Furniture retailer IKEA said Monday that it plans to make half of its restaurant menu meal offerings plant-based by 2025.Eighty percent of offerings will be non–red meat, and 80% of the packaged food for sale will be plant-based, the company said. “Research confirms the importance of making sustainable products affordable and desirable, and IKEA can really make a positive difference here,” said Lena Pripp-Kovac, chief sustainability officer at Inter IKEA Group, in a statement.
Meat-Tech successfully printed a piece of cultured beef in August, and launched a company aimed at developing cultured chicken in September. Just last week, Meat-Tech announced it planned to acquire Peace of Meat, a Belgian company producing cultured animal fat. It has already invested €1M in the company and will fully acquire it over the course of two years, subject to a final agreement.
Nik Talreja, 18.ventures
Lisa Feria, Stray Dog Capital
Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed, KBW Ventures
Andrew Ive, Big Idea Ventures
Mariliis Holm, Sustainable Food Ventures
“Cultivated” or “cell-based” meat companies, growing food from animal cells, raised 417% more than in all of 2019. In part, it’s a continuation of a long-term trend. “2019 really appeared to be the tipping point where plant-based meat shifted into the mainstream,” says Caroline Bushnell, associate director of corporate engagement at the Good Food Institute. “Not only did we see the major meat companies debut plant-based product lines—pretty much all of them, from Tyson, to Hormel, to Smithfield—but iconic American restaurant chains like Burger King and Dunkin Donuts added plant-based meats to their menus, and retail sales grew double digits. So the momentum coming into this moment was already really strong.”
Consider the combination of the crops being used: soy, wheat, and pea protein are the most typical. This invokes the debate about wheat versus soy, about GMO versus non-GMO. As the plant-based movement shifted to the mainstream, it became a product that wasn’t just for vegans and vegetarians. People started looking at fat and sodium content. People cited the environmental impact. Yes, alternative meats use less water and land, but these are still monocrops. There’s a lot of noise coming from non-GMO activists as well as the traditional protein industry pointing out what can be seen as the “weaknesses” of alternative meats. As the category grows and competition speeds up, that’s only likely to increase.
Last year, the MO team successfully removed Fetal Bovine Serum (FBS) from our media. Given FBS is the standard used in cell culturing, this was no small task. But FBS comes from unborn calves and is obtained inhumanely, so removing it was a top priority. Some of our hard-working MO team. Since then, the MO team has been working to ensure the media we use is completely animal component-free. In addition to this, they’ve made a huge amount of progress in lowering the cost, which is vital given the medium will be the most expensive part of our process. Indeed, after successfully developing animal-free media, the MO team has reduced the cost by 88 times.
Plant-based foods are not just incremental evolution of an existing category, but a revolution, according to Andrew D. Ive, founder and general partner of Big Idea Ventures (BIV). Driving this shift is a new breed of agritech startups that are developing culturally relevant, local foods that integrate into people’s ongoing consumption habits. Leveraging this trend, BIV launched the $50 million “New Protein Fund and Accelerator” programme that is focused on reducing animal factory farming by investing in early stage companies that are bringing plant-based and cell-based foods to market. The programme helps these companies to build, test and prepare for growth and are currently based out of New York and Singapore.
Cell-based cultured protein is an industry still in its infancy. Food makers should look at the emerging field as an opportunity to collaborate and invest in the sector’s development, according to experts speaking at IFF’s Plantful Virtual Festival.
Revising our understanding of meat to make room for in vitro meat involves a similar move. We should strip down our understanding of meat so that an element previously deemed essential — in this case, being sourced in an animal carcass — is no longer strictly necessary. On this updated, more minimalist understanding, all that is necessary for something to qualify as meat is that it has a meaty substance and function. Just as Model Ts and Teslas both qualify as cars, animal-sourced and lab-grown versions would then both qualify as real meat.
Taken together, Japan’s nascent vegan movement, desire for meat and willingness to experiment with new technology stand Hanyu in good stead. Add land shortages and continued funding interest to the mix and the scene may be set for his desired future. But the obstacles to cultured meat are as real in Japan as they are elsewhere. Even as cost is expected to drop and acceptability to rise, it remains to be seen if the technology can deliver at scale and compete with novel meat replacements. In the short term, Japan will need to focus on diversifying its protein sources.