The prestigious investor network ‘The FAIRR Initiative’s findings on the investor trends in alternative meat sector are not far removed from several other reports that were released through 2021.
FAIRR’s assessment involved 25 major companies including Unilever, Nestlé, Tesco, and Sainsbury, and their reaction to the growth in alternative protein industry. And, according to the report $3.1 billion was invested in plant-based, fermentation-based, and cultured meat technologies, which is more than 300 percent compared to 2019.
Startups in this space with good technology backing are successfully gaining funding and the existing ones are going for further rounds in anticipation of market expansion and acceleration in terms of demand.
The Biotechnology powered startups are not alone in this race. Several top food brands are leaning towards expanding their portfolio to include alternative proteins. The consumer shift is attributed to growing environmental awareness, animal welfare, and health concerns. And, keeping pace with increasing demand is the research and development in the area.
Significant indication towards this trend was triggered by an upscale restaurant in Singapore that became the first in the world to sell cultured meat in 2020 – cell-cultured chicken nuggets from San Francisco based Eat Just, to be more precise; And, Singapore, the first country to give regulatory approval to lab-grown meat. And then there are companies developing technologies to grow plant-based meat and continued research is making sure there is improvement in taste, texture and cost-effectiveness. Price challenge is one of the important factors dictating the market in developing countries.
There are countries like India where cultured meat using animal cell is still taking baby steps. In the sub-continent, even though there are companies like ‘Imagine Meat’ producing plant-based alternatives and startups aiming at creating plant-based egg protein etc., there is a need to create alternate meat products as per the food habits in terms of texture and taste. In India research institutes like the Hyderabad-based CCMB (Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology) and NCRM (National Research Centre on Meat) have partnered to produce ‘Ahimsa Meat’ – slaughter free meat produced in the lab. Comparatively the trend emerging out of compassion towards animals, environmental awareness and sustainable goals is on a rise across the globe; in the US, Europe, and even majorly meat consuming countries like South Africa where cell-based meat start up Mzansi Meat is working towards creating products that can be used in the African traditional dishes, and Russia, where the first plant based meat company ‘Welldone’ is gaining an edge, and funding too.
The cell-cultured meat sector is poised for a big boom triggered by food security concerns as well. At the rate, the world population is growing neither the agricultural produce nor the animals and poultry will be enough. The looming food scarcity scare is real.
Global consultancy AT Kearney’s researchers in their report (released in 2021) on ‘How will cultured meat and meat alternatives disrupt the agricultural and food industry?’ made interesting predictions. They forecasted that 60 per cent of the meat consumed in 2040 will not come from dead animals, of which 35 percent will be cell-cultured and 25 per cent will be vegan alternatives. While the debate between meatless options from animal cell versus plant-based is a topic for another day; technology is surely going to play a major role in steering the world towards cell-cultured meat and in developing better alternatives in days to come.