Adding fried pepperoni to a classic recipe with garlic and olive oil gives it a bacon-like brawniness and a chile kick.
Ethan Brown, the founder and C.E.O. of Beyond Meat, on his moral and environmental priorities.
When Clarisse Beurrier was getting her education in Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology, she already knew she wanted to make a difference; hence her participation in Effective Altruism Cambridge, an organization dedicated to helping smart and capable people target their philanthropic urges at the problems that will have the biggest actual impact on the world. She’s now a co-founder at Animal Alternative Technologies, a startup aiming to expedite the commercialization of cultured — aka ‘lab-grown’ — meat.
Clarisse joined us for this week’s episode of Found, our interview podcast where we speak to a different founder every week. We talk about what Clarisse learned about the cultured meat and animal protein alternative industry from her work experience at a couple of startups, including HigherSteaks, and how that dovetailed with the work she was doing at school to help her identify a crucial gap between science and industry. We get into everything from convincing big, entrenched industry heavyweights to embrace change, and the challenges of being a firs-time founder right out of school.
We loved our time chatting with Clarisse, and we hope you love yours listening to the episode. And of course, we’d love if you can subscribe to Found in Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, on Google Podcasts or in your podcast app of choice. Please leave us a review and let us know what you think, or send us direct feedback either on Twitter or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave us a voicemail at (510) 936-1618. And please join us again next week for our next featured founder.
Bioengineering may soon provide compelling, low-carbon alternatives in industries where even the best methods produce significant emissions. Utilizing natural and engineered biological process has led to low-carbon textiles from Algiknit, cell-cultured premium meats from Orbillion, and fuels captured from waste emissions via LanzaTech — and leaders from those companies will be joining us on stage for the Extreme Tech Challenge Global Finals on July 22.
We’re co-hosting the event, with panels like this one all day and a pitch-off that will feature a number of innovative startups with a sustainability angle.
I’ll be moderating a panel on using bioengineering to create change directly in industries with large carbon footprints: textiles, meat production, and manufacturing.
Algiknit is a startup that is sourcing raw material for fabric from kelp, which is an eco-friendly alternative to textile crop monocultures and artificial materials like acrylic. CEO Aaron Nessa will speak to the challenge of breaking into this established industry and overcoming preconceived notions of what an algae-derived fabric might be like (spoiler: it’s like any other fabric).
Orbillion Bio is one of the new crop of alternative protein companies offering cell-cultured meats (just don’t call them “lab” or “vat” grown) to offset the incredibly wasteful livestock industry. But it’s more than just growing a steak — there are regulatory and market barriers aplenty that CEO Patricia Bubner can speak to as well as the technical challenge.
LanzaTech works with factories to capture emissions as they’re emitted, collecting the useful particles that would otherwise clutter the atmosphere and repurposing them in the form of premium fuels. This is a delicate and complex process that needs to be a partnership, not just a retrofitting operation, so CEO Jennifer Holmgren will speak to their approach convincing the industry to work with them at the ground floor.
It should be a very interesting conversation, so tune in on July 22 to hear these and other industry leaders focused on sustainability discuss how innovation at the startup level can contribute to the fight against climate change. Plus it’s free!
Demand for beef is spiking as people dine out and grill, but the profits aren’t being evenly distributed. Ranchers blame the big meatpacking companies.
Shelby Houlihan, a medal favorite, will miss the U.S. Olympic trials after she tested positive for a banned steroid. She has blamed a food-truck meal.
The breach was the latest in a string of attacks targeting businesses critical to American infrastructure.
Some JBS beef processing plants were operational, but not at full capacity, union officials said, after a ransomware attack shut nine plants, affecting thousands of workers.
Operations at several owned by JBS, which processes one-fifth of the country’s beef, were affected, according to union representatives and Facebook posts meant for employees.
A bill in Congress aims to ban all kangaroo products from Australia, setting up a clash between two very different kinds of people on opposite ends of the earth.
A bill in Congress aims to ban all kangaroo products from Australia, setting up a clash between two very different kinds of people on opposite ends of the earth.
Brenda Martinez, one of the top track and field athletes in the United States, inadvertently tested positive for a banned substance under World Anti-Doping Agency rules.
Readers explore issues of diet, agriculture, ethics and climate change.
The popular cooking website will not publish new beef recipes over concerns about climate change. “We think of this decision as not anti-beef but rather pro-planet,” an article said.
Republican pundits and politicians are manufacturing red meat for their followers, regardless of truth.
Orbillion Bio’s plans to make high end meats in a lab have investors lining up for a seat at the company’s cap table.
Mere weeks after launching from Y Combinator’s famous accelerator program, the Silicon Valley-based potential purveyor of premium lamb loins, elk steaks, bison burgers and more has managed to haul in $5 million in financing.
The company’s led by Patricia Bubner, Gabrial Levesque Tremblay, and Samet Yidrim, who between them have over thirty years working in bioprocessing and the biopharmaceuticals industry.
A little over a month ago, Orbillion held its first public tasting event where meats mixed with its elk, beef, and sheep were on offer straight from the petri dish to the table.
Investors in the $5 million round include: At One Ventures, which has also backed Finless Foods and Wild Earth; Metaplanet Holdings; the European investment firm k16 ventures; FoundersX Ventures, who are also investors in SpaceX; Prithi Ventures, which backed Mission Barns, Turtle Tree Labs; and angel investors including Jonghoon Lim, the CEO of Hanmi Pharmaceuticals; Kris Corzine; Ethan Perlstein, the CEO of Perlara, the first biotech PBC; and a well-known university endowment.
“We were immediately struck by Orbillion’s focus on high-end, flavorful, hard-to-find meats like lamb, elk, wagyu beef, and bison, their strong science, business, and engineering backgrounds, and the fact that they are so focused on flavor that they literally have a Master Butcher on their advisory board,” said Ali Rohde, GP at Outset Capital, an early-stage venture fund run by Rohde along with repeat entrepreneurs Kanjun Qiu and Josh Albrecht. “Lab-grown meat is the future, and Orbillion Bio is already paving the way.”
The company said it would use the cash to bring its first product, a Wagyu beef offering, to pilot production.
It wouldn’t actually take that much of an investment for Biden to get us headed in the right direction.
Corporations are quickly waking up to the market potential of alternative proteins with the nation’s biggest consumer brands continuing to make investments and create partnerships with startup companies helping consumers transition to healthier and more environmentally sustainable diets.
As Earth Week draws to a close (thankfully) new partnerships announced over the past week show the potential for new technologies to transform old businesses.
