbow eyeshadow holding a green boot made with next-gen leather by Sylven New York

Next-gen material innovation is increasing

Within the last eight years, we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of innovators. The market is still nascent with a total of 95 next-gen material companies. Of those, 67 focus on biomimicry of animal leather, 12 on silk, seven on wool, seven on fur, six on down, and one on exotic skins. The majority of the companies (55 out of the 95 total) were established after 2014, and ten have been established since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.


As more companies come into the space, the technology behind next-gen materials is diversifying. Plants or plant-derived materials have historically been the main input for leather alternatives, but recently more new companies are using mycelium and microbe-derived materials to create their next-gen leather in order to better replicate the performance and esthetic of animal-based leather. Across all material categories, we’re seeing increasing diversity of technology.

Donut chart showing 49 next-gen material companies use plant-derived materials as main input, twenty-one use microbe-derived materials, nine use blends, eight use mycelium, six use recycled material, and four use cultivated animal cells

$2.3 billion has been invested in next-gen materials since 2015

We calculated that a total of $2.3 billion has been invested in next-gen materials since 2015, and the investment amount in 2021 more than doubled that in 2020. Even amid Covid-19, the capital invested in 2021 alone nearly equaled that of the previous 4 years combined. 


We estimate the global wholesale market size for next-gen materials will be approximately 2.2 billion USD in 2026, representing a three percent share of an addressable market of over $70 billion.

Infographic representing next-gen material landscape at a glance

From the archives

We published the first-ever State of the Industry Report: Next-Gen Materials in 2020. Access our previous report here.