<Written in December 2022>
Last edited 12 June 2023
During COP27, key discussions on climate change affecting food security was a constant topic. Driven by the Covid-19 pandemic and escalated by the Russian invasion, disruptions in food supply chains created global panic where nations have no choice but to acknowledge and re-strategise.
Singapore answered by spearheading a conducive environment for cultured meats start-ups to scale and grow their production. In line with the goal of 30 by 30, the nation is offering immense legislative support along with social awareness in welcoming the alternative protein industry.
The Singapore Food Agency (SFA) created history by issuing Eat Just, the license to sell cultured meats – marking them the first in Singapore and also the very first in the World! Fast forward a year later to present, The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) completed a pre-market consultation process for Upside Foods to sell its cultivated chicken to public. Once FDA gives their final “go-ahead”, Upside Foods will be officiated as the world’s second. This truly marks an exciting advancement for alternative protein and a viable solution to food insecurity.
“Perceptions have shifted after the COVID-19 pandemic. The food industry in Singapore may be more willing to accept cultured meats due to challenges and frequent fluctuations in the supply chain.”
~ Daniel Ang, Food Influencer, DanielFoodDiary.com
Added on by Singapore publication food correspondent Eunice Quek, “Besides huge government support, the infrastructure here in Singapore is ready (for the alternative protein industry), along with the good reputation for safety and protocols. This makes a good springboard for many start-ups to penetrate the Asian region.”
On 30 August 2022, Feed 9 Billion and Innovate 360 jointly created yet another milestone with the support of SFA. An open sandbox tasting was held where four cultured meats companies. Aleph Farms, Avant Meats, Shiok Meats and Umami Meats came together to feature a tasting menu for guests comprising of various regulatory bodies of Singapore, C-suites of multinational companies, local and regional government representatives. Such collaborations with government bodies aim to educate the public while instilling the element of trust.
According to Minister of State, Alvin Tan, Minister of Trade and Industry, Singapore aims to support businesses to advance their product capabilities through R&D for safer, healthier and more sustainable food. Furthermore, agencies and initiatives have been put in place to help accelerate product innovation processes with a conducive environment for test-bedding and collaborative research. The country’s Geo-Political ties will also complement businesses with a trusted and well-connected free access to global markets.
With key governments and private sectors onboard, Feed 9 Billion is set to create an open food ecosystem for cultured meat industry in the region through collaboration. By bringing together various stakeholders, the social enterprise aims to accelerate the growth of this industry by creating synergy among various players. This will in turn expedite infrastructure growth and promote economies of scale to assist in scalability.
In an effort to bring down consumer price through scalability, Believer Meats has commenced the construction of “the world’s biggest cultured meat factory” in North Carolina. Amongst several other companies scaling up in anticipation of taking their products to the market, such massive infrastructure allows a “production capability of 10,000 metric tons” which may in turn help the industry lower cost drastically.
Several companies from South Korea are also working to reduce production cost by introducing alternative scaffolding and media. These new substitutes greatly rival the cost of traditionally used Fetal Bovine Serum (FBS). Companies like SeaWith and DaNAgreen have committed to enhancing their technologies in creating cost effective substitutes to FBS to greatly reduce production cost. CellMEAT, one of Korea’s more established cultivated seafood companies has already developed its proprietary cell-culture medium that essentially lowers production cost yet focusing on achieving the texture and taste of tradition meats.
According to Kim HeeJung Co-Founder & COO at CellMEAT Corp, the company stands firm in capturing the market through taste. She believes that taste is the key factor alongside price in achieving success.
Aside from food security, revenue potentials are creating a huge pull for start-ups into the industry. Alone in Asia, it has been forecasted food spend of over USD8 trillion by 2030. Of which, alternative protein enterprises are seeing higher value-to-revenue in comparison to traditional protein companies. According to research by Temasak, PWC and Rabobank, “Asia has become the largest region in the global food market”. Consumers are forecasted to spend an incremental USD4.4 trillion on food in the next decade. In addition, the continent is set to contribute 65 percent of the world’s middle-class affluence by 2030.
A separate research from the Good Food Institute (Alternative Protein Database 2022) listed 36 cultured meats related companies in Asia and 46 from USA/Canada from a total of approximately 140 globally. 
Will we be seeing a tip of the scale to Asia given the legislative assistance and infrastructure? Or will oil rich countries take a monumental strategy shift towards climate change by investing aggressively in alternative protein?