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Novel Foods – How Plant-Based Business Can Navigate Regulations

With so many new and exciting plant-based foods being created by food tech scientists and entrepreneurs, complying with novel food regulations is essential to getting products to market. For non-lawyers, this can be a daunting task, and specialist help is usually needed to get through the process.  

We spoke to food law consultant and founder of Vegan Food Law, Mathilde Do Chi, who advises plant-based businesses to navigate the regulations. She has worked extensively on the legal challenges of alternative proteins, as the VP of Regulatory Affairs (Vegan World Alliance and Vegan Society of Canada) and as an advisor to various companies and NGOs.  

Do Chi explained that novel food is a special category which requires special consideration: “It is food where there is no history of consumption in the country where it is to be sold. In the E.U., it includes anything that was not eaten before 1997. Similar rules exist in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the US. To sell novel foods, companies must get regulatory approval. This applies to plant-based businesses creating new proteins or fats, cell-based meat, and precision fermentation-derived ingredients.”   

Some plant-based foods are considered novel even if there is a history of safe consumption of the original plant, but it is being used in a new way. For example, if leaves are commonly used, but a company wants to process the seeds into protein isolates. Food that is common in one country might be novel in another. So where innovators squeeze protein from grass or algae, that is a novel food and must go through the regulation process.  

This means entrepreneurs need to be aware of how their product is viewed in the territory in which they want to sell it. Mathilde Do Chi says, “They need to check the current regulations. Most countries will have a public list of products that are considered novel. If they cannot find an answer, they can contact national authorities. Just because something is authorized in one country doesn’t mean that it’s authorized in another. Even if there is a history of consumption, it will be considered novel if you want to change an ingredient. Decisions are made very much on a case-by-case basis. It can take between 18 months and three years to get through the process, depending on the quality of the application. If the authorities believe the company has not provided enough information, they will allow another six months and continue the analysis.”  

Mathilde Do Chi applies her knowledge to working with plant-based companies to help them work through the regulatory framework: “First, I check that the processes and ingredients are not novel. If I’m sure they are not, I help companies draft answers to the queries from the authorities. If they are novel, I help them write a dossier to get the product authorized. I also help identify which market will be the easiest to enter. If they want to start selling as fast as possible, I advise them on what ingredients to use from a regulatory point of view. I make sure companies have all the necessary information. And that they gather that first. Because if you apply with an incomplete dossier, the application might not even be accepted.”  

Businesses might assume that the UK is the best place to launch a new plant-based product. After all, the UK is the home of Veganuary and U.K consumers are accepting of non-traditional foods. However, the picture is different regarding novel food regulation: “At the end of the day, it’s a risk assessment, made regardless of the potential consumer acceptance. In fact, one of the best places to seek authorisation is Singapore. You can get approval in Singapore in around one year if the product is passed as safe. Singapore has more resources in place to approve products so you can get questions answered quicker than in the UK or EU.” 

Mathilde Do Chi has some tips for companies creating new foods and some general advice on naming new products: “Don’t assume the regulations will straddle different countries because they have different legal systems. It’s a matter of talking to authorities and researching to see if the product has already been sold in the same form. If it hasn’t, and the ingredient you want to use is a novel food, look at using other crops to see if you can get the same results without spending time and money getting approval. Ensure you are aware of labelling issues, where regulations differ in different territories. Be careful about using traditional names, which are often for specific products whose recipes are set in stone. The only thing you will achieve if you disregard this rule is to get sued. It’s why you have very generic terms for plant-based alternatives. For example, plant-based yoghurt is called plant-based dessert because yoghurt is a protected name in some countries. And my final piece of advice is to remember that the words you use in marketing campaigns are often regulated, so check whether you need to comply with certain conditions to use those words.” 

Cultivated Fish, Funding News, Plant-Based Seafood Trends, New Product Listings and More

Welcome to our round-up of plant-based news. We have been keeping across what has been happening in the sector over the past fortnight. We have and scoured newspapers, magazines, and digital platforms to bring you the most interesting plant-based stories. If you have news for us, why not get in touch? Please email us at [email protected] with your news.     

New Food  

Plant-Based Seafood Trend  

Sales of plant-based seafood are showing signs of growth. Between 2019 and 2022, the category saw a 53% growth in unit sales. While plant-based meat may have plateaued, the few start-ups in the plant-based seafood space are attracting funding. Keerthi Vedantam at Crunchbase News explains the evolving trend.  

Cultivated Fish  

Israeli food-tech company, Steakholder Foods, has made cultivated fish fillets from grouper fish cells from the Singapore company Umami Meats. Testers reported that the cultivated fish had an impressive taste and flakiness. The collaboration with Umami Meats received funding from the Singapore-Israel Industrial R&D Foundation (SIIRD). It aims to scale up the production of cultivated fish using 3D bio-printing technology and customised bio-inks. The companies are hoping to bring the food to market next year, first in Singapore, and then gain regulatory approval for sale in the US and Japan. 

EVERY EggWhite  

California-based Plant-based egg and meat start-up Every Co is partnering with Alpha Foods to develop meat alternatives using animal-free egg whites made with microbes. The EveryEggWhites will provide binding and gelling qualities to make products more meat-like. The product could eventually replace methylcellulose in plant-based food.  

New Factories  

Switch Foods  

Abu Dhabi’s Switch Foods has a new 2,000-square-metre plant in the Khalifa Industrial Zone. The factory can produce 1000kg of plant meat per hour or 8000 kg per day and will produce plant-based kebabs, kofta, patties and mince. The products will be available in supermarkets across the country later this month. Switch CEO Edward Hamod said the factory will enable the region to reduce its dependence on imported plant-based food.  

