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The global plant-based food industry is booming. Grocery sales of plant-based foods in the US outpaced overall food sales growth by more than five times in 2019,[1] and UK sales are expected to exceed £1.1 billion by 2024.[2] This growth has been driven by changing consumer attitudes and habits towards meat consumption; in part, due to an increased global awareness of the impacts of traditional agricultural practices on climate change, human health and animal welfare.

This combined with the growing demand for food, particularly protein, and we are left with the big question of where to source protein for human consumption. Plants and fungi may be the answer, due to their lower carbon footprint and healthier nutritional profile compared to animal protein. While traditional plant-based meat alternatives, such as tofu, tempeh and seitan, have been eaten for centuries, in recent years plant-based meat analogues (PBMAs)[3] have emerged as a new class of plant-based proteins.

Plant-based meat analogues (PBMAs)

The Good Food Institute defines plant-based meat as “structured plant- or fungus-derived foods designed to replace animal-based meat”.[4] PBMAs mimic the sensory attributes of conventional meat (taste, smell, texture and aesthetics) and can be cooked using similar methods as animal meat products. The nutritional profiles of PBMAs vary: some have lower levels of saturated fat and cholesterol, fewer calories, and higher levels of micronutrients than conventional meat,[5],[6] while some even contain higher levels of protein than the animal meat they are mimicking, such as the bacon analogue from THIS™.[7] PBMAs are distinct from plant-based meat alternatives, such as tofu, in that their aim is not simply to provide an alternative plant-based protein source, but to mimic conventional meat so closely that they are equivalent in all but their starting materials. PBMAs are thus a mass market product, intended to be eaten by both meat eaters and non-meat eaters.

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The ingredients: protein sources and additives

The bulk of a PBMA is made from plant-based proteins, commonly soy, pea and wheat proteins. Many of these are already used in traditional plant-based products such as tofu and seitan, but PBMAs go further than meat alternatives by using additives to create a more “meat-like” experience. These include colourings, such as beetroot juice and texture-enhancing polysaccharides and hydrocolloids.[8]

As the saying goes, people eat with their eyes first, and this is no different for PBMAs. Consumers feel more comfortable with products that behave similarly to conventional meat, therefore many of the ingredients used in PBMAs help mimic the behaviour of conventional meat during cooking. For example, heat-stable caramel colouring agents, malt extracts and reducing sugars are added to make the PBMA transition from red to brown upon cooking,[9] mimicking the browning effect of conventional cooked meat. Soy leghemoglobin (SLH), an oxygen carrier similar to myoglobin in muscle, is an ingredient in Impossible Foods’ ‘Impossible Burger’ which, when heated, forms a red-tinted liquid that mimics the “bleed” in meat, and provides a characteristically metallic meat-like flavour.[10] Meanwhile, pea proteins can form heat-induced gels[11] to encapsulate beetroot-based “blood” as in Beyond Meat’s ‘Beyond Burger’. Plant fat encapsulation is key to retaining moisture and fat during heating.

The processes

A fundamental characteristic of conventional meat is its fibrous nature, which contributes to its texture and mouthfeel. This is especially true for “whole muscle” meat like steak, but also for ground meat. However, plant-based proteins are typically globular; therefore, to mimic this anisotropic structure, plant-based proteins must be unfolded, cross-linked, and re-aligned to form fibres.

A well-established technique for achieving this is using High Moisture Extrusion Cooking (HMEC), wherein the protein, water and any other ingredients are mixed, before being heated under pressure and then cooled, forcing the fibres to align and creating a modified textured protein.[12],[13],[14] Another technique is shear cell technology, which creates a shear zone using two rotating cylinders and applies heat, generating fibrous structured plant-based protein.[15] Importantly, shear cell technology looks promising for meeting scalability requirements.

Investment into PBMAs

PBMAs have seen huge market growth, and the big players have amassed high levels of investment. Impossible Foods has aggregated more than $1.3 billion in total disclosed funding[16] and was valued at $4 billion in March 2020.[17] Its rival Beyond Meat went public in 2019, at a valuation of nearly $1.5 billion.[18]

Interestingly, some of the biggest investors in this field are the incumbent meat producers. Tyson Foods, one of the largest US meat companies, now pitches itself as a protein company rather than a meat company and has set up its own fund: Tyson Ventures. They have invested in many plant-based companies, including Beyond Meat and New Wave Foods.[19]

Venture capital firms and accelerators are also involved, such as IndieBio and New Crop Capital. Big Idea Ventures, a hybrid venture firm offering an accelerator programme focused on plant-based food startups, closed a $50 million fund in May 2019 and a $6.5 million fund in June 2020.[20]

The UK market is also active. UK-based PBMA company THIS™ launched in June 2019 after a £1 million pre-seed round. They have now secured £4.7 million in seed funding.[21]

PBMA companies are partnering with retailers to reach consumers. Impossible Foods has partnered with Burger King to launch the ‘Impossible Whopper’, while Beyond Meat’s share prices rose after the recent announcement of their partnership with McDonald’s to create the McPlant range, which will be launched in key markets in 2021.[22]

PBMAs and IP: what can be protected?

Intellectual property (IP) protection is vital to enable companies to secure a monopoly over their inventions, protect investments and recoup R&D costs. The growing number of players in this field means securing IP rights will become increasingly important. The multifactorial nature of PBMAs offers many opportunities for patent protection. Product patents can protect the novel ingredient combinations used for flavour and aroma, and can protect the PBMA product itself, defined by its ingredients and composition, such as moisture content. Process patents can protect the methods that alter the plant-based protein properties, as well as the specific conditions used in these processes, such as temperature and pH. In particular, methods for isolating and purifying the proteins from the raw plant material may be protected by method claims, and are likely to be relied upon more as attention shifts upstream.

New machines and production systems developed to make PBMAs – such as bioreactors, incubators and shear cells – can be protected by product patents and patents covering their use in the production of PBMA products. Interestingly, it is likely that many of these patents will be applicable across multiple products, meaning innovators could leverage or licence their patent portfolios not only over their competitors, but over those producing non-competing products.

What can we expect next from PBMAs?

Seafood analogues

Plant-based seafood analogues have been attracting increased funding due to a raised global awareness of global fish stock depletion. There are already some huge players in this area, such as Good Catch Foods, which raised $32 million in Series B funding in January 2020. They use lentil, chickpea and other legumes to make alternative protein-based tuna, crab cakes and fish patties. New Wave Foods has received backing from Tyson Ventures and uses pea protein and algae to make imitation shrimp.[23]

Upstream development

The first generations of PBMAs relied heavily on soy and wheat protein, which are by-products of other industries and so have the advantages of established supply chains and availability. They have some nutritional and structural benefits, but also present problems in downstream processing, such as anti-vitamins that reduce bioavailability of nutrients in the body. Attention is now shifting upstream: rather than trying to fix downstream problems that are inherent features of the crop used, research is turning towards finding alternative crops or genetic modification of existing crops to prevent these problems occurring in the first place.

Whole muscle

Currently, PBMA technology is limited to ground and shaped meat analogues. Although work is ongoing to develop a whole muscle PBMA, such as a plant-based steak, it seems likely that the race will be won by cellular agriculture.

Price

In March 2020, Impossible Foods reduced its price for distributors by 15 percent on average, as continued production records drove down their costs.[24] Prices are likely to continue to fall across the board, making PBMAs ever more competitive with conventional animal meat.

