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Overview and Evolution
The popularity of alternative meat products from Beyond Meat (NASDAQ: BYND) and others, as well as early regulatory permission for some cultured meat products, has sparked a flurry of investment in this nascent business.
Despite this enthusiasm, the business is still in its early stages and is mostly pre-revenue, with a number of growth obstacles ahead, including the need for clear legal frameworks, more economically viable products, and scalable technologies. As the traditional cattle industry tries to defend its market share from produced protein sources, providers will almost certainly encounter greater lobbying attempts.
Even while widespread adoption may be several years away, improving consumer sentiment, together with increased demand for more sustainable food choices, will undoubtedly boost investment in grown protein products.
The key industry drivers for alternative meat products industry
· Antibiotics and hormones-free: Industrial farming conditions can be unsanitary, resulting in sick animals who are frequently treated with antibiotics. Hormone injections can also help to promote muscular growth or, in the case of dairy, milk production. These therapies may have an impact on human health, such as the transmission of animal hormones to people or the development of antibiotic-resistant bacterium strains. Cultivated proteins are made in sterile conditions without the use of antibiotics or hormone therapies.
· Free of zoonotic diseases: Zoonotic diseases, such as COVID-19, can be transferred to humans through animal meat intake. Because it is produced in a controlled, sterile setting, cultivated beef is deemed safe from this risk.
· Ability to design and change nutrient profiles: Cultured meat manufacturers can change inputs to generate products with better nutritional value, such as proteins, amino acid composition, vitamins, and minerals.
· Food security: Cultivated proteins offer a potentially large new food source that isn’t constrained by livestock’s significant land, water, and food requirements. This is especially essential in light of expected worldwide population growth and corresponding food demand.
· Environmental advantages: Some people believe that produced protein is a better option for the environment than conventional animal production. According to a 2011 study conducted by the University of Oxford and the University of Amsterdam, cultured meat may be produced with only 4% of the greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and 2% of the area required for conventional meat production, while requiring 45 percent less energy. 16 Critics have noted, however, that the energy required to create grown meat may originate from fossil fuels, resulting in worse environmental repercussions than animal agriculture in some ways.
• Ethical ramifications: Some consumers, such as vegans, avoid eating meat because of animal welfare concerns. Because no animals are injured in the manufacturing of cultivated meat, it is considered an ethical advance.
The environmental and ethical advantages of cultivated meat are based on a one-to-one substitution for traditional meat. On the other hand, a single cow can provide hundreds of distinct products. For example, if cultured beef totally replaced conventional ground beef, demand for steak, leather, gelatin, and steric acid would remain unchanged, meaning that cattle demand would remain steady, albeit ground beef demand might shift to new markets.
Competitive Landscape and Market Mapping
Investors’ Trust Growing with Market
Compared to the initial years when alternative meat was first introduced to recent years, the market has witnessed steady growth in VC funding from a single $25 Mn deal in 2012 to a total of $303 Mn invested across over 30 deals in 2020. While the annual deal count has nearly tripled in 2018, the average deal size decreased. However, it is expected that the fundings will increase in tandem with the growth in the industry. The first five months of 2021 have seen a surge in investment with over $772 Mn recorded. With this pace, it is expected that the funding activity will triple this year, as compared to 2020.
Investment trends suggest that the cultivated protein providers have received the largest share of VC funding. Those among the top recipients include UPSIDE Foods, Eat Just, and Modern Meadow. Each of them have received more than $100 Mn funding, individually. Besides receiving funds from VCs, cultivated meat producers have also started to gain trust of investors like impact investors such as AiiM Partners, impact angel investors including Richard Branson, and even large corporations such as Cargill, Tyson, etc. These large companies have started to realise the importance of the alternative meat and are engaging through strategic investments.
How are Incumbents Reacting to the New Alternative Meat Market?
Combining the benefits of plant-based proteins along with cultivated proteins have proven to have cost and scale efficiencies, without leaving a significant impact on nature. Apart from health benefits like low cholesterol and with a taste similar to real meat, the alternative meat sales reached over $1.4 Bn in 2020. This growth in demand justifies why the existing food companies are venturing into this domain.
Based on location, Singapore is emerging as a hub for cultivated meat and is attracting many companies primarily due to ease of access to funds and required talent, attractive regulatory environment and significant market opportunities in South-East Asia. Companies like Avant Meats, Shiok Meats, Aleph Farms, etc. are considering to set up production units in Singapore.
Challenges Faced by the Culture Protein Production
The alternative meat market is yet to realise its full potential. Despite its wide range of benefits, there are certain roadblocks that are restricting the fast growth of the market. The Cultured protein market has three stages of production — developmental scale, pilot sale, and commercial scale. Most companies are yet to access the commercial scale. Once it is able to attain commercialization scale, plant-based meat will be available at a cheaper price compared to traditional options. It is estimated that cultured protein would be 5x cheaper by the start of next decade.
Currently, these options are not widely available to the customers and still require further advances in R&D processes to ensure the growth of the sector. Food Tech startups are continuously evolving to generate cost-efficient alternative meat. It requires huge amounts of investments and specialised workforce to experiment with different techniques from the use of AI, to bioprocessing and 3D bioprinting. This can be taken care of through greater funding from investors. The median funding for early stage VC rounds in cultivated meat startups have gone up from $4 Mn to $9.5 Mn in the last three years. Companies are trying their best to make the alternative meat very close to the traditional meat in taste and texture so that they are able to fully replace the animal meat in the coming years.
A Nascent Industry with Great Potential
Environmental concerns with the regular meat industry, change in food preferences, health benefits, cost efficiencies are some reasons that are facilitating the growth of the alternative meat market. It is estimated that the market for cultivated food, including meat, seafood, dairy, eggs, etc., would reach close to $18 Bn by the year 2035, with a consumption of about 6 million metric tons. While this may be just 1% of the total protein consumption in the future, the market may witness high growth.
Currently, a huge part of the alternative protein production goes into research and development. However, as the market enters commercialisation scale, costs will come down. Studies suggest that by 2035, cell-based and plant-based meat alternatives will be 10x cheaper than the traditional animal products, and will allow families to save over $1200 in food costs. It is also expected that by next decade, companies’ revenue will also increase 100x for plant-based meat.
Although the overall consumption of plant-based meat is currently very less, the market shows no sign of slowing down. The sector is still in its nascent stage and companies can gain from grabbing the opportunities early, which would be possible only through sufficient funding support from investors.
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