Yesterday the New York-based ZX Ventures, the investment and innovation arm of AB InBev, said that it would be partnering with Clara Foods, a developer of protein production technologies including (but not limited to), brewing egg substitutes. That’s right, the makers of Budweiser are hatching a scheme to make other kinds of liquids that are less potable and more poachable.
In that case, the yolk would definitely be on you, future consumer.
“Since day one, Clara has been on a mission to accelerate the world’s transition to animal-free protein, starting with the egg. More than one trillion eggs are consumed globally every year and corporate commitments for cage-free aren’t enough,” said Arturo Elizondo, the chief executive and co-founder of Clara Foods. “We’re thrilled to be partnering with the world’s largest fermentation company to work together to enable a kinder, greener, and more delicious future. This partnership is a major step towards realizing our vision.”
There are market-driven reasons for the partnership. Demand for high quality proteins is expected to jump up to 98% by 2050, according to research cited by the two companies.
“Meeting the increased demand for food requires breakthrough solutions built on collaboration and innovation that spans several industry domains – both old and new. The ancient and natural process of fermentation can be further harnessed to help meet future demands in our global food system,” said Patrick O’Riordan, founder & CEO at BioBrew, ZX Ventures’ new business line trying to apply large-scale fermentation and downstream processing expertise beyond beer. “We look forward to exploring the development of highly-functional, animal-free egg proteins with Clara Foods in a scalable, sustainable and economically viable manner.”
Formed from the same Seventh Day Adventist focus on plant-based diet and health as a core of spirituality that launched the Kellogg’s cereal empire, Post has long been a rival to the corn flake king with its grape nuts cereal and other grain-based breakfast offerings.
Now the company has led a $25 million investment in Hungry Planet, which aims to provide meat-based replacements for crab cakes, lamb burgers, chicken, pork, and beef. Additional investors included the Singapore-based environmentally sustainable holding company, Trirec.
Alternative proteins are a big business. Last year, companies developing technologies and businesses to commercialize alternative sources of protein raised over $3 billion, according to the industry tracker, the Good Food Institute.
“Over the past year, the alternative protein industry has demonstrated not only resilience but acceleration, raising significantly more investment capital in 2020 than in prior years,” said GFI director of corporate engagement Caroline Bushnell, in a statement. “These capital infusions and the funding still to come will facilitate much-needed R&D and capacity building to enable these companies to scale and reach more consumers with delicious, affordable, and accessible alternative protein products.”
It’s all part of a push to provide more plant-based alternatives to animal proteins in a bid to halt planetary deforestation and reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with animal husbandry.
“Humanity needs solutions that match the scale and urgency of our problems,” said Elizondo. “
Meati, a company turning mycelium (the structural fibers of fungi) into healthier meat replacements for consumers, is prepping for a big summer rollout.
Co-founder Tyler Huggins expects to have the first samples of its whole-cut steak and chicken products in select restaurants around the country — along with their first commercial product, a jerky strip.
For Huggins, the product launch is another step on a long road toward broad commercial adoption of functional fungi foods as a better-for-you alternative to traditional meats.
“Use this as a conversation starter. About 2 ounces of this gives you 50% of your protein; 50% of your fiber; and half of your daily zinc. There really is nothing that can compare to this product in terms of nutritionals,” Huggins said.
And moving from meat to mushrooms is a better option for the planet.
Meati expects to turn on its pilot plant this summer and is joining a movement among mushroom fans that includes milk replacements, from Perfect Day, more meat replacements from Atlast, and leather substitutes from Ecovative and MycoWorks.
“We’re definitely all in this together,” said Huggins of the other mob of mycelium-based tech companies bringing products to market.
However, not all mycelium is created equally, Huggins said. Meati has what Huggins said was a unique way of growing its funguses (not a real word) that “keep it in its most happy state.” That means peak nutritional content and peak growth efficiency, according to the company.
For Huggins, whose parents own a bison ranch and who grew up in cattle country, the goal is not to replace a t-bone or a ribeye, but the cuts of meat and chicken that find their ways into a burrito supreme or other quick serve meat cuts.
“Head to head with that kind of cut, we win,” Huggins said. “I’d rather pick a fight there now and buy ourselves some time. I don’t think we’re going to go super high-end to start.”
That said, the company’s cap table of investors already includes some pretty heady culinary company. Acre Venture Partners (which counts Sam Kass — President Barack Obama’s Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition Policy, Executive Director for First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign, and an Assistant Chef in the White House — among its partnership) is an investor. So is Chicago’s fine dining temple, Alinea.
But Huggins wants Meati to be an everyday type of meat replacement product. “I want to make sure that people think this is an every day protein,” Huggins said.
Meati thinks its future meat replacements will be cost competitive with conventional beef and chicken, but to whet consumers’ appetites, the company is starting with jerky.
“Meati’s delicious jerky,” said Huggins. “It provides this blank canvas. We’ll start with these beef jerky like flavors. But I want to come out of the gate and say that we’re mycelium jerky.”
The company currently has 30 people on staff led by Huggins and fo-founder Justin Whiteley. The two men initially started working on Meati as a battery replacement. Based on their research (Huggins with mycelium and Whiteley with advanced batteries) the two men received a grant for a mycelium-based electrode for lithium ion batteries.
“We were trying to tweak the chemical composition of the mycelium to make a better battery. What we found was that we were making something nutritious and edible,” said Huggins.
Also… the battery companies didn’t want it.
Now, backed by $28 million from Acre, Prelude Ventures, Congruent Ventures and Tao Capital, Meati is ready to go to market. The company also has access to debt capital to build out its vast network of mycelium growing facilities. It’s just raised a $18 million debt round from Trinity and Silicon Valley Bank.
“Two years ago … most companies in this space … there wasn’t this ability to take on debt to put steel in the ground,” said Huggins. “It’s an exciting time to be in food tech given that you can raise VC funding and there’s this ready available market for debt financing. You’ll start seeing faster and more rapid development because of it.”
About a year after Beyond Meat debuted in China on Starbucks’s menu, the Californian plant-based protein company opened a production facility near Shanghai to tap the country’s supply chain resources and potentially reduce the carbon footprint of its products.
Situated in Jiaxing, a city 85 km from Shanghai, the plant is Beyond Meat’s first end-to-end manufacturing facility outside the U.S., the Nasdaq-listed company said in an announcement on Wednesday.
Over the past year, competition became steep in China’s alternative protein space with the foray of foreign players like Beyond Meat and Eat Just, as well as a slew of capital injections for domestic startups including Hey Maet and Starfield.
