Opo Bio lays claim to the title of being New Zealand’s first cultivated meat firm, and its first major area of focus is in bovine muscle cells that can be developed into cultivated beef products.
“There are quite a few cultivated meat companies in the market today and the general practice is for everyone to develop their own cell lines in house because they have to as there are no commercial options available to them,” Opo Bio CEO Dr Olivia Ogilvie told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“It might not be their first choice to have to do this as they just haven’t had that option before – now we are offering them this option to be able to outsource this part of the developmental process and get the value from high quality cell lines, so that they do not need to go through that resource-intensive and technically challenging process from scratch.
“Over the next two to three years, as the industry grows there will definitely be a necessity for a more developed supply chain to facilitate scaling up, and it is also not financially feasible for every company to make everything in-house, so with our products we can allow them to focus on the product innovation and commercialisation parts of growth rather than spend time on tasks like isolating cells.”
In the short term the firm’s cell lines have obvious applications for use by researchers in this field, selling these to universities and other relevant companies, but the long-term goal is very much to work with food manufacturing companies.
“Working with the food industry is the medium to long term goal, and in this regard New Zealand beef has always had a good reputation in terms of the ethics, the health status, the risk assessments and various other standards,” said Dr Ogilvie.
“This is also one of the reasons we started with a focus on beef, but moving forward we are also looking at other animal cell lines that New Zealand is strong in, such as sheep and deer.
“Beyond that, although we are not yet looking to diversify too quickly we are looking to a more international market, so eventually we do see ourselves evolving to develop products from more different geographies.”
Cultivated meat acceptance in NZ
Being the first company of its kind in the country, Opo Bio has sourced consumer feedback via the Massey University Feast (Food Experience and Sensory Testing) survey, and gathered that there is ‘no strong opposition’ to cultivated in New Zealand from consumers.
“Amongst the respondents some 50% knows what cultivated meat is, but interest in actually trying this depends a lot on their food preferences and protein consumption,” Dr Ogilvie said.
“Amongst consumers there is no strong opposition that we can see, but it is difficult to know the overall attitude as we don’t yet have positive responses from the farming and agricultural companies and stakeholders.
“When it comes to the meat companies, we have been positioning cultivated meat as an ‘and’ instead of an ‘or’ to traditional meat, as an option for consumers to choose if they like.
“The fact of the matter is that in the future as populations grow globally, there will be larger demands for protein and meat including from New Zealand with its great reputation – so why wouldn’t they want to be producing more options including products that have even better ethical and lower carbon footprint credentials attached to it.”