- Cell-based meat company New Age Meats said it raised $2.7 million in seed funding in a round led by ff Venture Capital.
- The funding will be used to grow the startup's team as well as to increase its access to automation equipment needed to speed up R&D and manufacturing.
- New Age Meats was founded in 2018 and was a graduate of IndieBio's accelerator program. It has already produced a sample of cell-based pork that underwent a taste test.
As consumers look for meat and meat-like products produced from nontraditional sources, lab-grown products have grabbed the attention of investors eager to profit from their growth. According to a report from The Good Food Institute released last May, investors have put more than $16 billion into U.S. plant-based and cell-based meat companies during a 10 year period — with $13 billion of it coming in 2017 and 2018 alone.
This influx in cash coincides with increased interest from consumers for "clean meat." A survey done in early 2018 from Surveygoo found 40% of Americans are willing to try lab-grown meat. Months later, a study done by Kadence International showed 66% of consumers would be willing to try lab-grown protein.
While consumers appear to be willing to embrace lab-grown meat, its future is far from certain. Much like GMO products did not concern consumers until they proliferated through the marketplace, cell-based meat remains a largely unfamiliar concept for many people. A recent poll found four in 10 consumers think lab-grown food is "scary" and they have no interest in trying it. This could be a problem for New Age Meats and other companies in the space.
Already, the FDA has held hearings to head off this growing tension surrounding a product that is still largely unavailable for widespread consumption. A large barrier to commercialization remains price. To make cell-cultured meat affordable to the average consumer, a handful of companies are racing to be first to market with affordable beef, chicken, fish or crustacean products.
Israeli startup Aleph Farms recently announced it had developed a cell-grown minute steak. Memphis Meats, which has received investments from Tyson Foods and Cargill, is working on lab-cultured meat and poultry, while Finless Foods is producing algae-based shrimp. Just also is creating lab-grown chicken nuggets and has partnered with Japanese meat producer Toriyama to produce lab-grown wagyu beef.
According to Crunchbase, New Age Meats has raised a total of $5.7 million in three funding rounds. Even though it hasn't raised as much capital as other cultivated meat companies, New Age Meats has produced a cell-cultured pork sausage last year that got positive reviews, according to The Spoon. The latest funding could help it develop the product for market.
However, it may require either a partnership with a bigger company that has access to distribution or a larger influx in capital to make it more competitive with established cell-cultured purveyors. New Age Meats' leading investor this round, ff Venture Capital, has funded other technology and AI companies that aim to streamline and automate production, but this appears to be the first cell-based producer it has invested in.
Many VC firms are making investments in the cell-cultured meat space. The Good Food Institute found that global cell-cultured meat companies saw a flurry of activity in 2018 with 12 firms raising $50 million in 14 deals. This influx is likely in response to the prediction that alternative meat sales — which includes cell-cultured meat — could hit $140 billion during the next 10 years.
Although there is excitement in the space, the cell-based meat industry is going to have to put a substantial amount of funding to develop the product and widely produce it at a price attractive to consumers — along with millions more to educate and market it to shoppers to get them to buy in. If these companies can convince people that the product is tasty and safe, there is a good chance the futuristic promise of lab-grown meat will put modern-day pressure on the traditional meat industry.