Conclusion

PBMAs are an active area that continues to attract large amounts of investment, which drives the iterative research developing the next generations of PBMAs. Excitingly, they have proven to be largely resistant to the challenges of the current pandemic: in the US, plant-based meat sales increased by 264 percent over a nine-week period to 2 May 2020,[25] and while many meat processing factories shut down, numerous PBMA factories were able to stay open due to more automated production lines. Driven by consumer demand, large investment and technological advances, PBMAs look set to become a regular on menus and supermarket shelves everywhere.

References

1. https://www.gfi.org/marketresearch

2. https://www.mintel.com/press-centre/food-and-drink/plant-based-push-uk-sales-of-meat-free-foods-shoot-up-40-between-2014-19

3. Dekkers BL, Boom RM, van der Goot AJ. Structuring Processes for Meat Analogues. Trends Food Sci. Technol. 2018:81:25-36. Doi:10.1016/j.tifs.2018.08.011

4. https://www.gfi.org/plant-based-meat-production-101

5. Kumar, P., Chatli, M. K., Mehta, N., Singh, P., Malav, O. P. and Verma, A. K. (2017), ‘Meat analogues: Health promising sustainable meat substitutes’, Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition57(5): pp. 923–32, doi:10.1080/10408398.2014.939739

6.  Bohrer, B. M. (2017), ‘Review: Nutrient density and nutritional value of meat products and non-meat foods high in protein’, Trends in Food Science & Technology65: pp. 103–12, doi:10.1016/j.tifs.2017.04.016

7. https://www.foodnavigator.com/Article/2020/01/14/THIS-isn-t-bacon-Maker-of-world-s-most-realistic-meat-analogues-prepares-to-scale#

8. Turner J. Hydrocolloids Create Successful Analogues. 2019. https://www.foodprocessing.com/articles/2019/hydrocolloids-create-successful-analogues/

9. He, J, Evans, NM, Liu, H, Shao, S. A review of research on plant‐based meat alternatives: Driving forces, history, manufacturing, and consumer attitudes. Compr Rev Food Sci Food Saf. 2020; 1– 18. https://doi.org/10.1111/1541-4337.12610

10. Fraser RZ, Shitut M, Agrawal P, Mendes O, Klapholz S. Safety Evaluation of Soy Leghemoglobin Protein Preparation Derived From Pichia pastoris, Intended for Use as a Flavor Catalyst in Plant-Based Meat. Int J Toxicol. 2018;37(3):241-262. doi:10.1177/1091581818766318

11. Ismail I, Hwang YH, Joo ST. Meat analog as future food: a review. J Anim Sci Technol. 2020;62(2):111-120. doi:10.5187/jast.2020.62.2.111

12.  https://foodwrite.co.uk/crafting-meat-analogues-for-the-future/

13.  Dekkers BL, Boom RM, van der Goot AJ. Structuring Processes for Meat Analogues. Trends Food Sci. Technol. 2018:81:25-36. Doi:10.1016/j.tifs.2018.08.011

14.  Krintiras GA, Diaz JG, van der Goot AJ, Stankiewicz AI, Stefanidis GD. On the use of the Couette Cell technology for large scale production of textured soy-based meat replacers. J Food Eng. 2016:169:2015-213. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jfoodeng.2015.08.021

15.  Krintiras GA, Diaz JG, van der Goot AJ, Stankiewicz AI, Stefanidis GD. On the use of the Couette Cell technology for large scale production of textured soy-based meat replacers. J Food Eng. 2016:169:2015-213. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jfoodeng.2015.08.021

16. https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20200316005301/en

17.  https://www.cbinsights.com/research/future-of-meat-industrial-farming/

18.  https://www.cbinsights.com/research/future-of-meat-industrial-farming/

19. https://www.just-food.com/analysis/eyeing-alternatives-meat-companies-with-stakes-in-meat-free-and-cell-based-meat_id139678.aspx

20.  https://www.cbinsights.com/research/future-of-meat-industrial-farming/

21.  https://www.foodnavigator.com/Article/2020/01/14/THIS-isn-t-bacon-Maker-of-world-s-most-realistic-meat-analogues-prepares-to-scale#

22.  https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/beyond-meat-stock-price-mcdonalds-announces-plant-based-burger-2020-11-1029782550

23.  https://www.foodnavigator.com/News/Promotional-Features/Riding-the-next-wave-of-alternative-protein

24. https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20200303005126/en/Impossible-Foods-Accelerates-Economies-Scale-Enabling-Startup

25.  https://www.cbinsights.com/research/future-of-meat-industrial-farming/

Australia is no exception to the global plant-based trend in recent years, with the movement only picking up pace since the coronavirus pandemic with consumers increasingly shifting away from conventional meat amid headlines of virus-ridden abattoirs. And as the demand continues to grow, homegrown startups are taking on the challenge to innovate new products that give shoppers what they crave and love about meat, but without the ethical and environmental impact. From plant-based meat brands already making their mark to research undertaken to develop new cell-based proteins, there’s no shortage of Australian entrepreneurs driving the country’s fast-growing alternative protein industry.

While the U.S. and Europe are traditionally viewed as the hotbeds of alternative protein innovation, we’re now seeing the emergence of homegrown Australian companies who are developing Australian-made analogues that tap into the country’s unique resources and provide greater variety and choice in the alternative protein market.

Take Fenn Foods, for example, a Queensland-headquartered plant-based startup that has recently joined Big Idea Ventures’ accelerator program. Founded by Alejandro Cancino & Paola Moro, the brand has been known for its beef alternative “veef” and other plant-based products such as schnitzel and chicken burgers that are widely distributed across Australian supermarkets and restaurant chains.

Source: Fenn Foods / designed by Green Queen Media

Now, it’s gearing up to add three new products to its line-up, and expand its presence internationally, launching in Singapore, South Korea and Hong Kong in the next months. One of its products is a carbon-neutral veef made from soy protein, pea protein, vegetable oil and cocoa butter. While all plant-based meats, by virtue of being animal-free, require far less land and water resources and generate much fewer carbon emissions to produce, Fenn Foods has partnered with carbon reduction institute Noco2 to offset all the remaining carbon emissions from the production process.

Speaking to Green Queen about the new carbon-neutral vegan meat mince, co-founder Cancino said: “Our aim is to be the most delicious and sustainable product on the market. We can keep working restlessly on deliciousness, but in terms of sustainability, this is really setting us apart from the rest.”

Source: Fable Food Co

Another startup, Fable Food Co, has developed animal-free, gluten-free and GMO-free plant-based braised beef made from 65% mushroom ingredientswhich is available throughout major retailers such as Woolworths, and has even gained a following from top food experts like celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal, who has since partnered with the food tech to add the product to the menu of his U.K. restaurants.

Amid the coronavirus crisis, the brand’s co-founder and CEO Michael Fox told Green Queen in an earlier conversation that it is “having to adapt so we decided to launch an online pop-up in two cities,” and has since set its sights on expanding into the Singapore market in the coming months via both foodservice and retail.

Source: v2food

Meanwhile, Sydney-based food tech v2food made headlines recently, having landed a AU$77 million (US$55 million) Series B round, breaking records as the largest funding round in the category within the country. The funding was led by major institutional investors including many of Asia’s biggest names such as Hong Kong-based Horizons Ventures and Singapore’s Temasek, a major boost for the company’s intentions to launch its vegan mince and plant-based burger products into new markets in Asia.

But it isn’t just Australia’s plant-based sector gaining all the glory – the country’s cell-based alternative protein sector is also flourishing. Most notably at the forefront of the sector is Vow, a Sydney-based company that is developing not just any meat directly from animal cells, but exotic meats, from zebra to kangaroo.

