The New Omnivore has moved! Please check out www.newomnivore.com for all the latest happenings in animal-free food innovation!
On December 10th, join The New Omnivore in San Francisco for our very first live event! The New Omnivore Mini-Conference will feature a live panel discussion on animal-free food innovation, games with prizes, light bites and more!
The event will be staged at The Revolution at IndieBio from 6 – 9 pm. Tickets are free but must be reserved in advance.
You can get tickets @ newomnivore.eventbrite.com
Thanks and I look forward to seeing you at this exciting event!
Janay L. – Organizer
It was a big story in 2013 when Hampton Creek first signed with Costco to distribute their debut product, Just Mayo, in wholesale stores nationwide. It was even bigger news when, in 2014, they struck a deal with Walmart that placed their product in the majority of that company’s 4,000 stores in record time – just 9 months from signing to store shelves. And their agreement with Foodbuy earlier this year, a subsidiary of food service giant Compass Group, introduced egg-free mayo and cookie dough to a vast new network of schools, hospitals and other large institutions, bringing their distribution and product reach to a whole new level.
But landmark agreements seem to routine thing with Hampton Creek.
Their latest deal will now make them the sole provider of Compass Group’s salad dressings and baking mixes, which will be used in the millions of meals and desserts Compass serves around the world every day. For a three-and-a-half year old startup, that’s not a bad feat.
Last week, it was also reported that more jars of Just Mayo are officially being bought at Walmart stores than Whole Foods – a surprising and encouraging sign that average consumers are independently choosing foods that have value in both taste and affordability, and proves Hampton Creek’s mission to provide better food to the masses is on solid footing.
So as they continue to coast, the question might now become who is benefiting more from healthy, egg-free products – consumers or Hampton Creek?
Gelatin – it’s that magical and mysterious substance that gives Jello-O its wiggle, makes Starbursts deliciously chewy, and puts the colorful bounce inside gummy bears. But behind its sparkling food products, the actual story of gelatin is considerably less pleasant. Gelatin is directly derived from the rendered (boiled) bones and tissues of slaughtered animals including cows, pigs, and chickens, which yield the protein collagen – a clear, flavorless substance that gives gelatin its famous chewy and elastic properties.
It is these properties – as well as its ability to bind and thicken – that make gelatin the ideal choice for myriad household products, from pill capsule coatings and cosmetics to photographic film and some types of glue. But it is most familiarly found inside numerous sweet snacks and candy products – especially “gummy” candies.
Unfortunately for vegetarian and vegan gummy-bear fans, the presence of gelatin makes any candy containing it unsuitable for their consumption. Indeed, about 10% of the world’s candy market is vegetarian, and numerous gelatin-based candies are therefore off-limits.
But a new startup in San Francisco wants to change all that, and make gelatin better for everyone. Founded by Alex Lorestani and Nick Ouzounov, Gelzen is re-inventing gelatin production by taking animals the equation, and using fermentation technology to make the special proteins that form animal collagen.
According to Lorestani, Gelzen’s product will actually be better than traditional gelatin because it can be “customized” to contain more or less of a desired property, such as stiffness. And because it will be produced inside a more clean and controlled environment, their gelatin will not be affected by natural disaster or disease events, which significantly affect farming operations and drive up the prices of animal products, including gelatin.
Beyond candy, Gelzen hopes their product can also replace the gelatin found in innumerable other foods, including but not limited to certain kinds of margarine, salad dressings, yogurt and ice cream. And it has the additional advantage of providing a coating for the bioreactors used in cultured meat technology, which currently rely on animal-based collagen. Even better, Gelzen’s creations can further be used to give more texture and structure to cultured meat products.
With its special versatility, stability, and more predictable quality, as well as the fact that conventional gelatin is a by-product of the hugely wasteful factory farming system, Gelzen’s new gelatin represents another bright step forward to animal-free food production.
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In a landmark announcement, Dutch researchers revealed that they want to sell the world’s first cultured meat product in 2020, or just five years’ time. Speaking with the BBC, Peter Verstrate, who is part of Dr. Mark Post’s team at Maastricht University, announced the name of a new firm, Mosa Meat, which he said is “confident” can bring cultured meat to market in half a decade.
Acknowledging that it will likely be an “exclusive” product at first, Verstrate believes the price will come down once there is a proven demand.
Needless to say, this is incredibly exciting news for all those with have expressed strong interest in the potential positive impacts of cultured meat technology, from the environmental, sustainability, and clean energy movements to food safety, global hunger, and animal rights advocates.