Beyond Meat doesn’t flinch at the rivalry. When asked by TechCrunch to comment on a story about China’s alternative protein scene, a representative of the company said “there are none that Beyond Meat considers their competitors.”
China not only has an enormous, unsaturated market for meat replacements; it’s also a major supplier of plant-based protein. Chinese meat substitute startups enjoy a cost advantage from the outset and don’t lack interest from investors who race to back consumer products that are more reflective of the tastes of the rising middle class.
Having some kind of manufacturing capacity in China is thus almost a prerequisite for any serious foreign player. Tesla has done it before to build Gigafactory in Shanghai to deliver cheaper electric vehicles. Localized production also helps companies advance their sustainability goals as it shortens the supply chain.
In Beyond Meat’s own words, the Jiaxing facility is “expected to significantly increase the speed and scale in which the company can produce and distribute its products within the region while also improving Beyond Meat’s cost structure and sustainability of operations.”
The American food-tech giant works hard on localization, selling in China both its flagship burger patties and an imitation minced pork product made specifically for the world’s largest consumer of pork. The soy- and rice-based minced pork could be used in a wide range of Chinese cuisines and is the result of a collaboration between the firm’s Shanghai and Los Angeles teams.
Besides production, the Jiaxing plant will also take on R&D responsibilities to invent new products for the region. Beyond Meat will also be unveiling its first owned manufacturing facility in Europe this year.
“We are committed to investing in China as a region for long-term growth,” said Ethan Brown, CEO and founder of Beyond Meat. “We believe this new manufacturing facility will be instrumental in advancing our pricing and sustainability metrics as we seek to provide Chinese consumers with delicious plant-based proteins that are good for both people and planet.”
Beyond Meat products can now be found in Starbucks, KFC, Alibaba’s Hema supermarket and other retail channels across major Chinese cities.
Plant-based meat replacements have commanded a huge amount of investor and consumer attention in the decade or more since new entrants like Beyond Meat first burst onto the scene.
These companies have raised billions of dollars and the industry is now worth at least $20 billion as companies try to bring all the meaty taste of… um… meat… without all of the nasty environmental damage… to supermarket aisles and restaurants around the world.
Switching to a plant-based diet is probably the single most meaningful contribution a person can make to reducing their personal greenhouse gas emissions (without buying an electric vehicle or throwing solar panels on their roof).
The problem that continues to bedevil the industry is that there remains a pretty big chasm between the taste of these meat replacements and actual meat, no matter how many advancements startups notch in making better proteins or new additives like Impossible Foods’ heme. Today, meat replacement companies depend on palm oil and coconut oil for their fats — both inputs that come with their own set of environmental issues.
Enter Nourish Ingredients, which is focusing not on the proteins, but the fats that make tasty meats tasty. Consumers can’t have delicious, delicious bacon without fat, and they can’t have a marvelously marbled steak replacements without it either.
The Canberra, Australia-based company has raised $11 million from Horizons Ventures, the firm backed by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing (also a backer of Impossible Foods), and Main Sequence Ventures, an investment firm founded by Australia’s national science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.
That organization is actually where the company’s two co-founders James Petrie and Ben Leita met back in 2013 while working as scientists. Petrie, a specialist in crop development, was spearheading the development of omega-3 canola oil, while Leita had a background in chemistry and bioplastics.
The two had previously worked on a company that was trying to increase oil production in plants, something that the CSRO had been particularly interested in circa 2017. As the market for alternative meats really began to take off, the two entrepreneurs turned their attention to trying to make corollaries for animal fats.
“When we were talking to people we realized that these alternative food space was going to need these animal fat like plants,” said Leita. “We could use that skillset for fish oil and out of canola oil.”
Nourish’s innovation was in moving from plants to bacteria. “With the iteration speeds, it feels kind of like we’re cheating,” said Petrie. “You can get the cost of goods pretty damn low.”
Nourish Ingredients uses bacteria or organisms that make significant amounts of triglycerides and lipids. “Examples include Yarrowia. There are examples of that being used for production of tailored oils,” said Petrie. “We can tune these oleaginous organisms to make these animal fats that give us that great taste and experience.”
As both men noted, fats are really important for flavor. They’re a key differentiator in what makes different meats taste different, they said.
“The cow makes cow fat because that’s what the cow does, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best fat for a plant protein,” said Petrie. “We start out with a mimetic. No reason for us to be locked by the original organism. We’re trying to create new experiences. There are new experiences out there to be had.”
The company already counts several customers in both the plant and recombinant protein production space. Now, with 18 employees, the company is producing both genetically modified and non-CRISPR cultivated optimized fats.
Other startups and established businesses also have technologies that could allow them to enter this new market. Those would be businesses like Geltor, which is currently focused on collagen, or Solazyme, which makes a range of bio-based specialty oils and chemicals.
“As active investors in the alternative protein space, we realize that animal-free fats that replicate the taste of traditional meat, poultry and seafood products are the next breakthrough in the industry,” said Phil Morle, partner at Main Sequence Ventures. “Nourish have discovered how to do just that in a way that’s sustainable and incredibly tasty, and we couldn’t be happier to join them at this early stage.”
Last week a select group of 20 employees and guests gathered at an event space on the San Francisco Bay, and, while looking out at the Bay Bridge dined on a selection of choice elk sausages, wagyu meatloaf, and lamb burgers — all of which were grown from a petrie dish.
The dinner was a coming out party for Orbillion Bio, a new startup pitching today in Y Combinator’s latest demo day, that’s looking to take lab-grown meats from the supermarket to high end, bespoke butcher shops.
Instead of focusing on pork, chicken and beef, Orbillion is going after so-called heritage meats — the aforementioned elk, lamb, and wagyu beef to start.
By focusing on more expensive end products, Orbillion doesn’t have as much pressure to slash costs as dramatically as other companies in the cellular meat market, the thinking goes.
But there’s more to the technology than its bourgie beef, elite elk, and luscious lamb meat.
“Orbillion uses a unique accelerated development process producing thousands of tiny tissue samples, constantly iterating to find the best tissue and media combinations,” according to Holly Jacobus, whose firm, Joyance Partners, is an early investor in Orbillion. “This is much less expensive and more efficient than traditional methods and will enable them to respond quickly to the impressive demand they’re already experiencing.”
The company runs its multiple cell lines through a system of small bioreactors. Orbillion couples that with a high throughput screening and machine learning software system to build out a database of optimized tissue and media combinations. “The key to making lab grown meat work scalably is choosing the right cells cultured in the most efficient way possible,” Jacobus wrote.