Chunk Foods Raises $15 Million  

Israeli-based Chunk Foods has raised seed funding worth $15 million. The money will be used to build one of the world’s biggest plant-based whole cuts factory. The facility will be finished by the summer of 2023 and will be able to produce millions of steaks per year. . It is the biggest seed funding for an Israeli plant-based company. Investors include Fall Line Capital, the MIT E14 fund, and Robert Downey Jr’s Footprint Coalition  


Mellody Honey  

Mellody plant-based honey has partnered with Eleven Madison Home to make the product available direct to US consumers. Mellody is made without bees but tastes and performs like conventional honey. It was launched last month by MeliBio. The company raised $2.2 million last November. It is planning to launch in Europe through a partnership with Narayan Foods.  

Meatless Farm New Range 

Meatless Farm has launched four new products for UK retail. New items include plant-based meat-filled pasta, Chorizo-style Sausages and New York Style Cheeze Burgers. The new products are available in Sainsbury’s and Ocado.  

Native Snacks in M&S  

Native Snacks, the UK company making vegan prawn crackers, will be stocked in Marks and Spencer in the UK. Native Snacks Original Pr*wn Crackers are already in British supermarkets, including Ocado, Planet Organic, Whole Foods and Asda, as well as restaurants, including Yo! And Travelodge.  


BettaF!sh in Vending Machines 

Vending machines in offices, airports, railway stations and hospitals in Germany will offer BettaF!sh plant-based tuna sandwiches. They will be available in Foodji vending machines across the country. This follows BettaF!sh’s entry into European stores and on board Japan Airlines.  

Ontario Universities Learn Plant-Based Cooking  

Chefs from Ontario universities have been trained in plant-based cooking in order to offer more choices to students. The programme was a partnership with the Humane Society International’s Food Forward programme. The universities are boosting their vegan options in response to student demand. The universities’ goal is for 40% of the menu to be plant-based by January 2024 and 50% by 2025.  

2023’s Innovative Plant-Based Fats To Watch

Plant-based meats need realistic meaty fats, as well as protein, if they are to convince customers to ditch animal products and eat more plant-based food. Fats give meat its unique taste, texture, and mouth feel. When diners feast on a juicy steak or succulent chicken, it is the fat that creates the indulgent experience. The challenge is to recreate that sensation using plant-based fat.   

The Good Food Institute (GFI) has highlighted the importance of innovation and investment in sustainable plant-based fats if the alternative meat industry is to succeed. The sector currently relies largely on coconut oil because it is semi-solid at room temperature making it a fair substitute for animal fat. However, there are some drawbacks to coconut oil. while animal fat melts slowly when heated, coconut oil melts immediately, never achieving that semi-solid state that meat fat offers. In addition, a GFI report states that by 2030 there will be a global supply issue if demand increases in line with predicted growth. The other issue is health. Like animal fat, coconut oil is high in saturated fat. A Harvard University study found that coconut oil raised blood cholesterol, increasing the risk of heart disease. 

The other ubiquitous fat is Palm oil, used in margarine, frying oils and baked goods, as well as cosmetics and cleaning products. It is used in plant-based meat as an animal fat substitute. Like coconut oil, it is solid at room temperature and melts when heated. The problem with palm oil is that its production in Southeast Asia causes deforestation and the destruction of wildlife habitats. This has inspired one food tech company to choose the name Sun Bear Bioworks after a species threatened by palm oil production. The company is using biotechnology to produce an alternative oil that can be made from waste products such as potato peelings from the crisp industry.  

It vital that alternatives to coconut and palm oil are found if the plant-based meat industry is to grow sustainably and make delicious healthy food that people want to buy. Luckily scientists have found that while plant fats behave differently to animal fats, by changing their molecular structure or by adding other ingredients, they can be made to act in a similar way. Here are just a few examples of innovative fats that are already improving plant-based dishes, or will be in the near future.  

This’s Fat 2.0 

The clever UK company that brought us This Isn’t Bacon and This Isn’t Pork Sausages has its own patent-pending fat. Known as Fat 2.0, the ingredient is based on olive oil and adds succulence, flavour, and meatiness. The resulting sausages have 75% less saturated fat than their animal-based equivalent.  

Quibiq’s Smart Fat 

Scientists at Spanish company Qubiq have developed new technology to create an alternative to animal fat. Qubiq has created a vegan smart fat that behaves like animal fat, for use in plant-based meat and dairy. With a melting point of 80 degrees, it avoids the tendency of vegetable fat to disappear during cooking and could potentially replace coconut oil in plant-based products. Qubiq offers offer three varieties: Go!Drop fat replacer, Go!Mega3 Omega-3 algae oil, and Go!Great cultivated animal fat. The company has recently formed a partnership with international distributor Cargill which will bring investment, co-development and marketing support to make the fats more widely available.  

Shiru’s OleoPro  

US food-tech company Shiru has created plant-based fat OleoPro as its first ingredient. OleoPro combines plant proteins and unsaturated oil. It is solid at room temperature and melts when cooked, giving a juicy mouthfeel to plant-based meats. Nutritionally it contains 90% less saturated fat than coconut oil and palm oil. It was made using the company’s patented Flourish technology platform which uses bioinformatics and machine learning to discover proteins that can be made into fat. These are combined with plant-based oil to make an ingredient that looks and behaves like animal fat.  

Omni Foods’ OmniNanoTM Vegan Fat 

In November 2022 Hong Kong-based Omni Foods launched its patented OmniNanoTM Vegan Fat. Their process involves emulsifying oil and water, which is then added to plant-based meats to mimic animal fat. Omni says the new fat improves the juiciness, flavour and texture of its plant-based meats. OmniFoods is using this in its new plant-based whole cuts, including Plant-Based Beef Cut and Tips, Plant-Based Chicken Wings and Plant-Based Pork cutlets. The new items will be launched later in 2023.  

Nourish Precision Fermentation Fats  

Australian food tech start-up Nourish uses precision fermentation to produce plant-based fat that is identical to animal fat. In October 2022, the company raised $2.6 million in investment and is working with science and government organisations to scale up production. It has developed a technique using microbes to make bioidentical animal fat without animals, to recreate the taste and performance of meat.  

