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After watching entrepreneurs flock to California to make meat, milk, eggs and other products indoors without the customary animal, Darko Mandich decided last November to travel 6,000 miles with the hopes of doing the same with one of his favorite ingredients: honey.

Without any connections in the San Francisco area, Mandich and his wife set out on a trip from Serbia for the Golden State on what he called “a calculated risk” to suss out whether people would be willing to invest in his business and get his dream off the ground.

Before long, Mandich found his co-founder, Aaron Schaller who was finishing his Ph.D at UC Berkeley with a degree in biochemistry, connected with potential investors. Instead of heading back to Serbia as he initially planned, the 29-year-old stuck around to start his own business making honey, but without bees.

“I realized that after we make burgers without cows and we make milk without cows that we also should make honey without bees,” said Mandich, the CEO of MeliBio. “It’s a very important product that we need to think of alternative ways to produce it in order for it to be sustainable.”

Honey tops sugar

U.S. honey production totaled 37 million pounds in 2019, down from 44.5 million pounds in 2001, according to data from the USDA’s Economic Research Service. Despite the decline, the value of production soared 200% to $108 million during the same period. The National Honey Board estimated U.S. per capita consumption of honey is around 1.3 pounds annually.

In 2020, honey passed sugar as the most preferred sweetener in the U.S., the National Honey Board said. Much of this increase likely comes as honey has benefited from its reputation as a natural ingredient and a healthier sugar substitute rich in antioxidants that also can help lower bad cholesterol and blood pressure.

Permission granted by MeliBio

MeliBio so far has raised nearly a quarter of a million dollars since it was formed last December. Mandich and Schaller have put in $40,000 of their own money before the business was incorporated, with the rest coming later in April from Big Idea Ventures, a venture capital fund and startup accelerator in the food space. MeliBio plans to raise additional funds from a seed round in the coming weeks to increase its R&D team and lower its production cost compared to traditional honey from bees.

Much of MeliBio’s work is currently being conducted in the lab where researchers are testing out different approaches taken from biology, plant science and other industries to create honey prototypes; the best practices from each will ultimately be combined to make honey. In a recent blind taste test, individuals were unable to distinguish it from the traditional product, Mandich said.

“I realized that after we make burgers without cows and we make milk without cows that we also should make honey without bees. It’s a very important product that we need to think of alternative ways to produce it in order for it to be sustainable.” – Darko Mandich, CEO, MeliBio

The company will focus initially on making honey that mirrors the same taste, texture and nutritional qualities as what bees produce before venturing out into trying to replicate popular varieties such as Manuka honey from New Zealand or Acacia honey in Western Europe. So far, 15 food and beverage companies of various sizes have committed to using MeliBio’s honey once it’s on the market in the third quarter of 2021.

‘Clamoring for another fake product’

Mandich wouldn’t go into detail about the process MeliBio is using to create its honey in a lab, but stressed that the startup is making real honey rather than an alternative to the popular sweetener. The young entrepreneur acknowledged his company may draw skepticism from honey producers, many of whom have a long history of beekeeping in their families.

“I assume not all of them will be open to consider that the future of the product that they have been selling for a hundred years will be produced in a different way,” he said. “But some people will look at this as an opportunity for innovation, and we will definitely be open to speak to the open-minded players within the industry and exchange opinions on how everyone sees the future of honey.”

Margaret Lombard, CEO of the National Honey Board, expressed doubt that lab-produced honey will ever catch on in the marketplace. She said with food manufacturers cleaning up their ingredients list to prioritize using those that are natural and recognizable by the consumer, there is less of an appetite for another synthetic product.

“I don’t think the food world is really clamoring for another fake product,” Lombard said. “Scientists I’m sure can do [honey], or something similar, but I don’t think that it will replace or even threaten the beauty of what is honey.”

Honey fits with the growing interest by consumers in knowing where their food comes from. At the same time, it not only helps beekeepers who collect honey from their hives but thousands of agricultural producers, whose crops ranging from almonds and blueberries to avocados and apples, are pollinated by honeybees, something that cannot be fulfilled in a lab.