Co-founded by a deeply technical and highly experienced team of executives that’s led by Patricia Bubner, a former researcher at the German pharmaceutical giant Boehringer Ingelheim. Joining Bubner is Gabriel Levesque-Tremblay, a former director of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, who was a post-doc at Berkeley with Bubner and serves as the company’s chief technology officer. Rounding out the senior leadership is Samet Yildirim, the chief operating officer at Orbillion and a veteran executive of Boehringer Ingelheim (he actually served as Bubner’s boss).
For Bubner, the focus on heritage meats is as much a function of her background growing up in rural Austria as it is about economics. A longtime, self-described foodie and a nerd, Bubner went into chemistry because she ultimately wanted to apply science to the food business. And she wants Orbillion to make not just meat, but the most delicious meats.
It’s an aim that fits with how many other companies have approached the market when they’re looking to commercialize a novel technology. Higher end products, or products with unique flavor profiles that are unique to the production technologies available are more likely to be commercially viable sooner than those competing with commodity products. Why focus on angus beef when you focus on a much more delicious breed of animal?
For Bubner, it’s not just about making a pork replacement, it’s about making the tastiest pork replacement.
“I’m just fascinated and can see the future in us being able to further change the way we produce food to be more efficient,” she said. “We’re at this inflection point. I’m a nerd, i’m a foodie and I really wanted to use my skills to make a change. I wanted to be part of that group of people that can really have an impact on the way we eat. For me there’s no doubt that a large percentage of our food will be from alternative proteins — plant based, fermentation, and lab-grown meat.”
Joining Boehringer Ingelheim was a way for Bubner to become grounded in the world of big bioprocessing. It was preparation for her foray into lab grown meat, she said.
“We are a product company. Our goal is to make the most flavorful steaks. Our first product will not be whole cuts of steak. The first product is going to be a Wagyu beef product that we plan on putting out in 2023,” Bubner said. “It’s a product that’s going to be based on more of a minced product. Think Wagyu sashimi.”
To get to market, Bubner sees the need not just for a new approach to cultivating choice meats, but a new way of growing other inputs as well, from the tissue scaffolding needed to make larger cuts that resemble traditional cuts of meat, or the fats that will need to be combined with the meat cells to give flavor.
That means there are still opportunities for companies like Future Fields, Matrix Meats, and Turtle Tree Scientific to provide inputs that are integrated into the final, branded product.
Bubner’s also thinking about the supply chain beyond her immediate potential partners in the manufacturing process. “Part of my family were farmers and construction workers and the others were civil engineers and architects. I hold farmers in high respect… and think the people who grow the food and breed the animals don’t get recognition for the work that they do.”
She envisions working in concert with farmers and breeders in a kind of licensing arrangement, potentially, where the owners of the animals that produce the cell lines can share in the rewards of their popularization and wider commercial production.
That also helps in the mission of curbing the emissions associated with big agribusiness and breeding and raising livestock on a massive scale. If you only need a few animals to make the meat, you don’t have the same environmental footprint for the farms.
“We need to make sure that we don’t make the mistakes that we did in the past that we only breed animals for yield and not for flavor,” said Bubner.
Even though the company is still in its earliest days, it already has one letter of intent, with one of San Francisco’s most famous butchers. Guy Crims, also known as “Guy the Butcher” has signed a letter of intent to stock Orbillion Bio’s lab grown Wagyu in his butcher shop, Bubner said. “He’s very much a proponent of lab-grown meat.”
Now that the company has its initial technology proven, Orbillion is looking to scale rapidly. It will take roughly $3.5 million for the company to get a pilot plant up and running by the end of 2022 and that’s in addition to the small $1.4 million seed round the company has raised from Joyant and firms like VentureSoukh.
“The way i see an integrated model working later on is to have the farmers be the breeders of animals for cultivated meat. That can reduce the number of cows on the planet to a couple of hundred thousand,” Bubner said of her ultimate goal. “There’s a lot of talking about if you do lab grown meat you want to put me out of business. It’s not like we’re going to abolish animal agriculture tomorrow.”
Eat Just, the purveyor of eggless eggs and mayonnaise and the first government-approved vendor of lab-grown chicken, has raised $200 million in a new round of funding, the company said.
The funding was led by the Qatar Investment Authority, the sovereign wealth fund of the state of Qatar, with additional participation from Charlesbank Capital Partners and Vulcan Capital, the investment arm of the estate of Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen.
Since its launch in 2011 as Hampton Creek, the company has raised more than $650 million all to build out capacity for its egg replacement products and its new line of lab-grown meat.
“We are very excited to work with our investors to build a healthier, safer and more sustainable food system. Their knowledge and experience partnering with companies that are transforming numerous industries were fundamental in our decision to partner with them,” said Josh Tetrick, co-founder and CEO of Eat Just, in a statement.
Eat Just’s evolution hasn’t been without controversy. In 2017, the company and its chief executive withstood a failed coup, which forced the firing of several executives. The company also saw its entire board resign in the aftermath of those firings, only to replace them with a new slate of directors months later.
In the aftermath, Hampton Creek rebranded and refocused. These days the company’s products fall into two somewhat related categories. There’re the plant-based egg replacement products and eggless mayonnaise and the lab grown chicken products that are meant to replace poultry farmed chicken meat.
Since the egg side of Eat Just’s chicken and egg business definitely came first, it’s worth noting that the company’s products are sold in more than 20,000 retail outlets and 1,000 foodservice locations. since it began selling the product, the company has moved more than 100 million eggs to roughly one million U.S. households.
The company’s eggs are also on offer in Dicos, a fast food chain in China, and it’s got a deal to put out a sous vide egg replacement product with Cuisine Solutions. The eggs are also available in Peet’s Coffee locations around the country and Eat Just has expanded its eggless distribution platform into Canada.
Then there’s the company’s GOOD Meat product. That was available for a short time in Singapore. The company expects to slash production costs and expand its commercial operations while working on other kinds of meats as well, according to a statement.
It’s a long way from where the Eat Just started, when it raised its first millions from Khosla Ventures and Founders Fund.
In a recent interview discussing Bill Gates’ recent book “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster“, the Microsoft and Breakthrough Energy founder (and the world’s third wealthiest man) advocated for citizens of the richest countries in the world to switch to diets consisting entirely of what he called synthetic meat in an effort to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
Gates’ call is being met by startups and public companies hailing from everywhere from Amsterdam to Tel Aviv, London to Los Angeles, and Berkeley to… um… Chicago.
Indeed, two of the best funded companies in the lab-grown meat market hail from The Netherlands, where Mosa Meat is being challenged by a newer upstart, Meatable, which just announced $47 million in new financing.