Mycolein Fungus Fat  

Swedish company Mycorena has created fat from fungi that mimics animal fat. The fat was first released in 2021 and is available for sale under the name Mycolein. It is the result of the development of a fungi-stabilised fat solution that behaves like animal fat. The product was tested with partner vegan steak maker Juicy Marbles, who were impressed with the juiciness and flavour it added. Unlike most fats, Mycolein is also a source of dietary fibre. It contains 85% less saturated fat than coconut oil.  

European Market Insights, China’s Food Policy, State of the Market Report  and More

Welcome to another selection of business stories from the past week or so. We have been keeping across what has been happening in the sector and scouring newspapers, magazines, and digital platforms to bring you the most interesting and important plant-based news. If you have news for us, why not get in touch? Email us at [email protected] with your stories!   

State of the Market Report  

The Plant Based Foods Association 2022 study found that consumer demand was strong, and sales were more resilient than expected. This is despite various difficulties facing the sector, such as the economic landscape and supply chain issues. Consumers are becoming more price-conscious, and companies need to adapt and innovate to secure ingredients and funding. The report looked at retail and e-commerce, food service trends and consumer insights for 2022. PBFA CEO Rachel Dreskin said: “The continued growth of plant-based foods amidst the challenging backdrop of the global pandemic and supply network disruptions—which have upended the entire food system—speaks to this industry’s ability to connect with consumers, engage their desire to eat in alignment with their values, and provide delicious options that meet expectations, for every eating occasion,”

European Market Insights  

Sales of plant-based food grew by 6% in 2022 and 21% from 2020-2022, reaching €5.8 billion, according to GFI Europe’s analysis of NeilsonIQ sales data. In 2022 plant-based meat sales grew to €2 billion, making up 6% of the pre-packaged meat market. Plant-based seafood and cheese also saw double-digit growth. GFI Europe says these figures are extremely promising given economic difficulties caused by the war in Ukraine, trade tensions and inflation.  

New Products  

Quorn’s Mycoprotein Available to Manufacturers  

Marlow Foods, the parent company of Quorn Foods, is making Quorn available to other food manufacturers. A new division, Marlow Ingredients, will make the mycoprotein, which has been sold as Quorn since 1985, available in Europe and beyond. Marco Bertecca, Marlow Foods CEO said: “By making our mycoprotein available to others, Marlow Ingredients will play a pivotal role in helping us achieve one of our missions – to tackle climate change by making great-tasting food.” 

Aleph Cuts Cultivated Steak  

Israel-based food tech company Aleph Farms has launched its first product brand, Aleph Cuts. The brand’s first offering will be a cultivated steak, which will be marketed in Israel and Singapore later this year if approval is granted. The steak is grown from non-modified cells of an Angus cow, and the company says there is no slaughter involved in production.  

Schouten Egg White 

Dutch plant-based company Schouten has launched a vegan egg white that behaves just like eggs from hens. Made from oil and soy protein, the product is designed for use in salads, sandwiches, and baked goods. The No Egg White cubes are available in 4.5-kilogram pouches that can last three months. Schouten has been making meat substitutes since the 1990s and supplies vegan meat and fish to more than 50 countries.  

Lypid Pork Belly 

Taiwanese food tech start-up Lypid has launched plant-based pork belly. Made from 100% plant-based ingredients and patented PhytoFat encapsulated oil technology, the pork belly is high in protein and lower in cholesterol, saturated fat, calories, and salt than its meat equivalent.  

Food Policy 

China’s Food Policy 

The Chinese government’s new policy statement calls for a diversified food supply system. The No. 1 Central Document for 2023 includes the development of plants, animals, microorganisms, edible fungi and algae-based foods. The document also highlights soya beans as a growth area. The Good Food Institute China reports that investment in alternative protein in China has grown significantly.  

New York City 

New York Mayor Eric Adams has announced plans to reduce the city’s carbon emissions from food purchases by 33% by 2030, as part of an effort to combat climate change. Mayor Adams has been key to getting plant-based food into the city’s public hospitals and is planning to expand the plant-based policy into public schools.  


Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton’s Neat Burger restaurant has opened its first US eatery, in New York. The new plant-based fast-food outlet is called Neat in Nolita. The burger chain already has six branches in London and one in the UAE. It plans to open 30 more outlets internationally.  

The Role Nutrition Plays In Disease Prevention

While nutritious foods have long been encouraged as part of established dietary guidelines in the United States, most Americans do not consume the recommended intakes of nutrient-dense foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Foods high in saturated fat, processed sugar, and sodium remain significant components of the Standard American Diet. Unfortunately, dietary patterns, including frequent consumption of meat, dairy, refined grains, and sugars, raise the risk of some of the leading causes of mortality in the United States.

The major cardiometabolic diseases—heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes are not only found on the top ten list of causes of death in the US, but they are also all undeniably linked to the dietary habits of our population. According to the National Institutes of Health, the highest percentage of these illnesses are related to excess intake of sodium paired with inadequate consumption of whole plant foods. Drinking too many sugary beverages, consuming processed lunch meat, and eating too much red meat also made up the list of major contributors. Many other causes of death on the top ten list can be either attributed to our food system or complicated by it, such as diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s. These facts are widely accepted in medical science, yet the situation doesn’t seem to improve. In fact, the life expectancy of someone born in the US is 76.4 years, lower than it has been in nearly two decades.

Proper Nutrition Is Our Secret Weapon

How does the food we eat lead to chronic disease and death in so many Americans each year? While each condition’s details vary, there is a common thread among them: inflammation. The WHO ranks inflammatory diseases as the greatest threat to human health and predicts that these diseases’ prevalence will only increase over the next 30 years. Diets rich in saturated fats, trans fats, and sugars are directly associated with a higher production of inflammatory molecules. The body has an acute reaction to foods such as refined carbohydrates, red and processed meats, fried foods, and sodas. These foods cause an alteration of bacteria in the gut that then interacts with the immune system and leads to an inflammatory response throughout the body. This inflammation can then promote the growth of plaques in arteries and cause blood clots leading to heart attack or stroke. It can also cause DNA damage, leading to the development of certain cancers. This chronic inflammation has a widespread deleterious effect on the body and is a key factor causing almost all chronic degenerative diseases.