Source: Vow

Vow has already held a successful first culinary trial of their products, prepared and plated by renowned Australian chefs Neil Perry, the founder of the Rockpool restaurant empire, and Corey Costello, featuring a range of dishes including cell-cultured kangaroo dumplings, alpaca chilli tamara and a goat cheeseburger slider – just to name a few.

Another cell-based project in the country, led by University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) researcher Lisa Musgrove, has caught the eye of New York-based cellular agriculture research institute New Harvest. Recently securing seed grant money from the institute, which represents the first time an Australian has been awarded, Musgrove will be investigating crayfish growth factors and cell-culture to bolster innovation within the cell-based crustaceans sector.


Lead image courtesy of Fable Food Co.

Shiok Meats has just unveiled the world’s first cell-based lobster meat. In an exclusive tasting event, the Singapore cultivated seafood food tech showcased its newly developed crustacean-free product in a range of dishes alongside their cell-based shrimp, marking yet another milestone towards the company’s ambitions to commercialise its cultured crustaceans by 2022.

Singapore-based cultivated seafood maker Shiok Meats has just announced that it has held a private tasting event to showcase their brand new cell-based lobster meat, making the company the first in the world to do so. The event was held at food incubator Innovate360, where Chef José Luis Del Amo of TheTasteLab served lobster tomato, leek, red pepper and cucumber gazpacho and lobster terrine made with Shiok’s newly-developed cell-based lobster meat, served on a crostini slathered in mayonnaise.

Special guests, investors and restaurateurs at the tasting were also treated to a spherified dish featuring cell-based shrimp created using molecular gastronomy techniques, marking the second time Shiok Meats’ shrimp has appeared on dining plates after first appearing in a siu mai dumpling prototype in 2019.

Among the distinguished guests attending the event included SaladStop! co-founder and president Adrien DesbailletsBernice Tay of Enterprise Singapore, and assistant director of the Singapore Food Agency Xuan Feng. Co-head of impact investment at Silverstrand Capital Patti Chu, Signum Capital partner John Ng were also first to taste the new product alongside other collaborators and the Shiok Meats team members.

“The taste is wonderful – to really get a sense of umami flavours that can be developed from this sort of technology, and by blending it with different bases, it really fascinating,” said Desbaillets. “It’s a great journey that Shiok Meats has been on for the past two years, and exciting to see it all come together.”

Co-Founders of Shiok Meats Dr. Sandhya Sriram (L) & Dr. Ka Yi Ling (R)

Our mission is to develop cell-based crustacean meats that are contributing towards a cleaner and healthier seafood industry and solving for the inefficiencies around global protein production. We are working very hard on making sure that our products are delicious, healthy and affordable in the long run.

Dr. Sandhya Sriram & Dr. Ka Yi Ling, Co-Founders, Shiok Meats

Commenting on the milestone, Shiok Meats co-founders Dr. Sandhya Sriram and Dr. Ka Yi Ling said: “We are ecstatic that we were able to showcase the first ever cell-based lobster meat that we produced in our facility.”

“Our mission is to develop cell-based crustacean meats that are contributing towards a cleaner and healthier seafood industry and solving for the inefficiencies around global protein production. We are working very hard on making sure that our products are delicious, healthy and affordable in the long run.”

While the company plans to take its cultivated Shiok Shrimp to market by 2022 – potentially becoming the first cell-based food tech to bring much-needed disruption US$50 billion global shrimp market at a time when food safety concerns are riding high amidst the coronavirus pandemic and threats of aquaculture diseases like Div1 – Shiok Meats has also set its sights on tackling the problematic lobster market.

Lobsters, mostly produced in the U.S., Canada and Australia, are in high-demand especially in Asian markets like Hong Kong and mainland China, and sustainable solutions to meet increasing consumption rates will be necessary to alleviate the industry’s environmental toll. Despite beef and lamb remaining the most carbon-hefty meats, wild lobster catches require fossil fuel-powered vessels that burn an estimated 10,000 litres of dirty fuel per catch.

The taste is wonderful – to really get a sense of umami flavours that can be developed from this sort of technology, and by blending it with different bases, it really fascinating.

Adrien Desbaillets, President & Co-founder, SaladStop!

Almost all commercial seafood fishing operations also use methods such as trawling and longlines, which are at some point discarded in the sea, making up almost 50% of the ocean plastic waste, not to mention harming non-targeted species in bycatch, including dolphins, sea turtles and sharks.

Most scientific estimates say that marine populations are depleting so quickly we could be seeing most species consumed by humans going extinct by 2048, with some recent predictions suggesting that the timeline could be pushed forward due to a spike in consumers choosing seafood as their choice of protein over red meats.

Shiok Meats says that it stands out from other cultivated protein startups as its proprietary patent-pending technology enables the isolation of stem cells from crustaceans for growth in nutrient-rich conditions. Within four to six weeks, the company is able to produce a 100% animal-free and slaughter-free cell-based seafood product that is identical to its conventional counterpart with only a fraction of the environmental footprint.

Its latest development of cell-based lobster meat comes just over a month after it announced an impressive US$12.6 million Series A funding round following its US$3 million bridge funding round secured earlier in June this year. The funds will go towards the construction of its first commercial pilot facility, putting the company on track to win the race in building the world’s fully-functional commercial plant dedicated to cell-based crustacean production.


All images courtesy of Shiok Meats.

“To say plant-based foods are having a moment is an understatement. Green is now mainstream.”  says Allen Zelden, in an article originally published by Inside FMCG, which includes insights from plant-based leaders including Mike Messersmith of OatlyMiyoko Schinner, Chris Kerr of Good Catch, and Kartik Dixit of Evo Foods.

“What was once a niche diet for vegetarians settling for some semblance of a meat-eating experience, is now increasingly embraced as a healthy, delicious and modern lifestyle. But while the sector is experiencing impressive growth, the penetration and proliferation of plant-based foods across our grocery aisles is still very much in its infancy. Beyond the plant-based meat category, there still remains a number of untapped food types, some with little competition, ripe for disruption.

Plant-based foods are undoubtedly a growth engine for retailers and manufacturers alike. Recent US retail sales data by SPINS (a market research and retail analytics provider), confirms this with plant-based foods continuing to significantly outpace overall grocery sales, soaring 29% over the past two years compared to only 4% growth for total US food retail dollar sales.

©Beyond Meat

In 2019, the plant-based meat category alone grew six times faster than its conventional counterpart, and now accounts for 2% of total retail packaged meat sales. Driven by the rise of mission-driven brands such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, clearly food businesses can no longer communicate their functional benefits alone. Now more than ever, only brands with authentic purpose are assured to see more long-term engagement.

Whether the mission is health, animal welfare or the environment, consumers are progressively shifting from the belief that the consumption of animal meat is a required part of their diet and identity. However, when looking at the values and dynamics of other burgeoning plant-based food categories, this is only the beginning.

Oat Milk Creams the Competition

 While dairy-free alternatives have been around for a very long time, they have recently evolved from an occasional request to a customary commodity. Amongst the many varieties, Oatly is unquestionably the global pioneer in commercial oat milk.

Oatly WPMD
© Oatly

Since their founding days in the 1990s, Oatly has experienced astronomical growth with US oat milk dollar sales surging 686% in the past year, and 1,946% over the past two years (as per SPINS retail sales data).

“One huge aspect of Oatly that has resonated with consumers globally is that there is a clear, focused intent behind WHY we make our products. We only do oats – from the very beginning of our company – because after careful evaluation of all the options available, it made the most scientific rationale sense of being able to create the most delicious products without excessively taxing the earth’s resources,” says Mike Messersmith, President of Oatly North America.

