Shanghai, China-based HEROTEIN has entered into a strategic partnership with Mission Barns, a US-based cellular agriculture company currently developing cultivated animal fat. Through the partnership, the companies will work together to jointly develop hybrid plant- and cultivated meat products for China.
HEROTEIN, which was founded in 2020 and officially entered the Chinese market this year after raising a $850,000 pre-seed in February, was previously called HERO Protein. The startup makes and sells plant-based chicken and beef analogues via foodservice and retail outlets in China. Along with the Mission Barns news, HEROTEIN shared that it has launched a line of 16 ready-to-eat plant-based meat meals co-created and co-branded with Butler & White’s, a specialty foods brand in China.
The addition of cultured elements like fat to its products could go far towards making plant-based meats taste and feel more like their traditional counterparts.
Hybrid meat: when plant-based meets cultured fat
Many believe cultivated fat could be instrumental when it comes to improving the overall taste of this generation of plant-based meats. Today’s products, a few steps up from the bean burgers of yesteryear, still don’t quite mimic the flavor and texture of the real thing.
Silicon Valley-based Mission Barns raised $24 million in Series A funding round earlier this year to build a San Francisco Bay Area-based production facility and commercialize its cultivated fat. At the time, the company said it planned to use its fat for developing “hybrid” products — just like the ones it has in the works with HEROTEIN. Combining cultivated fat with plant-based meat products will, the companies say, result in a “meatier” mouthfeel and flavor.
Mission Barns has also launched its own cultivated bacon product, which was briefly available last year via a couple taste-test events in the Bay Area.
The company isn’t alone in its quest to crank out cultured fat. Israeli startup MeaTech says it is now producing 700 grams of cell-based chicken fat biomass in one single production run. And Mosa Meat, a pioneer in the cultivated meat space, recently announced it had reduced its fat medium cost by over 65 times.
A number of players are also embracing the hybrid concept for alternative protein, in part because it could allow companies to get products to market faster.
Butler & White’s plant-based ready-meals
Outside of the partnership with Mission Barns, HEROTEIN is also focusing on the aforementioned new range of products with Butler & White’s. The entire line, which includes samosas, spring rolls, chilli con carne, and other items, is fully plant-based and available across China.
“We will continue to leverage HEROTEIN’s unique product innovation capabilities to be a technology and culinary leader in bringing new plant-based meat and meal experiences to Chinese consumers,”said Vicky Lee, CEO of HEROTEIN.
As for hybrid products with Mission Barns, no release date has yet been named, and Mission Barns still has to get regulatory approval to sell its products in China, even as part of a plant-based offering. Even so, HEROTEIN said it hoped “to be the first to commercialize such products in China,” and that the partnership is part of a wider broadening of the company’s portfolio.
Lead image courtesy of HEROTEIN.