Fortunately, individuals may significantly reduce inflammation levels through a number of lifestyle habits, including the consumption of a diet high in anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-rich foods. According to Harvard Health, “A moderate change in your diet, such as lowering your animal food intake by one to two servings per day and replacing it with legumes or nuts as your protein source can have a lasting positive impact on your health.” Furthermore, basing meals around fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and grains, is a verified method to include anti-inflammatory foods that can reduce inflammation levels in the body, and reduce the risk of some of these most common diseases.

Plant foods are rich in anti-inflammatory substances, including dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and omega-3 fatty acids. Even certain teas and spices, also derived from plants and rich in antioxidants, have been recognized by researchers for their ability to combat inflammation. These powerful antioxidants improve the body’s inflammatory pathways, helping prevent or delay cell damage and some chronic diseases. In fact, a significant study on the antioxidant values of different food groups revealed that plant foods averaged greater than 1,000 units of antioxidant power each. In contrast, the highest antioxidant value from meat topped out at only 100.

The benefits of a diet rich in plant foods have compound benefits for overall health. Plant foods are also high in fiber, said by the Mayo Clinic, to reduce cancer risk and moderate insulin levels. Many fruits and vegetables are also high in provitamins called alpha and gamma carotene. When consumed, these vitamins can be converted to vitamin A, which is essential to vision, growth, cell division, reproduction, and immunity. In addition, highly pigmented natural foods such as carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes, and leafy greens contain carotenoids. These have been linked to reducing the risk of heart disease, cancer, macular degeneration, and cataracts.

Why Are We Still At War?

Studies and publications pointing to the power of nutrition and, more specifically, plant-forward diets to prevent chronic diseases have been published by the Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, NCBI, MC Anderson Cancer Center, Stanford Health Care, Harvard Health, and more. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association states, “Plant‐based diets, diets that emphasize higher intakes of plant foods and lower intakes of animal foods, are associated with a lower risk of incident cardiovascular disease, cardiovascular disease mortality, and all‐cause mortality in a

general US adult population.” So why is this still an issue for our population? Why is this not widely known and shared far and wide?

The answer is a complicated one that includes inadequate training for many healthcare professionals in the areas of modern nutrition science combined with marketing campaigns designed to keep Americans in the “comfort zone” of relying on convenient processed foods that they are accustomed to. Often those highly processed and nutrient-lacking foods are even labeled as “healthy.” It is a confusing landscape for individuals to navigate. While they are most likely doing what they feel is best for themselves and their families, they often fall victim to a broken food system that doesn’t necessarily have their best interests in mind.

The Road to Optimal Health

So how do food service professionals and healthcare professionals help their communities fight the battle against chronic disease by way of plant-forward diets? This answer isn’t as complicated. It is the duty of healthcare professionals and food service providers within healthcare facilities, above all others, to provide delicious anti-inflammatory, nutrient-rich, meat-free menu options that support good health. These offerings should outnumber those that aren’t proven to increase our ability to live longer and healthier lives.

Providing convenient food options that are high in fiber and low in saturated fat, sodium and sugar is half the battle in itself. Convenience plays a significant role in individual dietary choices, so it is the job of those who provide food in the places people are seeking to improve their health to ensure that the options available do just that. It is also imperative that these choices aren’t the exceptions but instead the rules. Plant-forward options based on whole grains, legumes, and vegetables are not only adaptive to many culinary styles but also cost-effective and can easily allow for multiple menu options to be offered using many of the same core ingredients. Making healthy foods the standard in a facility truly supports the health of those served.

The American Medical Association (AMA) has passed a resolution encouraging healthy food options in hospitals to support this initiative. They have called on U.S. hospitals to improve the health of patients, staff, and visitors by (a) providing a variety of healthy food, including plant-based meals and meals that are low in fat, sodium, and added sugars; (b) eliminating processed meats from menus; and (c) providing and promoting healthy beverages.

Thankfully, hospitals across the country are listening! The state of California mandated the availability of plant-based meals for patients. NYC Health + Hospitals now offers plant-based dishes as the primary dinner option for inpatients at all 11 public hospitals. In addition, there are hospitals in Florida and Denver offering plant-based meals to their patients along with printed materials educating them on the role of diet and plant-forward nutrition in chronic disease prevention. This is a trend that society desperately needs to continue and expand. After all, if communities can’t rely on their hospitals, senior care facilities, healthcare groups, and fitness facilities to teach them about the impact of their food choices and serve them food that won’t endanger their health, then who can they rely on?

To dive deeper into the impacts of food on our health and the power of a plant-forward diet to prevent chronic disease, check out “The Power of Nutrition in Disease Prevention,” created by the Educated Choices Program in partnership with the Physicians Association for Nutrition USA. To learn more about this presentation and other free education programs for your staff, patients, and customers, visit

Futuristic Fantasy to Factory. Has Cell-Based Meat Truly Arrived?

Nova Meat Leaderboard Ad

From fantasy to factory within the last couple of years, innovation in cell-based meat has rapidly improved. Mainstream media is awash with headlines proclaiming the arrival of cultivated steak, meatballs, and nuggets. Amongst plant-based businesses, debates have begun in earnest about the labelling of cell-based products and how they fit alongside their plant-based counterparts. 

Although not plant-based, the companies operating in this new category share some of the goals and ambitions of plant-based foods and will likely appeal to similar consumers. A 2018 Harvard study found that Attitudes towards the environment appear to be one of the most important determinants of consumers’ consumption behaviour and new food acceptance and that consumers with environmental concerns were more willing to purchase meat alternatives, such as plant-based and cultured meat. A 2022 study by the UK Food Standards Agency found that a third of UK consumers were willing to try cultivated meat, with sustainability cited as the main reason. Of those who said they would not, over a quarter said they could be persuaded if they knew it was safe.  

For consumers concerned about animal welfare, environment and health, cultured meat performs better than animal meat on all fronts. An animal is only used at the very start of the process. Far less land and resources are needed than in traditional animal agriculture and the product will undoubtedly be free of the hormones and antibiotics that intensive animal farming requires.  

