Lessons learned: How can APAC cultivated meat sector avoid past alt protein ‘pitfalls’?

By Pearly Neo

- Last updated on GMT

How can APAC cultivated meat sector avoid past alt protein ‘pitfalls’?

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The cultivated meat industry in APAC needs to focus on localisation and realistic pricing strategies to avoid repeating past alternative protein ‘pitfalls’, says pioneer Aleph Farms.

Cultivated meat is one of the most advanced alternative protein production techniques being researched in the food industry today, and is expected to take roughly another decade before really coming into its own as an alternative to meat.

This time ‘advantage’ of sorts is only due to the complete novelty of this production method, and according to Aleph Farms’ Co-Founder and CEO Didier Toubia, stakeholders in the industry would do well to prioritise their strategies for product localisation and pricing in order to ensure the best chance of success.

“We really need to avoid the pitfalls of developing one size fits all products when it comes to food, especially in Asia,”​ Toubia told FoodNavigator-Asia​ in the most recent episode of the Food and Beverage Trailblazers podcast.

“I think a lot of American companies have actually had some pushback in this region with [alternative protein] products that were not adapted and adjusted to the local palate.

“The thing to remember is that food is really an emotional product, and needs to fit into not only local dishes and culinary styles, but also meet consumer preferences in terms of taste, flavour, texture, cooking properties and all of that, so without localising the products, it will be very difficult [to gain that local acceptance].”

There can be no doubt that cultivated meat walks a very thin line between being considered simply a new form of food technology and being considered an eventual long-term source of protein for the masses, but this is a distinction Toubia stressed that new companies must make sure to pay attention to.

“It would be a mistake to look at this as simply food tech and only to be developed from a technological angle,”​ he said.

“The fact is that this whole protein challenge and transition is not actually a technological challenge, and the goal is not just how to make more proteins more efficiently with less resources, it goes beyond that.

“What we need to do is to make sure that we develop the right products which fit into the food culture that consumers really connect with and want to eat, and fit into the culinary scene we are targeting – this cultural aspect of food tech sometimes tends to be overlooked and I feel that this needs to be to be reinforced in the industry.”

The other major consideration for cultivated meat remains pricing and costs, which are estimated to remain at or above premium prices even when the cultivated products are brought to market – case in point Eat Just’s cultivated chicken nuggets in Singapore, and Aleph Farms’ cultivated steak Aleph Cuts which is also being launched in Singapore as well as Israel.

“As it stands, products are being launched but we do still need to manage consumer expectations – at the end of the day I do believe that cultivated meat is for the mass market playmeaningthe plan is to be widely available, and to be an accessible high quality product for the masses,”​ he said.

​But we still believe it will take time until we get there, and when we launch Aleph Cuts it will probably initially be priced equivalent to premium or super premium beef like wagyu and the quantities will be relatively limited.

“As we expand production capacities, and leverage economies of scale, improve production processes and technologies, we will drive the cost down progressively and move progressively towards the mass market segments.

“Tesla or electric vehicles in general took 10 years to go from a sports car to models moving towards the mass of the market that - We believe that cultivated meat will also take a decade to that point of being widely available and affordable everywhere.”

Listen to the podcast above to find out more.

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