Migros has invested an undisclosed sum in cultivated meat player SuperMeat and signed an agreement to accelerate production and distribution of its products at a commercial scale.
With annual sales of CHF 28.93bn (€29.67bn) in 2021, the Migros Group is the largest retail company in Switzerland.
According to Matthew Robin, CEO ELSA-Mifroma, a Migros Group company, consumers are demanding more sustainable, healthy, and alternative protein-based products, and Migros wants to ensure it is prepared to meet their demands ‘when the time comes’.
From SuperMeat’s perspective, Migros’ ‘expertise and reach’ in food production and grocery will help to ‘set the stage’ to bring cultivated meat to European consumers in the ‘near future’.
A B2B player in foodservice
Israel-headquartered SuperMeat is on a mission to bring cell-cultivated chicken meat to the masses. The start-up believes cultivated meat has the power to enhance the food system, provide nutritional security, and ‘drastically’ reduce carbon emissions.
While not yet on the market, SuperMeat has conducted tastings of its cultivated chicken product with culinary experts and media personalities.
Earlier this year, a public blind tasting comparing its cell-based product with conventional chicken divided opinions: two of the judges incorrectly identified which was the cultivated chicken, and the third couldn’t pick which was which.
Having shown that ‘cultivated meat and traditional meat can be indistinguishable’, the start-up is now exploring sales channels. SuperMeat has described Migros as a ‘prominent foodservice partner’.
“Foodservice is an important area of Migros’ business,” SuperMeat CEO Ido Savir told FoodNavigator. “In addition to operating in restaurants across Switzerland, the group provides catering services as well.
“While we cannot disclose all details of the MoU, we can say that SuperMeat…plans to provide companies with the opportunity to introduce products to the market under their brands.”
What expertise is Migros providing?
Migros is no stranger to cellular agriculture. In late 2021, the Swiss retailer signed a Proof of Concept (PoC) agreement with Chicago-based Aqua Cultured Foods – a start-up making microbial fermentation-derived seafood alternatives.
For that tie-up, Migros is helping to gauge consumer perceptions in Europe.
The MoU with SuperMeat is also, in part, relying on the retailer’s ‘deep understanding’ of consumer needs. Given Migros’ direct consumer relationships, the companies believe they will be better positioned to serve customers and provide product assortments that ‘better match’ consumer needs.
“Migros’ deep understanding of consumers’ needs and its direct relationship with them through its retail and foodservice outlets will enable SuperMeat to better serve consumers and offer them products tailored to their needs,” Savir reiterated.
“With its extensive infrastructure, including meat processing facilities, distribution and storage facilities, and many points of sale in Switzerland as well as in neighbouring countries, Migros has an intimate understanding of product applications accommodating to local cuisines and ability to support the scale up and commercialisation effort.”
Migros is also invested in cell-cultivated food development via a new company it established with Givaudan and Bühler last year: The Cultured Food Innovation Hub.
In co-founding the business, Savir said Migros is also developing know-how to produce and process cultivated meat, adding that the joint knowledge will allow the companies to further reduce costs and improve products.
SuperMeat expects to be able to sell products in Switzerland in two to three years. “We hope that large Swiss conglomerates’ investment and commitment to the field will assist in accelerating the approval process,” said Savir.
But Switzerland is far from the only geography SuperMeat has in its sights.
Earlier this year, the start-up partnered with Japanese food giant Ajinomoto to help address the cell growth media bottleneck and to help fund a new industrial facility in the US. Pending regulatory approval, SuperMeat revealed it intends to launch its first products into the US market next year.
At around the same time, one of Europe’s largest poultry producers, PHW Group, and SuperMeat officially signed a MoU to bring cultivated meat products, including chicken, turkey and duck, to European consumers.
“SuperMeat wants to operate wherever approvals are granted and believes that partnering with industry leaders will expedite the scale up process,” we were told.
“In partnering with companies such as Ajinomoto, PHW, and now Migros, we will be able to leverage their unique know-how and extensive infrastructure, reducing costs, scaling faster, and enhancing the offering to the consumer.
“It will benefit us not only in markets where our partners are active, but in all markets where we operate.”