So while not plant-based, cultured meat is of immense interest to the plant-based business community, and following its progress is crucial for understanding the opportunities and threats it poses. These will likely become more pressing as products go through the various stages of development, scaling, and approval, which will eventually bring them to market.  

Nova Meat Leaderboard Ad

To discuss the issues around cultivated meat the Good Food Institute (GFI) held a webinar in February 2023 to review the status of the cultivated meat industry and examine recent advances in the US.  

The discussion was timely because cultivated meat is reaching some critical milestones. Companies are moving from the lab to the bioreactor stage, attracting serious investment, and gaining approval from national authorities. Cultivated meat took a major step forward in November 2022 when US company Upside Foods got approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA)that its cultivated chicken breast is safe for human consumption. Upside still needs the go-ahead from US Department of Food Safety and Inspection Service, but the company says it is hoping to bring products to restaurants by 2023 and to supermarkets by 2028. Other companies are seeking FDA approval. California-based Good Meat has an application pending. And Two others, Netherlands-based Mosa Meat and Israel-based Believer Meats are in discussions with the agency. This follows Good Meat getting the go-ahead for the commercial sale of two of its cultivated chicken products in Singapore.  

There are reported to be around 90 companies working in the cultivated meat space and some are investing heavily in manufacturing. In Wilson, North Carolina, the world’s largest cultivated meat factory is being built by Israeli start-up Believer Meats. It will be capable of producing 10,000 tonnes of meat a year. UK Ivy Farms is planning a factory capable of producing at least 12,000 tonnes of cultivated meat. It already runs an R&D facility that can produce three tonnes per year. And in Australia Vow has unveiled a factory capable of producing 30 tonnes per year, ahead of regulatory approval.  

Investment into the sector has also grown significantly. In November 2022 Research and Markets reported that $1 billion was invested during the past 12 months. In 2020 more than $360 million was invested, six times more than in 2019. Investors include big meat companies like Tyson Foods, JBS and Cargills.  Investment has also come from wealthy individuals such as Bill Gates and Richard Branson. 

Emma Ignaszewski is the Associate Director of Industry Intelligence and Initiatives at GFI. At the recent GFI webinar on cultivated meat, she explained: “All of the largest six meat companies are involved in cultivated meat – either through acquiring companies, investing in companies, or starting their own range. JBS the largest meat company in the world has acquired a cultivated meat company and has announced the establishment of an R&D centre, saying it intends to bring cultivated meat to market by 2024.”  

 Much has been made of the “yuck factor” as a barrier to consumer acceptance. Despite the argument that a bioreactor process is less messy than conventional meat production, there is a worry that consumers will be squeamish about this except this unconventionally produced food. However, research commissioned by the GFI in December 2022 suggests these fears may be unfounded. The survey of over 1000 adults found that after the technology was explained, support for cultivated meat increased. This suggests consumer education will be very important for uptake. The aspect of cultivated meat that most appealed to consumers was the health advantage – the lack of hormones, steroids, antibiotics, and lower risk of foodborne illnesses and zoonotic diseases. 45% said they would try cultivated meat and 20% said they would buy it, which is a very promising result for something they have not seen or tasted.  

 Emma Ignaszewskitold the webinar that one exciting aspect is the potential for hybrid products. One of the main barriers to consumers eating more plant-based food today is the sensory gap – that meat substitutes don’t match the tastes and textures that they are used to. Mixing cultivated meat with other plant proteins is a chance to improve the experience for consumers. “While we are in the early stage there is a chance to experiment. For example, a company could mix cultivated protein with plant-based fat. There will be products with the taste and texture of meat but the health benefits of plant-based products. Some companies have already announced products in that vein.”  

One barrier to getting accepted by vegan, vegetarian and ethical consumers, has been the use of Foetal Bovine Serum (FBS). This used to be considered necessary for turning stem cells into muscle. However, in January 2022 Mosa Meat announced that it had replaced FBS with a non-animal substitute.  

Faraz Harsini MSc PhD is a bioprocessing senior scientist at the GFI, and an expert on scaling up the cultivated meat industry. He is also the CEO of the non-profit Allied Scholars for Animal Protection. In the GFI webinar, he explained: “The supply for FBS is very limited globally and using FBS is a huge problem. It is in everyone’s interest to come up with an alternative. We don’t have a lot of information about what cultivated meat companies are using but we know that most now use substitutes.”  

In answer to the ethical question of whether cultivated meat is vegan, Faraz Harsini told Pulse that its development will undoubtedly lead to less suffering for billions of non-human animals: “Veganism is reducing the harm caused to animals. If cultivated meat reduces the demand for billions of pounds of animal flesh, then it is surely beneficial to the animals who weren’t forced to be born and later killed for their flesh. 

Cultivated meat research and technology also have a magnificent potential for replacing other animal products commonly used in pharmaceutical companies and biomedical research. This includes replacing FBS or advancing the tissue engineering field to replace animal testing.  

Is it vegan in the sense that no one was harmed in its making? The original sample still comes from an animal. But it is possible to take it from the tip of a feather or a small biopsy or blood sample. Once a cell line is established, there will be no need to go back to the animal. All further cultivated meat production will start from cells grown in culture and frozen in cell banks. The harm and inconvenience for the animals involved is far less than for animals harmed or displaced in agricultural practices. 

If the criteria is “absolutely no harm caused to anyone or anything”, then no one is really vegan, because we’re always causing harm knowingly or not to some level. But if the criteria is minimizing harm to non-human animals as much as possible and practical, then on that metric, cultivated meat would spare the lives of billions of non-human animals and will facilitate our transition from here to a world where animals are no longer raised, harmed, and killed for food!” 

Faraz Harsini is optimistic about the ability of the sector to reach the market in the next few years at a price that consumers will accept: “While there are degrees of uncertainty, we expect that by the end of this decade, cultivated meat can reach price parity, at least with luxury products. To enable scaling up and making cultivated meat as cheap as possible it will be crucial to develop better bioreactors. There is a huge opportunity for start-ups to build bioreactors specifically for cultivated meat.”  