“I would beg people to think bigger picture about what is happening out there and … how that whole story comes into a naturally created product that is actually far superior to anything we’re going to create in a test tube in a lab,” Lombard said. “There is nothing like honey that is produced by a bee.”

Mandich underscored the advantages of making honey indoors rather than the traditional way where bees collect flower nectar, which later gets broken down into simple sugars stored inside the honeycomb.

Lab-grown honey is pure, and there is no chance of adulterants being included (unlike real honey where even if a beekeeper is honest, their honey could accidentally include chemicals if a neighbor sprayed their field.)

It’s also more humane, he said, since smoke isn’t needed to calm the insects and the wings of the queen aren’t clipped to help artificially inseminate the colonies. And finally, traditional honey production and price is largely dependent on the weather, so a reliable supply of honey will mean less volatility in price and an opportunity for more people to consume it around the world.

“We don’t know what the reaction will be, but regardless of that we really believe, this is the future,” Mandich said. Production “will probably contain some of the honey produced from beekeeping but at scale, the future of the honey industry, the future of all the food industries will be driven by science and will be coming from the lab rather than from the animal.”

Currently working in France, Nadine Bongaerts looks back with satisfaction at her student days in Delft. “The network I built up is incredibly valuable. Compared to French universities, TU Delft is really good in the practical, hands-on application of theory, which gives students very valuable skills.”

Nadine Bongaerts: “I tried to show that biology-based technology has now been developed to the stage where it can be used in all kinds of areas outside the pharmacy.”

Nadine Bongaerts studied Life Sciences and Technology (LST), the TU Delft and Leiden University joint programme. She had her Eureka moment in 2010, competing with a student team in the IGEM competition, an international synthetic biology contest. “That was at the time of the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, which inspired us to create bacteria that can break down oil molecules into CO2”, she explains. “At the start, LST was all about studying biology. iGEM made me realise that we can use biology as the ultimate technical tool for sustainable development.”

Having completed her doctorate, Bongaerts now works at the start-up Gourmey, the first French company with plans to market cultivated meat. “We’re attempting to make foie gras based on stem cells. Foie gras is probably the ultimate French product, but incredibly unethical because of the way it’s produced”, she explains.

It is likely to take years before the first jar of Gourmey arrives in the supermarket. “There are so many questions that need to be answered first, some involving fundamental science. Cultivated meat is a subject at the cutting edge of numerous fields, including food science, biotechnology, stem cell technology and genetics. That’s what makes it so interesting. All of us, academic research groups and start-ups like Gourmey, are creating a totally new field.”

I hope that we can make a greener world with the help of technology

She was recently able to share her passion for synthetic biology at a DEAN event. DEAN (Dutch Engineers Alumni Network) is the alumni network for the four Dutch universities of technology. “During lockdown, I gave a Zoom presentation for a seminar especially for alumni in France. I hadn’t realised that there are so many TU alumni in France and I got to know a lot of new people. It would be great if meetings like this could be held in person again soon.”

Bongaerts highlighted some recent developments in synthetic biology. “When people think of technology, they still tend to think of robotics and AI. I tried to show that biology-based technology has now been developed to the stage where it can be used in all kinds of areas outside pharmacy.”

Spider’s silk

“You can now use DNA for data storage – a DNA molecule stays intact for a thousand years, making it ideal to store information on, better than the average hard drive. Currently, it’s still difficult to read or change the data efficiently, but there are all kinds of experiments involving the use of DNA as a means of storing important secret data”, she continues. “Biosensors are another example. They’re already being used in diagnostics: a Covid-19 test senses whether or not a specific piece of virus is present. All kinds of other applications may be possible, such as measuring toxic substances.” Innovative materials will also come from nature. “Take spider’s silk, for example, it’s light but incredibly strong. Some companies are now trying to produce it using yeasts or bacteria.”