The company aims to have its first product approved by European regulators by 2023 and notching commercial sales by 2025.
Meatable has a long road ahead of it, because, as Gates acknowledged in his interview with MIT Technology Review (ed. note: I’m available for a call, too, Bill), “the people like Memphis Meats who do it at a cellular level—I don’t know that that will ever be economical.”
Beyond the economics, there’s also the open question of whether consumers will be willing to make the switch to lab grown meat. Some companies, like the San Francisco-based Just Foods and Tel Aviv’s Supermeat are already selling chicken patties and nuggets made from cultured cells at select restaurants.
These products don’t get at the full potential for cellular technology according to Daan Luining, Meatable’s chief technology officer. “We have seen the nugget and the chicken burger, but we’re working on whole muscle tissue,” Luining said.
The sheer number of entrants in the category — and the capital they’ve raised — points to the opportunity for several winners if companies can walk the tightrope balancing cost at scale and quality replacements for free range food.
“The mission of the company is to be a global leader in providing proteins for the planet. Pork and beef and regularly eaten cuts have on environmental and land management,” Luining said. “The technology that we are using allows us to go into different species. First we’re focused on the animals that have the biggest impact on climate change and planetary health.”
For Meatable right now, price remains an issue. The company is currently producing meat at roughly $10,000 per pound, but, unlike its competitors, the company said it is producing whole meat. That’s including the fat and connective tissue that makes meat… well… meat.
Now with 35 employees and new financing, the company is trying to shift from research and development into a food production company. Strategic investors like DSM, one of the largest food biotech companies in Europe should help. So should angel investors like Dr. Jeffrey Leiden, the executive chairman of Vertex Pharmaceuticals; and Dr. Rick Klausner, the former executive director of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and a founder of Juno Therapeutics, GRAIL, and Mindstrong Health, after leaving Illumina where he served as chief medical officer.
Institutional investors in the company’s latest round include Google Ventures founder Bill Maris’ new fund, Section 32, and existing investors like: BlueYard Capital, Agronomics, Humboldt, and Taavet Hinrikus.
The company’s first commercial offering will likely be a lab-grown pork product, but with expanded facilities in Delft, the location of one of the top universities in The Netherlands, a beef product may not be far behind.
“[Meatable has] a great team and game-changing technology that can address the challenges around the global food insecurity issues our planet is facing,” said Klausner. “They have all the right ingredients to become the leading choice for sustainably and efficiently produced meat.”
Early Stage is the premier ‘how-to’ event for startup entrepreneurs and investors. You’ll hear first-hand how some of the most successful founders and VCs build their businesses, raise money and manage their portfolios. We’ll cover every aspect of company-building: Fundraising, recruiting, sales, product market fit, PR, marketing and brand building. Each session also has audience participation built-in – there’s ample time included for audience questions and discussion. Use code “TCARTICLE” at checkout to get 20 percent off tickets right here.
A holiday ham, made at home, is within reach. You just need a bit of time, some wood smoke and a shoulder ham or pork loin.
The Green party mayor of Lyon, a gastronomic capital, introduced no-meat menus in schools. Let the anguish begin.
In a ceremonial effort to discourage meat consumption, the Colorado governor declared March 20 “MeatOut Day.” Then Nebraska’s governor announced “Meat on the Menu Day,” seeking to do just the opposite.
Now the company has $10 million in financing from investors including L37 Ventures, River Park Ventures, Middleland, FJ Labs, Kelvin Beachum along with previous investors MAX Ventures, Tribeca Venture Partners, and Slow Ventures to bring that mission to a broader swath of the country.
Since the company bought its own slaughterhouse back in 2015 and expanded to e-commerce in 2018 it has been shipping its selections of lamb, beef, pork, chicken and sausages from local farms to tables across the U.S.
The new money will be used to scale the company’s sustainable agriculture and its pasture-raised meat for the direct-to-consumer business, its shop in Nashville, and for wholesale distribution to restaurants around the country.
It’s going to expand its operations in Princeton, Ky with a new USDA processing facility that’s 4.5 times larger to meet new demand. That move will create 80 new jobs in the small town and is part of a broader agricultural renaissance in Kentucky.
“It’s easy to back founders who are as comfortable on the manufacturing line as they are in the boardroom, and who see the world differently and have the deep domain expertise to execute on that vision,” said L37 Partner Randall Ussery in a statement. “They have spent years perfecting the Porter Road way which no company nor incumbent can replicate overnight. They are a category killer in the meat industry and have built a moat around their brand.”
One indication of the ways in which Porter Road differs from its larger competitors is in the way it handled the COVID-19 pandemic at its facilities.
Due to its limited production schedule and measures like staggered break times, mask requirements and social distancing rules, the company was able to avoid having any outbreaks at its facilities, according to the company’s co-founder and chief executive, Chris Carter. “We had a handful of people who got sick, but [COVID-19] didn’t spread in Princeton,” said Carter.
And despite the push for more plant-based diets, Carter says that his company’s focus on pasture-raised animals and whole animal butchery should appeal to folks who care about sustainable production. “We care about our farmers and we care about the way our animals are raised,” said Carter. “That’s the whole point of what we’re doing… Porter Road is about animal utilization. It’s about honoring the life of an animal so we find an outlet for every single piece.”
Porter Road is expanding its product line into cooking tallow and fats, and cross cut bones for bone marrow dishes, Carter said.
“The food system is broken and in need of a substantial change. Today’s consumer is demanding a deeper level of connection to their food and can see past misleading labels and buzzwords,” said Carter, in a statement. “We are delivering trust, transparency, and flavor so no one has to compromise, all while supporting our farmers.”
The burger and I have a juicy past. But do we have a future?
A slew of start-ups are engineering faux meats, eggs and dairy products that conjure a future in which we move from farm-to-table to lab-to-table.
The Israeli startup Redefine Meat, which has developed a manufacturing process to make plant-based proteins that more closely resemble choice cuts of beef than the current crop of hamburger-adjacent offerings, has gotten a big vote of confidence from the investment arm of one of Asia’s premier food brands.
The company has raised $29 million in financing from Happiness Capital, the investment arm backed by the family fortunes of Hong Kong’s Lee Kum Kee condiment dynasty, and Hanaco Ventures, an investment firm backing startups in New York and Israel.
Investors have stampeded into the plant-based food industry, spurred by the rising fortunes of companies like Beyond Meat, which has inked partnerships with everyone from Pepsico to McDonald’s, and Impossible Foods, which counts Burger King among the brands boosting its plant-based faux meat.