What’s Hot in Plant-Based? Natural Products Expo West 2023 Has Clues

With thousands of exhibitors across the natural products space and tens of thousands of visitors, the annual Natural Products Expo West, better known simply as Expo West, is among the top must-see shows in the industry. This year’s event, held in Anaheim, CA, March 8-11, was buzzing with energy and new product activity. Here are key plant-based product subcategories to keep an eye on:

  • Whole muscle meat alternatives have been the holy grail for the industry, which to date focused primarily on plant-based ground products. Canada-based Urbani Brands recently introduced its ribeye steak product manufactured from a combination of soybean protein and oil, tapioca, konjac root, and other ingredients. At Expo West, Konscious Foods featured a variety of sushi rolls with whole-muscle fish produced from seaweed, konjac, and pea protein. Current Foods tuna and salmon products are created from pea protein, potato starch, and algal oil and are designed to be consumed “raw” in sushi, sashimi, poke bowls, and other applications. unMEAT offers plant-based canned luncheon meat and tuna and is introducing canned chunk chicken, chilli with beans, and roast beef alternatives.
  • The battle of the burgers continues. Despite a highly saturated marketplace, plant-based burger brands continue to emerge and differentiate themselves from the competition. Nobull brands itself as the “true veggie burger” that is “not meant to be a meat imitator, but a true, whole-food, real food veggie burger” made from lentils, brown rice, quinoa, chickpeas, and vegetables. The ingredient list for burgers from Dr. Praeger’s is almost entirely vegetables, along with starches and flours for binding. Actual Veggies and Big Mountain also focus on their vegetable content rather than trying to recreate a meat-like burger.
  • Global plant-based products offer cultural diversity in authentic recreations of traditional dishes. Triton Algae Innovations, a San Diego-based food startup, launched its “Too Good To Be” Pork dumpling with algae, cabbage, onion, and plant-based pork. Funky Fresh offers a sweet potato and black bean vegan spring roll in addition to its conventional product line. Italy-based Mia Green Food produces a line of Italian-style plant-based deli slices, including protein-rich alternatives to turkey breast, carpaccio, pepperoni, and prosciutto. Wheat gluten is the primary protein; pea and chickpea flour may also be used depending on the variety. Mozzarisella creates its vegan mozzarella and Parmesan cheese alternatives using brown rice sprouts, along with oils and thickeners. Somos has a full line of plant-based classic Mexican dishes – refried beans, black beans, burrito bowl kits, and main dishes. Pea protein is widely used to the brand’s dishes containing plant-based ground meat.
  • Dairy alternative drinks are coming closer to replicating the protein and calcium profile of dairy milk by adding protein and calcium to a base that tends to be low in both. Oat continues to stand out as the most prominent base for dairy alternative drinks, although choices have broadened to include pistachio, macadamia, sesame, and the newly introduced mushroom milk. Animal-free milks made with whey from Perfect Day are trying to win over a consumer base among flexitarians who are interested in dairy alternatives and animal welfare but are not necessarily committed to a vegan diet.
  • Next generation cheeses are incorporating traditional cheesemaking techniques to recreate the texture, flavor, and performance of dairy cheeses. Climax introduced vegan blue, brie, feta, and chevre cheeses that are “high in protein, at parity with dairy, and with better fats and other nutritional properties.” The company website notes that it explores combinations of plant-based ingredients that can be optimized to “produce indistinguishable alternatives to animal-based products.” Mia Parmegan plant-based Parmesan is similar in appearance to a wrapped Parmigiano wedge, can be grated, and also melts. Bel Brands featured its Nurishh plant-based cheeses and its green wax-wrapped Babybel Plant-Based, each with added calcium and vitamin B12.
  • The keto diet is a variation on the age-old meat-rich, high fat, high protein, low carbohydrate diet. This current iteration has fully adapted for the plant-centric consumer, with plenty of nuts, coconut, and non-caloric sweeteners. Super Fat Keto Nut Butters are made with a base of coconut, almond, and macadamia; they are sweetened with erythritol and stevia. Super Fat also offers keto cookies. Madly Hadley markets a keto friendly, gluten free, soy free plant-based coconut bacon. Carbonaut breads and buns are fortified with protein and fiber, raising protein content to up to 12 grams per serving and lowering carbohydrates to 2-3 grams of net carbs. Sola breads, buns and bagels, all labeled keto-friendly, are an excellent source of both protein and fiber. Their high fiber content reduces net carbs significantly. Keto-friendly Catalina Crunch Cereal gets its protein from pea protein; fiber from potato, corn, and chicory root; and fat from sunflower oil, coconut oil, and almonds. Stevia provides sweetness without carbs or calories.
  • Noodles and pasta naturally are plant-based, unless they are made with eggs. Today’s plant-based pasta trends include a broader range of flours, use of vegetables for color and nutrition, and low carbohydrate options. Pastabilities formulates and markets its pasta products for different types of diets: high protein, high fiber, and low calorie. The Wildfare line of organic, vegan pastas are flavored and colored with a range of vegetables, including beetroot, broccoli, olive, sweet red pepper, tomato, spinach, and black carrot. Andean Valley produces pasta from quinoa grown sustainably in Nicaragua. Miracle Noodle plant-based noodles have close to zero calories and carbohydrates as a result of their konjac flour base.
  • Mushrooms loom large in product launches. Functional mushrooms have been added to supplements, beverages, and food products. The company Meati uses mushroom root protein as the base for its product line of cutlets and steaks. Big Mountain offers its Lion’s Mane Mushroom Crumble that supplements lion’s mane with shiitake and portobello mushrooms. The product is high in fiber and protein. Bravo Tea promotes a Mushroom Wonders line with a choice of lion’s mane, reishi, turkey tail, chaga, maitake, cordyceps, or blended mushroom.
  • Soy-free products are becoming more common across a broad range of categories, including burgers, dairy alternative drinks, snack mixes, and even tofu, where one company sampled a tofu made from fava beans rather than soy.

