A waiter with Nestlé plant-based sausages from the Harvest Gourmet line during the launch event in Beijing, China, December 9 2020. Picture: REUTERS/THOMAS PETER
A waiter with Nestlé plant-based sausages from the Harvest Gourmet line during the launch event in Beijing, China, December 9 2020. Picture: REUTERS/THOMAS PETER

Nestlé is planning to enter the cultured-meat market in a move that could see the world’s largest food company help deliver the nascent technology faster to the mass market.

The Swiss giant has been working on alternative meat products that would blend cultivated meat with plant-based ingredients, according to people familiar with the deliberations, who asked not to be named because the information hasn’t been made public. The meat is being developed with Israeli cell-based start-up Future Meat Technologies, the people said.

Nestle’s CEO Mark Schneider is pressing ahead with an alternative protein strategy as environmental and health concerns drive more consumers to opt out of conventional animal products. The early move, after a relatively late decision to enter the craze for plant-based products, would help Nestle gain a foothold in an industry that may reach 35% of the $1.8-trillion meat market by 2040, according to analysts at Kearney, a consultancy.

A spokesperson for Nestle wasn’t immediately able to comment, while a representative for Future Meat Technologies didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.

The timing of a potential market entry would also be determined by regulatory approvals, the people said.

Future Meat Technologies is set to bring its cell-based technology, while Nestle has experience developing plant-based products under its Garden Gourmet brand. The company has also been expanding its range of milk alternatives, most recently adding a pea-based drink in Europe.

The hybrid product, which blends meat cells developed in bioreactors with plant ingredients, could be a gateway for Nestle to tap the cultured meat market faster. Cell-based meat start-ups incorporate plant-based ingredients at various stages of product development. It enables them to improve the texture of products and to reduce costs, a top challenge for start-ups vying to displace conventional meat.

Future Meat Technologies has already been successful in reducing costs. The company has managed to produce chicken at $4 per 100g and plans to halve this by the end of 2022, CEO Rom Kshuk told Bloomberg in an interview in June. The company wants to begin sales in the US by the end of 2022, pending regulatory approvals.

Several food and meat giants have backed cultured meat start-ups in recent years in recognition of the technology’s potential. Tyson Foods and Cargill have invested the space, while BRF and Mitsubishi are working with Aleph Farms. The latest financing round by Aleph Farms has also drew backing from Thai Union Group and South Korea’s CJ CheilJedang.

Bloomberg News. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

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