In a fascinating exploration of the burgeoning world of mycoprotein, we had the privilege of engaging in insightful conversations with eminent industry leaders from MyForest Foods, Bosque Foods, Tempty, Better Meat Co., and Libre Foods.

If you missed the discussion, don't worry! We have you covered with the event recording and key insights below!

Topics covered include:

P.S. If you need a brief refresher on mycoprotein, check out our recent blog.

Watch the Video:

Key Insights: Mycoprotein & Consumer Acceptance — Navigating Consumer Perceptions

All industry leaders underscored the importance of achieving the right price point and superior taste for mycoprotein products to appeal broadly and encourage repeat purchases. That said, consumer needs are continuing to evolve, and, as Jeff noted, there's been a growing interest in understanding elements like "natural flavors." Therefore, It is crucial to keep listening to the needs of consumers and addressing their concerns in order to maintain customer satisfaction.

While consensus leaned towards the paramountcy of price and taste, Paul from Better Meat Co. further emphasized the value of mycoprotein's rich fiber content, advocating for a shift in dialogue. While many alt-meat companies emphasize protein, the nutritional deficiency in the U.S. is fiber, with over 90% being fiber-deficient (the exact percentage is around 95%).

Paul believes the health benefits of the high fiber content in mycoprotein should be front and center in discussions, adding depth to the overall conversation around these products.

Better Meat Co. Chicken Breast. Courtesty of Better Meat Co. 

Key Insights: Nomenclature across the Industry: Necessity for a More Cohesive Narrative

All industry leaders acknowledged the terminology challenge in describing fungi-based proteins, highlighting that companies have adopted varying terms aside from 'mycoprotein including' 'mycelium,' 'nutritional fungi protein', and even 'mushroom root', despite the lack of clarity and even inaccuracy of some of these terms.

Ana emphasized the importance of collaboration within the mycoprotein community in creating a more cohesive narrative. She sees a collective challenge and opportunity in clearly communicating to consumers about the nature of mycelium and its production process. However, in Tempty's experience, describing their product as 'fermented' and coming from 'fungi' elicits a positive response.

Mycoprotein by Tempty: Courtesty of Tempty Foods

Key Insights: Balancing Intellectual Property and Industry Collaboration: Leader Insights

Key highlights from our discussion are listed below. Incorporating diverse viewpoints, it's clear that while business has competitive elements, collaboration among industry leaders in various areas can catalyze collective growth. Joint efforts can address shared challenges more effectively, especially in regulatory landscapes, consumer education, and technology scalability.

1. Education and Awareness: Leaders should educate and raise awareness about relevant industry topics. This fosters credibility and a conducive environment for all.

2. Regulatory Collaboration: Collaborative lobbying for streamlined industry regulations can be beneficial, as demonstrated by the differences in regulatory approaches between the U.S. and Europe.

3. Leveraging Partnerships: Collaborations, like those between Tempty and Quorn, can lead to significant benefits through collaborative lobbying. Like the decision to include mycoprotein in the Nordic Dietary Guidelines.

4. Shared Research and Resources: Shared research, testing facilities, and resources can benefit all. Shared facilities, for instance, promote collaborative innovation while protecting individual intellectual property.

5. Addressing Pre-Competitive Issues: Challenges that are of shared interest, such as recognizing mycelium as a dietary fiber source, present opportunities for collaborative efforts.

6. Supporting Smaller Players: Assisting smaller players through resources, mentorships, or strategic alliances ensures a thriving ecosystem for all.

7. Exportable and Scalable Technologies: Jeff particularly emphasized the importance of creating exportable and scalable technologies without heavy investment. For instance, the model "My Forest" developed allows mushroom farmers to transition to mycelium farming without significant up-front costs. This accessibility ensures that more businesses can engage in the industry, promoting growth.

Key Insights: Sustainability and Fungi-Based Products and Benefits Over Other Alt-Proteins:

Across the board, the consensus was that Mycoproteins offer significant environmental advantages over traditional animal farming regarding land use, water footprint, and greenhouse gas emissions (this is backed by industry research. For example, Quorn estimates their mycoprotein has a 90% lower carbon footprint than beef). The ability to cultivate these proteins indoors provides resilience against unpredictable weather patterns. A notable sustainability advantage is the potential to utilize waste or by-products from the plant-based industry to grow mycoprotein, effectively upcycling waste into food. For example, Quentin noted that Bosque Foods uses upcycled side streams as feedstock for their mycelium, creating high-value products from low-cost biomass.

Additionally, mycoproteins can be produced quickly, offering a solution to food security concerns amid climate change. However, while comparisons with other plant-based proteins like soy or pea were made, there's a shared sentiment that the primary focus should be on the broader goal of promoting sustainability in food sources rather than pitting one sustainable solution against another.

Final Question: If You Could Solve One Problem in The Alternative Protein Field Right Now, What Would It Be?

Quentin: Quentin believes that while it might seem trivial to some, a significant change he'd make in the global food system would be to shift the subsidies from animal meat to plant-based, mycoprotein, and cell-based alternatives. He points out that the environmental issues related to meat production are well-documented, as evidenced by numerous IPCC reports. Quentin acknowledges that such a change would have extensive repercussions, affecting jobs and necessitating systemic changes. However, he firmly believes that it would be a positive step forward for sustainability.

Sergi: Sergi expressed a desire for an easier method to test and verify the viability of mycelium strains and processes for food use. Furthermore, he hopes for a universal approach where any agricultural food side stream can be utilized as a substrate for any fungus. Sergi sees the potential in effectively using local ingredients everywhere.

Libre Foods Bacon: Courtesy of Libre Foods

Jeff: Jeff believes that products need to be made more affordable, accessible, and universally acceptable. He emphasizes the importance of overcoming the taste barrier. Instead of products being described as 'good for a plant-based option', Jeff thinks they should stand out as great on their own merit.

Ana: Ana believes that a pivotal move would be to facilitate the transition to alternative proteins within public institutions. She sees these venues as influential platforms to impact dietary habits and introduce individuals to newer, healthier eating patterns. Ana notes that currently, not enough efforts are directed at encouraging people to make healthier choices, and too many defaults to decisions based on price alone. While she hopes for alternative proteins to eventually match meat in terms of price, she acknowledges there's still a long journey ahead and hopes for more support and encouragement from the government in this endeavor.

