The plant-based meat category has exploded in recent years. Grand View Research valued the global market at $5.6bn in 2021 and expects it to expand at a very healthy CAGR of 19.3% through to 2030.
At the same time, global meat consumption is growing steadily and is expected to double by 2050. This suggests the plant-based category has not succeeded in winning over meat-eaters. Questions around the quality of plant-based meat’s taste, texture, and appearance persist.
According to Berlin-based Cultimate Foods, ‘many’ consumers are unsatisfied with the meat alternatives available today and are unwilling to compromise on taste and texture. But the start-up has observed a ‘huge’ opportunity to win on taste via hybrid products – which combines plant-based protein with cell-based ingredients, such as cultivated fat.
Fat: ‘A true gap to fill’
Cultimate Foods was founded earlier this year by co-CEOs George Zheleznyi and Eugenia Sagué, and CTO Oskar Latyshev.
Zheleznyi previously co-founded and served as CFO of plant-based meat brand Greenwise in Russia. Last year, he completely exited Greenwise, and after a short break began ‘eagerly planning the next venture’.
Together with ProVeg Incubator alumni Sagué (both entrepreneurs were part of the 2019 cohort), Zheleznyi began to ‘ideate’ and validate those ideas, all the while talking to industry professionals. “The topic of fat was appearing in many conversations, and we found this as a true gap to fill,” Zheleznyi told FoodNavigator.
“Both coming from the plant-based world, we have complementary skills as co-founder. Eugenia studies German law and management…I have a strong entrepreneurial and financial background and focus more on fundraising and business relations.”
The name Cultimate Foods was chosen after a ‘long process’ of brainstorming. After shortlisting several options, the co-founders approached others for feedback.
“The winner was Cultimate, which resonates with Cultivate(d),” Zheleznyi explained. “Given the part ‘mate’, which refers to friends and friendship, the message is we are food tech company that is close to our consumers; we create animal-, eco, and health-friendly products.”
Patent-pending 3D cultivation tech
Cultimate Foods is developing cultivated pork and beef fat. The ‘game-changing’ alternative fat ingredient brings the ‘authentic’ meaty taste and texture to hybrid plant-based products.
By leveraging cellular agriculture technologies, the start-up is able to grow real fat cells without causing any harm to animals. That’s why its fat ingredients tastes, smells, as acts like real animal fat, notes the start-up.
While there are already fat alternatives on the market, Cultimate’s fat is unique in that replicates the structure of animal fat tissue. The company is using a ‘unique technological approach to 3D cultivation’ that creates the structure of their ingredient and reduces the cost of production.
This technology is what sets the start-up apart from other cultivated fat start-ups in the cell-based sphere, we were told. “Our patent-pending technology of 3D cultivation allows us to obtain the structure identical to the fat tissue and produce it in a cost-effective way,” explained Zheleznyi.
Cultimate secures pre-seed funding
Today, the biotech start-up is announcing it has secured €700,000 in a pre-seed funding round. The round was led by early-stage investor Big Idea Ventures, food awareness organisation ProVeg International, and German early-stage investment fund Realum.cloud.
The funding will enable the company to ‘fully validate’ its cultivated fat production solution and prepare for the pilot stage. To do so, the company is actively cooperating with biotechnology companies and is looking forward to expanding such collaborations.
“The main goal [of this investment] is to get to the pilot stage,” Zheleznyi told this publication. “We are expanding our R&D team and accelerating partnerships with biotech companies to prepare our technology for pilot production in a bigger scale in 2023.”