One of a handful of cultivated meat startups now operating at pilot-scale (from its base in Rehovot, Israel), BELIEVER Meats is one of the top-funded players in the space, raising $347m in its series B round last year to help commercialize Non-GMO technology developed by founder Prof. Yaakov Nahmias it claims enables it to achieve higher-density cell cultures and more efficient use of media than rivals in the space.
The only other player that has raised more capital is Berkeley-based UPSIDE Foods, which has just got the green light from the FDA affirming the safety of its cultivated chicken. It is currently operating a pilot facility in Emeryville, CA, that can produce 50,000lbs of finished product a year, with a future capacity of over 400,000/lbs/year but is planning a commercial-scale facility with “tens of millions of pounds” of capacity, although it has not yet announced a location.
Cultivated meat: affordability, approachability, and availability
The project represents an initial planned investment of $123.35m in Wilson County, North Carolina, and is planned at 200,000 square feet, with possible expansion in the future, said BELIEVER Meats, which plans to create 100+ new jobs over the next three years.
The facility will utilize proprietary, custom-made bioreactors that can achieve high cell densities and yield based on patented processes, and will feature an R&D and innovation center, a kitchen to host tastings, offices and conference room spaces, said CEO Nicole Johnson-Hoffman, who joined the Israeli startup as its new CEO in February 2022.
“Through affordability, approachability, and availability, we want our products to become the meat of choice globally.”
CEO Nicole Johnson-Hoffman: ‘Price parity has to be the goal’
Speaking to FoodNavigator-USA in August, Johnson-Hoffman said the plan is to launch with non-breaded chicken in multiple formats in foodservice before extending to retail
Asked why consumers will buy cultivated meat, something which initially at least, is likely to be more expensive, may be not quite the same as the real thing, and which may not obviously appear any healthier?
Acknowledging that an “expensive product that half delivers” will not cut it, the novelty factor may well drive trial in the first instance, but taste, price, and convenience are what will keep consumers coming back, said Johnson-Hoffman, who previously held senior management roles at Cargill and OSI Group, so knows a thing or two about running large-scale conventional meat operations.
“Our mission is to ensure that when they try it, they have such a great sensory experience, that they crave it and want to go back for more. But cultivated meats also have to fit into consumers’ budgets, so we’ll be working tirelessly until we get to price parity, if not better, and we’re already pretty close. Price parity has to be the goal.”
Health is not just about what’s on the Nutrition Facts panel
As for health, she said, consumers don’t just think of it in terms of what’s on the Nutrition Facts panel: “Some people want to make sure that the foods they eat are free from unnecessary antibiotic usage.
“Cultivated meat is also a great solution for people concerned about foodborne illness, particularly pathogens that are traditionally associated with animal protein production from live animals, so I think that cultivated meat will be the marker of quality for consumers.”
WATCH our video with BELIEVER Meats founder Prof. Yaakov Nahmias filmed at the firm’s pilot facility in Rehovot last month: