Co-led by Germany-headquartered Point Nine and London-based Air Street Capital, alongside participation from Danish VC fund Heartcore Capital and US-headquartered Partech, the $10m (€8.4m) investment marks the ‘world’s largest’ seed round for a cultivated poultry start-up.
The round also attracted investment from Big Idea Ventures, Europia, Ataraxia, Beyond Investing, as well as French public investment bank Bpifrance and the European Commission.
Gourmey plans to use the funding to scale up its production capabilities in Paris, in preparation for global commercialisation. Having observed ‘strong commercial interest’ from chefs and restaurants, as well as meat and fine food distributors, the start-up said it is planning for a late 2022 or early 2023 launch.
‘Ethical foie gras’
Gourmey makes ‘slaughter-free’ poultry products from real animal cells. Its flagship product is cell-based foie gras, made from duck egg cells fed with growth media.
This production method differs significantly from the conventional French delicacy, made from the liver of a duck or a goose that has been force-fed with more food than they would eat naturally in the wild.
Considered by a number of countries to abuse animal welfare, foie gras production is today banned in the Czech Republic, Finland, Italy, Poland, Turkey, and the UK. In the US, foie gras is banned in New York City and California.
According to Gourmey, its foie gras alternative not only wins on animal welfare, but is significantly more climate-friendly – producing fewer climate emissions and consuming less land and water. “We believe there is a way to satisfy the world’s growing appetite for delicious meat without compromising on planetary health,” said CEO Nicolas Morin-Forest.
Expanding into poultry filets
While Gourmey is first and foremost focusing on alt foie gras, it is also looking to expand its cell-based technologies into other poultry markets.
“What sets us apart is our focus on taste through gastronomic and food sciences,” according to CTO Dr Victor Sayous. “Not only do we have an extremely versatile and cost-efficient cell production platform, but we are able to reach an unmatched level of refinement thanks to our understanding of the complexity of meat right from the molecular level.
“We have demonstrated this know-how on foie gras, which is arguably the most complex fine food in the world, and now we are confidently expanding our product portfolio.”
Beyond foie gras, the start-up has developed in-house formulations for minced products like poultry-based sausages or nuggets. However, CEO Morin-Forest told FoodNavigator the company is ‘even more excited’ by a new category of products currently in development. "Structured restaurant-grade meats," he explained. "Think poultry fillets - from duck, chicken, or turkey."
Gourmey is co-developing its line with chefs to first enter the restaurant sector. “We believe chef adoption will be key to the success of cultivated meat,” the CEO revealed.
“Chefs are…our first audience and our products will be distributed to restaurants, hotels and gourmet outlets around the world. Retail will definitely follow.”
One key challenge facing Gourmey, as well as the entire cell-based meat sector, is regulation. Just one country, Singapore, has authorised the commercialisation of cultivated meat to date.
Although Gourmey is based in France, Europe is expected to be slower off the mark when it comes to approving cultivated meat. In any case, Morin-Forest told this publication Gourmey has ‘global ambitions’, with an initial focus on US and Asian markets.
“The US, because of very exciting adoption rates for sustainable proteins, as well as a regulatory environment where great progress is being made towards market approval of cultivated products.
“In addition, our flagship foie gras is already banned in California and New York City and we want to provide chefs with a great alternative so they can keep this delicacy on their menus.”
Acccording to the CEO, ‘any sustainable protein company’ willing to make a big impact should be looking at the Asian market, because ‘that is where most of the growth in meat demand is coming from’.
“We are looking at Singapore because of its appeal for cultivated products, as well as its pioneering regulatory environment.” Elsewhere, China is also appealing as the ‘world first consumer of duck meat’ – an area within which Gourmey has the ‘strongest expertise’.
“Overall we have already secured strong commercial interest from international food distributors from North America, Asia, and Europe.”