So how do you ensure that fake meat – whether it be grown in a lab or plant-based – tastes as authentic as possible? Well, the consensus seems to be that the magic ingredient is fat.
A number of startups have been working on a question as to how to replicate fat in fake meat without ever using animal products or resorting to palm oil or coconut oil both of which come with some environmental baggage.
In the UK Hoxton Farms recently scored £2.7million to develop purified animal fat, which is taken from tiny animal cells, in cultivators similar to those fermentors used for brewing beer.
Now Australian company Nourish Ingredients, is focusing on solving the fat issue, and to aid it has just received $11 million from Horizons Ventures, the firm backed by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing and Main Sequence Ventures, an investment firm founded by Australia’s national science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.
The company co-founders James Petrie and Ben Leita met back in 2013 and previously worked at a company that was trying to increase oil production in plants.
But the market for alternative meats intrigued them
“When we were talking to people we realised that the alternative food space was going to need these animal fat like plants,” said Leita. “We could use that skillset for fish oil and out of canola oil.”
The pair saw that a potential solution to the problem could be found by focusing on bacteria rather than plants, and so Nourish Ingredients uses bacteria or organisms that make significant amounts of triglycerides and lipids.
“We can tune these oleaginous organisms to make these animal fats that give us that great taste and experience,” explained Petrie
All of which begs the question though that are the fats produced by the original animals really the best from a taste perspective or are they what the human palate has become used to?
Petrie thinks the latter and told TechCrunch
“The cow makes cow fat because that’s what the cow does, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best fat for a plant protein,” said Petrie. “We start out with a mimetic. No reason for us to be locked by the original organism. We’re trying to create new experiences. There are new experiences out there to be had.”
“As active investors in the alternative protein space, we realize that animal-free fats that replicate the taste of traditional meat, poultry and seafood products are the next breakthrough in the industry,” said Phil Morle, partner at Main Sequence Ventures. “Nourish have discovered how to do just that in a way that’s sustainable and incredibly tasty, and we couldn’t be happier to join them at this early stage.”