In an incredible round of fund-raising, intrepid plant-meat startup Impossible Foods recently received $108 million in new capital, according to TechCrunch.
The amazing show of financial support – from backers including Bill Gates and Li Ka-shing – is strong evidence of the broad appeal for a sustainable, tasty burger made completely from plant ingredients. This latest round of fund-raising might also signify the true quality of Impossible Food’s highly secretive products. We’ll just have to wait to find out, but this is an exciting development for the future of new, animal-free meats, nonetheless.
The emerging field of animal-free animal products is being pioneered by a bold and visionary group of entrepreneurs, start-ups, scientists, and investors. Based on their primary approach, they fall into two distinct categories: those who are using the powers of synthetic biology to create actual meat, dairy, or egg products using harvested animal cells, yeasts, microbes and other organisms, and those who are turning to plants as the new medium for making animal-like proteins, flavors, and textures.
The following list of companies and research projects is not exhaustive – there are a number of startups and research labs working on different animal products (shark fins, horseshoe crab blood) that are not included here.
This list features the most prominent and well-funded organizations working on sustainable and humane solutions for animal-derived foods.They represent the exciting advent of a field of endeavor that will fundamentally disrupt the colossal, massively wasteful, and grossly inhumane industries of conventional animal agriculture.
Here they are, separated into respective meat, dairy or eggs categories as well as by their biotech or plant-based approach.
MEAT – BIOTECH
Photo by: David Parry/PA
Since 2008, Dr. Mark Post has led the world’s foremost research lab in growing real animal meat using in-vitro tissue methods. His lab created the world’s first edible cultured meat burger, which was introduced in a live television taste-test in 2013.
Dr. Post is also helping to organize the world’s first international cultured meat symposium, which will take place from October 18th – 20th in Maastricht in The Netherlands. The event aims to bring together leading scientists from a diverse array of disciplines – including engineers, food scientists, food technologists and biomaterials experts – to facilitate the exchange of ideas to help driver faster innovation of cultured meat technology.
Modern Meadow is a Brooklyn-based startup that is also working on creating animal meat, including fish, using in-vitro culturing methods. In 2014, they introduced a prototype for “steak chips” at a Google Solve for X event , and CEO Andras Forgacs spoke about his unique vision for cultured meat production earlier this year at the Bitten Conference in NYC. Modern Meadow is also notable for its groundbreaking materials program, which is using animal skin cells to grow real leather and other biofabrics.
MEAT – PLANTS
Impossible Foods is a bit of a dark house in the the race for a plant-based burger that actually tastes like a burger. Several companies and startups have tried but ultimately failed in their efforts to replicate the full flavor and juiciness of cow-based beef.
But Impossible Foods might be the incredible exception. Headed by Stanford biochemist Patrick Brown, it has held a decidedly low-key profile, only periodically sending out somewhat enigmatic messages about its first product, the Impossible Burger, which is slated to be released in late 2016 (though it may make select appearances before then.) Patrick Brown and the Impossible Foods lab were interviewed in this fascinating video in 2014, which went viral when it re-surfaced earlier this year.
If The Impossible Burger can truly deliver on what it is promises – a truly delicious, slaughter-free, sustainable burger – its impact will be profound, to say the least. We will have to wait and see if the Impossible Burger can truly achieve the impossible; in the mean time, The New Omnivore will be closely watching its development.
Sushi from tomatoes? This improbable-sounding idea actually turned out to be feat of culinary genius, and has made sustainable, fish-free sushi available to all. Created by internationally renowned chef James Corwell, tomato sushi was first conceived as a solution to the massive overfishing that is decimating populations of tuna and other popular sushi fish.
Using a special method known as “sous vide” cooking, Corwell transforms ordinary slices of tomato into pieces of raw “tuna”, with nearly exact fish-like color, flavor, and texture that is visually nothing short of stunning. Tomato Sushi has received glowing reviews from omnivores and vegans alike, and is currently available in several San Francisco-area retail shops, as well as for bulk purchase online.
DAIRY – BIOTECH
Real milk, without cows. This simple but powerful idea is being pursued by two bioengineers, Ryan Pandya and Perumal Gandhi, who, with the support of New Harvest launched Muufri ( a word play on “moo” and “free”) in 2014. Dairy milk production is both environmentally and ethically problematic, and cow-less milk promises to provide a sustainable, ethical solution to the greenhouse gas pollution, excessive water consumption, and inhumane practices that are standard in large-scale dairy operations.
