🧫 From Lab to Plate: An insider's view #20
A conversation with Alexander Hoffmann, one of the early investors in Mosa Meat, about the future of cultivated meat
Hey there 🤗
Welcome to the final part of the From Lab to Plate series where I got the chance to speak with Alex Hoffmann, one of the early investors in Mosa Meat. If you missed first two parts of the series, we looked at how cultivated meat could play a key role in reducing the impact created by our obsession with meat, and how cultivated meat is actually made.
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Before we dive into the conversation, who is Alex?
Alex is the Managing Partner of Kingstone Schweizer Ventures, an impact & climate tech VC fund focusing on energy, food and agriculture, and materials 2.0. He previously served as the Investment Director at M Ventures, the corporate VC arm of Merck, a multinational life science and technology company from Germany. At M Ventures, Alex lead investments and held board positions in various startups like Biolinq (biosensors for glucose monitoring), Mosa Meat (cultivated beef), and Formo (nature-identical milk proteins from precision fermentation - see ‘tings #03).
Note: The answers to the interview questions have been edited to improve readability but they still reflect the insights gained from the conversation with Alex.
What drove you towards investing in cultivated meat?
The interest in cultivated meat came up relatively naturally. The fact that M Ventures and Merck are active in the biotech space lead us to look for technologies and industries with a certain overlap, so cultivated meat made a lot of sense for us for this exact reason. In addition to this, we believed that plant & insect protein alternatives are unlikely to reach the same level of consumer acceptance as conventional meat, so there was a clear opportunity for widespread success with cultivated meat.
What got you excited about Mosa Meat?
We first started looking into cultivated meat back in 2017 when there were 5 startups around. We spoke to all of them but specifically liked Mosa Meat for several reasons. The team around the co-founders Mark Post, who was the first scientist to provide evidence that cultivated meat works, and Peter Verstrate were incredibly knowledgable with a high level of passion. Their ability to look at the big picture at such an early stage was impressive. Unlike some of the other early startups who focused just on the growth media, the biggest challenge at the time, Mosa Meat were looking at the entire process. The fact that both Mosa and M Ventures are based in the Netherlands also helped of course.
Its incredible to see what they have achieved so far and how they have managed to bring the costs down from €200k for the first burger to €9 as announced in 2019. The industry as a whole has come a long way since then, but it does still has a ways to go.
Do you see cultivated meat as an investment opportunity at KSV?
I think the ship has sailed for early stage investors in cultivated meat, we would not invest at the seed or series A stage today. There are already so many advanced companies out there that it is unlikely that a new startup will create something so unique and different compared to the early players. That isn’t to say that we will not invest in the space.
Early startups were forced to develop all aspects around cultivating meat because of the fact that nothing existed. But, cultivated meat is too big of an industry for individual companies to do the process end-to-end. At some point a new breed of meat producers will emerge who shift from farming living animals to cultivating meat instead. This is where we see an investment opportunity, startups that enable the cultivated meat industry and who are improving specific parts of the process.
Where do you see the biggest challenge in getting to that point?
The core science of cultivating meat is no longer the biggest challenge, it has shifted from a scientific risk to an engineering risk. How we go from 10 to 10,000kg will present an entire new set of challenges, but the question is not if it is possible but how it is possible. It is a matter of time, demand, and scale to bring the costs down.
When do you think we will actually be eating cultivated meat?
That’s a tough question! I think it will become accessible in a matter of two years. Not at a large scale, but accessible at a premium price. This is already the case with one restaurant in Singapore and Israel. The journey after that in terms of strategy & positioning of companies will be interesting. The premium aspect of cultivated meat will require a strong brand but this is something that normal meat doesn’t have. When have you ever shopped for a specific brand of minced meat?
The premium aspect of cultivated meat will require a strong brand but this is something that normal meat doesn’t have. When have you ever shopped for a specific brand of minced meat?
The only way that we will truly address the impact of our meat consumption is to reach price parity, so that it also appeals to the people who don’t care about the climate. It doesn’t make sense to do it as a highly branded product. They don’t care about a branded plant based burger, so why would they buy a branded cultivated burger. There is a consumer who doesn’t care and the only way to achieve impact is to address them with price.
As costs go down branding will have to disappear and the production of cultivated meat will have to shift to a licensing model so it can reach a price where everyone can buy it.
Cultivating meat will turn into an execution game where the ingredients and tools will be licensed, a kind of franchising of cultivated meat production.
I hope you enjoyed this summary of the conversation that I had with Alex, and I hope you enjoyed the entire three part From Lab to Plate series.
I’ve said it before, but I am truly excited to try cultivated meat and the potential it has to significantly reduce the impact of our collective obsession with meat.
If you have any questions about cultivated meat be sure to leave a comment on this post.
Until next time, much love,
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