Expo West is nearly back to its pre-pandemic energy and innovation and likely will continue to be among the go-to shows for plant-based innovation.

SPG Innovation: Shaping The Future of Plant-Based

SPG Innovation is a food tech company creating, scaling and marketing new foods. They have food grade research and development facilities and a focus on sustainable nutrition. They help start-ups make prototypes and scale up and enable bigger well-established companies to add innovations to their ranges. They support clients with navigating regulations, including writing novel food dossiers. They also offer grant writing and project management services. The team of food scientists and chefs work on various projects, some funded by Innovate UK and some privately financed.  

The start-up, based in Nottingham, UK, is the brainchild of chemist Dr Sarah Gaunt. She explains: “We want to create food that is healthy for humans and the planet. For example, we’ve recently worked with clients on re-using waste streams, reducing salt, sugars and fats, avoiding mono crops and using locally grown ingredients.” 

Sarah Gaunt works with business partner Rebecca McDowell, who has a background in chemistry, and with their team advises on a whole range of issues of relevance to plant-based food companies. The team are passionate about waste reduction. For example, they have researched into how bean hulls, a by-product of pea processing, can be returned to the food chain. They also use bacteria to ferment bread waste to make a new probiotic yogurt drink.  

In addition to serving the food industry, the founders have started a new plant-based food enterprise of their own. They have formed a separate spin-off company called Rootiful to produce and sell new foods. One product in development is a textured vegetable protein (TVP) that uses by-products from UK-grown ingredients. They also have something ready for market: New-fu, a tofu-like ingredient made from British-grown beans and pulses rather than soy. New-fu comes in three varieties: Tikka Lentil, Siracha Quinoa and BBQ Pea. New-fu was launched at Plant Based World Expo in London in November 2022. Their aim is to sell New-fu via food service and retail.   

Rebecca McDowell explains the idea behind Rootiful: It came about through a collaboration with the University of Leeds and Baker Perkins Ltd. Our market research identified key opportunities in the plant-based food market: firstly, a need to reduce dependency on the overseas imported protein isolates that are used in most plant-based products on the shelves, contributing to air miles and supply chain fragility; secondly, retailer shelves are full of products pretending to be meat, but lack diversity. Rootiful has developed a consumer range that uses local ingredients to create innovative centre-plate options that celebrate vegetables for what they are, rather than mimicking meat.”  

She adds that the New-fu launch at Plant Based World Expo was a catalyst for getting the product market-ready: “Our team pulled out all the stops to make this possible, and we received some amazing feedback from the event that motivated us to progress further.” The team are now sending out samples to retailers and foodservice. They are talking to universities, schools, leisure centres and restaurants about doing trials: “We’re starting to gather momentum. Everyone who’s tasted it was very positive and liked the concept and the price.”   

The company’s long-term goal is to be a leader in the plant-based sector and to shape its future. Sarah Gaunt is motivated by the desire to support the protein shift from meat to plants. “There are problems that we can sort out. We can’t just keep replicating meat, as the market is flooded with replacements to a point where we need new technologies and innovations and some radical thinking about what goes on our plates. We can support that concept generation. As the sector grows, there are also questions around ingredients, such as why are we importing ingredients and not using more locally grown crops? How can we texturise vegetable protein and make it interesting to eat without extrusion? Extrusion takes a lot of energy, needs protein isolates, and only works at scale. How do we reduce the ingredient list and make healthier, less processed products? These are things we’ve been working on. And we’ve got quite a lot of expertise around those issues.” 

Precision Fermentation Alliance – Championing a Resilient and Sustainable Food System

Nine precision fermentation companies have united to form the Precision Fermentation Alliance (PFA). A new trade group to champion the process as a reliable and sustainable food system. The founding companies (Change Foods, The EVERY Co, Helaina, Imagindairy, Motif FoodWorks, New Culture, Onego Bio, Perfect Day, and Remilk) say it will be an industry voice and global association for the sector. 

Irina Gerry
Irina Gerry CMO at Change Foods and Vice Chair of the PFA.

Irina Gerry is Chief Marketing Officer at Change Foods and is Vice Chair of the PFA. She told Plant Based World Pulse that setting up an alliance was an obvious and necessary step: “We decided we need to join forces because we’re all commercialising similar applications of this technology. We have a lot of work to do presenting it to consumers, retailers, manufacturers, and regulators. We feel this is very much needed.”   

The idea of a joined-up approach is not new. The main precision fermentation companies have been discussing the need for a common nomenclature, description, and approach to regulation for several years. Irina Gerry explains: “We knew we needed to join forces. The only question was how quickly could we organise something. We have start-ups in different parts of the world with different worldviews, but ultimately, we are one industry and category. As sector leaders, we are engaged in a revolutionary development, and we need to be upfront and lead the conversation.”  

Precision fermentation offers a brand new consumer benefit – the experience and nutrition of animal products made without animals. The PFA recognises the need to communicate overtly, explain how it works, and answer questions. They also need to communicate to consumers with allergies, such as milk or egg proteins, about the potential for allergic reactions, given that the proteins made via precision fermentation are molecularly identical to those from animals. 

The PFA is envisaged as an accelerator that can help reduce barriers to market category entry. Irina Gerry explains: “A lot of developments are happening. Many companies, whether start-ups, large companies, or ingredient manufacturers, want to commercialise this technology, but we need regulatory pathways, investment, and a common language. Failing to sort those could slow down progress to market and consumer adoption. The PFA can prepare the road and give companies a smoother path, so they don’t have to tackle everything independently.”  

The PFA has identified three key pillars with work streams for these key priority areas. The first of these is marketing and communications. Irina Gerry says: “We need the basics: What do you call it? How do we label it? We need to be clear and upfront with consumers about what it is and isn’t.  Retailers need to know where it goes in the store. Manufacturers need to know what to tell consumers. It is a massive undertaking, starting with the basics of what we call it and how we position the category to the industry and consumers.”  

