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India’s first cell-based meat startup ClearMeat is set to pilot its first product, cultivated chicken mince, and has already reached price parity with its animal-based counterpart, marking a major feat for any alternative protein food tech in the race to displace unsustainable meat production. The startup has targeted cell-based chicken mince because it stands as one of the most popular protein sources in India, with consumption growth set to play a large role in fuelling the country’s rising food challenges.
Speaking in a recent interview with FoodNavigator, co-founder of ClearMeat Dr. Siddharth Manvati revealed that the company has already developed its first cultivated meat product – cell-based chicken – at price parity with real chicken, and is set to begin trialling the product in India. Manvati explained that the startup decided to focus on cultivated chicken mince because of its “multi-acceptability” of being widely consumed across India, alongside fish and mutton as other popular animal protein choices in the country.
Since we’re working on chicken mince, we’ve targeted the latter and have actually reached this at around INR800 to INR850 (US$10.77 to US$11.44) per kg – though we still want to bring it down more.Dr. Siddharth Manvati, Co-Founder, ClearMeat
“[One] of the main reasons chicken is so popular is also because it is a relatively cheaper meat and we are conscious of this. The market price of a whole chicken in India is around INR250 (US$3.37) per kg and processed chicken is about INR1000 (US$13.46) per kg,” Manvati told the publication. “Since we’re working on chicken mince, we’ve targeted the latter and have actually reached this at around INR800 to INR850 (US$10.77 to US$11.44) per kg – though we still want to bring it down more.”
Reaching price parity with real chicken is a major step forward for any food tech – be it plant-based startups or cultivated alternative protein companies – all of whom see economics as one of the crucial milestones to achieving the mass adoption of more sustainable proteins. In a previous conversation with Green Queen, Manvati and co-founder Pawan Dhar emphasised that its core mission was to bring “eco-friendly, nutritious and affordable” cell-based proteins to India, where the growth in demand for chicken is amongst some of the highest in the world.
Soon to become the most populous country, India’s continuous growth of animal protein consumption will translate to a drastic increase of greenhouse gas emissions, land use and worsen water stress, which it is already exceptionally vulnerable to as a result of climate change.
Commenting on their plans to pilot their cultivated chicken mince, Manvati told FoodNavigator that the results will help the startup “understand whatever impact and backlash comes out of it.”
“From what we see, the only way to find the right way to approach this is to sell the product first, and we’re taking this one product at a time,” he added.
So far, though recent studies have indicated that Indian consumers are willing to purchase both plant-based meats and cell-based meats for a premium over that of conventional meat, mainly due to health and sustainability reasons, there has yet to be a real-life market test for the cultivated sector in the country. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has likely heightened consumer interest even more, with concerns about boosting immunity, health and the safety of protein being major drivers for the global trend towards alternative proteins.
From what we see, the only way to find the right way to approach this is to sell the product first, and we’re taking this one product at a time.Dr. Siddharth Manvati, Co-Founder, ClearMeat
Manvati also shared that ClearMeat is now actively looking to fundraise for its scaling-up plans, including the creation of an industrial set-up to move away from the lab, and towards licensing and commercialisation. Beyond offering cell-based chicken mince, the company is hopeful about targeting more products, including different varieties of cultivated chicken and other animal meats further down the line.
Other startups that have managed to develop cell-based chicken include Israel’s SuperMeat, who have recently opened their brand new restaurant test kitchen to offer customers a first-of-its-kind experience to taste crispy cultured chicken fillet burgers. California-based Memphis Meats, the food tech standing as the most well-funded cultivated meat startup to date, has also developed cultured chicken, as well as cultivated beef meatballs and duck meat.
Lead image courtesy of Shutterstock.