Paul: Paul emphasized the need for government support in developing animal-free proteins. Just as there's massive funding for clean energy projects, similar investment is needed for sustainable protein sources. Currently, many companies rely on private investors for capital projects, which isn't ideal. Paul believes that switching to animal-free protein is as crucial as moving away from fossil fuels for the climate and the future of humanity. He urges policymakers worldwide to recognize this and invest in the infrastructure for a sustainable protein future.

A Fungtastic Future

In the rapidly evolving landscape of alternative proteins, the prominence of mycoprotein cannot be overlooked. Our in-depth conversations with industry leaders reveal that, while challenges exist, the potential for mycoprotein as a sustainable, nutritious, and consumer-friendly food source is immense. Collaborative efforts, informed consumer choices and supportive policies are essential to promote mycoprotein—and all alternative proteins—as necessary alternatives to conventional proteins.

The impact of a protein transition is profound. A recent study found that, globally, if 50% of the leading animal products (pork, chicken, beef, and milk) were substituted with alternative proteins, the net reduction of forest and natural land would almost wholly halt. Additionally, agriculture and land use GHG emissions would decline by 31% in 2050 compared to 2020.

Check out the broader mycoprotein landscape at Protein Directory, including companies like EnoughAqua Cultured FoodsMycorenaEternal, and Natures Fynd!

In this post, we’ll deep dive into the history of mycelium-based protein and explore how a decades-old technology is disrupting the alternative protein industry.

To learn more about the companies working on mycoprotein, sign up for our upcoming conversation with Libre Foods, MyForest Foods, Better Meat Co., and Tempty Foods!

Image Credit: Shutterstock.com/Dmytro Ostapenko

Why Mycoprotein?

The alternative protein industry represents a rich innovation landscape, encompassing everything from animal cell cultivation to 3D printing. Amid the array of novel proteins increasingly available, how is mycoprotein, a fungi-based meat alternative, distinct?   

One reason is taste— paramount in consumer food choices. Mycoprotein has a slight umami flavor and a texture similar to cooked chicken. As a result of the mild to nonexistent flavor profile, it can be used as a blank canvas for taste, and it mimics the consistency of meat with lower fat and saturated fat profiles than conventional proteins.

Additionally, fungi (from which mycoprotein is derived) are relatively easy to grow in controlled environments, and their protein and enzyme output are efficient and greater than yeast and bacteria — both regarded as powerhouses in the alternative protein realm.

Finally, the fermentation process (utilised to produce mycoprotein) is relatively low-intensity, providing an environmentally benign high-protein food source. For instance, comparing Quorn mycoprotein grounds with beef reveals ≥10 times less embedded carbon, land, and water use

Mycoprotein Production:

The production of mycoprotein is straightforward. The process involves fermenting the fungi with food-grade ingredients needed for growth, such as sugars and nutrients (similar to how beer is made).

The fungi mycelium is then (usually) heat-treated, centrifuged, and recovered. The resulting paste is mycoprotein. Using binding agents, the mycoprotein paste can be flavoured and shaped to achieve the desired taste and texture.

Emerging companies are exploring alternative methods for producing mycoprotein. For instance, MyForest Foods, located in the United States, is one of the few fungi-based companies employing solid-state fermentation. They grow the mycelium in indoor vertical farms, resulting in whole-cut pieces of food.

Whole-Cut Mycoprotein Bacon: Courtesy of Myforest Foods.

The History of Mycoprotein:

The building blocks of mycoprotein, fungi, exist in fossil records dating back approximately 900 million years. The best molecular evidence suggests that fungi are more closely related to animals than to plants (though they categorically belong to neither group).

However, a primary component in many fungi's cell walls is chitin, a main component found in the shells of crustaceans such as crabs, shrimp, and lobster, leading some fungi enthusiasts down never-ending rabbit holes, exploring the exact nature of fungi.

Historically believed to be part of the plant kingdom, fungi have only recently (mid-20th century) been recognized as a ubiquitous  'Third Kingdom.' The fascination with fungi has resulted in a myriad of innovations — including problem-solving methods for the future of food.

Post World War II, concerns about the future of global food supply led to the (often contentious) innovations of the Green Revolution. Projections in population increase and anxieties around food shortages inspired scientists to explore opportunities for alternative proteins — leading to research into the protein-rich world of fungi and an in-depth screening of over 3,000 fungal species.

Though developed in the 1960s, Quorn was the first to coin 'mycoprotein' to describe their fungal-derived protein ingredient after the UK Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food approved the product for food use in the mid-1980s. In 2002, the US FDA designated mycoprotein as GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe). 

Fungi. Image credit: Protein Directory

Mycoprotein Investment Landscape:

Fermentation technology, the pathway to mycoprotein production, experienced growing investment in 2021. Fermentation companies producing alternative proteins raised 1.69 Billion in 2021 (3x the amount raised in 2020), and industry projections suggest that mycoprotein market value may reach US$ 948.86 Million By 2029.

The emerging mycoprotein industry has been bolstered by several recent collaborations and funding rounds, including Tempty's collaboration with Marlow Foods (marking the first time Quorn products are available B2B), and Enough’s recent 40 million funding round. 

Although mycoprotein has been around for decades, the following companies are bringing new life to the field. Whether it's mycelium-based bacon or versatile mycoprotein ingredients for plant-based meals, the sector is full of innovators embracing fungi to bring consumers a more delicious and meat-free future.

Check out the Protein Directory for even more companies working on mycoprotein!

Mycelium Bacon: Courtesy of MyForest Foods
Image Credit: Chibe, Brittany. “Aqua Poke Bowl w Chop Sticks.” Aqua Cultured Foods. July 21, 2022.

Have comments, questions or suggestions? Feel free to reach out to us.

This year has witnessed a whirlwind of exciting advancements and product releases in the alternative protein industry, and alternative fats have been no exception. However, for many of us with enthusiastic and curious taste buds, initial accessibility remains restricted to only a few regions or countries.

For instance, the USDA and FDA's recent regulatory approval of cultivated meat has made the United States the second country, alongside Singapore, to approve its sale. Many other countries are still a long way from obtaining approval, leaving many of us eagerly wondering about the taste and when we'll have the opportunity to try these innovative products.