Biosensors, cultivated meat, spider’s silk: for Bongaerts, these are all advances towards a new world, where polluting processes can hopefully be replaced by their biological alternative. “I hope that we can make a greener world with the help of technology. Biological processes are perfect for that and I would like to contribute to achieving it”, she says.

Until then, there are still some barriers to be overcome. “Currently, pollution is not taken into account in product pricing. This means that new technologies that require a lot of investment cannot compete with products that pollute and consumers are unwilling to pay for them. Technologically, it will all work out, but the major social and political challenges are much bigger. They will ultimately be the decisive factor.”

Dive Brief:

  • Israeli 3D-printed cell-based meat company Meat-Tech 3D has started the process for an initial public offering in the United States, confidentially submitting a draft registration statement to the Securities and Exchange Commission, according to a company statement.
  • The price and number of shares have not been determined.
  • Meat-Tech 3D is already traded on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, and it is currently the world’s only publicly traded cell-based meat company. It went public on that exchange a year ago, following a merger with real estate and holding company Ophectra Real Estate & Investments. Last month, Simon Fried, the company’s head of business development, told Food Dive Meat-Tech was eyeing a U.S. IPO, but gave no details about timing.

Dive Insight:

Meat-Tech 3D is a relative newcomer to the cultured meat space, but it goes about its business in a different way than other better-known companies.

Its overarching goal is to get cell-based meat on the market through industrial-scale production. Company leaders have said they are positioning Meat-Tech as a B2B company that would help others produce cultured meat. It does not plan to introduce a consumer brand of its own. According to a presentation filed with the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange this month, the company’s revenue plan includes patenting technology for meat production. It will then license it to producers, and managing and holding subsidiaries to generate revenue from cultured meat products.

But because the company is publicly traded in Israel, it has well publicized deadlines to reach certain milestones. As a result, Meat-Tech is upfront with what it is doing, its goals and its acquisitions.

In August, Meat-Tech printed a slender piece of beef using cultured cells — dubbed “Project Carpaccio” because of the product’s resemblance to the thinly sliced raw dish. A month later, it created a company dedicated to making cell-based chicken called Chick&Tech. It also announced the pending acquisition of a cultured animal fat business for approximately $17.5 million in cash and equity. Last week, that provider was revealed to be Belgian company Peace of Meat.

According to the presentation filed with the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange earlier this month, the company is in process of working on Labofish, a subsidiary developing fish cell lines for 3D printing and fish products for the alternative protein industry. It is also working to establish a factory with bioreactors to grow protein and develop plant strains that can produce proteins to grow cell-based meat. According to other stock market filings, plans for 2021 include 3D printing a nearly quarter-pound piece of meat and finishing a lab-scale production printer.

Leaders of Meat-Tech told Food Dive in September they are eyeing the U.S. as their primary market, so given the company’s strategy, it makes sense for it to list itself here. Unlike other publicly traded companies in the food space, Meat-Tech has no products on the market. The company has been reticent to give projections on when it could have products available. CEO Sharon Fima told Haaretz in March he estimated products will be ready in six to eight years.

Meat-Tech is likely to be the only publicly traded cell-based meat company for a while. Only one U.S. company working on cell-based meat has talked about going public: Eat Just. The California company already has a successful product on grocery shelves and foodservice menus: mung bean-based Just Egg. Cell-based meat is another initiative the company is working on, and Eat Just has said it could market cell-based chicken nuggets in extremely limited quantities if a country were to give the product regulatory approval.

Still, going public in the U.S. could give Meat-Tech the exposure it needs to get a foothold here — in the food tech sphere, with U.S.-based CPG companies and with consumers. But considering that a poll last year found four in 10 U.S. consumers said the kind of items Meat-Tech will produce were “scary,” the entire segment has a long way to come to find mass acceptance.

How will digital technologies shape the future of advanced food manufacturing and production in this emerging market?

There’s been a global rise in the number of people switching to a plant-based diet. Roy Morgan research has recognised continued growth in Australians choosing more sustainable meals (eating all or almost all vegetarian) to the tune of 12.1% of the population in 2019 (up from 11.2% the year prior).

