Sustainable plant-based meat products that taste like real meat. Is it possible to produce such products, and will the consumers buy it?
Many people who eat meat are looking for sustainable plant-based alternatives. But, according to Florian David, researcher in biotechnology and co-founder of Melt & Marble, the taste gap between plant-based and animal-based meat needs to be closed before plant-based products will be consumed on a large scale.
“The demand is currently mainly driven by flexitarians and sustainability-conscious consumers. However, many plant-based food producers target meat lovers in general. They believe that if they can offer consumers plant-based products with an identical − or better − taste experience at the same price, more and more consumers will choose the plant-based options,” says Florian David.
Animal fats produced by yeast, not animals
By using yeast cell factories, the researchers are trying to produce a key component in meat-like products: animal fats. Fats affect taste, texture, and the overall experience of eating meat, but the plant-based fats currently used cannot mimic this experience very well. The yeast metabolism can be engineered to program the yeast to replicate any existing fat structure and to even create new and better fats. This will be the key in making plant-based meats taste like the real thing.
“We have only recently started working on producing animal fat in cell factories but the research to develop the underlying technologies goes back over a decade,” says Florian David.
Several sustainablitly advantages
Producing the fats in yeast cell factories has more than one advantage from the sustainability perspective. The fat in current plant-based meats is mostly coconut fat. A coconut tree takes up to ten years to produce its first crop and twenty years to reach best harvests, and this kind of farming takes space from precious tropical biodiversity.
“The demand for plant-based meat is rapidly growing and better and more sustainable fat sources are needed. Our yeast fermentation technology can facilitate this with minimal land use in a scalable and geographically independent manner,” says Anastasia Krivoruchko, CEO of Melt&Marble and former Chalmers researcher.
Recieved Impact Maker award
In October 2021 Melt&Marble was awarded the new start-up award “Årets Impact Maker” ( Impact Maker of the Year). The award is a collaboration between Vinnova and the Swedish network “Livsmedel I fokus” with the purpose to inspire and highlight good and innovative examples from the food industry.
Text: Susanne Nilsson Lindh
Photo: Martina Butorac
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