Cultured meat innovator Meatable has unveiled a partnership with Singapore-based ESCO Aster, the world's first and only commercially licensed cultivated meat manufacturer, in a move it says will kick-start the rollout of cultivated pork products in Singapore.
In 2020, the authorities in Singapore made history by becoming the first to green light the sale of cultivated meat when US company Eat Just received approval for its cell-based chicken products.
A small nation with little arable land, Singapore currently imports 90% of its food. In a bid to address this balance, the government has made food security a priority. In 2019, policy makers set up the ‘30 by 30’ goal, which aims to make the country 30% self-sufficient by 2030. The strategy targets the scaling of new food production technologies, such as vertical farming and aquaculture, and the Singaporean government has been vocally supportive of cultured meat.
“Singapore is a global leader when it comes to cultivated meat. It was the first country to approve the production and sales of cultivated meat in 2020 as part of its ‘30 by 30’ strategy - which aims to build up its agri-food industry’s capability and capacity to produce 30% of its nutritional needs locally and sustainably by 2030,” reflected Meatable CEO Krijn de Nood.
This is a significant market opportunity, de Nood told FoodNavigator. “Each citizen consumes an average of 62kg of meat per person annually. In 2020 alone, over 123,000 metric tonnes of pork were consumed in Singapore. Innovation is necessary to enable Singapore to become more self-sufficient and sustainable, and cultivated meat is one part of the solution.”
Partnering with ESCO Aster to scale faster
Working alongside contract manufacturer ECSO Aster, Meatable hopes to bring cultivated pork products to market in a relatively swift timeframe. “The aim is to develop cultivated pork on a small scale by 2024 for restaurants, with the aim to have products on sale in supermarkets by 2025,” we were told.
The venture’s first products will ‘most likely’ be cultivated pork dumplings and sausages. It is currently working alongside Singaporean regulators on specific approvals.
Meatable has collaborated with Singaporean chefs to develop bespoke pork products, specifically for the Asian market. “Our team has been working closely with the country’s butchers and chefs to develop the perfect cultivated pork dumplings and it was incredible to recently taste the dumplings and know that we have created something indistinguishable from traditional meat,” de Nood revealed.
So, why partner with a contract manufacturer? The approach obviously brings down the capex requirements of expansion and cultural alignment is an important aspect of the tie-up, de Nood said. “They share our belief that cultivated meat will have a positive impact on the global meat industry, and that is helping to drive this partnership,” the chief executive noted.
But ESCO Aster also brings a unique set of expertise to the table.
“ESCO Aster has the experience, facilities and regulatory approval which makes them the best partner for us in Singapore,” de Nood said, observing that they are ‘the first and only production facility in Singapore that has regulatory approval to produce cultivated meats’.
And regulatory approval is just one hurdle ESCO Aster can help Meatable overcome. ESCO Aster CEO Xiangliang Lin suggested the manufacturer can also deliver insight that will help the nascent cultivated meat sector achieve critical mass. “With our scientific expertise, operational know-how and enabling technologies, we believe that we can help companies reach their milestones and advance to the next step of cultivated meat production with market approval at scale.”
Founded in 2017, ESCO Aster's ‘first-in-class’ cultivated meat production facility combined with industry-leading scientists and food safety specialists, enables the acceleration of proof-of-concept to market. Indeed, ESCO Aster already has plans to ramp up capacity in the coming years, FoodNavigator understands. The group expects to produce 50.000L of cultivated meat in 2024-2025.
‘Meat without the harm’
Meatable’s proprietary opti-ox technology means the company only needs one single cell sample to replicate the natural growth of muscle and fat to create real meat. Meatable believes its process is the fastest in the field. The Dutch company's approach enables it to create cultivated meat without the need for FBS (foetal bovine serum), whilst at the same time using only a ‘fraction’ of the resources from energy to water. “Our mission is to satisfy the world’s appetite for meat without harming people, animals or the planet. We’re continuing to develop and refine our products and technology to become the trusted leader in cultivated meat,” the group’s chief executive stressed.
“We strongly believe that cultivated meat is the future of food, in order to produce meat sustainably and as local as possible. To do that it’s imperative that we provide a wide variety of products to cater for all cuisines, worldwide. Given Singapore’s status as a pioneer of cultivated meat, we’re delighted to be partnering with ESCO Aster to begin production of our cultivated pork products with the aim to launch in restaurants in 2024.”
Of course, Meatable’s mission doesn’t end in Singapore and de Nood told us the firm is prepared to expand in other international markets as and when regulations permit.
“We’re a few years away from seeing cultivated meat rolled out on a global basis. There is still the development process to go through - which includes a level of R&D, then work on making a rollout scalable and affordable for everyone,” the CEO conceded.
Nevertheless, he continued: “As soon as further countries introduce regulatory approval for the production and sale of cultivated meat, we will look to expand to those countries too, including in the EU, US and Asia.
“We have launched in the Singapore first - given the very favourable regulatory environment there - and its ambition really to be a hub for the sector. That being said, the UK, US and Europe are absolutely among the most important global markets for us and for the industry - meat consumption there is high, there is a large groundswell of potential customers, and also a high cultural demand for products of ours which will come first. As you can imagine, the main hurdle is regulatory approval as the landscape is completely different in each market. However, we are committed to working with regulators in the US, UK, and Europe to ensure we can bring forward regulatory support for cultivated meat.”