Ready for clean meat? JUST founder predicts consumers will get first taste of lab-grown goods this year

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

A prototype clean meat product from JUST.
A prototype clean meat product from JUST.
JUST CEO Josh Tetrick has predicted that consumers will be able to get their first taste of lab-grown, clean meat by the end of this year – with the product likely to first debut in restaurants.

San Francisco-headquartered JUST has so far manufactured egg-free mayo, dressings, cookie dough and its Scramble product – an egg-free scrambled egg for foodservice outlets.

But it has also been working on clean meat products, which uses cell technology to grow real meat in a lab, including chicken breasts and chicken nuggets.

Speaking at a panel discussion chaired by FoodNavigator-Asia at the Future Food Asia Awards in Singapore, Tetrick said he was ‘hopeful’ that consumers would be able to sample the products before the end of the year.

“I’d like to think it will be before the end of 2018​,” he said. “It will probably first be in a restaurant or foodservice outlet and we’ll then look to expand from there.”

Foodservice would be a natural first choice for its debut, because there are a number of regulatory hurdles that need to be overcome before it can be sold to consumers through retail channels.

Tetrick said: “There will be regulatory issues but there is also a huge opportunity here for the country that is the first to pick this up and run with it.”

He added that the world’s growing population, demand for protein and environmental problems mean it was inevitable that clean meat would become a staple part of diets.

“This is sustainable, it eliminates all of the food safery risks of traditional meat, and it tastes exactly the same,”​ he added.

The challenge now is to guarantee it can compete in terms of taste and price. If that can be met, it’s highly likely that that rapidly-developing markets like China, where food safety is as much of a concern as food security, would be where it has considerable sales success.

And while all of the firm’s retail products are currently manufactured in the US, Tetrick said the firm would soon confirm the location of its first Asia site, with China, Singapore and Japan in the mix.

Distribution netwoks

“We are currently talking to different governments about this,” ​he said. “We need to make sure we can access high quality facilities for both upstream and downstream manufacturing processes,” ​he told us in an interview a couple of months ago.

He said talks were also underway with other regional manufacturers to use their facilities and tap into existing distribution networks, while the firm will soon appoint its first Asia general manager.

JUST recently made its first foray into Asia by launching its retail mayo and dressings in Green Common outlets in Hong Kong, with its Scramble products included on its cafeteria menus.

“We’ll look to bring these products to Japan, China and Singapore too as soon as possible,” Tetrick said.

However, he added this was very much the tip of the iceberg, adding that Asia represented huge opportunities for the company.

“If we were starting the business from scratch, we’d probably start it in Asia,”​ he said. “If we look where the demand is likely to be, where food security is the biggest concern, and where the cultural connection to our products could be the highest, then that could well be Asia.

The company, which aims to reduce the carbon footprint of the food industry, has been heavily-backed by investors – many of which are Asia-based – and is now valued at over one billion dollars.

It is though that it will target at IPO early next year, but Tetrick told us last week thatd the company woul always put its social mission, before profits.

“When I’m approached by investors, I always do my best to talk them out of it,”​ he added. “I tell them if I had the choice to sell out for $2bn or continue with what we are doing because that is in the best interests of enabling everyone in the world to eat well, then I’ll be doing the latter.”


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