At the recent Smart Kitchen Summit (SKS) held virtually this year and hosted by food tech news The Spoon, the founders of two of the world’s most recognisable alternative protein startups didn’t hold back in a showcase of their difference of opinions when it came to the future of cell-based meat. While Impossible Foods founder and CEO Pat Brown made clear his pessimistic views about cultivated proteins and his laser-focus on plant-based meat, Josh Tetrick, the co-founder and CEO of Eat Just, believes the timeline for mass commercialisation of cell-based meats stands not quite that far away.
SKS 2020, which took place between October 13 to 15, saw speakers coming from across the food ecosystem to explore much-needed solutions and how to navigate the new food tech scene. During the conference that was hosted by The Spoon, two food tech executives had some very different views about the burgeoning cell-based meat industry.
Despite the fact that investors, governments and entrepreneurs alike are banking on cultivated proteins as a turnkey solution to help accelerate the alternative protein shift, Pat Brown, the founder and CEO of the company behind the famous plant-based bleeding Impossible Burger, thinks it will “never be a commercial endeavour”.
It’s never going to be a thing. I’d put any amount of money on that.Pat Brown, Founder & CEO of Impossible Foods
“The reason has to do with the fact that it’s irreversibly expensive,” he said, adding that he believes that companies would find it much more economical to use the technology for medical and therapeutic purposes rather than to sell it as animal meat.
And the Impossible founder is pretty confident about what he thinks the future of cell-based is too, saying simply: “It’s never going to be a thing. I’d put any amount of money on that”.
At a recent virtual press conference attended by Green Queen, Pat doubled down on the statement when we asked about his recent comments about cell-based meat. “Cell-based meat is the meat of the future, and it will always be, The economics just don’t make sense and they never will.” he said in response to our question.
Josh Tetrick, the co-founder and CEO of Eat Just, the food tech that pioneered plant-based eggs with its flagship product the JUST Egg, had quite a vastly different prediction. Talking about when cell-based will be available to mass consumers, Tetrick said during the conference that it’ll be “somewhere north of 15 years”.
Though Eat Just is widely known for its plant-based egg alternative, it’s also working on cell-based meats, with its main focus being cultured chicken. Given that many startups across the world have already successfully created prototypes of different cell-based animal proteins, from seafood and beef to even exotic meats like zebra and kangaroo, Tetrick’s timeline refers to when we’ll be able to expect companies to be able to scale up their operations, production and achieve commercial viability.
Somewhere north of 15 years.Josh Tetrick, Co-Founder & CEO of Eat Just
Eat Just’s own aim is to get his prototype out of the lab and approved by the regulators by next year. Then, the next challenge is to work with foodservice partners or specialty retailers – a phase that no cell-based meat company has been able to achieve, though some have launched market taste tests, like Mission Barns, the company behind the world’s first cultivated bacon.
That all has to happen before companies are able to introduce their products to consumers on mainstream retail shelves, which is the step that many plant-based brands are at. The end goal, according to Tetrick, is a “phase that will transform the planet” once products reach the same recognition as Coca-Cola.
Update October 2020: This article has been updated based on new information obtained by Green Queen at an October 20 2020 press conference held by Impossible Foods.
Lead image courtesy of Bloomberg via Getty Images / TechCrunch.