“There is a growing consciousness amongst consumers worldwide not just about the ingredients and nutritional content of their food and beverage choices, but how the product was made and what the environmental impact of that process was on our planet.”

Oatly at festival 8
©Oatly

According to an LCA study conducted by Oatly, the production of their oat milk resulted in 80% lower GHG emissions and 60% less energy use compared to cow’s milk. The study also found they used about 80% less land and significantly less water, especially when compared to almond milk which is known to be the thirstiest plant milk.

However, it’s most impressive feature amongst consumers and baristas alike is its superior taste and texture. While other varieties such as pea milk may be seen as having a greater nutritional profile, many consider it to be grassier and dissimilar in flavour. No matter the many plant-based milk distinctions, the greatest driver in the shift towards plant-based consumption will always be taste, something Oatly has spent over 20 years perfecting.

The Queen of Vegan Cheese

Studies show that for those looking to adopt a plant-based diet, cheese is typically the most difficult food to part with. This is due to a number of factors such as its varying textures, types and qualities (such as melt). Whilst cheese has many unique complexities that are hard to mimic, the biggest impediment to growth of the plant-based cheese category is undeniably taste – enter Miyoko Schinner, the ‘Queen of Vegan Cheese’.

Miyoko with cheese
©Miyoko’s Creamery

Miyoko’s Creamery is the leading natural and organic plant-based dairy food brand in the US. Launched in 2014, Miyoko’s famed array of products – from butters, slices, and shreds, to their multi-flavoured cheddars, cream cheeses and artisan cheese wheels – are now found in more than 15,000 US retailers nationwide.

“Miyoko’s is currently growing 100% year over year due to its cult status, and for being known as the gold standard in plant-based/vegan cheese and butters,” says Schinner, CEO and Founder of Miyoko’s Creamery.

After milk and meat, cheese appears to be the next explosive growth category for the plant-based food sector. As per SPINS US retail sales data, plant-based cheese sales grew 18.3% in one year to reach US$189 million in 2019. Meanwhile, Transparency Market Research forecasts the global value of the industry to reach US$7 billion by 2030.

Another distinguishing feature that separates Miyoko’s Creamery from their counterparts is their emphasis on using only natural and organic ingredients with no GMO’S, additives or fake ingredients. Cashews are a primary component for many of their products.

©Miyoko’s Kitchen

“As more and more people seek healthier, more eco and compassionate food choices, Miyoko’s is meeting this demand in style by offering phenomenal organic products crafted from organic, clean, whole food ingredients and traditional cheese-making artistry at a scale that is unmatched in the industry.”

Netting the Next Catch

According to WWF, seafood is the world’s largest traded food commodity with approximately 3 billion people relying on it as a core source of protein in their diets. At the same time, the fishing industry is fraught with public health issues – from heavy metal and mercury contamination to the overuse of antibiotics in factory fishing. With overfishing threatening the future of marine biodiversity, and consumers increasingly open to inventive alternatives, Good Catch saw a gap in the market to meet the growing global seafood demand.

“Simply put, there was no one focusing heavily on seafood, and yet we can see the problems the seafood industry is facing. So, we founded the company with a white-space mentality. Consumers are more comfortable with exploring alternatives. The time is right,” says Chris Kerr, Co-Founder & Executive Chair of plant-based seafood company Good Catch.

Frozen line Good Catch
©Good Catch Foods

Launched in 2016 with a debut range of plant-based shelf-stable tuna alternatives, the company has since launched plant-based crab cakes, fish sliders and burgers, and generated more than $50 million in funding (according to Crunchbase). Its latest roster of investors include celebrities Woody Harrelson and Paris Hilton.

With plant-based seafood still only accounting for 1% of the total US plant-based meat category in 2019, and with so few manufacturers and little competition, Good Catch is perfectly positioned to capitalise on strong forecast growth in the US and abroad.

“Seafood is ubiquitously consumed around the globe but the localization to specific cuisines will be critical to adoption. For example, while Japan is not known as a large consumer of crab cakes, in the US crab cakes are a stable. Germans like tuna pizza – something we don’t generally eat in the US. My mantra: global adoption relies on local acceptance, and local acceptance relies on familiar form, function and flavour,” says Kerr.

“Understanding this, Good Catch can create the base products and work with global partners. Whilst we are currently still in the starting gates of the overall opportunity, the tailwinds are in our favour.”

The Scramble for Plant-Based Eggs

Of all the animal proteins, none are more versatile, functional and universal than eggs. With so few egg alternatives on the market, both for consumption and baking purposes, it’s clear the plant-based egg category is a mammoth global opportunity.

With India considered to have the world’s largest vegetarian population, and eggs contentiously accepted by many vegetarian communities, EVO Foods is on a mission to bring the plant-based revolution to India with the country’s first 100% plant-based liquid egg.

EVO Foods
©EVO Foods

“We at EVO see plant-based eggs starting the whole plant-based foods market for India. Food in India is deeply rooted in tradition, culture and community, and a plant-based meat product might actually turn off a lot of flexitarians and vegetarians. We believe that eggs are the best gateway products to introduce the Indian consumers to plant-based foods because eggs represent a grey area in the vegetarian and non-vegetarian debate in India,” says Shraddha Bhansali, Co-Founder of EVO Foods.

As Indian consumers become increasingly aware of global trends, food is seen to be the most socially complex category. Although India has the lowest global meat consumption, conversely, it will shortly overtake the US as the second largest egg producing market. With an intimate understanding of the challenges and opportunities within their region, Bhansali and Co-Founder Kartik Dixit created a ‘clean’ protein alternative for India’s traditional egg market.

“EVO’s liquid egg uses advanced plant biochemistry and food science to extract proteins from legumes and other plant sources to create a sustainable yet delicious ‘evolved’ egg replica without cholesterol, antibiotics or any animal cruelty.”

 Ultimately, plant-based eggs are still a very new market. According to SPINS data, US retail sales for plant-based eggs grew from $3 million to $10 million last year. However, from all the plant-based food categories, eggs have easily seen the highest dollar value sales growth over the last three years with a massive 228.2% which is impressive when compared to the plant-based meat category which only saw 37.8% growth for the same period.

 With pricing considered to be a foundational acceptance factor in guiding consumer’s food choices, international expansion is very much on EVO’s roadmap. “In the US currently the average price of plant-based eggs is 184% higher than the price of animal-based eggs. This is where EVO can capitalize on the demand by providing high quality and affordable plant-based eggs,” says Bhansali.

Consumers Buy on Beliefs 

healthy ready meals
©insta_photos@stock.adobe.com

Yes, the food industry is going greener. From your local supermarket shelves to international markets, plant-based foods are a booming business. Yet it’s still early days as consumers branch out beyond the burger.

The next evolution of plant-based dairy, cheese, seafood and egg products are increasingly competitive with their animal-oriented equivalents on all the key factors that influence consumer food choices: taste, price, culture and convenience.

Simultaneously, shifting consumer values are further fuelling the demand for plant-based foods. Concerns for environmental sustainability, health and wellness, ecosystem decimation, and meeting our global future food demands are rapidly shining the spotlight on plant-based alternatives.

As with all emerging disruptive categories, speed and resilience is everything. With the plant-based food industry still very nascent relative to the overall food and beverage market, and with so many contenders determined to reshape their respective food markets, the question is, who will tick all the boxes first to be the next plant-based blockbuster?”

2 weeks ago, WOLF + WALD and Confetti Fine Foods got together for a fun collaboration, sharing the joy of healthy drinks and snacks with the Singapore community. We’ve finally had the chance to speak with Betty Lu, Founder of Confetti, to reminisce her travels and to find out why helping end global hunger has become a priority for her.