The second pillar is regulatory. Irina Gerry continues: “Food is regulated, so we must follow the requirements within each market. We want to ensure that companies commercialising these ingredients follow the regulations and that the regulators understand the technology. So we need to engage with regulators in different territories and ensure that we are as cohesive as possible.”  

The third pillar is advocacy and policy – engaging with policymakers and government institutions to reinforce the technology’s environmental benefits.  Irina Gerry adds:   “When you think about the huge transformation we need in our food system, many governments see it as a major contributor to climate change. One of the ways to address the problem is to scale this technology which is much more sustainable. But we’re competing with animal agriculture, that’s very well developed. There’s almost no infrastructure for precision fermentation. It hasn’t been used at the scale that we need it to be. So there is a tremendous role for government institutions in building infrastructure and for us in promoting policies. Individual companies can only do so much. The PFA can be a unified voice to help bring this forward with policymakers.”  

The PFA is actively recruiting new members. They are finalising their membership structure with tiers for different types of organisations, including companies and NGOs. Irina Gerry concludes: “We absolutely want to collaborate with companies across the food ecosystem, including plant-based brands. Some might end up using ingredients made via precision fermentation to boost nutritional value or functionality. Impossible Burger is a perfect example of such fusion. It is a predominantly plant-based product that uses heme made via precision fermentation to give it a meaty flavour and colour. Today, I would not characterize products made with precision fermentation proteins as plant-based, given the allergen considerations and consumer understanding of what plant-based means. They’re not the same as plant-based because they contain molecularly identical animal proteins or fats. But they’re made without animals. So it’s a new category.” 

Brand Stories: Palm Oil Replacement Made From Potato Peelings

What if instead of palm oil, a multi-purpose food-safe oil could be made from food waste like potato peelings from the crisp industry? That is precisely what UK start-up Sun Bear Bioworks is doing right now.

The company uses precision fermentation to produce an alternative oil. It has the potential for all the same applications as palm oil: food, cosmetics, and biofuels. The company is motivated by the need to cut the environmental impact of palm oil and the commercial opportunities that a replacement would bring. 

They have just achieved funding of £500,000 from Unruly Capital with backing from Tiny VC and Plug and Play. The money will be used for scaling the lab team and developing more strategic partnerships to validate the viability of the oil, which is produced using yeast. 

The company is named after the sun bear, the world’s smallest bear, which is critically endangered. Due largely to palm oil plantations, fewer than 1000 sun bears are left in the wild. CEO Ben Wilding explains: “We wanted a name that keeps us laser-focused on why we are doing this. 90% of palm oil is produced in Malaysia and Indonesia which has led to deforestation in those regions. That has had a massive impact on biodiversity and wildlife including the sun bear. So every time we say the name, it jogs our memory as to why we’re here.”  

The team uses precision fermentation, the same process being trialled for plant-based dairy, to make the oil. Ben Wilding describes it as like brewing: “We use yeast that naturally produces tiny amounts of oil that closely resembles bleached, deodorised (RBD) palm oil. In palm oil production the fruit is milled and processed into a thick orange crude palm oil that is refined into RBD oil for use in different products. The magic that we bring to the table is that we perform gene editing on the yeast so it can make enough oil to make it commercially viable. We can add different feedstocks such as sugar or starch. We are currently researching potato peel and have partners in the potato industry including a crisp manufacturer. 25% of each potato is lost when put through an industrial peeler – so they have tonnes to spare.”  

The company comprises five staff – three founders and two junior research assistants, based at the Bio Innovation Hub in Oxford. The company has benefited from support and funding from the Carbon 13 accelerator programme. The scheme brought together 71 environmental innovators in Cambridge who spent six weeks discussing ideas and opportunities. Ben Wilding recalls: “At the teambuilding stage I met the other founders Ben Williams and Laura van Marrewijk.  We were really excited about precision fermentation and spent two months developing a business idea and pitching it to Carbon 13. We founded the company officially in 2022. We were chosen to receive an investment of £120,000 from Carbon 13. We have also won five other grants which have created an extra £120,000. We are excited to now have £500,000 to take our business to the next stage.” 

Sun Bear Bioworks has made small quantities in the lab and expects to scale up to produce 50-litre batches by summer 2023. It will then take a couple of years to get a license to sell to consumers. Cosmetics has a lower barrier to entry so might be a starting point although the main goal is food as that is where 70% of palm oil is used. Globally Singapore, Israel and the US are progressive in terms of food innovation and might offer quicker entry to the market. There has been a lot of interest from food producers including big global manufacturers with production facilities. Sun Bear Bioworks is particularly keen to work with plant-based meat companies. Ben Wilding adds: “We see them as ideal partners because many benefit from the functional qualities of palm oil but avoid it because their customers won’t accept it for environmental reasons. So they have a problem that we can solve. They can find us at”  

Palm oil is a $70 billion industry and is expected to grow to $100 billion by 2030. The oil has been used in food and cosmetics since the 1970s and since then, annual global production has grown from 2 million tonnes to 70 million tonnes. There are solid reasons why it is a ubiquitous ingredient. Cost is a big factor but also qualities that give it an edge over other oils. Ben Wilding points out: “As a commodity, it has the highest yield of any edible oil. To produce any other type, you need between five and seven times more land. Olive oil uses a lot more land and a lot more water. Another benefit is that it is odourless and tasteless, so it works well behind the scenes as a functional ingredient. It is semi-solid, which means it doesn’t melt at room temperature and can be used in margarine, for frying and in salad dressings. Palm oil is used in over 200 derivative products so for us to have an impact on the environment we need a replacement capable of making those derivatives.”  

Palm oil production comes at a heavy price, with the destruction of tropical rainforests and the species that inhabit them. The palm oil industry produces over 500 million tonnes of carbon annually. Sun Bear Bioworks estimates their process at scale would enable an 80% reduction in carbon impact on the environment than palm oil production. In December 2022 the EU created a new law banning products connected with deforestation. So companies like Sun Bear Bioworks, that address the urgent need for an alternative to palm oil, are more important than ever.