chicken, fish and pork are now made from plants
This story is part of our series on the future of cultured and plant-based meat. Read more here.
Consumers were clear: When it came to the plant-based alternative proteins, they preferred the ahi tuna sashimi which is a darker red than what you might find in real life. So Jacek Prus and his Kuleana co-founder, food scientist Sònia Hurtado, increased the red coloration derived from radish. When consumers wanted a “more fishy” taste, they dressed their bamboo fiber and potato starch ahi with seaweed oil and finished it off with a touch of koji fermentation.
Like all alternative proteins, the nutrients in Kuleana’s tuna can be calibrated, and Prus and Hurtado increased the iron content to 100% of the daily requirement to give it a health benefit. The resulting product from the San Francisco-based company is available in $ 12 tuna rolls in select Erewhon California markets and $ 14 in tuna bowls at select Poké Bar outlets. Kuleana’s next product? Salmon.
While the alternative protein movement is notorious for replacing beef in burgers, there are now plant-based products that mimic a growing variety of fish, as well as chicken and pork. About $ 2.6 billion has been invested in plant-based meat companies around the world over a six-year period ending in September 2021, and young innovators are driving the movement forward.
(To keep pace with the new kids, the alternative protein flagship Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods continue to release new and improved versions of their burgers and sausages. Both recently launched new chicken bites.)
As an undergraduate student – and novice vegan – at the University of Texas at Austin, Prus helped overhaul the college’s food service that put vegan offerings in some cafeterias. “It was cool to do,” he says.
After earning his MBA at UT, Prus traveled to Berlin to help set up ProVeg, a German business incubator that promotes protein startups (including Kuleana). A subsequent rotation through Y Combinator, the grandfather of all technology incubators in Silicon Valley, led to investments totaling $ 6.5 million from sources such as Kyle Vogt, co-founder of Cruise Automation, a driverless car company, and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian.
In three years, 28-year-old Prus has grown into a leader in plant-based seafood. Today, Kuleana is manufacturing at a “pilot production level,” according to the company, but Prus says its production plant under construction in San Francisco will be able to produce 200,000 pounds of plant-based fish per month. here spring 2022.
Hong Kong-based OmniFoods plant-based pork arrived in Los Angeles – its first U.S. market – in July. It is sold in the Sprouts and Whole Foods markets.
David Yeung, founder of The Alternative Protein Powerhouse, echoes the words of nearly every alternative protein entrepreneur. Factory farming is an environmental and health issue, he says, adding, “We are really trying to wake people up in terms of what they eat when they eat meat.
He plans to launch an OmniFoods plant-based seafood line here next year. “LA is the epicenter of herbal penetration,” Yeung explains. “A lot of people are health conscious, progressive, very concerned about climate change and the environment.”
His plant-based pork uses non-GMO soy, mushrooms and rice, “all natural ingredients,” he says. “It’s not just a transaction. It’s a question of impact. “
Like so many entrepreneurs in this movement, Prus and Yeung are mission-driven vegans. But Big Meat is also in the game.
Tyson Foods, which is one of the world’s largest producers of industrial meat and reported 2020 sales of $ 43.2 billion, is optimistic about alternative proteins, according to David Ervin, vice president of “emerging proteins “. These proteins include Tyson’s Raised & Rooted Plant-based pea-based burger ($ 5 for an 8-ounce pack at Ralphs) and plant-based chicken nuggets ($ 5 for an 8-ounce pack at Target).
Tyson, based in Springdale, Ark., Is also launching alt-protein versions of its meat brands. “Jimmy Dean offers a plant-based breakfast sandwich,” Ervin said, adding, “Tyson follows the consumer. We intend to be the leader in all protein.”
Andrew Ive is the founder of Big Idea Ventures, which manages alternative protein investment funds with hundreds of millions of dollars and operates startup incubators in New York, Paris and Singapore. From the start, says Ive, the alternative protein movement has been led by a group of venture capitalists concerned with animal welfare and climate change. But he has watched Big Meat increase its involvement both by funding businesses and developing in-house brands of alternative proteins.
Investment funds are pouring in both “from Tyson Foods and from those trying to end Tyson,” Ive said. “Ultimately, the winners will be acquired. Big companies, he notes, “have marketing, scale and distribution.”
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.