Rehovot, Israel-based cultivated meat company Aleph Farms has signed Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) with two of Asia’s largest food companies. Thai Union, the Thailand-based seafood-product company, and Korea-based food and bio company CJ CheilJedang, will help Aleph with its scale-up and go-to-market efforts in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, according to an announcement shared with Green Queen.
The MOU’s follow a similar agreement Aleph struck with Mitsubishi in Japan earlier this year.
Whole-cut cultivated steak
Aleph, which raised a $105 million Series B round in July 2021, is best known for producing whole cuts of steak via cultivated animal cells. Earlier this year, the company debuted a cultivated ribeye steak. It also unveiled the world’s first cell-cultured thin-cut steak in 2018—at a time when most cellular agriculture companies were only dabbling in minced and/or ground products.
“For us, it’s not enough to just make a protein that fills a nutritional gap, so we bypassed the easier step of developing hamburger or meatball products and focused on steaks,” Aleph Farms’ co-founder and CEO Didier Toubia told Green Queen. “We believe we need to capture the full quality experience of meat in order to drive the largest impact.”
He adds that his company’s steaks are cultivated directly from an animal’s natural cells and are non-GMO and non-immortalized, meaning the cells have not been manipulated to proliferate indefinitely. “This is a decision which has been proved to be a key component for gaining acceptance and trust from consumers and from some regulatory agencies.”
The regulatory question
As to when that regulatory approval will actually happen, Aleph hasn’t yet given a date. Currently, just one company in the world, Eat Just, has regulatory approval to sell cultivated meat (in Singapore). While various companies, including Aleph Farms, have given rough timelines for getting to market (Aleph names 2022 as the year), they will all have to gain regulatory approval in their target markets to make those timelines a reality.
Toubia says that the newly unveiled MOUs are the “first phase” of a much longer-term plan for bringing cultivated meat to Asia. “From extensive consumer research and regulatory assessment, our activities during this phase will play a role in designing effective go-to-market strategies and will establish transparent communications with regulatory agencies.”
He adds that Singapore is a target market for the company, “among others,” as Aleph evaluates its go-to-market strategy. The company is currently working with regulatory agencies, including the Singapore Food Agency, according to Toubia.
“Cultivated chicken had its global debut in Asia, a region of the world that, while vulnerable to food insecurity and struggling with scarcity of natural resources, is also seeing increased meat consumption thanks to rising income, growing populations and increased urbanization.”
Making inroads into Asia
After chicken, beef is the fastest-growing meat category in Southeast Asia, with consumption volume estimated to increase 16% from 2018 to 2022. At the same time, cattle accounts for roughly 65% of the livestock sector’s emissions, and GHGs from meat production are double those of plant-based foods.
Cultivated meat is seen as one potential solution to the challenge of striking this balance of meeting consumer demand for meat without further contributing to climate change. The near future will determine whether cultivated meat companies can actually do that at scale.
MOUs like those Aleph has signed with Thai Union and CJ CheilJedang may help companies make inroads into markets like Asia.
“Leveraging the expertise and infrastructure of leading food and meat companies will drive a faster scale-up of cultivated meat and eventually lead to a broader positive impact,” says Toubia.
Lead image courtesy of Aleph Farms.