The global plant-based/meat substitutes market is already valued at AU$28.8 billion and is expected to climb to AU$52.2 billion by 2025. European and American governments have already invested several hundred millions of dollars towards this industry.

When it comes to the race for market adoption of plant-based foods, however, Australia is behind the mark. According to Allen Zelden, founder of Intrinity Global, this is in part due to many plant-based food producers being “relatively young brands in a new but fast-growing market, [where] the barriers to entry are considerably high due to either expensive upfront proprietary production costs, or the lack of access to contract manufacturing in order to become a prominent player”.

We are rapidly progressing though — with Australian companies like Fable Food Co, v2food and Fenn Foods already making their mark.

Queensland plant-based food company Fenn Foods is on the brink of launching three new products which will be distributed across Australia and exported to Singapore, South Korea and Hong Kong. Part of this line-up includes carbon-neutral minced meat, which is not only produced with less land and water resources, but with less carbon emission overall. How? By taking into consideration the carbon footprint of the entire product’s lifecycle from manufacturing through to disposal.

Fenn Foods co-founder Alejandro Cancino is an award-winning chef who not only wants to be part of the Australian Government’s solution to reach a 26–28% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030, but also wants to guide people on a healthier, more considerate way to eat. “We want to make this world a better place by producing more sustainable food and that core principal is at the heart of our strategy and mission,” Cancino said.

“Now it’s Australia’s turn to show landmark eco-leadership,” Zelden said. “Fenn Foods will be investing in a variety of renewable energies, locally sourced ingredients and other manufacturing methods to ensure all carbon emissions are offset during the production of their new pea protein-based meat.”

Similarly, Fable Food products are already distributed throughout Woolworths and other restaurants and retailers. Its Plant-Based Braised Beef has been praised by Michelin Star celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal, and the company now has a partnership with Blumenthal’s UK restaurants. Its next venture is to expand into the Singapore market in foodservice and retail.

The next step: Aligning digital manufacturing technologies with business and plant-based sustainability goals

There’s never been a better time for Australian food producers and manufacturers to start thinking about the future of homegrown operations. The recent announcement of the Australian Federal Government’s decision to invest $1.5 billion into the manufacturing sector is sure to ignite a welcomed spark into Australian manufacturers looking to start up or scale up. With concerns of food shortages and supply chains being upended because of the current world situation, this will also be the golden opportunity for them to put their stamp on the market and seize consumer mindshare for their brand.

Mike Briggs, Business Line Manager for Motion at ABB Australia, said: “All we need to do is look at establishments like the Australian AgriTech Association and the work they’re doing to help emerging food and agtech companies and encourage a world-class ecosystem that supports Australian agrifood innovation on a sustainable level to see the growth potential of technology embracement in the plant-based food industry.”

In answering consumer demand and growing regulations to produce more sustainable food products comes the corresponding plight to focus on clean energy solutions in manufacturing equipment. In particular, this has taken on the form of enhancing processing equipment with innovatively new digital technologies.

Consumers are seeking greater transparency into the food value chain of their dietary choices. Manufacturers are acknowledging consumer demands and working to heed the calls of tighter margins, shorter production schedules and ageing equipment. This can be seen through their utilisation of technologies to perform lifecycle assessments on their manufacturing machines.

Digital solutions like smart sensors are a means to not only show where internal costs can be reduced through energy savings and equipment optimisation, but the data the technology generates is also evidentiary support to show consumers that they too are being more conscious about sustainable product development as a company. This is helping to establish a brand association in the mind of consumers that aligns with their own goals of reducing their carbon footprint.

Briggs notes how digital technologies, together with more energy-efficient synchronous reluctance motors, are helping to maintain an eco-friendlier agricultural production system from farm through to table: “ABB has designed the ABB Ability Smart Sensor, which is used with our motors and pumps in water facilitation on farms to perform condition monitoring, extend the lifetime of motors and reduce COemissions. They are essentially smart, wirelessly connected devices which show that with the right amount of water, the farmer can achieve an optimum balance between crop growth and water usage, thereby maintaining energy efficiency,” he said.