WW: You’re known for being an avid traveller, leaving your footprint across many countries. Yet, the core of Confetti Fine Foods’ culture is still Singapore’s heritage. Could you share with us why, and what value you feel it’ll bring to Singaporeans and consumers overseas?

Betty: Singapore has a rich culinary heritage. We are at a strategic crossroads of the East-West trade which brings the most beautiful harmony of cultures and flavors. My travels have inspired me to create a snack company that can leave a positive impact whilst paying tribute to the world by allowing global consumers to travel to Singapore via snacks as a medium. Our snacks are lovingly crafted from real vegetables, are nutrient dense, and allow people a fun and adventurous way to eat the colors of the rainbow in exotic flavors. We use up-cycled ugly veggies to resolve the food wastage pandemic, whilst donating a portion of these nutrient-rich snacks to feed the hungriest people in the world.

WW: We’ve been very moved by this initiative of yours. Was there a particular experience that left an indelible mark on you, spurring you towards alleviating this long-standing societal impoverishment? (If possible, please also share how many individuals/villages you’ve been able to benefit)

Betty: Yes, the extended travels were an eye-opening experience. I feel blessed to have seen many places that are beautiful but also places that are suffering. About 800 million people face hunger and malnutrition every day, and 8.6 million die from hunger each year, most of them children. 40% of nutrient-rich produce is discarded annually largely due to cosmetic reasons. It’s an insane amount of waste while people are dying from hunger which is exacerbated more now due to the current pandemic. At Confetti, our mission is to try to solve both challenges by up-cycling ugly produce to craft into tasty gourmet snacks, and donating a portion of our nutrient-dense products to feed the hungry. A “Robin Hood” approach. Since our launch, we have managed to donate 8,000 packets to vulnerable groups in Singapore like the Migrant Workers Center to bring some joy and nutrients into their lives amidst the pandemic. We look forward to scaling up globally in the next few years so that we can contribute more to end hunger and empower vulnerable communities in the world.

WW: Confetti is the world’s first vegetable chips to be made from ugly veggies. It’s apparent that your entire supply chain is working towards being fully sustainable. Do you see a future in Singapore where all F&B companies can adopt solutions that are as impactful and “earth-saving”?

Betty: Yes absolutely. And we are already seeing strong growth and interest here with consumers choosing sustainable and healthy options. We work with sustainable and mission-driven companies like Foreword Coffee, Tea Pasar, Nourish, SPRMRKT and The Green Collective which source regionally and support fair trade farmers. SusGain, Festival for Good, raiSE also help consumers make quality purchases that support sustainability, and even treatsure focuses on reducing food waste in Singapore. Am truly inspired by the wonderful entrepreneurs I meet on a daily basis who are driven by impact and inspired to create a positive change.

WW: Congratulations on launching Confetti in Singapore! How do you feel about other countries wanting a piece of Confetti on their shelves? Is there anywhere else in the world we can expect to find these real veggie crunchies in the near future?

Betty: We are seeing strong interest in North America, Europe, Middle East, and Asia Pacific. We look forward to sprinkling Confetti to these markets in the near future to meet the explosive consumer demand for tasty plant based snacks. We are very excited to grow Confetti into a global snack company to bring more colors into people’s lives. It would be inspiring to see the creation travel further than its creator. We are grateful for the opportunity to make other people happy even though they may be far away. That would be ironically beautiful.

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WW: You experimented in your own kitchen to create Confetti. Outside of managing your fast-growing business, what other personal culinary adventures have you taken on?

Betty: I’m in love with cooking which I find very therapeutic. Whether it is volunteering at a food bank, a homeless shelter or cooking for the vulnerable, I think love is expressed best by food which is a recurring theme throughout the world. Food bonds people regardless of which culture they come from. I love dining with indigenous tribes, and the most memorable was with a tribe in the heart of New Caledonia. Produce was sourced from the land, cooked in the ground, and the philosophy there is that no one owns the land, everyone shares it. That’s our ethos as a company to truly instill an inclusive culture where diversity is celebrated via our recipes or the ugly veggies that we use. It’s a safe space to experiment, explore, and embrace things that are interesting even though they may be strange or bizarre.

I also love exploring food markets, farmers’ markets and bazaars in my travels, and visiting farmers who have a strong passion in bringing wholesome produce. Confetti has an exceptionally talented Chef in Residence, Mitch Prensky, who is based in Manhattan. We love exploring brilliant ideas for Confetti snacks that are innovative by using ugly vegetables to bring joy, surprise and astonishment to the consumer. The adventure is to bring snacks inspired by the world and gift it as a tribute. We want to create an experience of wonder by using authentic recipes with a rich culinary history. We want to bring people on a journey to travel the world through a snack and indulge in a diversity woven by fascinating cultures.

WW: We ask everyone from our “WOLF + WALD Founder Stories” series this question — what advice would you give your younger self before embarking on this venture?

Betty: Take risks, be bold, explore. Go out and do things beyond your comfort zone because that’s where real growth happens. Do something that no one else has done before. Go off the beaten path. It’s better to fail at something audacious, then to create something boring and forgettable. I would tell my younger self to focus everything on creating a strong brand. A powerful brand is selfless in the sense that it elevates and empowers people, brings joy and wonder, and helps people live better and slightly happier lives. It should also be fun to interact with and is constantly evolving and adapting to change. Start now, start younger. There is never a good time to start, and you will never find conditions that are perfect. Just start anyway. Get the ball rolling. Whatever you think you might need will come along the way. You can always polish the ball then. Remember to take play seriously! More magic, less logic. That’s where the most interesting fun stuff happens.

2020 has been the year that “2.0” level plant-based meat products began to take shape and direction in China, hitting the mainstream. Beyond Meat is opening their own production facility near Shanghai, in addition to partnering with KFC, Alibaba and others; leading multinationals such as Cargill and DuPont have begun rolling out a range of products for the Chinese market; and a growing contingent of local startups, including Starfield and numerous others, continue to roll out products, form partnerships, and ambitiously build traction.

Meanwhile, new opportunities in other segments of the plant-based protein value chain have also arisen—particularly in raw materials and production. Our Asia Alt 100 list features a number of Chinese companies that are capitalizing on these trends, but today, I will spotlight two of traditional producers that are seamlessly evolving with the times:  Whole Perfect Food (Qishan) and Ningbo Sulian Food.

Chinese consumers have a long history of consuming plant-based products, driven in large part by cultural and social factors, such as adherence to Buddhism. Traditionally, wheat gluten or soy-based meat analogues are common on the dinner table of people motivated by dietary restrictions for religious purposes. These individuals and religious groups, including temples and monasteries, are the traditional customer base of Whole Perfect Food and Ningbo Sulian Food, each of whom have successfully expanded their sales through B2B and B2C channels. Their traditional meat analogue products require less evolution because of high brand loyalty and repeat purchases among the dedicated customers. Nonetheless, amid an unprecedented rise in demand for plant-based foods in China and beyond, traditional plant-based companies like Whole Perfect Food and Ningbo Sulian Food are looking to take a bite of the burgeoning market.

Source: Shutterstock

 

Whole Perfect Food: Crafting the Perfect Product for Specific Settings

 

Founded in 1993, Whole Perfect Food has established a strong manufacturing capacity (producing more than 5,000 tons of plant-based meat annually), which has encouraged leading Chinese startup brands like ZhenMeat to forge a supplier partnership with them. In June, the company rolled out a new e-commerce brand called “Future Meat” by virtue of a partnership with Tmall—the biggest B2C online retail platform in China. The brand divides the market based on different consumption occasions and has honed in on two of them specifically—healthy snacks before or after a workout, and meal replacements. Their first product is a plant-based protein bar with Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs, a group of three essential amino acids), which has inherent nutritional benefits beyond providing an energy boost, such as reducing fatigue and increasing muscle growth.

