WhatisCultivatedMeat.com had the opportunity to interview SuperMeat's Vice President of Business Development Osnat Shostak about the company, the latest in the industry, and the future of cultivated meat.
"SuperMeat, headquartered in Tel Aviv, Israel, is a food-tech company working to supply the world with high-quality meat grown from animal cells. SuperMeat has developed a proprietary cultivated meat platform based on stem cells that can mature into multiple cell types. Through its platform, SuperMeat can grow any type of meat tissue, from fat to muscle, using standard and scalable fermentation processes, making its production processes efficient and cost-effective. SuperMeat’s products offer a delicious meat experience and a high-quality nutritional profile, while being manufactured in a sustainable, slaughter-free and GMO-free way.
The company established one of the world's first continuous production processes of cultivated meat and plans to launch its products in the US next year."
What is your role at SuperMeat?
"I lead business development at SuperMeat, dealing with partnerships, the company's business model, and our go-to-market strategy."
How did you become involved with cultivated meat?
"I began my professional career helping food companies entering new markets. Later in my career, I led investments in sustainable food companies on behalf of one of Israel's largest holding companies. Over the course of my career, my passion for accelerating social and environmental impact ventures has been the connecting thread. The cultivated meat industry presented me with an opportunity to combine my professional background and personal interests and beliefs."
What are the challenges you have experienced in business development?
"Developing a business for an industry before a product is commercialized presents unique challenges. The process often involves setting expectations and working on long-term goals. Cultivated meat has the potential to change the way that we eat the foods society loves most and solve some of the biggest challenges facing our food system today. It is exciting to be part of such a revolution, but patience is required since development takes time. Some aspects of this work will materialize years down the road."
What do you see in the near future for cultivated meat?
"A lot of exciting things are coming for the cultivated meat industry in the next year and a half. As the industry expands and the regulatory process progresses, we expect to see the first US approvals granted, allowing the introduction of cultivated meat products to consumers. Chicken and seafood-cultivated meat products are likely to be the first to be commercialized, with popular dishes such as chicken burgers, sausages, and spring rolls appearing on menus in fine and casual dining establishments first.
SuperMeat intends to launch its first products in the US market in the coming 18 months, pending regulatory approval. In addition to building a first industrial facility in the US, SuperMeat also plans to operate in other sites that provide a supportive regulatory environment for cultivated meat, such as Singapore.
Further, we expect that more food companies will enter the growing industry, and we plan to work with them to develop products that meet consumer expectations across taste, texture, and nutritional profiles."
What are some of SuperMeat’s significant milestones and achievements?
"In the past few years SuperMeat has achieved several important technological and commercial milestones, including successfully establishing a cultivated meat production platform that is optimal for large scale and provides a continuous production process, product consistency and quality, a stable supply, and reduced production costs. One of the unique advantages of the platform is its plasticity – it has the ability to produce any cell and tissue type based on one production process. The company developed proprietary animal component free cell feed (media), and reduced media costs substantially.
SuperMeat conducted significant validations to its product, including the first ever live consumer test (watch video here) and the world's first blind tasting conducted side by side with traditionally grown meat (watch video here), establishing the two to be indistinguishable. The taste test provided a transparent view of 100% cultivated meat without any seasoning, coating, or frying, demonstrating its potential as a base for endless meat products.
In addition, the company formed commercial partnerships with top global players in meat production, including with Ajinomoto to establish a commercially viable supply chain platform for the cultivated meat industry; the PHW Group, one of Europe's largest poultry producers, to bring cultivated meat products; and Migros, Switzerland's largest retail supermarket chain and leading meat manufacturer, to expedite production and distribution of cultivated meat at a commercial scale. What’s more, SuperMeat received a grant from the Israeli Innovation Authority that is being put toward establishing the world's largest open high-throughput system for cultivated meat media ingredients, supplements, and cell scaffolds for cultivated meat production – helping the entire industry work toward commercial viability."
