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Three years ago, Bill Gates famously stated that by 2050, global demand for meat will increase significantly as the world’s population balloons to more than nine billion people. This is not tenable: the livestock industry is responsible for 30% to 50% of the world’s carbon emissions (depending on who you ask), meat continues to become more expensive and thanks to climate change, land scarcity is a real concern: we will run out of space for raising cattle. We need to think differently about what we eat and where our food comes from. Luckily, there are some pretty brilliant people out there working on just this. (Unsurprisingly, a fair few of them are based in Silicon Valley.) Below, we round up the incredible companies that are creating the foods of the future.
Impossible Foods: The Burger That Changed The Game
Based in California, Impossible Foods is looking to revolutionize food by producing cheese and meats made entirely from plants with a focus on recreating the exact texture and taste you get from animal derived food thanks to a blend of grains, greens and beans. Free from cholesterols, hormones and antibiotics, inevitably reduced the negative impacts of animal products on the environment and our health, making the world a better place. Impossible Foods’ first product is the ‘impossible burger’, which has already raised a great deal of global attention since the first photo of it appeared (the product is not yet available) last year and thanks in no small to part to Momofuku founder Chef David Chang’s ringing endorsement on social media:
“Today I tasted the future and it was vegan: this burger was juicy/bloody and had real texture like beef. But more delicious and way better for the planet. I can’t really comprehend its impact quite yet…but I think it might change the whole game.”
Not only does it cook, smell and taste like real meat, it even “bleeds” like ordinary beef does. Not to mention that the ‘meat’ is free from cholesterols, hormones and antibiotics and requires no cattle: better for humans a better for the planet. As David Chang says: it’s a game-changer.
Hampton Creek Foods: Egg-Free Goodness
Of all the names on this list, you’re probably most familiar with this one and their signature product: Just Mayo, seeing as it’s already on supermarket shelves all over the world (including Hong Kong’s). But in case you haven’t heard of them, here is a primer: Hampton Creek Foods is a food technology company that specializes in exploring the possibility of utilizing plants in food products in order to create affordable, environmentally-conscious and delicious food. Their popular egg-free mayonnaise substitute resembles the taste and texture of regular mayonnaise albeit with a far smaller eco-load. Hampton Creek has followed the success of Just Mayo with Just Cookies and Just Cookie Dough, revolutionary cookies made without dairy or eggs that are as gooey and delicious as the originals. The company is currently working on getting these last two products to market.
Beyond Meat: Plant-Based Meats For Every Occasion
Beyond Meat is another player in the plant-based meat substitute realm. They are dedicated to replacing animal proteins with plant proteins without sacrificing taste, all while eliminating the health and environmental downsides that go along with eating meat. Using a combination of non-GMO soy and pea protein and some clever food technology, Beyond Meat has created a whole range of meat replacement freezer foods including Beast Burgers, Beyond Chicken Tenders, Beyond Beef Crumble and Beyond Beef Meatballs that look, taste and feel like the real thing and make for great substitutes in classic recipes. In fact, former New York Times food critic Mark Bittman was fooled by their chicken imitation in a blind taste test. The company has recently debuted a line of ready-meals too. Their products are available all over in the US, and we have them right here in Hong Kong courtesy of Green Common.
Soylent: Perfectly Balanced Replacement Meals
If you know what it’s like to be so busy that you forget to eat, then Soylent is for you. It probably won’t come as a surprise that Soylent was developed by Silicon Valley entrepreneur who got tired of having to plan nutritionally balanced meals in order to stay nourished whilst working on his startup. Enter Soylent, a vegan and soy-based meal replacement drink with a carefully calculated macro profile of proteins, fats, fibers, carbohydrates and other necessary minerals all inside a trendy white bottle, ideal for the uber-busy and the non-foodies amongst us. Each bottle, which also comes in powder so you can take it with you on the road, provides you with 400 calories and all the fats, protein, carbs and minerals you need, approx. 20% of total recommended daily calories. The company website also proudly explains that the US FDA classifies Soylent as a food, not a supplement, in case you were confusing it with your average drugstore diet shake. Soylent is currently available in the US and Canada, and they are working on the rest of the world.
The Not Company: Food Created By An Algorithm
Founded a year ago by a team of Chilean scientists, The Not Company‘s USP is that they use artificial intelligence to create meat substitutes from plants. The key “person” behind this company is Giuseppe, an artificial intelligence algorithm that is able to breakdown the molecular composition, taste and texture of all kinds of foods, as well as how we humans perceive and experience these foods. Thanks to Giuseppe, The Not Company, or The NotCo as they call themselves, is now able to replicate not only the smell and the taste, but also the texture, of animal-based products. Their Not Milk, for example, is made form mushrooms and seeds. Not only does this vegan milk have the same nutritional profile as the real milk, but it also cost far less than other vegan milks (nuts can get pricey). According to their website, they are also working on a vegan mayo, which they call Not Mayo. The young company will begin selling their NotMilk, NotCheese, NotYogurt and NotMayo in their home country very soon with plans to expand to the US next year.
New Wave Food: A Case For Ethical Shrimp
A marine conservationist and a material scientist are the winning duo behind New Wave Food, a startup now famous for their lab-created shrimp made entirely from plant proteins and the algae that actual shrimps eat, resulting in a product that imitates the color and flavor of the real thing. Interestingly, the founders were initially planning on creating a plant-based version of shark-fin. In the end, they opted to focus on shrimps for a couple of reasons: 1) the demand for shark-fins globally is pretty small (we’re looking at you Hong Kong) and 2) how morally controversial most shrimp production is. Despite not having officially launched, New Wave Food has already received a 200 pound order from Google, who are hoping to cut down on shrimp consumption in their cafeterias.
Memphis Meats: Stem Cell Genius
Memphis Meats‘ mission is to reduce the meat industry’s carbon footprint by “farming” the meat itself, without having to farm animals for their meat, resulting in a healthier, safer and more sustainable process than conventional animal agriculture. With three scientists at the helm and decades of scientific and culinary experience between them, Memphis Meats is the world’s first company to cultivate meat from stem cells. So far, they have successfully grown meat from cells harvested from cows, pigs and chickens. They are working on stem-cell meat hotdogs, meatballs and burgers and hope to have them on the market within five years. Another bonus? By growing their own meat, Memphis Meats can control its nutritional profile, including lowering fat content, producing healthier food for generations to come.
New Harvest’s Cellular Agriculture: Researching The Future Of Food
New Harvest is a non-profit research institute founded in 2004 that is dedicated to conducting research on the next agricultural revolution: cellular agriculture, aka the production of agricultural products from cell cultures. By making use of this technology, scientists can grow meats from cell cultures, instead of living animals, alleviating global food insecurity and reducing animal agriculture’s environmental load. New Harvest claims that the only difference between products harvested from cell cultures and those harvested from animals or plants are process of how they are made. Stay tuned for globally impactful updates from New Harvest and its many projects.