Steakholder Foods: Bioprinting A Pathway To Revenue Streams In A Futuristic Industry
Revenue streams are within sight for the cultivated meat industry, but the products themselves aren't the answer just yet.
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Happy Tuesday Market Shakers.
* This interview has been condensed.
Steakholder Foods is unique in a number of ways. Not least of all because it’s the only publicly traded cultivated meat company on the Nasdaq (a large US stock exchange). This is an interesting position to be in.
For starters, it gives the opportunity to anyone with the financial means to literally hold a stake in the future of meat. But let’s be clear, Steakeholder Foods is all about the future: it doesn’t actually sell anything yet.
This means the quarterly financials it’s obligated to publish as a listed company are, for the most part, running reports of losses. You can see them here. This is unsurprising considering the product Steakholder Foods is focussed on supporting is still years away from being commercially available.
Surprisingly though, this level of transparency is refreshing. Alt-protein companies are typically guarded about financial performance (especially to journalists like me) - a symptom, no doubt, of the fear of speculative hawks perched at their PCs, looking for any excuse to sound a death knell for the industry as a whole. It’s reassuring, then, to see a startup acknowledging so openly their losses that result from investing in R&D that will power the future of food.
Yet, this brings us to another unique aspect of Steakholder Foods: it’s a cultivated meat company with a very clear path to revenue streams. Typically, this is a difficult thing to forecast with any degree of certainty for cultivated meat companies, as commercial production is not yet in sight. But Steakholder Foods aren’t focussing on selling meat, at least not in the short term…
Building the Infrastructure for the Cultivated Meat Industry
Arik Kaufman, CEO and co-founder of Steakholder Foods, is comfortable talking about the financial prospects of an industry that has no track record to use as a reference. He does so candidly and frankly.
By focusing its go-to-market strategy on 3D printers, Steakholder Foods seeks to capitalize on the growing demand for infrastructure to cultivate meat. Industry experts have all reinforced the need for sweeping technological advances across the entire production process for cultivated meat before it can reach a meaningful level of scale. Steakholder Foods’ highly advanced bioprinting technology could help the industry to solve several existing problems, such as structuring cultivated meat.
How Steakholder Foods’ Bioprinting Solutions Work
Steakholder Foods’ sophisticated 3D printing technology is designed to print whole cuts of cultivated meat. Their machines take bio-inks - cartridges of cells and media - and print them inside a meat-shaped matrix. The initial output looks more like a pixellated image of steak than an actual steak. After a few weeks of incubation, however, it becomes a high-definition textured slab of meat.
Two things make the tech special according to Kaufman.
What’s more, the technology has been developed for scale from the outset according to Kaufman.
Having already proven the potential of its product with several successful pilots, Steakeholder Foods appears to be in position to ramp up production of its tech and license it out.
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The Cultivated Meat Industry Needs To Mature Before Demand for 3D Printing Takes Off
The question remains whether the technology alone will generate sufficient returns at this stage. The nascent cultivated meat industry faces production bottlenecks across the board.
On this aspect too, Kaufman is realistic.
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Signs That The Cultivated Meat Industry Is Growing
Kaufman is optimistic that the industry will indeed grow at anticipated rates.
Firstly, there’s a trend toward developing hybrid meat products - mixtures of plant-based ingredients and cells. A higher percentage of plant-based ingredients in Steakholder Foods bio-inks can bring the cost of printing way down, according to Kaufman.
Secondly, he explains there is a lot of interest in advancing the cultivated meat industry now from many different sides.
Continued interest and enthusiasm towards cultivated meat is vital at this stage if the industry is to grow. In fact, much more engagement at all levels is likely required.
Activating Steakholder Interest
This brings us back to the Nasdaq. Kaufman admits that there are pros and cons to being a publicly traded company on the world’s second-biggest stock exchange.
Kaufman and the Steakholder Foods team are focused on activating stakeholder interest in cultivated meat. The company is actively engaging with partners, both startups and big players, around the world. For Kaufman, the US and APAC are key regions that are open to innovation.
Later this year, Kaufman will be visiting Japan to explore new opportunities and collaborations for Steakholder Foods and hopefully stimulate interest from potential investors.
So far, Japan has shown an open stance towards cultivated meat. Whether this signals the public would be keen to invest in it is another matter altogether. Japan is famously paradoxical when it comes to innovation, light years ahead in some aspects and decades behind in others. In this respect though, a highly sophisticated printer may be just the kind of product the Japanese can get on board with. Especially if it prints authentic seafood as well as meat.
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That’s All Folks
We hope you enjoyed reading today’s interview with the founder of the very fascinating Steakholder Foods. A huge thank you to Arik Kaufman and the team for supporting this interview.
See you next Tuesday!
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