Tell us about the nutritional profile of your cultivated meat. How does it differ from conventional meat? Why is public access to this information important?
"Cultivated meat offers the same sensory and nutritional profile as traditional meat, as it is at the cellular level the same meat product. The nutritional profile of SuperMeat’s chicken meat closely resembles the nutrition profile of a chicken thigh a consumer would find in a store.
In addition to a similar nutritional profile, cultivated meat offers additional health benefits - the closed and controlled manufacturing process eliminates the leading source of contamination and consequently the need for antibiotics, resulting in fresh meat with a longer shelf life and lower food safety concerns. Understanding the true similarities between cultivated and traditional meat at the cellular and nutrition level will be critical to help support adoption when products become more widely available. As many new food products enter the market, transparency is key to helping consumers consider new choices and make informed decisions."
Tell us more about The Chicken. What is the experience like? Who can visit? What role does this play in customer acceptance of cultivated meat?
"The Chicken is an experiential test kitchen that offers a glimpse into the future, serving real entrees made with cultivated chicken alongside an open kitchen and full view into the plant and the meat production process. A full cultivated meat meal has been served at The Chicken to hundreds of diners, including representatives of food companies, chefs, journalists and diners who have signed up to try it. This helps the industry and consumers alike better understand the production process and key benefits of cultivated meat.
After tasting the same meat as consumers know and love and seeing the standard manufacturing process, the same fermentation process that has been used for years for the production of beer and yeast, consumers are more eager and open to the future potential of these products once they are offered on the market."
What taste tests has SuperMeat performed? What were the findings from these tastings?
"This spring, SuperMeat released its findings from the largest cultivated meat consumer acceptance test in the industry, via a food truck. The truck served a crispy chicken sandwich, and gave tasters the option to choose from a chicken sandwich with traditional meat, or one made with cultivated meat. This tasting provided an industry-first look at a real-life dining scenario where 72% of participants chose the cultivated option, signaling an important first step in consumer acceptance as the industry approaches commercialization.In addition, as mentioned above, SuperMeat conducted the first ever blind taste test of cultivated compared to traditional meat. The judges found the two indistinguishable, with some citing they even preferred the cultivated option."
What are challenges for SuperMeat and the CMeat industry?
"Beyond cost, one of the key challenges that SuperMeat and the cultivated meat industry at large are working to address is to build a commercially viable supply and value chain which can facilitate scale at a competitive cost – and that the demand exists from consumers to do so.
Achieving scale for the cultivated meat industry is very much dependent on multiple supportive industries scaling up in parallel. Developing strategic partnerships with leading players throughout the value chain will, therefore, be essential to sustaining and producing cultivated meat at scale at relevant prices. In terms of manufacturing, for instance, local and efficient sourcing of cell feed components will be needed to reduce the cost of cell feed media, which accounts for 60-80% of production costs.
SuperMeat recently announced an important partnership in this field, with the Japanese multinational food and biotechnology corporation Ajinomoto. This partnership will merge Ajinomoto's successful manufacturing of amino acids and other media components with SuperMeat's cultivated meat production platform to create a commercially viable and sustainable supply chain solution for the cultivated meat industry.
In addition, as mentioned above, SuperMeat recently established an open high-throughput screening system for optimizing cultivated meat feed ingredients, helping the entire industry work toward commercial viability – funding by a grant from the Israel Innovation Authority.
With regard to the processing, distribution, and marketing of products, SuperMeat partners with major food companies to combine their incredible expertise and infrastructure in order to accelerate growth. Under this perspective, we recently announced a partnership with the PHW Group, one of Europe's largest poultry producers."
How can the general public support the future of cultivated meat?
"In order for all the major manufacturers, distributors and brands to come together to work toward price parity and commercial viability, there must be proof that consumers are demanding these new, innovative options. Consumers should be asking restaurants, chefs and their local stores about options like cultivated meat to demonstrate that the interest is there and they are willing to try it once it’s available."
- Osnat Shostak
VP Business Development, SuperMeat