While these companies have perfected plant patties that can delight the taste buds, the prospect of carving up a big honkin cut of pea protein in the form of a ribeye, sirloin or rump steak, has been a technical hurdle these companies have yet to overcome in a commercial offering.
Redefine Meat thinks its manufacturing processes have cracked the code on the formulation of plant-based steak.
They’re not the only ones. In Barcelona, a startup called Novameat raised roughly $300,000 earlier this year for its own take on plant-based steak. That company raised its money from the NEOTEC Program of the Spanish Center for Industrial Technological Development.
Both companies are using 3-D printing technologies to make meat substitutes that mimic the taste and texture of steaks, rather than trying to approximate the patties, meatballs, and ground meat that companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible have taken to market.
Backing Redefine’s path to market are a host of other investors including Losa Group, Sake Bosch, and K3 Ventures.
The company said it would use the new funding to expand its portfolio and support the commercial launch of its products. Redefine aims to have a large-scale production facility for its 3-D printers online before the end of the year, the company said in a statement.
In January, Redefine Meat announced a strategic agreement with the Israeli distributor Best Meister and the company has been expanding its staff with a current headcount of roughly 40 employees.
“We want to change the belief that delicious meat can only come from animals, and we have all the building blocks in place to make this a reality: high-quality meat products, strategic partnerships with stakeholders across the world, a large-scale pilot line under construction, and the first-ever industrial 3D Alt-Meat printers set to be deployed within meat distributors later this year,” said Eschar Ben-Shitrit, the company’s chief executive, in a statement.
Researchers at MIT have developed a new method for growing plant tissues in a lab – sort of like how companies and researchers are approaching lab-grown meat. The process would be able to produce wood and fibre in a lab environment, and researchers have already demonstrated how it works in concept by growing simple structures using cells harvested from zinnia leaves.
This work is still in its very early stages, but the potential applications of lab-grown plant material are significant, and include possibilities in both agriculture and in ruction materials. While traditional agricultural is much less ecologically damaging when compared to animal farming, it can still have a significant impact and cost, and it takes a lot of resources to maintain. Not to mention that even small environmental changes can have a significant effect on crop yield.
Forestry, meanwhile, has much more obvious negative environmental impacts. If the work of these researchers can eventually be used to create a way to produce lab-grown wood for use in construction and fabrication, in a way that’s scalable and efficient, then there’s tremendous potential in terms of reducing the impact of forestry globally. Eventually, the team even theorizes you could coax the growth of plant-based materials into specific target shapes, so you could also do some of the manufacturing in the lab, by growing a wood table directly for instance.
There’s still a long way to go from what the researchers have achieved. They’ve only grown materials on a very small scale, and will look to figure out ways to grow plant-based materials with different final properties as one challenge. They’ll also need to overcome significant barriers when it comes to scaling efficiencies, but they are working on solutions that could address some of these difficulties.
Lab-grown meat is still in its infancy, and lab-grown plant material is even more nascent. But it has tremendous potential, even if it takes a long time to get there.
There’s abundant offal to be had at the supermarket, and this spicy, slurpable dish is exactly how you should cook it.
Filled with winter greens, savory beans and just a little bit of turkey, this piquant soup is both hearty and light.
A big holiday breakfast is great — unless you’re the one stuck making it. This sheet-pan recipe is the solution.
Health experts urged people not to eat raw meat, in any dish, after a warning about a holiday tradition by Wisconsin’s health department intrigued and confused some outside the Midwest.
An artist project offering an absurdist take on the lab-grown meat industry triggers a debate and backlash in London.
Mr. Adams spent a quarter-century developing and refining the recipe for the beef jerky snack.
The approval for a U.S. start-up’s “cultured chicken” product is a small victory for the nascent laboratory meat industry. Less clear is whether other countries will follow Singapore’s lead.
Those who ate a meat-free diet were at increased risk for bone fractures.
After 81 years — and in the midst of a pandemic — Hemlock Hill Farm in New York is finally hitting its stride.
Beyond Meat has launched two new versions of its Beyond Burgers, the company announced today.
The two new options will be available on store shelves in 2021, but will be on offer at a two-day pop up event in Los Angeles for folks to try.
The new Beyond Burger patties are designed to mirror the options of beef in the market with the presentation of a lower fat patty option and a new version of its higher fat content option that the brand promises will be its “juiciest” patty for the “meatiest” Beyond Meat patty on the market.
The low fat option contains 50% less saturated fat and 35% less total fat than 80/20 beef, according to a statement and both burgers have fewer calories and added vitamins and minerals that are comparable to beef’s micronutrient profile, the company said in a statement.
The chef, Angie Mar, will move the New York institution right next door, reconnecting the restaurant with the family who ran it for 50 years.
For the Indigenous communities who herd the animals, safeguarding dying culinary traditions isn’t merely about eating but about protecting a longstanding way of life.
The European Parliament is voting on proposals that would ban products without meat from being labeled burgers or sausages, drawing ire from environmentalists and manufacturers.
The United States is home to 95 million cattle, and changing what they eat could have a significant effect on emissions of greenhouse gases like methane that are warming the world.
Like many folks this year, I have been cooking a lot. Though I’ve always loved food and have had a deep and abiding interest for the art of cooking, I’ve definitely pushed myself to learn how to do a lot of things from scratch in the kitchen this year. From cooking a decent CTM to a respectable pie, I have hit a lot of my personal milestones over the past few months.
One of the unforeseen consequences of my culinarily driven efforts to stay sane during quarantine this year has been a foray into testing out purpose driven kitchen devices. Though not quite single use (and actually pretty versatile in their own way) devices like the Ooni pizza oven and the Otto Grill have found their way into my ad-hoc outdoor kitchen and I have had a pretty enjoyable time pushing and prodding on them while simultaneously upping my own cooking game.
Which leads me to this review of the Otto Wilde Grill.
What is it?
It’s a 16x17x11” self-contained propane broiler that features two top mounted burners that can reach temperatures of 1,500 degrees F. There is an adjustable grille and a catch pan for grease and a dual use arm that acts as a grille tool and a wrench to adjust the distance between the burners and your food.
It’s designed to cook steak that gets you as close to steakhouse taste and texture as possible. It does so by mimicking the kinds of top mounted broilers that you’ll find in many commercial kitchens.
I’m not going to bury the lede, this thing is $1,000. If you don’t have a G to drop on a cooking thing of any sort, then read on for entertainment and edification. If you DO have that much to spend (maybe) and are wondering why the hell you’d want to, and if you should I think I can deliver those things for you here.
