Rising tides: Avant eyes retail launch of cell-based fish maw and fillet by 2025 - CEO interview

By Guan Yu Lim contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Hong kong, Singapore, avant, Seafood, cultured meat

Hong Kong’s cultivated meat biotechnology firm Avant is aiming to produce its first cell-based fish maw and fillet products for consumption by late 2022, and wants products to be commonplace in supermarkets by 2025.

It first launched the cell-based fish maw prototype in 2019, and the cell-based fish fillet in 2020, and now hopes to manufacture these in a soon-to-be set up pilot plant in Singapore by late 2022.

Once it receives approval from Singapore’s regulatory body, the Singapore Food Agency (SFA), Avant will initially produce for foodservice first, and target the larger retail sector sometime in 2025.

Because pilot production volumes may not be sufficient to meet the demands of the fast-moving retail sector, its decision to launch into restaurants first allows the company to create awareness of its products and co-develop menus and recipes with its food service partners.

Carrie Chan, co-founder and CEO at Avant said the pilot plant will be producing premium fish maw, a culturally relevant food product in Asia, as well as fish fillet, which would cater to the Western cuisine.

The plan in Singapore is to build a 5L small scale bioreactor first, increasing to 100 to 200L by the end of this year, and eventually going up to 1000 or 2000L in the next two years.

Chan told FoodNavigator-Asia​ the plan is to move the downstream processes to Singapore. Hong Kong will continue to house its cell lines, culture medium and scaffold, and will also conduct early stages of product development.

Established in 2018, Avant has developed an end-to-end technology platform comprising cell line, culture medium, scaffolding, and bioprocess development to produce fish proteins directly from fish cells.

Watch the video to find out more.

Why Singapore

In Singapore, Avant is now setting up an R&D laboratory and pilot manufacturing facility with the support of the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB).

Singapore was an ideal location for Avant, for its ecosystem, talents and regulatory landscape, Chan cited.

She referred to the growing food technology industry and the government’s support for new concepts and research in this space including cell-based meat. 

Singapore has a ‘30 by 30’ national food security policy which targets to produce 30% of the nation’s nutritional needs locally by 2030.

Singapore is also the first and only country in the world to grant approval for the sales of cultured meat, specifically Eat Just’s cultured chicken​ last December.

These are the key drivers of our decision to set up in Singapore, where there is strong industry presence, infrastructure and talent pool with relevant experiences in bioprocesses​,” Chan said.

Asian markets

Chan said the approval to sell in food service is a first step, but whether it needs a different approval for retail products remains unknown.

“Generally, retail products may need more requirements on the manufacturing environment, processing environment, packaging and others. This will be quite standardised as with other consumer retail products in the market.”

Avant hopes that getting approval from Singapore will kickstart its mission to sell in the South East Asia, Hong Kong and China markets.

Fish maw is a delicacy popular in Chinese and South East Asian cuisines, so places like Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam are also in Avant’s sights.

The approval from Singapore would most likely allow the company to sell in Singapore and South East Asia, although it may not be the case for Hong Kong and China which has its own set of guidelines and regulations.

Other developments

Currently, Avant’s cell-based fish maw is made from tissues from croaker fish.

Chan said the team is working on expanding the product line to include different types of products and fish species including grouper and red snapper.

Asia Pacific dominates the global fish and seafood markets at US$60.5 billion in 2018 and Asia is projected to account for 71% of the additional fish consumed by 2028.

Besides producing proteins for food, Avant is exploring skin care and functional applications.

It has also developed a multifunctional protein powder which it hopes to commercialise for cosmetics use as early as 2022.

The ingredient branded as Zellulin​ is targeted for skin care and personal care applications in anti-ageing and even wound healing. The powder is obtained from the same cell line as its food prototypes.

In December 2020, Avant announced a US$3.1 million seed funding round participated by China Venture Capital, AngelHub, ParticleX, Lever VC, CPT Capital, Loyal VC, Artesian, 208 Seed Ventures and PTG Food.

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