- Finless Foods, a startup developing cell-cultured fish, has cut production costs by 50% since September and hopes to achieve price parity with traditional Bluefin tuna in 2019, according to Food Navigator. The company's initial prototype cost about $19,000 per pound.
- Co-founder and CEO Mike Selden told Food Navigator that the company decided to focus on Bluefin tuna to start because it is a high-value fish that will allow Finless Foods to break into the market faster. "We can create price parity with Bluefin tuna much more quickly than a clean meat company could get to price parity with chicken," he said.
- Selden said that Finless Foods will work with high-end chefs to "spark a conversation" about its "clean" fish before moving the product into grocery stores.
The race to get cell-cultured meat into mainstream markets is heating up. Last August, Cargill invested in Memphis Meats, the startup behind the world's first cell-cultured meatball and chicken strip. The protein giant didn't disclose the size of its stake, but the investment was part of a $17 million Series A funding round led by DFJ, a venture capital firm that's also backed Tesla. Richard Branson and Bill Gates invested in the latest round.
These high-profile investments have brought Memphis Meats onto the world stage, and Finless Foods is hoping to make a splash in the clean meat market, too. It's not alone — earlier this summer Hampton Creek, maker of egg-free substitutes Just Mayo and Just Scramble, announced that it was entering the cell-cultured meat game. The company is planning to roll out clean meat products before the end of 2018, Eitan Fischer, Hampton Creek's director of cellular agriculture, told Food Dive in an email.
While many clean meat startups "feed" their meat cells nutrient broths and expensive fetal bovine syrups to grow meat, Hampton Creek is leveraging its plant discovery platform — which the company uses to screen plants and find functionalities in their proteins — to find plant proteins that spur the same growth.
It's unclear what Finless Foods' development process will be, but the fact that the company is centered on making cell-cultured fish, rather than beef or poultry like its competitors, should help it stand out in the space. Today's consumers are very interested in sustainability, especially when it comes to seafood.
CEO Mike Selden told Food Navigator that Finless chose to develop Bluefin tuna rather than other seafood in order to bolster conservation efforts. "I go into this with the environment in mind; it was originally going to be a PhD project, as people know that Bluefin tuna are oftentimes on and off the threatened species list," he told Food Navigator.
Like other clean meat companies and experimental manufacturers like the Impossible Burger, Finless Foods plans to first introduce its product in high-end restaurants before scaling up production. Consumers are growing accustomed to, and hungry for, innovative meat-free proteins, but "clean" fish could carry an ick factor for consumers. Time will tell if consumers are wary of lab-grown tuna, and if Finless Foods' product really will be the first cell-cultured fish to make it to market. With the industry heating up, it's possible that a competitor could swim ahead.