That is why when we heard that Cultimate Foods, based in Berlin, recently hosted a highly anticipated product-tasting event, unveiling their groundbreaking ingredient, CultiFat, we had to learn more!

While we couldn't be there to try it, we wanted to gather some taste-testing feedback to satisfy our curiosity (if not our taste buds — yet!).

Founders of Cultimate: George, Eugenia, Jordi: Courtesy Cultimate Foods

What is CultiFat, and How is Cultimate Foods Working to Revolutionize Alternative Proteins?

Culminate Foods produces real animal fat from cell cultures to elevate the flavour and texture of plant-based meat products.

Highlights:

How Does Cultivated Fat Taste?

We had an opportunity to catch up with Julia Martin, Programme Manager and Scientific Lead at ProVeg Incubator and one of the taste testers of CultiFat. She had the chance to taste CultiFat at the ProVeg headquarters in Berlin, a couple of days after their acclaimed ProVeg Incubator demo-day.

She described her experience as an "explosion of flavour, and a complexity of aromas." A nostalgic but also somewhat discomfiting taste, as she has not consumed meat in years.

Julia shared that the pre-cooked product was a pink, raw-looking burger patty, with no traces of bouillon or artificial smell, but rather the neutrality of fresh, raw meat.

George Zheleznyi, founder and CEO of Cultimate Foods, prepared the meat in traditional burger fashion, carefully measuring the temperature to achieve perfection, completing the dish with sauce, a slice of vegan cheese, tomato, lettuce, and brioche.

Julia said the cooked patty had developed a wealth of aromas that evoked childhood memories — a resounding endorsement of Cultimate's mission to produce more realistic-tasting plant-based meats.

Cultimate Burger: Courtesy Cultimate Foods

Why are Alternative Fats so Essential?

Fat innovation has become increasingly essential within the alt-protein industry, with a recent Good Food Industry report noting that "sustainable alternative fat innovation is crucial for the success of the alternative meat industry." There are many reasons, including subpar taste, delicate melting points, and volatile markets of traditional plant-based fats (coconut oil, for example) used in plant-based foods.

With the addition of cultivated fat, a basic plant-based burger can acquire a taste and texture that closely resembles its animal-based counterpart. While some vegetarians and vegans may find the flavor somewhat unsettling, those who long for the taste of meat may embrace this product as a delicious alternative to traditional vegetarian options. Moreover, consumers continue to have even more choices as time goes on, with other companies working on the next generation of not just cultivated but fermented and plant-based fats. These industry leaders are committed to making the future of food even more delicious!

For a more in-depth review of alt-fats and their benefits, read our recent article: Is Fat the Next Frontier in Alternative Proteins?

Discover more companies working on alternative fats at Protein Directory, including:

With the recent announcement that the Food and Drug Administration and the United States Department of Agriculture have approved both UPSIDE Foods and GOOD lab-grown meat for sale in the United States, news articles and enthusiasts alike are buzzing with anticipation.

Soon, those of us in the US may have access to cultivated protein.

If you're anything like me, you may have been wondering for the past two years (since Singapore authorized the sale of GOOD cultivated chicken in December 2020), when you'll get a chance to try it.

And, most importantly: does it actually taste like chicken?

I recently got my answer.

I had the opportunity to visit Huber Butchery in Singapore, which until recently was the only country in the world that allowed the sale of cultivated meat; here, the food technology company Eat Just Inc. serves chicken from its cultivated meat division, GOOD Meat.

Cultivated Meat — A Game Changer?

The restaurant bustled with more than just diners. A group of students from Singapore Management University (SMU) were on the scene, diligently conducting a consumer acceptance study. Simultaneously, a film crew from Italy sampled the product and interviewed patrons. Journalists from the German newspaper Die Zeit gathered feedback on the cultivated meat.

Even without the researchers and media crews, there was a palpable sense of importance in the air. The members of the GOOD Meat team, along with the staff from Huber Butchery, welcomed diners and followed up after their meals. Without undue hyperbole, the menu stated that the chicken sandwich I was about to order contained real meat derived from a small number of animal cells. It also highlighted, with genuine excitement, the environmental significance of the meal, stating that cultivated chicken utilizes less land and water and emits fewer greenhouse gases than conventional chicken.

Upon the arrival of my meal, I was struck by the rather ordinary appearance of the sandwich; you'd never know that the chicken it contained could be a game-changer — a taste of a future where lab-grown meat may become commonplace.

Huber Butchery GOOD Menu

Okay, okay, but how does it taste?

I was nervous. I had worried that it wouldn't taste right, that the texture would be off, or that there would be a distinctly technological aspect to the flavor that would shatter all my hopeful wonderings.

But no. To my relief and delight, it tasted like chicken (see photo for the most excited I've ever been to eat a sandwich).

I was only a little excited

Because it is chicken.

I spent as much time eating the sandwich as dissecting it, pulling the chicken apart to examine the texture — much to my dining partner's chagrin (apologies to the Huber Butcher staff, I generally have better table manners). I found that the texture was slightly more reminiscent of turkey rather than chicken, with a somewhat chewier consistency.

Still, after exchanging thoughts with journalist Anant Agarwala from Die Zeit, we both arrived at the same conclusion: in a blind taste test, we wouldn't be able to discern any difference between the cultivated and conventional chicken.

Cost, Availability, and Future of Cultivated Meat

The entire meal cost me 21.83 Singaporean dollars. As a San Francisco Bay Area resident, this wasn't shocking (if you're familiar with the area, you get it). While it is yet unclear where UPSIDE and GOOD will land in terms of price point for their upcoming launches at Atelier Crenn in San Francisco, (UPSIDE) and Jose Andres's restaurant, China Chilcano, in Washington DC (GOOD), it's not far-fetched to imagine it will be at or upwards of the cost in Singapore. Both restaurants are upscale, and this year, Atelier Crenn launched a guaranteed reservation and VIP program for patrons — costing $3,800 annually

While the premium cost might not deter those eager to try the product (hello, it's me), it could be a hindrance when it comes to influencing folks beyond the crowd of food-tech enthusiasts and early adopters (me again). Those intrigued by, or even skeptical of, the concept of cultivated meat may balk at a price tag that proves to be prohibitively expensive — and certainly, the existing costs already make it inaccessible to most consumers. These challenges may make it more difficult to enact widespread adoption.