With no hard wiring requirements, these smart sensors enable permanent monitoring at a fraction of the cost of traditional condition monitoring systems.

As many budding plant-based food companies look to overcome barriers to entry into the Australian market, these digital technologies will be vital to reducing operational costs through the discovery of real-time data to assess operating parameters and energy usage in order to optimise the asset management of their entire fleet of equipment to support their long-term growth.

The digital journey of a plant-based food company can start with a search for technology that is labour-saving, cost-saving and production-proof, but with the right supplier partnership they will also find that the data produced from these reports will also enable them to become drivers of food innovation with the added potential to export their quality and technologically backed products.

Michael Fox, Chief Executive at Fable Food Co, said: “Meat substitute companies are innovative by their nature, and a core part of ours and our fellow meat alternative companies’ missions are to produce meat from plants that is better than animal meat on all qualitative and quantitative variables.” For Fox, this means “better taste and texture, cheaper in price, healthier, lower carbon footprint, more ethical and more safely. Any emerging technologies that help us achieve this are very much of interest.”

How bright is the future for plant-based manufacturing in Australia?

As the plant-based lifestyle continues its swift ascent, so too will the inevitable transformation of the food industry to cater to this demand and align with consumer driving motives.

“Plant-based meat is many orders of magnitude more carbon efficient than meat from animals,” Fox said. “Many plant-based meat companies are starting to leverage digital technologies to measure this and share it with consumers.”

Diversifying ways in which Australia produces and manufactures food to include innovative technologies will not only help companies to manage risk but also promote an environmentally conscious, high-innovation, high-productivity market, to become drivers of positive disruption in the global food supply chain.

Australia may be a small market now, but that’s evidently why plant-based manufacturers should be galvanised into taking present action to acquire consumer and market share. Looking at how existing food manufacturers are already using digital technologies to answer to consumer and operational demands will be key to new plant-based manufacturers’ ability to find their own success in producing sustainably, safely and intelligently.

While meat alternatives tend to get the lion’s share of the spotlight when it comes to the food tech world, many have overlooked alternatives for one of the most convenient and affordable animal proteins in the world – eggs. Aside from being a key in-demand source of animal protein, eggs happen to be notoriously difficult to replicate and are often cited as the food most missed by plant-based folk, not to mention that according to the U.N. FAO, over 76.7 million tonnes of eggs were produced globally in 2018. We need alternative egg options, and stat. Taking on this challenge are an emerging group of startups who are set to disrupt the industry with their cruelty-free, vegan-friendly and sustainable plant-based egg alternatives. Here are 6 of them and the groundbreaking work they’re up to. Also, fun fact: of the 13 founders in the 6 companies below, 8 of them are women! Guess there’s something about women and eggs..!

Eat Just, Inc.

Source: Eat Just, Inc.

Founding date: 2011

Founders: Josh Tetrik & Josh Balk

Headquarters: San Francisco, California, U.S.

Plant-based egg pioneer Eat Just is famous for its flagship vegan liquid egg product, the JUST Egg, which is made from mung beans. Since its inception in 2011, the startup has sold the plant-based equivalent of 50 million eggs and has made inroads into international markets including Hong Kong and mainland China, where it has recently launched the country’s first-ever plant-based culinary studio. Other products that Eat Just has added to its line include vegan mayonnaise and a frozen folded egg, and looking ahead, the company has signalled its intentions to go public after it achieves operational profitability, on track for next year.

Evo Foods

Source: Evo Foods

Founding date: 2019

Founders: Kartik Dixit & Shraddha Bhansali

Headquarters: Mumbai, India

Founded in 2019, Evo Foods has previously told Green Queen that it uses biotechnology to harness plant proteins derived from lentils to create a 100% vegan liquid egg product that is more sustainable compared to conventional eggs, contains no cholesterol, no antibiotics and is animal cruelty-free. The Mumbai-based startup aims to begin selling its first liquid vegan egg product through its online website and via foodservice partnerships with restaurants in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore this year. Soon after, the company has ambitions to roll out in the U.S. by April next year, and continue ramping up product development for a vegan egg product that is shelf-stable.

