Dubai: Lamb meat from plants?
A Saudi investment firm KBW Ventures is digging into this possibility through partaking in a $12.3 million Series A round for Black Sheep Foods, a San Francisco based foodtech startup.
The latter is out to redefine ‘alt-meat’, by crafting ‘delicious meat flavors beyond the usual suspects, and doing it using plants’. First up is lamb made from plants.
Others involved in this funding round are Unovis – and early investor in Oatly and Beyond Meat – alongside Bessemer Ventures Partners and AgFunder. It brings total investment to $18.05 million since the company’s founding in 2019.
"Until now, the options we have for meat have been a byproduct of what makes sense for commercial animal agriculture," said Sunny Kumar, CEO and co-founder, Black Sheep Foods. "The (animal) feed conversion ratios have dictated the flavors that we access, not taste.
Black Sheep Foods is devoted to bringing the tastiest, most flavorful meats to market. And, these meats will just happen to be made from plants. We are the first to market with lamb made from plants, which has already been picked up across fine dining and fast casual chains.
"Some chefs are using it to replace their beef patties. Taste wins, and we look forward to expanding the assortment of meat flavors -- made from plants -- that consumers have access to."
Will it be a tough sell?
Converting those who prefer their meat to be ‘real’ will need some convincing. But there’s a niche consumer base that have gravitated to plant-based options. This is what has heated up interest among investors seeking an opportunity in a still vastly under-tapped space.
Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed, founder of KBW Ventures and an early investor in alt-proteins, participated in this funding round after tasting Black Sheep Foods’ lamb. He said: With taste being a vital aspect of customer adoption, Black Sheep Foods will easily dominate amongst plant-based meats. Additionally, game meats are still a wide open playing field.
“There’s a whole range of taste profiles that Black Sheep will be able to explore, especially with the company’s technology, allowing for an amplified flavor, excellent texture, and a strong nutritional profile.”
How the ‘meat’ gets made
This rate of product adoption is fueled by the years Black Sheep Foods has invested in flavor R&D. The patent-pending flavor technology allows them to isolate the flavor molecules that give any animal meat its distinctive flavor, identify the same molecules in plants, and reconstruct the depth of meat flavor – including mouthfeel and richness – using only plants.