By synthesizing a mixture of special sugars, proteins, fats, and water (the basic components of milk), Muufri is working to create an identical product to bovine milk that will not only taste like the conventional stuff, but can be manufactured to be free of allergens and lactose, as well.
In September 2015, Muufri was selected as a runner-up in the Dutch Postcode Lottery Green Challenge, an international sustainability competition, and awarded over $200,000 to continue their research and development of animal-free milk.
As their name implies, Counter Culture Labs isn’t your typical research laboratory They encourage the concept of “citizen science”, and generously open their Oakland, CA-based research space to all amateur scientists, biohackers, and curious tinkerers.
Their flagship project is Real Vegan Cheese – an inspired effort to make real dairy cheese with yeast-borne proteins instead of cow’s milk . Melty, stretchy, gooey cheese without any dairy is the holy grail for most vegans, considering the low quality of plant-based cheeses.
Following a successful Kickstarter campaign earlier this year to upgrade their lab space and equipment, CC Labs is hard at work on their much-anticipated project, which was the subject of this superb piece by Wired.com. The Real Vegan Cheese initiative holds the best hope yet for all those waiting on real, cruelty-free cheese to become a reality.
EGGS – BIOTECH
The demand for eggs has shot up dramatically in the past few years. Even more valuable are egg whites – the clear part of the egg that is rich in protein and low in fat and cholesterol. These desirable characteristics have made egg whites the “it” breakfast food of the last few years – and supply can’t keep up with the demand. Egg white prices more than doubled in the past two years, and 2015’s unprecedented outbreak of avian flu has pushed prices even higher.
Clara Foods wants to offer a solution to help meet the demand for this high-priced, low-supply egg product that is vulnerable to avian disease outbreaks. Using yeast to create the unique proteins found inside chicken eggs, Clara Foods (who win the award for most clever logo) hopes to disrupt the conventional egg white market with their more sustainable, healthy, and affordably-priced product, which will be identical in taste, appearance, and nutritional value to chicken-based egg whites. Furthermore, their products would be totally immune to avian diseases, and contain fewer allergens.
EGGS – PLANTS
Hampton Creek was first begun with the simple goal of producing an plant-derived egg replacer for industrial food-making. However, some four years later, they have introduced to the world several best-selling individual products including mayo and cookie dough, and have become one of the fastest-growing food companies of all time. Their products can be found in dozens of major national retailers from Wal-Mart and Target to Dollar Tree and 7-Eleven, and earlier this year secured a major deal with one of the world’s biggest food distributors, FoodBuy. CEO Josh Tetrick has been featured in countless articles, interviews and television shows as a thought-leader of the better food movement, and spoken onstage at leading food innovation and sustainability conferences.
And Hampton Creek appears to only be getting started.They have been hinting for months at the much-anticipated release of their egg-free scramble product, Just Scramble, which, if comparable in taste and texture to traditional scrambled eggs, could revolutionize this breakfast food and pose major competition to egg producers everywhere.
For now, we will just have to wait and see – but Hampton Creek stands as an incredible testimony to the potential of animal-free foods to positively influence the price market and food system.
Founded in 2004, New Harvest is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting and developing cultured meat technology. The organization and its executive director, Isha Datar, have also been instrumental in creating and launching different animal-free food startups, including Muufri and Clara Foods. They are also co-organizing the world’s first cultured meat symposium which will be held in Maastricht October 18th-20th.
Recognizing the need for an incubator to foster independent biotech research, IndieBio was launched in 2014 to accelerate important synthetic biotech innovations. Based in San Francisco and Europe, IndieBio provides generous seed funding, scientific advisement, and expert mentorship to promising synthetic biology startups and research teams.
PLANT-BASED MEATS: GARDEIN & BEYOND MEAT
There are many brands of plant-based meat products on the market, but unfortunately, few are up to par in matching traditional meat’s overall taste and texture. Gardein and Beyond Meat, however, are two notable exceptions. Using proprietary ingredients and/or technology, Gardein and Beyond Meat have each produced impressive plant-based chicken and beef products, which are widely available for retail purchase.
Garden’s products are so good that several restaurant chains,like Yardhouse, have incorporated them into their main menu. Hopefully the influence of these company’s products will grow as more people try them and see that meat from plants can be as satisfying as the conventional kind.