Making plant-based meat alternatives more delicious with cultured fat

This article is based on episode 9 of the Red to Green food sustainability podcast covering cell-based meat, dairy, and seafood in the first season. Check out the earlier episodes on iTunes and Spotify.

The latest Red to Green episode on cellular agriculture features David Brandes and Eva Sommer, the co-founders of the B2B startup Peace of Meat. They are using cultured fat to improve the taste of plant-based products. After all, plant-based alternatives still struggle to achieve high enough customer retention and can get a big taste-upgrade by using cultured animal fat. Adding cultured duck fat makes plant-based products non-vegetarian but hybrid products. These are more attractive to flexitarians and meat-eaters who want to reduce meat consumption, without missing out on the taste, as well as potentially increasing market size. 

Peace of Meat is also working on animal-free, cultured foie gras. The fatty duck liver is usually produced by force-feeding ducks and stuffing them with corn. Their foie gras doesn’t involve any ducks or corn – instead only cells and a good portion of science. 

Creating products that support plant-based meat producers is an attractive market
Peace of Meat chose to create a product that would have the biggest impact early on;not only to get to the market, you know, with a beautifully three-dimensionally designed piece of meat in 2040, but we have set forward very ambitious targets to create impact early on.”

Discarding low impact products off the bat, they soon realized a white space in the market. The huge need to support existing plant-based meat producers to make even better products was palpable. Although there are already good soy and pea-based protein products on the market, a lot of producers still needed to get creative in order to replicate the taste and textures of meat alternatives.

That’s where Peace of Meats solution comes in: to produce cultured fat and supply it as a tasty and more textured ingredient to plant-based meat products.

Vegetable tend to leak out of the products which can be solved with cultured fats
Eva tells us that a lot of vegan and vegetarian products are fried in a pan, and because the fat is not encapsulated, it can leak out. As animal fat is cell-based, the fat remains inside the product which helps to “fulfill the organoleptic experience of eating meat.”

“The current products on the plant-based meat markets are apparently not a fit to retain customers.”, David adds. He explains that 23% of meat-eaters demand more exciting flavors and 86% quote taste as the largest driver of new food adoption. So, can Peace of Meat step up to the plate?

Edible fats are a 163 billion dollar industry
“Our objective is to take as many animals as possible out of the supply chain and also reduce c2o emissions globally.” – David.

The global edible fats market is massive and currently stands as a 163 billion dollar industry by 2026. These fats mainly come from monocultures or slaughterhouse byproducts. David believes that the market won’t be limited by consumer demand, but rather by production capacity. By 2029 he expects a hundred million tons of alternative meats to be produced, and that requires a lot of ingredients.

The goal: 100.000 pounds of cultured fats by 2029
Last 2019, Peace of meat set forward one specific target to produce a hundred thousand pounds worth of cultured fats yearly till 2029. Everything they do centers around that one objective and that’s what David believes will bring them closer to impacting the industry both ecologically and economically. 

David explains that there are current limitations of bio-reactors that are needed for production and completely new technologies are needed to enable the scaling. Finding the right geographical areas with good infrastructure, sufficient water, and energy supply is important as well. 

Asian countries like Singapore are expected to be very early movers but there are also disruptive pockets in Europe, for example, Flanders in Belgium where Peace of Meat is based.

Screening for the best cells is crucial to driving down costs

“We have a very successful cell line. I think no one else in the cultured meat sector is using those.” – Eva

The production process is somewhat complicated but it requires using cells, which in theory could become any type of cell. They are put through a screening process to find the most promising ones and then those are fed certain nutrients that make them fat cells. 

Peace of Meat is also working on a pate de foie gras product. Although the production process is similar it has its differences from a food science perspective, including on flavor and texture creation. For a more detailed description check out the Red to Green episode.

With over 200 plant-based meat companies on the market, differentiation is needed
Peace of meat has received a lot of interest from brands who are looking for new ingredients to improve their products and differentiate themselves. In a commoditized market with over 200 plant-based meat companies competing for the same consumers cultured fat can help companies to stand out.

David describes that while there is interest there, some common questions corporates face are; “how will the end consumer appreciate and embrace the new product? Will it be vegan? Does it fit my branding positioning and my product positioning.”

All in all, it seems the future looks bright for this disruptive startup: “generally I think the plant-based meat industry has understood that there’s a great opportunity in new ingredients, based on a cellular platform.”

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