Source: Whole Perfect Food

According to Whole Perfect Food marketing executive Mr. Zhou Qiyu, the key to growing their business is to identify specific occasions where target audiences may find plant-based meat products to be beneficial or valuable, and to develop products that communicate those critical value propositions to the customers who will recognize the benefits. As a result, the company has managed to maintain their traditional vegetarian and Buddhist customers, while also targeting early adopters of new products and health-conscious demographics by launching products with broadly popular flavors, enhanced nutritional profiles and eye-catching packaging.

Source: Future Meat Tmall Shop

 

Ningbo Sulian Food: Building Familiar Flavors and Accelerating the Supply Chain

 

Similar to Whole Perfect Food, Ningbo Sulian Food is a decade-old traditional mock meat supplier that now also offers an extensive range of plant-based products. Ningbo Sulian has prioritized building taste “familiarity” into their products, such as juicy and greasy fillings for buns and dumplings, thick-cut bacon slices for hotpot and thin-cut breakfast sandwiches.

The company is “poised for the whole plant-based supply chain, ranging from crop production, to protein extraction and processing, and plant-based end products”, according to Ningbo Sulian founder and chairman Mr. Zhang Xinliang. Instead of turning the plant-based industry in China on its head, Ningbo Sulian is working with partners like Shuangta Food—a leading pea protein producer and ingredient supplier for Beyond Meat—to streamline the runway for new product development and diversify their product portfolio, thus bringing higher-quality plant-based ingredients and products to the market.

Source: Ningbo Sulian Food

 

Challenges and Opportunities for Traditional Businesses and New Entrants

 

This fall, I attended the 2020 Future Food Forum in Shanghai, which was organized by our strategic partner—China Plant Based Foods Alliance (CPBFA). As the first event in China dedicated to alternative proteins, the Forum has been successfully held for the past three years and serves as a platform for dialogue and collaboration among the hundreds of stakeholders from various sectors. Here are some of this year’s major takeaways:

Companies interested in the Chinese market, first and foremost, should be aware of the many unique challenges they will encounter, from consumer perception and product R&D, to the supply chain and regulatory environment.

Challenge #1: Consumer perception 

The long-established plant-based tradition doesn’t automatically lead to high consumer acceptance of plant-based meat in China. Customers tend to be fickle about their food options. In order to pave the way for wider applications of plant-based meat and higher market penetration of particular products, it is important for companies to create and launch products that hit all of the right notes. If target groups have to change their eating or cooking habits in order to try plant-based meat, that would likely keep them from trying it again.

Challenge #2: Pinch point in R&D—mouthfeel instead of flavor

With a long and rich food culture history, Chinese people have highly developed expectations when it comes to food. The diverse flavors of current plant-based meat products have proven to be up to that standard, thanks to utilizations of Chinese seasonings. When it comes to achieving the right mouthfeel though, it requires a lot more effort in R&D. Varied ingredients and processing methods are necessary when refining formulations to find the best combination for any type of end products. The nuances of mouthfeel could be tailored to create different dining experiences. For example, a perfect plant-based beef slice for hotpot should be tender, fatty and prevented from easily falling apart when boiling in broth, while a similar product for a sandwich doesn’t require this durability.

Source: Shutterstock

Challenge #3: Unstable supply chains bring about cost fluctuation

Although China has a significant competitive advantage in terms of its ready availability of soy and pea protein ingredients, Ryan Xue, secretary-general of the CPBFA explained that “ The plant-based meat industry in China is still at an early stage, and the instability in the upper stream of supply chain (manufacturing and processing) has brought about cost fluctuation. But we believe that with capital injections into supply chain infrastructure (equipment, production lines, etc) and companies achieving scalability, more high-quality and cheaper plant-based meat products will be available in the market soon.” A good example is Starfield (the most well-funded plant-based meat startup in mainland China), which is working with the conventional meat giant CP Foods to utilize their idle equipment to ensure both product quality and increased production volumes.

Challenge #4: Regulatory standards—nomenclature and classification

Currently, plant-based meat and cultivated meat are both called “artificial meat” in Chinese, which is clearly not ideal for the long-term development of the entire alternative protein industry. There are ongoing regulatory discussions about different systems and standards to properly name and classify plant-based meat and differentiate it from traditional meat analogues. We should all keep a close eye on this for future updates.

At the same time, there are tons of untapped opportunities for both traditional businesses and new entrants.

Opportunity #1: Plant-based meat snacks

To test the water and gauge consumer interest, plant-based meat snacks are popular options as the starting point in China. Earlier this year, Baicaowei—a leading Chinese snack brand—revealed its own plant-based sausage snack. Especially among younger generations, grab-and-go snacks that can power people through the day, or ready-to-heat meals at convenience stores, are much more attractive than frozen or ready-to-cook plant-based meat products. Snack time is anytime!

Opportunity #2: Effective positioning and product localisation

We all understand that effective product positioning and localisation are key to getting customers on board. Companies can create their positioning strategies by aligning product development and rollouts closely with local or Western food trends, desirable cooking techniques (stir-frying, steaming, stewing, roasting, etc.) and different types of meat (minced, sliced, diced, etc). A good example is Swedish plant-based dairy brand Oatly, which has used their barista-style products to open the coffee market and ride on the wave of China’s surging demand for coffee. It’s crucial to dive deep into target consumer segments (e.g. individuals, retailers, restaurants) and work on customized solutions to meet their demands.

Source: unsplash

Opportunity #3: A broad range of distribution channels

There is no doubt about it—China has a broad range of distribution channels for plant-based meat products. Online retailers and restaurants (dine-in, takeaway and delivery) are the most popular two, while convenience stores and supermarkets are on the rise.

 

Plant-based 2.0 in China: A new era of protein supply

 

The booming plant-based industry in China marks a new era of protein supply. Overseas consumer-facing brands like Beyond Meat and multinational upstream solution providers such as Cargill and DuPont have debuted products to pique the public’s curiosity. However, in China, many end-product categories are not yet mature in applications and we have seen gaps in product formulation, processing and manufacturing.

Technology and partnerships are paramount. We look forward to seeing more strategic companies, academic institutions and investors engage in supporting product R&D (with a focus on interdisciplinary research), localisation and fundamental infrastructure. There is still plenty of space for great plant-based products and solutions that can bring differentiated value to the table and ultimately win over consumers in the world’s largest and most sought-after market.

It’s hard to overstate what a record breaking year it has been for the alternative protein industry over the past 12 months, most especially in Asia where Green Queen Media is based. Just a couple of years ago, there were less than on major news story to report on a week, and as we appraoch the end of 2020, our alt protein news desk regularly publishes more than one headline a day. For the past few months, the Green Queen Media team along with APAC alt protein investor & Future Food Now newsletter publisher Michal Klar have been working together to gather data from alternative protein startups across the region in order to publish the first-ever total funding estimate for the space. The numbers are astonishing.

“The data we gathered clearly shows that the alt protein sector in Asia Pacific really took off during last the past 12 months. Investors increasingly recognise stellar growth opportunities in this region,” Klar told Green Queen. “We’ll need even more startup innovation to address the great challenges of our times, like climate change and food security. I am sure amazing APAC alt protein entrepreneurs will continue to come up with transformative ideas – and investors large and small will provide them with funding necessary to scale and succeed.”

