- Nestlé is working with Future Meat Technologies to explore the potential of cell-based meat, the Switzerland-based food company announced. Future Meat Technologies is based in Israel and its first plant went into operation last month.
- In a written statement, Nestlé said it is evaluating technologies to produce cultured meat, which can lead to more environmentally friendly products. Bloomberg reported that people familiar with the food company’s deliberations said Nestlé is working with Future Meat to develop alternative meat products that blend plant-based ingredients and cell-based meat.
- While many startups are focusing on developing cell-based meat, this is the first outright partnership between a major traditional food manufacturer and a cell-based company. Only one company has received regulatory approval to serve cultured meat to consumers — Eat Just’s Good Meat cultured chicken in Singapore. Other countries, including the U.S., are expected to have a regulatory framework in place in the next couple of years.
In the last year, cell-based meat has gone from a concept to a reality. And now, with the interest of the world’s largest food company, it could more quickly go onto consumers’ plates.
“For many years we have been investing in our protein expertise and the development of proprietary technologies for plant-based meat alternatives, allowing us to continuously expand our wide range of tasty and nutritious products with a lower environmental impact,” Reinhard Behringer, head of the Nestlé Institute of Material Sciences at Nestlé Research, said in a written statement. “To complement these efforts, we’re also exploring technologies that could lead to animal-friendly alternatives that are nutritious, sustainable, and close to meat in terms of taste, flavor, and texture. We are excited to understand their potential.”
Neither Nestlé nor Future Meat Technologies responded to emailed questions looking for more details on the partnership between the two companies, including whether there is a financial component.
Future Meat Technologies is a good partner for Nestlé in this respect. Not only does the company now have a manufacturing facility, which is capable of making 500 kilograms of cultured meat a day — the equivalent of 5,000 hamburgers — but it’s also made strides in price parity and process. In February, the company announced it had gotten the price of a cultured chicken breast down to about $7.50 — a huge drop from the roughly $325,000 it cost for the first cell-based hamburger made by Mosa Meat in 2013. Future Meat founder and Chief Scientific Officer Yaakov Nahmias has previously said that the company is already working with U.S. regulators, clearing a path once there is a complete regulatory framework in place.
While Future Meat has been charging forward with the technology and innovation for cell-based meat, it has not had a definitive partnership to help bring it to market. Nahmias has previously said this is precisely what he wants. In a 2019 interview, he said his goal was to become a contract manager for major meat producers — “to be the biggest company you’ve never heard of.”
From what is known about this agreement, it doesn’t quite go that far yet, and seems to be solely positioned to educate Nestlé. However, if the two companies can create a marketable product and Future Meat gets regulatory approval for its cell-based meat, it seems likely that Nestlé will want to bring it to market.
Bruce Friedrich, founder and president of alternative proteins industry group The Good Food Institute, said in an emailed statement that this agreement could be transformative for cultured meat.
“When Nestlé talks, the worldwide food industry listens,” Friedrich said. “For Nestlé to see the potential of cultivating real animal meat directly from cells would be a game changer for the industry.”
Looking at past investment rounds for cell-based meat companies shows that Big Food has been throwing its support behind this type of food tech for years. Future Meat Technologies’ investors have included Tyson Foods, Archer Daniels Midland, Rich Products Corp., German dairy producer Müller Group and Monde Nissin CEO Henry Soesanto.
Following the news of Nestlé’s partnership with Future Meat Technologies, Israel’s MeaTech 3D announced a nonbinding letter of intent to work on joint development of products with Israeli meat producer and grocery store Tiv Ta’am. The companies are working toward a binding agreement, which is likely to include cooperation on research, establishing a production facility for cultivated meat products, and granting distribution and marketing rights to Tiv Ta’am in Israel and potentially elsewhere.
Depending on the terms of Future Meat’s partnership with Nestlé, this could be another boon to a well-funded and respected company in the cell-based meat space, or it could be a guaranteed ticket to mass production and distribution through a trusted manufacturer.