Zero Egg

Source: Zero Egg

Founding date: 2018

Founders: Liron Nimrody, Tammy Meiron & Amiel David

Headquarters: San Francisco, California, U.S.

Zero Egg has created the “all-purpose egg that works in any recipe” without any animals. Previously a part of the Israeli incubator The Kitchen FoodTech Hub , the startup has two powder-form shelf-stable products in their line-up, the Egg Basics that can replace conventional eggs in traditional dishes like breakfast scrambles, and Bake Basics, that is specially designed to be used in baking recipes. Both are made using only plant-based proteins, including soy, potato, pea and chickpeas. Last week, Zero Egg made its first-ever foodservice debut in the U.S. after its rollout in Israel and Europe, and it has plans to launch a consumer product as soon as next year.

Oggs

Source: Oggs

Founding date: 2018

Founders: Hannah Carter & Polly Mason

Headquarters: London, U.K.

After two years of development with teams coming from top universities, Oggs has recently launched the world’s first patented liquid vegan egg alternative. Called Oggs Aquafaba, the product contains just aquafaba – aka chickpea water. As it can whip and whisk just like real eggs, it can be used to replace eggs in baking recipes, especially those that call for egg whites. Since its first product launch in July this year across Waitrose supermarkets in the U.K., the startup says it has already saved 28,676 eggs. Oggs will also be launching its product in Asda and Sainsbury’s in the country in the coming months.

Les Merveilloeufs

Source: Les Merveilloeufs 

Founding date: 2017

Founders: Philippine Soulères and Sheryline Thavisouk

Headquarters: Paris, France

Les Merveilloeufs was born when the co-founders asked their vegan friends what they missed most and the resounding answer was: eggs. After three years, the Paris-based food tech that is currently partnered with incubator Station F are now planning to launch across restaurants in Paris by the end of this year. While their exact ingredients list remains a secret, the startup’s vegan egg alternative contains legumes as its base, and what’s more? It comes in a shell, and once cracked, it looks exactly like a real egg with its distinctive egg and yolk separation. Looking ahead, Les Merveilloeufs wants to make its product available directly to consumers, in France and in overseas markets as well.

Cultured Foods

Source: Cultured Foods

Founding date: 2019

Founders: Basia & Brian McWhorter

Headquarters: Krzywda, Poland

Cultured Foods is a Polish startup that is creating a number of vegan alternatives, including pancake mixes, ready made curries and burger patties, but their star product is a vegan egg. Called Veggs, the powder-form product, which comes packaged in a distinctive pulp carton, is made from tapioca flour, potato starch, psyllium husk, inulin and salt, and can be used to replace any recipe that calls for eggs as a binder rather than scrambled or fried eggs. According to the startup, Veggs is best used for everything from baked goods to stuffings, dumplings and casserole dishes. It is currently distributed across Poland, Germany, Portugal, Bulgaria, Hungary and Lithuania.


Lead image courtesy of Zero Egg.

Shraddha Bhansali

Company:

EVO Foods

Business Description:

EVO foods is creating India’s first 100% plant based liquid egg. Founded by Kartik Dixit & Shraddha Bhansali in early 2019, EVO Foods is on a mission to bring the plant-based revolution to India. Headquartered in the city of Mumbai, EVO uses deep food science to create a “clean” protein alternative to India’s traditional egg market.

Startup Stage:
Pre-Seed

Location:

Mumbai, India

What led you to where you are today?

Kartik the CEO and co-founder at EVO Foods is an environmental vegan since three years and an entrepreneur at heart. Shraddha the COO and co-founder at EVO Foods is a passionate foodie and vegan who also owns and operates a vegetarian restaurant and bar in Mumbai called Candy & Green. Our joined passion and purpose for the plant-based movement in India led us to create EVO Foods.

What do you wish you knew before embarking on your entrepreneurial journey?

