The first-ever cell-based meat facility is about to land in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), after a partnership was forged between Eat Just and Doha Venture Capital (DVC) and Qatar Free Zones Authority (QFZA). Located in the Umm Alhoul Free Zone, the new factory will produce Eat Just’s cultured chicken, which won the race as the world’s first-to-market cell-based meat, suggesting forthcoming regulatory approval in the region.
Eat Just has partnered up with Doha Venture Capital (DVC) and Qatar Free Zones Authority (QFZA) to construct what is the first-ever cell-based meat factory in the MENA region. The new facility will be located in QFZA-regulated Umm Alhoul Free Zone, which boasts direct access to Hamad Port, Qatar’s main seaport with a 7.8 million tonne capacity.
Cultured meat facility
According to Eat Just, the new facility will primarily produce its Good Meat brand of cultured chicken, which was the first-ever cell-based product to be sold on the market in Singapore back in December 2020. The agreement marks the first alt-protein investment made by DVC, and the first meat facility to be operated by the QFZA.
Earlier this year, Eat Just bagged $200 million in financing led by Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund Qatar Investment Authority (QIA).
The company says that the factory is being built ahead of anticipated regulatory approval from the QFZA and the Ministry of Public Health. According to a press statement, both bodies have “indicated their intention” to approve of its Good Meat cultured chicken bites “very soon” and have already “formally granted an export license”.
Eat Just added that it is now in the process of choosing which restaurants in Qatar to launch its cultured chicken with. The company’s speedy timeline could again win it another first in the alt-protein space, this time, the race to bring cultured meat to diners in the Middle East.
Qatar: rising alt-protein regional hub?
QFZA says the investment will strengthen Qatar’s position on the regional and global stage as a leader in disruptive technologies.
“We’re particularly focused on companies shaping the future of their industries, and Eat Just’s team is doing just that,” commented Lim Meng Hui, CEO of QFZA. “Our food, agritech and biomedical sectors continue to grow rapidly, supported by the world-leading cold chain storage capabilities of our airport and port, and we look forward to working with Eat Just as they establish and scale in the region and worldwide.”
Mohammed Al Abdulla, CEO of DVC, added that the partnership is a “prime example” of the firm’s “commitment to supporting high-growth disruptors…while helping them take advantage of the many opportunities here in Qatar and across the region.”
JUST Egg production expansion
While the new facility will initially focus on producing Eat Just’s Good Meat brand of cultured chicken, the firm says that it will later add a protein processing facility for JUST Egg, its iconic brand of vegan eggs made from mung beans. To date, the firm has sold the plant-based equivalent of 160 million eggs, and says that retail sales for its alternative were “record-breaking” in the first half of 2021.
Expanding its global production footprint for its plant-based division will help the firm meet surging demand for vegan products, said Eat Just. Aside from establishing a base for the MENA region, Eat Just has doubled down in Asia.
It has chosen Singapore as its Asian hub, partnering with investment firm Proterra to build the city-state’s largest facility of its kind, which is likely to manufacture both its cultured Good Meat line and its JUST Egg range of vegan products.
“Our team is grateful to take the next step in our global expansion in the Qatar Free Zones,” commented Eat Just co-founder and CEO Josh Tetrick about the firm’s upcoming Umm Alhoul hub.
“Their commitment to accelerating our work in building a more sustainable food system was apparent from day one of our dialogue—and we’re expecting to look back decades from now on this partnership with them as key to how we made that vision a reality,” added the ambitious CEO, who reports say is likely looking at a $3 billion IPO in the months ahead.
All images courtesy of Eat Just / QFZA.