On the other hand, the first cultivated beef burger produced in 2013 by Mosa Meat, was estimated to cost a staggering €250,000 to produce, a cost that has rapidly declined in the last decade. It's also worth noting that achieving price parity with conventional meat is a primary objective for those involved in the alternative proteins sector. One of the challenges of reaching price parity is the ability to scale up production — which remains a major hurdle in the path of cultivated meat becoming a staple in everyday meals.

Still, a brand new company, Omeat, which just emerged from stealth mode, suggests they may have cracked the code on price and scaling with its 10,000 kg capacity bioreactors and, more importantly, its ability to harvest plasma from live cows (rather than expensive growth media, or morally undermining fetal bovine serum), without causing harm.

Cultivated Meat — Why?

Okay, but do we actually need commercially cultivated meat, or is it just a costly gimmick, as some critics have suggested?

Considering the stakes, I believe we have a responsibility to explore all alternatives to intensive animal agriculture, including cultivated meat. 

Current livestock production accounts for approximately 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions (a likely conservative estimate). Intensive animal production is linked to biodiversity loss, with existential levels of deforestation taking place in regions like the Amazon. Additionally, animal agriculture is a significant contributor to antibiotic resistance (AMR), one of humanity's top ten global health threats — not to mention the related human and animal rights infractions of intensive animal production. 

And, if the idea of cultivated meat doesn't entice you, the alternative protein landscape is rich with options and innovations — from plant and mycelium-based products to fermentation and molecular farming. Consumers will (and already do) have a host of alternative protein options available. 

GOOD Meat cultivated chicken sandwich

I responded to the SMU consumer study, “Yes, I would eat again.” And I meant it. 

I know it's a lot of hope to place on a humble-enough-looking chicken sandwich, but I believe that cultivated meat and other alternative proteins have the potential to render industrial animal agriculture and factory farming obsolete.

Not today. Not tomorrow. 

But someday. 

If you’re interested in learning more about GOOD, UPSIDE Foods, Omeat, and others working on cultivated proteins. Check out company profiles and more at Protein Directory.

Big thanks to Andrea Chia Sr. Tech Officer at Just Inc., Huber Butcher Staff, and the GOOD team for hosting. And to Emma H. Kelly for photography.

Author Bio: Marlana Malerich is the Community Manager at Protein Directory where she leads initiatives such as webinars, database management, research, and the development of brand strategy. Her background includes work across the food sector — from urban farming to international agriculture development, to food technology. Marlana holds an MSc from the University of Edinburgh in Food Security. She enjoys (among other things) science fiction, petting dogs, learning plant names, sharing bird facts, and discovering new ways to cook tofu.

Plant power is evolving! If you are familiar with the alternative protein industry, you likely don't need any persuasion about the power of plants. Nonetheless, if you want even more reasons to be impressed, hang on for a deep dive into molecular plant farming guided by industry leaders.

In this industry, plants function as remarkable mini-factories that utilize the essentials – carbon dioxide, water, and sunlight – to produce animal proteins.

If you missed the conversation with Amos Palfreyman, CEO at Miruku, Gastón Paladini, CEO at Moolec Science, and Kathleen Hefferon, CEO at Forte Protein, don't worry; we've got you covered with the highlights!

Keep reading to learn why these leaders are investing in a different kind of farming.

Topics include:

But first, a refresh:

In a nutshell, molecular farming uses genetically engineered plants to produce specific proteins through permanent or temporary genetic modifications.

The process involves:

The process of molecular farming

The emerging companies in the molecular farming industry fit into two general categories listed below.

Molecular Farming: Expert Insights

Where does Molecular Farming fit into the Alt-Protein Landscape?

Q: This year, the Good Food Institute included molecular plant farming in their state-of-the-industry reports on alt-protein. Where does molecular farming fit within the alt-protein landscape? Do you believe molecular farming should have its own category? Or does it fit within one of the existing pillars of Cultivated, Fermented, or Plant-Based?

On this question, all three leaders were on the same page — molecular farming constituted its own distinct category.

Pillars of Alternative Protein- Protein Directory

Kathleen Hefferon proposed that molecular farming cannot be easily classified under any of the three existing pillars (plant-based, cultivated, and fermented), therefore necessitating its own distinct category.

Amos concurred, agreeing that molecular farming was absolutely the fourth pillar of alternative protein.

Gaston aligned himself with Kathleen and Amos, asserting that molecular farming was the fourth pillar in alternative protein. He further suggested that, while it didn’t fit within the other pillars, molecular farming combined the best aspects of plant-based and fermentation technologies by utilizing plants for scalability and cost-effectiveness and selectively harnessing specific molecules and ingredients to produce high-quality products.

Sustainability and Scalability:

Q: How does molecular farming compare to other forms of alternative proteins when it comes to sustainability and production?

Amos emphasized that by growing plants, molecular farming harnesses photosynthesis to produce protein — potentially the most simple solution in terms of efficiency and sustainability. However, he acknowledged the complexity of comparing molecular farming to other alternative protein production methods. He also noted that the production model would influence the lifecycle analysis (for example, comparing growth in open fields to growth in greenhouses and considering transportation logistics). He anticipated that future Lifecycle Assessments (LCAs) would be more accurate as technologies matured and market roles became clearer.

Adding to Amos' points, Katherine said sustainability measurement was still in its infancy, and she expected better insights to emerge over time. She mentioned that compared to traditional livestock production; she believes molecular farming would have fewer carbon emissions (per kg of protein) in any future LCA. Additionally, she mentioned that Forte utilized greenhouses for production. If the target proteins are produced in greenhouses or vertical farms, they could be situated in urban centers, minimizing transportation and associated fossil fuel costs.

Like Amos and Kathleen, Gaston views molecular farming as efficient, utilizing photosynthesis' natural efficiency instead of large bioreactors. In addition, Gaston emphasized the importance of targeting mass markets for alternative proteins to compete with traditional sources. The key, he said, is scaling for industrial demand. Additionally, he advocates leveraging existing GM crop infrastructure by having farmers switch to molecular farming seeds. He noted that the regulatory focus should be on GM-friendly regions, possibly excluding Europe initially. Gaston concluded with optimism for molecular farming's future, emphasizing education for industry players on the technology's scalability and affordability.