We’re both second time entrepreneurs and we have learned a lot from our other ventures- the biggest lesson is to build a great team that believes in your mission.

What can you help the VEGPRENEUR community with?

Connections in the Indian food & plant-based industry!

How can the VEGPRENEUR community help you?

Spread the word about out plant-based egg!

Fun fact about you:

Kartik founded India’s first cell-based meat company prior to EVO Foods and Shraddha was on the Forbes 30 under 30 list for India in 2018.

Following Israeli cultivated meat food tech Meat-Tech 3D’s earlier announcement that it has signed a letter of intent to purchase a cultured fat company, the startup has now revealed that the company in question is Peace of Meat. It has made an initial €1 million (US$1.19 million) investment into Peace of Meat in the lead up to the acquisition of the remainder of the company, which is still subject to the completion of a final agreement. Meat-Tech says that its investment will help it scale-up its cell-based technology and speed up commercialisation.

Announced on Wednesday (October 20), Ness Ziona-based Meat-Tech has invested an initial sum of US$1.19 million in Peace of Meat, a Belgian B2B startup producing cultivated fat and texturing ingredients. Meat-Tech’s investment is part of its planned full acquisition of the company, as announced earlier last month.

Upon the completion of the final agreement, which is still in discussion, Meat-Tech will purchase all of Peace of Meat’s equity once the startup has achieved pre-agreed technological milestones over two years. Meat-Tech will acquire all the target company’s shares for around US$17.5 million, in a combination of cash and Meat-Tech’s equity.

Expediting the development of a broader range of cultured fat options will accelerate our go-to-market plans and support our current activities while opening the door to new product opportunities.

Sharon Fima, CEO & CTO of Meat-Tech

Antwerp-based Peace of Meat, which was recently selected as one of Big Idea Ventures’ (BIV) cohorts this year, has developed a proprietary stem-cell-based technology to produce cruelty-free animal fats, such as those from cattle, chicken or geese. It was founded by Dirk von Heinrichshorst, David Brandes and Eva Sommer in 2019.

Meat-Tech plans to leverage Peace of Meat’s cultured fat technologies to expand its cell-based offerings and speed up its timeline to bring cell-based products to market. 

“Expediting the development of a broader range of cultured fat options will accelerate our go-to-market plans and support our current activities while opening the door to new product opportunities,” said Sharon Fima, CEO and CTO of Meat-Tech.

The Israeli food tech also said it expects that with Peace of Meat’s technology, it will be launching “hybrid” products incorporating both plant and cell-based ingredients. 

Hybrid products, such as plant-based burgers made with cultured fat, may prove to be an exciting new product category. Such fats may offer improved aromas, flavours and textures as compared to purely plant-based proteins.

Steve H. Lavin, Chairman of the Board of Directors at Meat-Tech

“Meat-Tech believes that hybrid products, such as plant-based burgers made with cultured fat, may prove to be an exciting new product category. Such fats may offer improved aromas, flavours and textures as compared to purely plant-based proteins,” said Steve H. Lavin, chairman of the board of directors of Meat-Tech.

“Completing this acquisition will add technological capabilities to support Meat-Tech’s core centre-of-plate product offering.”

“Peace of Meat shares the strategic vision of Meat-Tech 3D and is excited to join forces. We are convinced that the strong scientific and commercial synergies between both parties paired with our approach of creating hybrid products based on savoury cultured fats is the perfect setting to bring cultured meat to market in an increasingly competitive space,” added David Brandes, managing director of Peace of Meat.


Lead image courtesy of Meat-Tech.

Launched by Tatler Asia, the annual Generation T (Gen.T) list recognises 400 figures who are shaping the region’s future, from founders and entrepreneurs to tech gurus and creatives who are working to drive positive impact. Last year saw Green Queen’s founder and editor-in-chief featured as a Gen.T honouree for her work in advancing sustainability alongside trailblazers in agri-tech and plant-based cuisine, but this year marks the first time ever that leaders within the alternative protein industry specifically have been recognised. In addition, not one, but six founders and investors within the sector are listed this year, in a true testament to the explosive growth of alternative proteins within just the last year and a half.