At this point, some contextualisation on why the rise of alternative proteins has been so dramatic this past year would be helpful. The pandemic has made it all too obvious how precarious our global food systems are, and how dangerous our over-reliance on industrially reared-animal protein is. The awareness of our global climate crisis is an at all time high and the connection between what’s our plate and our individual carbon footprints in terms of emissions is now clear to millions. Time and time again, scientists and researchers are confirming that the biggest impact we can have as consumers is to reduce our consumption of meat and dairy. Cue a host of bright-eyed founders launching plant-based, cell-based, whole-food and fermentation-based alternatives.

Back in January, we published the Asia Alternative Protein Industry Report – New Decade, New Protein, at the time the first ever in-depth look at the industry (ex-Pacific). We profiled just under 25 startups and the largest funding round on record at the time was a seed of US$4.6 million. Today, less than 12 months later, the rounds are in the tens of millions as money is pouring into what some see as the biggest impact investment opportunity on record. Investors of all stripes are desperate to get involved and it’s easy to see why. After all, what’s more basic and tangible than what humanity eats, and who in their right mind doesn’t want to support a global food chain that’s ethical, sustainable, healthy and safe?

Source: Shiok Meats

APAC Alt Protein Funding: Key Stats & Totals

In the past 12 months, counting from mid November 2019 through mid November 2020, APAC alt protein startups have raised just over US$230 million in total from angel investors and funds, which is over 350% (4.5X) more than total funds raised over the previous three years combined.

The majority of funds went to plant-based companies with around 86% of funds, while cell-based and fermentation-based startups took in 14%. This is unsurprising, given that no cell-based products are available commercially anywhere and that regulatory frameworks are still being worked out. So far, only one fermentation tech startup in APAC has received funding.

According to the Good Food Institute, over US$1.5 billion has been invested into alternative proteins globally between January and July 2020. The vast majority of global totals belong to U.S.-based companies, with Impossible Foods accounting for US$700 million in 2020 alone, which is in line with our data, whereby a couple of larger superstar companies dominate the totals- in APAC, that’s Green Monday and v2food.

There are now over 70 startups in the APAC region. Given the number of new companies that were founded in 2020, we have no doubt that when we present our funding findings for 2021, there will be even more staggering growth and far more individual deals.

Source: v2food

Funding Highlights & Record-Breakers

Largest Single Raise in APAC Alt Protein (also largest Asia Alt Protein Raise): Green Monday, the plant-based market leader boasting an entire ecosystem including foodtech arm OmniFoods (maker of the OmniPork product series) and Green Common (retail, F&B and distribution) made history with their record-breaking US$70 million raise. Ex-Pacific, the round is Asia’s largest in the alt protein space.

Most Money Raised in APAC Alt Protein (also largest Australia/New Zealand Alt Protein Raise): In October 2020, Australian plant-based burger and mince meat alternative v2food raised US$55 million Series B, the largest Pacific plant-based meat and alt protein round in history, with notable investors such as Li Ka Shing’s Horizon Ventures and Singapore government-backed Temasek, both of which memorably backed Impossible Foods early on. This brings their 12 month investment total to US$80 million thanks to their US$25.3 million Series A from November 2019, bagging them the title of best-funded APAC alt protein startup of the year.v2food CEO Nick Hazell told Future Food Now that the company is poised for international expansion: “We have had a global view since our founding, and this investment and new backers will help us establish our business in Asia, Europe, and the rest of the world.”

Biggest Round In APAC Cell-Based: Singapore-based cultivated seafood pioneer Shiok Meats broke records with their September 2020 US$12.6 million Series A raise, the largest raise for a APAC cell-based company ever, this after announcing the largest seed in Asia alt protein last year, which also made headlines as the first major raise for an Asia headquartered cell-based startup and the first women-founded team in the alternative protein space to raise such an amount. If you’re counting (and we are), the young startup has amassed over US$20 million in investment dollars since its inception. Shiok Meats co-founder Sandhya Sriram told us it’s getting easier to fundraise in the region, stating that there is “definitely much more interest especially from Asian investors, which was not the case 2 years back.”

Second Largest Round in APAC Cell-Based: Japan’s Integriculture, whose wide range of products includes everything from cultured serum to cultivated steak, is another star in the making. After raising a record-breaking US$2.7 million seed in 2018, they closed a US$7.4 million Series A back in May 2020, at the time the largest round for a cell-based company in Asia. They also added US$2.2 million in government grant money to their coffers in September 2020 to build the country’s first cell-ag production facility.

Largest Round in China Alt Protein: the mainland’s Starfield Food Science & Technology completed a headline-worthy US$10 million Series A in August 2020 and then another Series A+ in late October (in fact they closed several rounds during the year but exact figures are undisclosed) to expand its plant-based meal alternatives in foodservice chains nationwide, making them the most well-funded Chinese alt protein startup. When asked if the company had faced any fundraising challenges, Starfield co-founder Chen Suiwen (陈穗文) told Klar in a statement that “to be honest, we did not have any challenges at the fundraising stage.”

Largest Round in Whole Foods Plant-Based: Singapore headquartered KARANA is one of the only startups in the APAC region focused on using whole plants, rather than isolates, for their meat alternative products, and in July 2020, they closed as US$ 1.7 million seed round.

Source: abillionveg

Funds, Accelerators & Other Notable Investment News

Also worth highlighting a slew of new venture capital funds that launched this year with an APAC alt protein investment remit, such as Lever VC Fund (US$23 million), the India-focused Big Idea Ventures x Ashika Group Fund (up to US$ 25 million), and several mainland China food tech interested entities such as Monde Nissin-backed Bits x Bites (up to US$ 70 million), Lever VC x Brinc’s Fund (US$ 5.65 million) and Dao Foods’ New China Venture Fund (US$ 2.2 million). In Pacific, the fund to look at is Blackbird Ventures, who just closed a fourth fund AU$ 500 million (US$ 366 million) in May 2020. While they are not exclusively focused on foodtech, we’re calling them out because they are invested in most of the Pacific alt protein pioneers.

On the accelerator side, Singapore-based Big Idea Ventures, Hong Kong’s Brinc, Singapore’s GROW and Thailand’s SPACE-F continue to be the best bets for founders and young startups to get started, with Big Idea Ventures offering the most cash (US$ 125,000 per company). A few of the leading startups startups managed to fill their coffers with government grants and startups competitions, with key governmental support for cell-based pioneers such as Turtle Tree Labs in Singapore and Integriculture in Japan, hinting at a possible regulatory path forward for lab grown alternatives in the the region. Turtle Tree Labs, one of the world’s leading cell-based dairy companies, also beat out 175,000 other competitors to win Entrepreneurship World Cup (EWS) in October 2020 for their lab-grown human breast and animal milk.

While we focused on alternative protein startups, it’s worth calling out that there were a few notable funding rounds in the non-product space with Singapore’s abillionveg closing a US$3 million pre-series A for its plant-based review app and community, now counting over 250,000 members worldwide, bringing their total funds raised to US$6 million.

APAC Alt Protein Total Funding 2020
Infographic by Green Queen Media & Michal Klar

Notes & Methodology

  • All funding figures confirmed in person and in writing with Green Queen Media’s Sonalie Figueiras or Michal Klar – some of the figures are off the record (ie not publicly disclosed) but the startups agreed to be included in the aggregate number.
  • Investment funding totals do not include accelerator funding, government grants or any competition prizes.
  • ATTN Editors: if you would like to publish these figures in your publication, credit must be given to both Green Queen and Michal Klar as the authors of this research and a link to this article and his newsletter included.
  • Green Queen Media is a slaughter-free publication and we do not consider insect protein as part of our alternative protein coverage.

