With rising global demand for food tech, Israel’s foremost cultured meat player rebrands

  (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

In recent years, global health crises and geopolitical conflicts have posed enormous challenges to food supply chains, causing food shortages and motivating governments to strengthen food security through alternative approaches to production. 

The climate crisis has also affected access to nutritious, affordable food for billions of people, particularly in countries that rely heavily on food imports. These challenges continue to fuel interest and investment in food tech as we witness the steady growth of the industry. 

The rise of alternative proteins — by the numbers 

Alternative protein is one of the most promising sectors in food tech positioned to combat climate change and enhance food security. Countries all over the world are racing to develop alternative protein sources, a primary food component of the future of food. 

According to Research & Markets, the global alternative protein market is expected to reach $36.61 billion by 2029, growing at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.4% during the forecast period. This industry includes plant-based protein products, cellular agriculture (also commonly known as animal cell cultivation) and a burgeoning hybrid meat substitute market.

Israelis lead in investments in plant-based, the lion’s share of alt-protein 

The plant-based alternative protein market is particularly strong in Israel, a country with over 200 startups and other companies innovating in food tech and advanced academic research. And Israel has a distinct advantage in commercializing its technology. 

According to a report published in March by the Good Food Institute Israel, Israeli companies are leading the world in investments in plant-based alternative proteins, having raised $623 million in 2021, a 450% increase from $114 million in 2020. $320 million in funds were poured into Israeli startups developing plant-based food products in the first half of 2022 (H1 2022), representing a 160% increase from 2021. Israel ranks second when it comes to alternative protein investments as a whole, second only to the United States. 

With a value of $7.4 billion in 2021 (GFI), the plant-based protein market is estimated to account for the largest share of the global alternative protein market and is projected to continue its domination in the short term.

Steakholder™ Foods (Nasdaq: STKH), Israel’s foremost food-tech player

The recently rebranded developer (formerly MeaTech 3D: $MITC) of 3D-bioprinted whole cuts of meat grown from animal stem cells, is a key player in an effort to move meat manufacturing away from farms and slaughterhouses. As the world’s first Nasdaq-listed cultured meat company, Steakholder Foods is using its fresh name and brand message to invite investors and future consumers to participate in what they are calling the cultured meat “movement” in a sector that is still by and large occupied by privately run companies.  

Fulfilling the “promise” of the cultured meat industry

Steakholder Foods’ stated mission is “to make real meat sustainable” and also harmless to animals. The promise of the cultured meat industry is well documented as a potential solution for mitigating the meat industry's negative impact on terrestrial and marine ecosystems, reducing greenhouse gases, conserving precious freshwater resources maxed out primarily by livestock farming, and strengthening global food security. Through a vision of the localized manufacturing of cultured meat, the company hopes to develop technology and infrastructure that will allow countries to increase their food independence and provide billions of people globally with easier and safer access to nutritious sources of animal protein.

Steakholder Food’s product strategy and rough timeline for commercialization

Much of the Steakholder’s product strategy is focused around its proprietary 3D bioprinting technology which the company states has the capability to produce “structured” of meat (i.e., whole cuts) at an industrial rate of scale with pinpoint accuracy. According to the company, they are still at least two to three years away from launching whole-cut products to the market. But with a 2020 strategic acquisition of a Belgian developer of cultured avian biomass, Steakholder Foods seems to have found a quicker path to commercialization – pending regulatory approvals – with plans to produce hybrid meat substitute products that will combine cultured meat biomass ingredients with plant- and fungi-based ingredients through collaborative initiatives. 

The company’s Belgian subsidiary, Peace of Meat, made significant progress in 2021 with an unprecedented 700-gram production run of pure chicken fat biomass. Construction of a cultured avian pilot plant in Belgium is slated for 2023. Steakholder Foods has also initiated a presence in the US market to expand its activities in research and development, investor relations, and business development. 

Could cultured meat become king of the alt-protein castle?

There is growing alarm about the impact of the conventional meat industry on climate change, agricultural and freshwater resources, and terrestrial and marine ecosystems. This increased awareness has helped drive the rapid growth of the alternative protein industry which today is primarily made up of plant-based meat substitutes. While this aspect of the sector will continue to play a key role in the rise of alt-protein over the next 10 years, the demand for real meat could largely push aside plant-based imitators in favor of cultured meat. And with the technological capabilities to scale cultured meat production already in hand, a company like Steakholder Foods seems to have a clear competitive edge in the race to put sustainable meat on the plate.    

This article was written in cooperation with PESG Research Group