“The number of honourees in the alt-protein space on the Gen.T List 2020 is reflective of the industry’s rapid growth across Asia over the last couple of years,” Lee Williamson, editor of Generation T and director of Tatler Asia Lists, told Green Queen. “The key criteria of the Gen.T List is achievement in the past 18 months. Given the huge strides these honourees have made in that time, in terms of fundraising and the development of innovative new products, they were obvious picks for this year’s list.”

Below, we take a look at the six leaders honoured on the Gen.T 2020 list and the impact they’re having on shaping Asia’s future.

Blair Crichton & Daniel Riegler – Co-Founders of Karana

Blair Crichton (L) and Daniel Riegler (R)

Blair Crichton and Daniel Riegler featured on the list this year for their work “making new foods that are natural as well as plant-based” and “pioneering plant-based alternatives for popular foods”. They are the co-founders of Karana, a Singaporean plant-based food tech on a mission to make young jackfruit – a regionally abundant crop – into a popular whole foods meat alternative.  Unlike other well-known vegan meat brands on the market, whose labels usually contain long lists of ingredients and preservatives, Karana uses minimal processing to optimise and enhance jackfruit into a meat-like ingredient that’s easy to cook and prepare. Since its inception, the startup has secured US$1.7 in seed funding, which will go towards its foodservice launch this year and expansion into retail in 2021.

Vince Lu – Founder & CEO of Zhenmeat

Vince Lu has been named an honouree for “pioneering plant-based meats with Chinese tastes in mind”. Lu is the founder of Zhenmeat, a Beijing-based plant-based startup and China’s first homegrown startup of its kind. The company, dubbed “China’s Impossible Foods rival”, has developed a range of vegan-friendly substitutes, including a plant-based mince meat made from pea protein, which is available in both pork and beef flavours, as well as vegan versions of Chinese delicacies such as mooncakes, dumplings and meatballs. It has since added to its line-up, recently unveiling two new plant-based meat products that are tailored to Chinese cuisine – plant-based crayfish and pork tenderloin.

Dr. Ka Yi Ling – Co-Founder & Chief Scientific Officer at Shiok Meats

Dr. Ka Yi Ling was recognised this year for “leading the charge towards sustainable lab-grown seafood”. She is the co-founder and chief scientific officer at Singapore-based Shiok Meats, a food tech working on cell-based crustaceans, starting with shrimp. Since its inception in 2018, the company has already successfully sampled their cultivated shrimp product in a siu mai dish last year and even won a spot on Fast Company’s top 10 most innovative companies in the Asia-Pacific region. With its US$12.6 million Series A funding round in the bag, the company plans to construct the world’s first commercial pilot plant by 2022 that is dedicated to cell-based minced shrimp and crustacean production.

John Cheng – Founder & Director of Innovate 360

John Cheng was acknowledged on the Gen.T 2020 list for his work “helping companies create the foods of the future”. Cheng is the founder and director of Innovate 360, a Singapore-based incubator providing financial and practical support to food tech and agri-tech startups that are innovating solutions for some of the most pressing challenges within our broken food system. It is the first incubator within Southeast Asia with manufacturing facilities that are backed by the Singapore government. Today, Innovate 360 has assisted more than 25 food startups across different categories, including Shiok Meats and Karana.

Kathlyn Tan – Director of Rumah Group & Foundation

Kathlyn Tan was recognised for “preserving land and sea life”. As the director of Rumah Group & Foundation, a family office based in Singapore, Tan leads the company’s sustainability campaigns, including providing grants to environmental nonprofits in the region. Rumah Group is also currently focused on impact investment as a core part of its strategy, with its core interest areas in this segment including alternative protein companies. Tan has also co-founded Coastal Natives, an organisation that brings together a community of conservationists to create events to raise awareness about ocean pollution.

View all 400 GEN T honourees


All images courtesy of Generation T / Tatler Asia.

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