Marketing Strategies: How to Communicate about Molecular Farming?

Q: Given the challenges associated with consumer acceptance of GM crops, what is the role of marketing to help convince people that these crops are beneficial and safe?

Kathleen suggested that effective marketing strategies for genetically modified (GM) crops should focus on public education and better communication between scientists and the public. She believes that scientists need to better explain the benefits of GM crops, such as improved yields and reduced pesticide use, which are demonstrated in published studies. Also, a significant portion of the public is uninformed or undecided about GM crops, and targeting this group with accessible and informative materials could be impactful.

Amos, who held a different view, shared his thoughts on marketing strategies for GM crops. He thought that instead of persuading consumers about GM crops' safety or benefits, the focus should be on offering tasty, sustainable food at an affordable price. He cited Nestle's success in altering sodium content in products without over-explaining the benefits, relying on familiar branding to sustain consumer acceptance. Amos argued that large players in the industry should offer consumers options and engage with them directly while allowing tech experts to concentrate on developing the technology behind GM crops.

Gaston emphasized the industry's responsibility to get clear about communications and marketing internally and collaborate with CPG companies (which have the commercial and marketing strength to influence consumer perception). He argued for transparency but acknowledged that the molecular farming industry is novel and communicating about the product will require strategising. For example, Gaston shared that at Moolec, they are developing a new soy concentrate with animal protein genes. They are still determining whether to call it a hybrid product, an animal or plant-based product, or an enhanced commodity product. He suggested that companies should engage with other alternative protein and commodity companies, major ingredient players, CPG companies, the Godfrey Institute, and other organizations shaping the agenda.

Investment Landscape

Q: Have commercial agriculture companies started investing in molecular farming? What can you tell us about that?

Amos highlighted that traditional agriculture companies are keenly interested in molecular farming but are adopting a "wait and watch" approach. He anticipates that, as the technology proves viable within the next decade, these companies will actively acquire startups involved in molecular farming. He pointed out that these startups typically bear the initial risks and are backed by Venture Capitalists. He also pointed out that many of these traditional agricultural companies have indirect exposure to molecular farming through their investments as limited partners in venture capital funds. He clarified that while these companies may not directly invest in startups like Miruku, some of the investments Miruku has received from VC funds can be traced back to these large agriculture companies — indicating that they are, in some manner, invested and involved in the development of molecular farming, albeit through a more indirect route.

Collaboration Opportunities

Q: What opportunities exist for collaboration with traditional farmers?

Amos suggested that there are opportunities for both existing row crop farmers and existing dairy farmers. 

In California, for example, where there is increasing pressure to reduce water use, he suggested that some farmers may have the opportunity to adapt part of their land to grow Miruku crops that can produce dairy components (proteins and modified plant lipids).

Will molecular farming present a potential win-win scenario for molecular and traditional farmers? Only time will tell!

Hungry for more? Check out Protein Directory to learn more about others in this industry including, Mozza, Nobell Foods, Tiamet Sciences, Bright Biotech, PoLoPo, Greenovation Protein, Veloz Bio, and Asterix Foods!

Imagine a near future where you savor a delicious carton of ice cream made with dairy sourced "directly from a farm." However, this farm doesn't boast bucolic settings, rolling hills, and happy cows. Nor is it sourced from the darker side of farming — the concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) crammed with cows and mechanical milking machines.

Instead, this farm offers something entirely different. It teems with meticulously engineered plants designed to produce customized ingredients, including the whey and casein proteins in your ice cream.

Welcome to molecular plant farming.

A farm void of animals, yet filled with plants capable of 'churning' out dairy proteins, among other animal-based proteins.

Molecular Plant Farming: Harnessing The Power of Plants

This year, molecular plant farming was recognized by the Good Food Institute as a potential "fourth pillar" of alternative protein production, alongside the three pillars of cultivated, fermented, and plant-based proteins.

Molecular plant farming is a novel technique that uses genetically engineered plants to produce custom-made proteins. This process can include the insertion of modified DNA into a plant genome, or simply introducing the gene into the plant for a short time period without altering the chromosome of the plant. Either strategy results in instructing the plant to produce the desired protein. The engineered plants are then grown conventionally, using sunlight and soil — either in a field or, more likely, in a vertical farming structure — establishing a unique fusion of traditional and innovative farming techniques.

Molecular farming steps | Source: Protein Directory.

The ultimate goal? To harvest these plants and extract their target molecules which can be used as innovative food ingredients. These ingredients have the potential to transform our diets and the food industry by offering new sources of protein and other nutrients.

Advantages and Challenges: Molecular Plant Farming as the “Fourth Pillar.”

Molecular farming may be a hot topic now, but it isn't new. The first successful proof of concept emerged nearly three decades ago when in 1986, transgenic tobacco and sunflowers were utilised to produce human growth hormone (HGH). Since then, hundreds of different proteins have been successfully produced in plants.

Molecular farming has evolved over time, quietly yet consistently heading towards a future where it may serve as a formidable alternative to traditional protein sources.

Imagining a Molecular Farm | Source: Canva

Molecular plant farming offers potential benefits such as:

Some challenges include:

In Conclusion

The journey is long, and many challenges lie ahead, but molecular farming, the "fourth pillar" of alternative proteins, is a field teeming with possibilities. And it may forever change our perception of what it means to “farm.”

Stay tuned to this space as we delve deeper into this captivating topic, exploring the opportunities and challenges molecular farming presents. On June 8th, we’ll have a conversation with three innovators in the space: Amos Palfreyman, CO-Founder and CEO at Miruku, Catalina Jones, Chief of Staff & Sustainability at Moolec Science, and Kathleen Hefferon, Ph.D., Forte Protein. Sign up today!

Check out other companies focused on molecular farming at Protein Directory — including Mozza, Nobell Foods, Tiamet Sciences, Bright Biotech, PoLoPo, Greenovation Protein, Veloz Bio, and Asterix Foods!

Learning from the experts just got easier!