Lead image courtesy of Green Monday.

Cultured meat, otherwise known as cultivated or cell-based meat, is an emerging technology which uses lab-grown cells to create products without requiring animal slaughter, potentially avoiding the environmental problems of conventional agriculture.

Unlike many of today’s meat alternatives, cultured meat has the potential to create a product that is completely identical to conventional meat, containing exactly the same cells and tissue, say researchers at IDTechEx.

Over the last five years, cultured meat has grown from almost nothing to over 50 companies racing to bring the first products to market, with close to a billion dollars having been invested in the space. The recent IDTechEx report, “Plant-Based and Cultured Meat 2020-2030”, explores the technologies and market factors that are shaping this emerging industry.

In late October, IDTechEx (virtually) attended the 2020 edition of the Cultured Meat Symposium (CMS20), an annual event that highlights industry innovations and insight around the space of cultured meat.

Throughout the three-day event, industry leaders and experts explored the state of the emerging industry, the challenges it still faces, and an outlook for the future of cell-based meats. Here are five things IDTechEx learned from this year’s event:

Cultured meat is closer than ever
Perhaps the most noticeable thing about CMS20 was how much more developed the industry has become over the last 12 months. Multiple companies have now developed prototype products – you can even apply to taste cultured chicken meat at SuperMeat’s “The Chicken” restaurant in Tel Aviv.

Alongside this, companies are moving closer to pilot and commercial-scale production; at CSM20 Memphis Meats discussed the factors that will determine success for cultured meat, focusing on scale of production, production cost, regulatory approval and consumer acceptance as key pillars in supporting a successful product.

Alongside advances in the industry has come an increased sense of openness. The cultured meat industry has historically been a very secretive industry, with companies striving to protect their IP by revealing little about the processes used to create the product. However, a noticeable trend at CM20 compared with events in previous years and other historic cultured meat conferences was cultured meat producers being increasingly open about their processes and the challenges they face. Companies such as Aleph Farms, Shiok Meats and Orbillion Bio discussed their use of scaffolds, starter cells and bioreactors for creating cultured meat products.

Although this is still some way off complete transparency, the increasing openness may reflect the progress towards commercialization achieved by the industry and suggest a more collaborative spirit that may be needed to address some of the big challenges facing cultured meat. As the industry gets closer towards commercial release and more patents are granted to cultured meat companies, this trend towards transparency is likely to continue.

An ecosystem is emerging around cultured meat
In the past, one of the biggest struggles facing the cultured meat industry was the lack of an ecosystem around it. There were no companies producing bioreactors or cell culture medium specifically for the needs of the cultured meat industry, meaning that cultured meat companies often had to do everything themselves, from cell banking to media formulation to bioreactor development. This made the process very slow, very expensive and very risky, while also requiring a lot of in-house expertise for companies that tended to be very small.

The market was just too small to justify investment in product development from major bioreactor producers or chemical companies, or for new start-ups to form with the aim of serving the cultured meat industry.
However, this is beginning to change. At CMS20, major pharmaceutical company Merck KGaA gave a detailed presentation on its platform for cell culture media development, suggesting that major companies are beginning to take the cultured meat industry seriously.

Additionally, there is an increasing amount of new companies that focus on specific parts of the cultured meat value chain, e.g. developing bioreactors or cell banks aimed at the cultured meat industry. At CMS20, Orbillion Bio described its work on developing scalable, standardized cell lines for a variety of meat products. This could significantly accelerate product development in the cultured meat industry, where cell line isolation and cell bank development are often time-consuming and difficult tasks, with little public research to speed up the process.

This emerging ecosystem around cultured meat could really facilitate product development within the industry. It also highlights the growing opportunity within the cultured meat value chain.

The industry still faces big challenges
Although there is much optimism in the cultured meat industry, there are still several barriers that companies must overcome before they can release a commercial product. The main issue is likely cost, with a kilogram of cultured meat still costing thousands of dollars to produce.

The biggest cost component is cell culture media, the nutrient-rich serum used to feed the cells, which can cost over a hundred dollars per liter. However, there is no reason why it has to stay this way, and at CMS20, several companies spoke of their efforts to reduce the cost of growth media through food grade alternatives to ingredients and higher density bioreactors that could allow less media to be used.

Beyond this, there are further challenges. Current production methods for cultured animal cells still only exist at a small scale and reaching commercial scale will require time and investment into equipment development. Additionally, no jurisdiction in the world has yet approved cultured meat for commercial scale.

Given the novelty of the product, safety testing barriers may be very high and take years and millions of dollars to pass. Finally, consumers are notoriously skeptical of biotechnology in food and are not yet familiar with the concept of cultured meat. There is the risk that, even if products can be released commercially, few consumers will be willing to try them.

However, none of these barriers are insurmountable. The industry is well aware of these challenges, with much of CMS20 being dedicated to discussions around how to solve them. With increased collaboration and further investment, the industry is confident that it can make cultured meat a commercial success.

When will cultured meat see commercial release?
The main question on the lips of investors, journalists and the general public is when cultured meat will finally reach stores and restaurants. While few of the attendees at CMS20 were willing to commit to a firm date, there were a few common threads. Many of the companies presenting believe they will have commercial products ready within the next few years, although the consensus seems to be that it is more important to get the release right than to do it quickly.

Consumer acceptance and trust is paramount to the success of the industry and a single safety incident could set the industry back years. Developing a robust and transparent process is likely to be a bigger priority than a speedy commercial release.

It’s also important to bear in mind that no cultured meat product has achieved regulatory approval for commercial sale anywhere in the world. At the Symposium, speakers from Merck KGaA and the Good Food Institute discussed what might be needed to secure FDA and USDA approval in the US, as well as approval in the EU.

As a novel bioengineered food product, cultured meat could face high barriers in terms of safety testing, with approval in the US or EU taking at least two years. However, other regions could be more forthcoming.

Both Singapore and the UAE have prioritised increasing national food production and the Singaporean government has been vocal in its support of cultured meat. At CMS20, Andrew Ive from VC firm Big Idea Ventures cryptically remarked that he wouldn’t be surprised if cultured meat was approved in Singapore within the next six months.

Cultured meat could be well-suited for space travel
An interesting niche that cultured meat could fill in the near-to-distant future is in providing food for space travel. Food variety and choice is currently extremely limited in space travel, with crew members often losing weight and struggling to achieve adequate nutrition over long missions. This could become a major issue for long-term space missions, such as manned trips to Mars, and could limit the appeal of space tourism over the coming decades.

A system for producing high quality, fresh food in space could have a major benefit for the physical and psychological well-being of crew in space. Cultured meat could play a major role here – large quantities of tissue can be produced from a small number of starter cells and the components of growth media can be easily transported in powdered form and reconstituted with water on the production site.

In 2019, Israeli cultured meat start-up Aleph Farms became the first company to produce cultured meat in space, creating small-scale muscle tissue from bovine cells aboard the International Space Station, using equipment made by 3D Bioprinting Solutions. At CMS20, Aleph Farms CEO Didier Toubier discussed the company’s Aleph Zero program, which aims to establish cultured meat production equipment in extra-terrestrial environments.

Looking into the more distant future, Integriculture CEO Yuki Hanyu described a variety of imaginative ways that cultured meat could be produced in space, helping to feed burgeoning extra-terrestrial colonies.

The cultured meat space is moving rapidly, with many in the industry believing it could disrupt the trillion dollar global meat market.

Lorem ipsum | Vietnam | cesiscompany.vn

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