After my Ooni review, Otto Wilde Grills reached out to see if I wanted to try out their over-fired broiler. I love steak, especially steak at the perfect temp with a restaurant-style carmelized crust. I’ve been able to get decent results over the years with my standard grill and a cast iron skillet — and more recently have been very happy with the sous vide bath + skillet method.
But there is just something about the somewhat violent, crispy, high heat broiler style finish that you get at a steakhouse that I have not been able to duplicate at home.
Very specifically, the reason that a steakhouse steak hits your table with a carmel crust and nicely distributed interior juice is something called the Maillard reaction. Maillard reactions are different than caramelization, which is basically the heat driven decomposition of sugar. Instead, it is the breakdown and combination of sugars and amino acids. It happens during cooking in many foods but is most important in great tasting meat and bread. It begins to occur in most foods above around 280 °F or so but even higher temperatures can emphasize the resulting effects to the point where you get this deliciously beautiful light brown crust that adds a crunch and even slight sweetness to your foods, especially meats.
The trick of at home Maillard reactions in steak is how to activate and sustain the process long enough to create the desired result while simultaneously not over-cooking your meat.
A note: I am reviewing the Otto grill several years after it was initially released (though they do have a new ‘Pro’ model with a really handy drawer and a whole grill system hitting the market). But when they offered to send me one I went and checked out the reviews that were out there. Gonna be honest, even the ‘good’ reviews are pretty poorly done. Either they are done on YouTube by clear grillmasters that assume people know a lot about grilling and don’t really explain much beyond running a steak or two through the grill or they are on…ahem…other sites where they quite clearly have no idea what they are doing. Don’t get me started on the results in some of those reviews. I can’t even. I’m not going to blow up anyone’s spot specifically here, but as a bit of meta I can just say that the current state of food appliance reviews is really, really bad. I think a lot of people do pretty decent jobs reviewing, say, phones or game consoles. Not so much in the kitchen.
Anyway, over-fired broilers are extremely common in commercial kitchens, where ‘infrared’ heat (basically high heat gas shot through pinholes in a ceramic sheet) and radiant heat are primary options. The Otto Grill is an infrared style OFB, which means that it can get to high heat extremely quickly (about 3-5 minutes to 1,500 degrees) and that it cooks VERY fast because most of the heat goes right to the meat.
Fast, high heat cooking means quicker crust, less gas waste and most importantly, juicier steaks that have less time to dry out.
A quick how-to
One of the things that I found surprising when I started researching the Otto was that there are very few direct examples of how to cook a steak with it. To that end, here is my basic process for most steaks. Prior to beginning any of this I salt my steaks generously with a nice sea salt. I do not use anything else personally and I would say beware of any rubs with pepper or other ingredients because they can burn quickly in an oven as hot as the Otto.
- Fill the water tray halfway. This prevents grease fires and makes cleanup better, as well as introducing a bit of moisture to the cooking environment.
- Pre-heat the Otto at full power. This takes as little as 3 minutes and no longer than 5 from zero to 1,500 degrees.
- Remove the grille and place the steak(s) onto it oriented so that they are covered by one or both burners.
- Pop it back in and use the adjustment lever to move them within about a half inch of the bottom edge of the flame at the top. You should see a roiling, sizzling field of flame turbulence just above the top surface of the meat.
- Cook for around 60 seconds to 90 seconds.
- Lower, remove, and flip end over end to sear the other side.
- Raise, and cook for another 60-90 seconds.
- At this point, if your steak is 1” thick or under and you are ok with medium rare, you are likely done. Remove it and check the temp with a meat thermometer to see if it is at your desired temp.
- If it is a thicker cut, reduce the heat to ¾ on both burners and drop the grill to the bottom position. Rotate every 2 minutes and periodically check the meat temp (I do it out of the oven because it’s so hot in there) until you hit desired done levels.
- Remove the meat to rest, turn off the Otto and let cool somewhat to clean the tray and grille.
This method has enabled me to cook thinner cuts in as little as 3-5 minutes. Larger cuts may require careful rotation and positioning.
I have cooked a lot of steaks on the Otto over the last couple of months. I’ve done ribeye, sirloin, filet mignon, hangar and T-bone.
I cooked a wide variety of cuts at a number of different levels of marbling. The fattier cuts obviously benefited much more from the Otto’s high-temp cooking. The way that it absolutely pulverizes fat allows it to crust perfectly across the surface without creating a dry, crumbly texture. Instead it’s crispy and moist at the same time.
Also, because it’s a top firing burner, the fat seeps downward, through the meat instead of outwards. The resulting exterior is super delicious and produces a nearly perfectly sized rind every time, leaving a to-temp interior.
It took me a few steaks to get the methodology above down. I burned a few, for sure. This thing is crazy hot and the times involved are hard to wrap your head around at first. But once you have your rhythm, the Otto Grill cooks an insanely tasty steak from nearly any cut or quality of meat. Otto sent me a few frozen steaks to try, but I’ve mostly cooked my own meat purchased locally, which was much better. But even thawed meat was treated pretty well by this grill, the crust makes up for a lot when you’re working with so-so meat.
For those of you that know steak, you may be wondering whether it is good at grassfed beef. Yes! It’s actually super killer for grassfed because the high, high heat makes the sear happen super fast, locking in the juice which is at a big premium in leaner grassfed cuts. Grassfed suffers with long cook times, which you won’t find in the Otto. You can cook a very nicely juicy medium rare grassfed cut here.
One major comparison that I think many people who might be in the market to buy this thing will be interested in is how it stacks up against the very popular sous-vide + cast iron sear method also referred to as reverse searing. Cooking your steak in a water bath to achieve precise interior temp and then searing it for crust and flavor has become uber popular for at home cooks in recent years due to the wide availability of consumer grade immersion circulators.
I’ll say this as simply as possible: I think you can get extremely similar results with sous vide + cast iron, with some pretty straightforward caveats.
- Your cast iron has to be super hot. I’m talking 2,000 BTUs and up of gas burner hot. You need that high, hot heat to get that sear to lock in your juices and render your fat quickly.
- You’re searing it from the bottom by contact rather than the top by proximity, which means that fat will have a tendency to boil away and you need to continuously circulate your juices using butter or another oil.
- Smoke and spatter. You’re going to generate plenty of both on a skillet.
If you’re really used to reverse searing and you love your results, I still do think there are a couple of areas where the Otto can up your game a bit, but the general taste and satisfaction will be in the ballpark. One thing I did try which worked out well is a tri-tip — a huge cut that is popular in California that would not do well normally here. I did a sous-vide bath + reverse sear in the Otto and those turned out really lovely.