In case you missed out on our alt-fat webinar or blogpost, we've got you covered with a summary of the valuable insights shared by Michelle Lee, the CTO and Co-Founder of Lypid, Tomas Turner, the CEO and Co-Founder of Cultivated Biosciences, and George Zheleznyi, the CEO and Co-Founder of Cultimate.

Alt-protein industry goals have expanded beyond satisfying our hunger with animal-free foods, and are now exploring alternative fats as a way to tantalize our taste buds. Alongside numerous other companies, these three pioneers are dedicated to ensuring that the next generation of alternative proteins is, above all, incredibly delicious.

Read on for key insights from each innovator including:

Why focus on this technology?

Each of you is tackling the same problem (bringing better alt-fats to the market) but approaching them from different directions. What is the value proposition of each approach to alternative fats?

Cultimate uses cell cultivation to make food that has the same flavor and texture as conventional meat, achieved by cultivating intramuscular fat. The company wants to do more than swap out unsustainable oils in plant-based meats; it wants to provide authentic alternatives.

For Tomas Turner, CEO and Co-Founder of Cultivated Biosciences (fermentation) it’s, “Customization and scalability.”

Cultivated Bioscience’s decision to pursue biomass fermentation was based on several factors. Biomass fermentation offers the ability to customize products while still retaining a high potential for scalability. It also carries a lower level of engineering risk, as there is no need to develop many new technologies.

Michelle Lee, CTO, and Co-Founder Lypid (plant-based) states “Scale and Affordability” as a value proposition.

Lypid has opted for a plant-based approach to address the fat challenge because they recognize the importance of scale and affordability in convincing more individuals to make the switch. Additionally, because the ingredients used in their Phytofat product are already used in food products, they do not have to apply for any regulatory approval.

Balancing Collaboration and IP

How do you balance the need for collaboration with protecting your company's unique contributions to the industry and protecting your IP?

Tomas shared that balancing collaboration and competition poses a challenge, but careful planning of collaborations can lead to win-win opportunities. By sharing valuable information without revealing proprietary technology, companies can work together for the greater good without compromising their competitive advantage.

According to George Zheleznyi, it's important to "Collaborate while keeping core IP secure."

George shared that collaboration is a fundamental aspect of Cultimate’s strategy and that they work closely with other companies to achieve mutual success. However, they remain mindful of investor interests and keep core technology secure. Cultimate can collaborate with other companies using their unique value proposition (cultivated and customisable lipids as an ingredient source) while avoiding the need to raise large amounts of capital and build extensive factories (and therefore risk investor money).

“Diversifying our expertise and providing critical value-add to other companies,” Michelle said.

Michelle shared that Lypid’s expertise allows collaborations for growth and addressing diverse needs. Lypid focuses heavily on becoming an expert in the field, allowing them to collaborate with other businesses to achieve company growth and serve the diverse needs of other companies. They can serve as an ingredient supplier for a variety of markets while also developing new sectors, such as whole-cut plant-based meat.

What measures are taken to ensure sustainability?

What measures are you taking to minimize your carbon footprint in your production process (aside from the already inherent reduction of carbon footprint your produce offers compared to its conventional counterpart)?

George notes, “Recycling lab equipment and cultured media” is one of the key ways to minimize carbon footprint in their production process.

George acknowledged the importance of the question raised regarding their environmental impact. While developing their greenhouse gas-reducing product, Cultimate recognizes the need to address their lab practices involving plastics and cultured media. They are actively exploring solutions like reusable products and media recycling to become more climate-friendly.

Thomas explained, "Limiting air travel and implementing sustainable practices across the production process" are just some of the steps they take to achieve this goal.

Tomas highlighted their company's commitment to sustainability, opting for train travel when feasible and working on reducing water usage, and implementing efficient cleaning methods. However, he emphasized that the ultimate goal is bringing the product to market, as it significantly reduces CO2 emissions regardless of production methods.

Michelle highlighted the significance of bringing products to market quickly, which has been the primary focus of Lypid since its inception. The company follows a policy of continuously reducing processing methods to minimize scale-up requirements and contribute to sustainability through more efficient and streamlined manufacturing processes.

Hungry for more? To check out more companies producing alternative fats, check out Protein Directory.

Whether you're a fan of mouth-watering cheeses and meats or conscious about the health and ethical implications of your food choices, fat plays a central role in many of our favorite foods.

In this post, you'll discover why fat is a critical component in the future of alternative proteins and who is making it a reality.

What’s so Important About Fat?

Ubiquitous in many of our favorite foods, divisive in recent health trends, and crave-inducing — fat is familiar to us all.

Maybe you’ve drooled over Samin Nosrats descriptions of parmesan wheels and sizzling meats in Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. Or perhaps you’ve felt outraged after reading Michael Moss' Salt, Sugar, Fat, learning how food giants have saliciously courted your taste buds for decades. Or maybe you care about the environmental and moral implications, but sometimes you just really, really crave cheese.

Wherever you are in your droolings, outrages, and cravings — an underlying theme persists: fat is universally coveted, and is lurking in many of our favourite foods. So it's no surprise that fat has become a hot topic in alternative protein research.

Image Source: ShutterStock Contributor: Prostock-studio

A Brief History of Fat and Taste

Any topic can be controversial if you research long enough, and fat is no exception. It is widely recognized that there are five primary tasting profiles: sweet, salty, sour, savory, and bitter.

However, fat has been a silent competitor for millennia. Aristotle lauded fat as a taste as early as 330 BC. In the 16th century, a scholar advocated including a fat-like taste, pinguis (Latin for fatty), in the taste family. Discussions of this type have continued into modern times. A recent article suggests a taste-receptor actually exists, which may officially classify "fat" as the 6th basic taste (a conclusion thousands of years in the making).

Whether fat is officially admitted into the taste club or not, the alternative protein industry is well aware that innovating new and better animal-free fats is essential to the industry's future.

While many factors contribute to food choices (cultural preferences, nutrition, cost), taste is a primary factor. The alt-protein industry is no exception. Fat contributes to the texture and palatability of conventional meat, making it a fundamental ingredient in meat substitutes. Simply put, consumers often buy products based on taste, and fat plays a significant role in taste preferences (just ask Aristotle).

Producing Fats for Alt-Protein

Plant-based fats, such as oil, have historically created convincingly fatty textures in meat replacements. But oils present some limitations. For example, coconut oil (ubiquitous in the alt-protein industry) has a low melting point. Coconut oil in a plant-based burger may melt away, reducing its ability to replicate the juiciness of a conventional hamburger.

