A steak by any other name


By Tony Hunter, food futurist

Over the last few years, we’ve seen lots of activity around plant-based ground meat products. But they’re competing with the lowest value-added rung of conventional meat products, ground meat for burgers, sausages, nuggets etc. That gives them little margin to play with while their volumes remain so far below that of established conventional meat companies.

The equation looks quite different though when we talk about whole cut products like steak. Here prices are much higher and there’s more margins to play with. With red meat at near record prices it’s a classic case of a price umbrella under which plant-based whole cut products can shelter and still make money while they scale up. And there’s little that beef producers and retailers can do to remove this umbrella.

Are plant-based companies ready to capitalise on this situation with innovative whole cut products? Well, there’s every chance that 2023 will be the year that such products cement their place in the market. For example, Israel-based Redefine Meat is using 3D printing technology to make their steaks and notably feature in Marco Pierre White’s, Mr White’s restaurant. Before retiring as a full-time chef in 1999, White held three Michelin stars – so should know something about food. Redefine recently raised USD$135 million and will significantly scale up volumes through to 2023. French start-up Umiami, raised $30 million in April to scale up its unique high moisture extrusion-based technology. The funds will be used to build a 15,000 ton per annum factory which will be operational by the end of 2023.
Other companies to watch include Juicy Marbles from Slovenia with their patent pending process to make marbled plant-based whole cut products. Similarly, the ETH Zurich University has recently developed a unique method to make similar marbled products.

The above are just a sample of what’s happening in plant-based whole-cut products. Technology and the rising cost of red meat could well help drive plant-based sales if they can meet consumes price and flavour expectations. Check back in late 2023 and we’ll see what the actual future looks like.

Tony Hunter is a global futurist, food scientist, speaker and foresight strategy consultant. He consults and speaks globally, using his distinctive combination of scientific qualifications, business experience and detailed understanding of exponential food technologies to deliver a unique perspective on the future of food.

The information and opinions within this column are not necessarily the views or opinions of Hot Source, NZ Food Technology or the parent company, Hayley Media.