I liked the Otto’s more delineated rind that creates that nice flavor seal along the interior edge of your cut of meat. I also think that it can be very easy to over cook thin steaks while searing if you can’t get your skillet super hot.
The biggest overall benefit of course, is time. If you write off the resting time to bring your meat to room temp, which is passive cooking time, then you’re looking at anywhere from 1-3 hours to sous vide a thick cut steak. The Otto heats in 3 minutes and cooks in anywhere from 5-10 minutes. It’s a huge time savings for equal or better results.
One design consideration worth mentioning is that because there are two burners with a dead space in between, you must shift larger cuts to allow them to sear evenly if they span two burners. I wouldn’t call it a flaw as it is definitely pushing it to shove a wall-to-wall steak in there. I would love to see future versions of the oven reduce the space between the burners in order to allow more coverage for bigger steaks. This is a non factor if your steak fits under one burner, and most do in general.
The catch pan, by the way, is pretty instrumental. Filling it with water reduces the chances that your fat will catch on fire, burning portions of your steak, and it makes cleaning up super easy as you can sluice out the still warm grease water and then brush it clean. I will note, at the risk of some ribbing, that I forgot to put some water in the pan once and may have added some…decorative smoke work to my grill’s face. Cook outdoors.
Otto says you can make pizza in this thing too — and they even make a stone and peel. Well, you can, but I’d say how enthusiastic you get about it is going to sort of depend on what your standards for pizza are.
The pizzas that I made in the Otto with the stone are, uh, they’re fine I guess. It’s absolutely, totally possible to do a little personal-sized pizza in the Otto, especially if you par bake the crust. But anything you do in here is going to pale next to the Ooni. I’d actually much rather just gin a up a little pan pizza that you can do in your regular home oven. There are a lot of reasons to buy the Otto, but pizza should not be a primary one, in my opinion.
I did cook a beautiful batch of naan in it though which was lovely. It’s basically common sense. Anything in the flatbread family is going to do wonderful here, but stuff with toppings needs to be par baked because it’s so damn hot.
Can you cook other stuff in the Otto? Yeah, 100%. Basically anything you can throw in a cast iron pan and sear up will do well in the Otto. Examples I’ve tried include peppers and onions, fruit and veg medleys and crispy potatoes drizzled in oil. Because the cast iron gets nice and evenly hot and you have a top broiler it makes for an ideal searing environment. It is hot as hell even at the lower settings though, so you need to keep an eye on it.
Should you buy it?
Otto Wilde likely have their own ideas about the target market for their grills but for me it’s: has disposable income, loves steak enough to eat it 3x a week and already owns at least one or two other specialty grilling items. Basically, Big Green Egg owners. While something like a BGE is amazing at low and slow and smoking, it takes a hell of a lot to stoke and maintain the heat you’d need to get a caramelizing sear and in the end your steak would definitely be dryer.
The Otto Grill is basically the consumerized version of a commercial kitchen staple item. Could you buy something like a Salamander for like $1,300? Sure, but at that point you’re a commercial kitchen and you’re gonna need a natural gas plumb and probably a business license. Just rent a strip mall slot or a food truck.
Overall I found the design to be thoughtful, straightforward and reliable. Though I did have some ignition issues as described earlier, this is frank German engineering at its most utility-driven. The Otto Grill is expensive, but does precisely perform the task that it claims to make possible. I have cooked steaks by many different methods over the years and as I mentioned above, some of them are absolute stand-bys because they are really close to restaurant methodology. But for steakhouse style crust delivered absolutely consistently with the minimum of time and effort, the Otto Grill stands alone.
To be a faster, more creative cook, take a cue from restaurant chefs, J. Kenji López-Alt suggests, and rely on culinary building blocks.
Banchan, the small dishes that often accompany a Korean meal, should be treasured in their own right.
Companies like Perfect Day, Impossible Foods, and a host of other startups that are developing replacements for animal farmed goods used in food, clothes, cosmetics, and chemicals have raised a whopping $1.5 billion through the first half of the year.
That’s according to a new report from The Good Food Institute which is tracking the growth of investments into sustainable foods. The report identified fermentation technologies as a rising third pillar of foundational technologies on which new and established food brands are making products that swap out animal products for other protein sources.
Fermentation technologies, which use microbes like microalgae and mycoprotein, can produce biomass, improve plant proteins and create new functional ingredients, and companies developing and deploying these technologies have raised $435 million in funding through the end of July 2020. It’s an indication of how competitive the market is for food technologies, representing an increase of nearly 60 percent over the $274 million invested in all of 2019, according to GFI.
“Fermentation is powering a new wave of alternative protein products with huge potential for improving flavor, sustainability, and production efficiency. Investors and innovators are recognizing this market potential, leading to a surge of activity in fermentation as an enabling platform for the alternative protein industry as a whole,” said GFI Associate Director of Science and Technology Liz Specht, in a statement. “And this is just the beginning: The opportunity landscape for technology development is completely untapped in this area. Many alternative protein products of the future will harness the plethora of protein production methods now available, with the option of leveraging combinations of proteins derived from plants, animal cell culture, and microbial fermentation.”
As the $1.5. billion figure indicates, big-time investors are taking notice. Funds like the Bill Gates -backed Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Temasek, Horizons Ventures, CPP Investment Board, Louis Dreyfus Co., Bunge Ventures, Kellogg, ADM Capital, Danone, Kraft Heinz, Mars, and Tyson Foods’ investment arm have all backed companies in the industry.
In all, fermentation-focused startup companies raised 3.5 times more capital than cultivated meat companies worldwide and almost 60 percent as much as U.S. plant-based meat, egg, and dairy companies, according to the GFI.
As the industry has grown up, since Quorn became the first company to use fermentation-derived proteins back in 1985, big industrial companies have started to take notice.
While there are at least 44 startups focused on alternative proteins worldwide, according to the GFI report, large publicly traded companies like Novozymes, DuPont, and DSM are also developing product lines for the alternative protein business.
“Given the breadth of applications, we believe that fermentation could solve many current challenges faced by alternative proteins. On the one hand, biomass fermentation can create nutritious, clean protein in a highly efficient and low-cost way. On the other hand, the potential for precision fermentation to produce value-added, highly functional, and nutritious ingredients is very exciting and could revolutionize the plant-based category,” said Rosie Wardle, an investor with the CPT Capital, which specializes in backing startups developing novel protein production technologies. “From an investment perspective, we are very excited about the white space opportunities in this category, and we are actively looking to increase our investments in the space. This new report from GFI is the first comprehensive overview of fermentation for alternative protein applications and should be required reading for everyone who wants to create a more efficient and less harmful global food system.”