Coconut oil presents some additional challenges. Projections estimate that the alt-protein industry may consume at up to 16% of the global supply of coconut oil by 2030. As the coconut industry is subject to market volatility, the supply chain may face instability. Coconut oil production has also been traced to unsustainable environmental practices.

Despite innovations in alternative fats, plant-oil ingredients won't disappear from the alternative protein scene. Plant fats, like coconut oil, have been and will continue to be important in producing alternative proteins. Both the widely popular Beyond Meat and Impossible brands contain plant-based fats.

However, securing the future success of alternative proteins requires diversifying fat ingredients to accommodate more consumer tastebuds and reducing reliance on a single supply chain.

Image Source: Shutterstock Contributor Sundry Photography. Dec 8, 2019

Future of Fat in the Alternative Protein Industry

Recent innovations present an opportunity to diversify the future of fat inputs in alternative proteins, including cell cultivation, Omega-3 fatty acids, and fermentation.

Some companies use cell cultivation (growing animal cells in bioreactors) to produce real animal fat. The final product can improve the taste and texture of plant-based meat products. Fish, which get a lot of the credit for being high in Omega-3s (an essential fatty acid), actually accumulate their Omega-3s from nature's protein superpowers — algae.

Some alternative protein companies, such as Revo Foods, use algae fats and oils to elevate the nutritional value of plant-based seafood and other products. Check out our blog on 3D printing for more information on Revo Foods and their work in the plant-based seafood industry. Finally, by employing the ancient art of fermentation (which has faithfully provided us with alcohol for thousands of centuries), some companies tailor the DNA of yeasts to produce fats that mimic conventional animal fats.

Below are some companies applying technology to the production of fat in the alternative protein landscape.

For more companies that are working on fat production, check out the Protein Directory. Do you know of any companies producing alternative fats? We'd love to hear from you.

Companies Producing Alternative Fats

Lypid

Lypid's vegan fat ingredient, PhytoFat™ mimics animal fats in texture and flavour. The recipe is proprietary, but the product is over 90% vegan oils and water.

The product circumvents challenges associated with conventional fat by containing zero trans fats and no hydrogenation. Lypid positions itself as a healthier alternative to palm oil and coconut oil plant-based fats.

Image Source: Lypid ingredient range (courtesy of Lypid).

We had an opportunity to connect with Karen Chiu, Senior Business Developer at Lypid, who shared with us that Lypid's PhytoFat™:

Other meat alternatives lack high melting point vegan fats that maintain the texture and flavor of conventional meat.

Recently, Lypid developed the world's first plant-based pork belly, which has two unique ingredients — PhytoFat™, its patent-pending fat ingredient, and a fibrous plant protein; together, these mimic the microstructure of animal muscles.

In 2022, Lypid announced a partnership with Tiawan's Louisa Coffee. A range of PhytoFat™ meat-alternative products are currently available from the coffee shop chain, including the plant-based burger pictured below:

Image Source: Lypid Burger- Louisa Coffee (courtesy of Lypid).

Cultimate Foods

Cultimate produces real animal fat using cultivated animal cells. Their goal is to elevate the flavour profiles of plant-based proteins by introducing cultivated fats — making a hybrid plant-based protein product enhanced with cell-cultivated fat.

Co-Founder and CEO of Cultimate Foods, George Zheleznyi, explained why Cultimate focuses on fat production: "fat is the most value-added part of the meat that brings juiciness, mouthfeel, taste, and texture. To produce our fat, we use modern cellular agriculture (a.k.a. cultured/cultivated meat) technologies, which do not need animals to suffer."

Cultimate wants to deliver authentic meat flavor (not simply oil substitutes in plant-based meats), so they're engineering intramuscular fat (which is responsible for meat's marbling and flavor properties).

The company aims to enter the market in 2025.

Nourish Ingredients

Nourish Ingredients has developed proprietary fermentation strains to manufacture fat molecules that mimic the animal fats in craveworthy foods — while leaving animals out of the process. The fat alternative products produced by Nourish Ingredients do not utilise coconut or palm oils.

During the production process, flavor and texture can be customized, ensuring that the fat product matches any animal protein analog required, such as seafood, pork, beef, and chicken.

Cellva

Cellva is the first Brazilian-based B2B company focused on producing animal products utilising cell-cultivation techniques — and no harm to animals.

Cellva makes pork fat, an ingredient easily added to cultivated meat and plant-based protein products. The goal is to produce the highest quality fat from animals unexposed to antibiotics.

Connectomix Bio

Connectomix Bio has recently made headlines for its research into turning food byproducts into fats. As part of the company's plan, byproducts of agriculture, such as corn husks, or household, restaurant, or industry wastes will be transformed into fats for plant-based and cultivated protein production in microbial fermentation.

Cultivated Biosciences

Cultivated Biosciences focuses on producing the creamiest vegan dairy products by leveraging the potential of fermentation. Cultivated Biosciences uses GMO-free oleaginous (oily) yeast in their fermentation process. The final product? An animal-free fat identical to one found in traditional dairy. This fat readily applies to a range of dairy products, including cheese, ice cream, and milk.

In a market rife with innovations in ingredient optimization, the future of alternative protein sounds more and more delicious every day.

Do you know of any companies producing alternative fats? We'd love to hear from you.

Protein Directory recently published an article highlighting the exciting potential of 3D printing for alternative proteins. In response to this, we organized a webinar and networking event featuring Robin Simsa, the CEO of Revo Foods, an Austrian-based company at the forefront of using 3D printing to revolutionize the plant-based seafood industry.

Revo Foods is leveraging this cutting-edge technology to create plant-based seafood that rivals the taste and texture of conventional options. Revo’s salmon fillets will be available in stores later this year.

Read on for the highlights of our conversation with Robin Simsa:

Revo 3D Printed Salmon: Courtesy of Revo Foods

*Revo Salmon has not been released yet, so the entire ingredient list is not publicly available.

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A post shared by Revo Foods (@revo_foods)

Revo salmon branding collab with street artists. Courtesy of Revo Foods.

