Singapore’s Shiok Meats was the first to bring cell-based meat and seafood tech to Southeast Asia. It’s the first company in the world to produce cell-based shellfish. Now, it’s expanding its reach across the protein aisle with a 90 percent acquisition of Gaia Foods, Southeast Asia’s first cell-based red meat start-up.
According to Shiok Meats, its acquisition of Gaia Foods will help expand both companies’ efforts in the cell-based meat arena, creating a “collaborative mindset” that helps to add value to the industry. This will make Shiok the leading cell-based producer across the meat aisle.
“The Alternative Protein space is evolving rapidly, and we are very excited to collaborate and integrate with Gaia Foods. They are an incredibly talented technical and scientific team with promising technology to produce 3D/structured and textured meats. Dr. Sandhya Sriram, CEO and Co-founder of Shiok Meats, said in a statement.
Gaia Foods got its start in 2019, spearheaded by two scientists focused on stem cell and biotech research, Dr. Vinayaka Srinivas and Dr. Hung Nguyen. They will now lead the tech team’s development processes across both brands.
Last October, Gaia Foods created its first structured meat product using a patent-pending cell-based meat technology.
“We have long admired Shiok Meats for their mission, technology, and strong leadership,” Srinivas said. “This collaboration has all the necessary synergies that will make our respective capabilities even stronger. This couldn’t have come at a better time. We look forward to working together with Shiok Meats to further our technology and expand our business and markets.”
Dr. Ka Yi Ling, CTO & Co-founder, Shiok Meats says pioneering innovation is at the heart of the industry and the direction in which it is headed. “We were the first to launch a cell-based crustacean prototype, while Gaia was the first to demonstrate a structured red meat prototype in South-East Asia, and that too within less than two years of being founded. These are significant milestones as far as R&D is concerned, so we are confident that our partnership is strategic for the industry.”
Singapore is currently leading the charge in cell-based meat production. It’s the only country in the world with regulatory approval. If Shiok Meats can achieve regulatory approval for its meat and seafood, it would be the second in Singapore—and the world—to achieve it.
San Francisco-based Eat Just, best known for its plant-based mung bean egg, was the first to begin selling cell-based meat in Asia. It recently partnered with the region’s delivery platform Foodpanda to distribute the cell-based meat across Singapore. It launched with Foodpanda in April.
But cell-based meat still faces hurdles. There is regulatory red tape everywhere else in the world that will slow market opportunities—and earnings. There are challenges on the tech side, too—from making cell lines more accessible to less complicated, and more ethical growth mediums.
But the biggest hurdle likely lies in proving there’s market value for the cell-based meat. Consumers have embraced plant-based options, but they don’t fully understand the cell-based technology, and it’s not an easy tech to explain. Nicknames like “lab-grown” have spurred resistance similar to the resistance to genetically modified organisms, with some critics dubbing cell-based meat the new “frankenfood”.
There are also concerns about the environmental impact of scaling, an issue tackled in the recent documentary, “Meat Me Halfway.”
Shiok and Gaia aren’t deterred, though.
“With both seafood and red meat on our suite of offerings and the recent fundraise from strategic investors, we are ready to power through to commercialization. Meaningful expansions like these will continue to be one of our priorities.” Sriram said.
“As entrepreneurs and innovators, we are excited about this collaboration as it sets an example for a novel way of building and growing a company as part of the accelerating alternative protein industry.”
Lead image courtesy of Gaia Foods.