We're thrilled about the exciting plans that Revo Foods has to support the industry by licensing their groundbreaking technology to other companies. And we're even more thrilled about the potential for collaboration that this creates.

If you want to learn more about Revo and companies using 3D printing technology, you can explore this list on the Protein Directory. With over 1800 companies already in our global database, there's no better place to connect with like-minded innovators and make a real impact.

Together, let's create a better future for food!

If you missed the event, there’s future opportunities to get involved in the conversation. Throughout the year, we will be hosting a series of bite-sized networking events and discussions on various topics related to alternative proteins.

The next event on May 4th will feature Cultivated B, Cultimate, and Lypid - companies dedicated to making it easier to enjoy nature's most crave-worthy flavour - fat - without eating animals. Sign up below!

And if you're looking for more information on the topic of fats and flavour, be sure to check out our recent article, which explores fat and taste and features insights from experts in the field - including Aristotle, of course!

Thanks to 3D printing, alternative meat products can now look and feel similar to conventional meat.

Here, we explore the history of 3D printing food, as well as the companies using this technology to disrupt the industry.

Why 3D Printed Foods?

3D printing food might sound like something out of a science fiction movie (which is exciting in its own right), but what exactly makes it so special? Leaders in the alternative protein industry believe 3D printed food has the potential to improve sustainability and reduce waste.

3D Printed Meat. Image Credit: Shutterstock.com/Dmytro Zinkevych

When it comes to waste, the food industry faces an ethical dilemma. As an example, consider the meat yield of a cow, which is approximately 63% per animal, meaning that around 37% is not consumed by humans.

Moreover, globally, 20% of meat produced goes to waste. In the case of fish and seafood, 35% of global catch is wasted. By focusing on just a consumable product (without unwanted bycatch or animal parts), 3D printing food decreases unnecessary waste.

In addition to its waste potential, conventional meat is a notoriously inefficient source of calories.

To use the beef example again, it may take 30 to 42 months to produce meat in the US, while Steakholder Foods (which produces cell-based meats) claims that their 3D printers can produce steaks in just minutes – though the final product needs to be incubated for several more weeks.

History of 3D Printed Foods

If 3D printed food still sounds like something from Star Trek, you’re not that far off. Star Trek introduced the concept of a ‘replicator’ able to reproduce organic and inorganic materials — including food. Today's 3D printers don't transfer energy into matter (as they did in Star Trek), but the concept of printing visually and gustatorily recognisable foods using 3D printing is similarly fantastical.

In any case, reality suggests that 3D-printed food is here to stay. With a market predicted to reach a billion dollars in 2026, this technology may soon play a major role in our food supply.

Many industries have taken advantage of the futuristic qualities of 3D printing since its invention in the 1980s. Yet 3D printing has only been used in food production for a few decades.

We have come a long way from the first 3D printed foods in 2006 when a hobbyist team developed the first 3D food printer Fab@Home at Cornell University. Rapid R&D in the space is indicated in the 2013 announcement by NASA to asses 3D printed food as a solution to astronaut nutrient needs in long space flights (while reducing waste). A few short years later, in 2019, Aleph Farms made headlines when they produced the first-ever meat in space.

How to Produce 3D-Printed Foods

Various 3D printing technologies exist, but extrusion is most commonly used in the alt-protein industry. Foods are printed using extrusion 3D printing by dispersing ingredients with syringes and employing predesigned shapes.

In the alt-protein industry, cell or plant-based compatible "inks" are "fed" into the 3D printer. Alternatively known as additive manufacturing or food layering manufacturing (FLM), 3D extrusion technology produces a final product formed by printed layers without the assistance of a human.

Across the alternative protein industry, innovation in 3D printing is inspiring next-generation alternative proteins. The following are four companies utilizing 3D technologies to produce plant and animal-based alternative proteins.

Still curious? Learn more about the science behind 3D printed steaks.

Revo Foods

This Austrian company produces plant-based salmon utilizing 3D extrusion printing technology. Each helping of Revo salmon includes microalgae oil, which contains DHA and EPA— the fatty acids found in fish oil supplements. Revo salmon also contains pea protein and plant oils.

Revo Salmon. Image Credit: Courtesy of Revo Foods

We asked Robin Simsa, CEO at Revo Foods, about the rapid growth of the company and their next steps. Robin shared:

Texture challenges have historically inhibited the usage of mycoprotein in 3D printing — making the partnership between Revo and Mycorena (a fungi-focused company) particularly exciting. It is the first partnership of its kind in the alt-protein space. Revo Foods is working on capacity and intends to upscale production technology to produce several tons per day.

Steakholder Foods

Stakeholder Foods utilizes proprietary extrusion 3D printing technology to produce cultivated meat from animal cells. The company (previously MeaTech) began with beef cells but has expanded its range to include chicken, fish, and pork. Stakeholder's end product is whole cuts of real meat with the taste and texture of their corresponding conventional counterparts.

In 2022, Stakeholder foods revealed their 3D printed Omakase Beef. The layers of beef are printed separatly utilising two different bio-inks: fat and muscle produced from Bovine stem cells.

Omakase Beef Morsels (Image credit: Courtesy of Steakholder Foods)

When asked to share more about Steakholder's mission, Arik Kaufma, Co-Founder and CEO, noted:

Mass-producing meat alternatives is critical to reaching price parity with conventional proteins. The efficiency of 3D printing presents a pathway to the widespread adoption of alt-protein products.

Stakeholder Foods is a public company traded on Nasdaq under the ticker STKH.

Nova Meat

With CEO and founder Giuseppe Scionti’s background in tissue engineering, Nova Meat is on a mission to produce plant-based meat alternatives indistinguishable from their animal counterparts.

Nova Meat produced the first plant-based 3D printed steak in 2018 and, since then, has continued to expand its plant-based 3D printing capabilities. Nova meat uses extrusion printing technology.

Cocuus

Cocuus emphasizes reducing production costs and streamlining cultivated and plant-based proteins through its 3D bioprinting technology. The company works on advancing alternative proteins through various innovations, including 2D/3D laser printing, bioprinting, and robotics.

Their focus areas include cultivated and plant-based meats and 3D-printed scaffolding for cell-cultivated products.

If you are involved in 3D printing, or know any companies developing this technology — Please reach out. We’d love to hear from you!

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