Umami Meats Partners With Japan’s NUProtein to Bring Down Cost of Cultivated Seafood

NUProtein will provide Umami Meats with growth factors at 1/3000th of the cost of those currently available on the market.

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Singapore-based startup Umami Meats has partnered with Japan’s NUProtein to reduce the cost of cultivating seafood. 

The two companies met in Tokyo yesterday, January 25th, to formalize their partnership in front of stakeholders, including the media, government, and investors. The Market Shake team attended the signing to give you the inside scoop on developments in the APAC-cultivated protein space.

The Scoop On Umami Meats & NUProtein’s Partnership

NUProtein will provide Umami Meats with its growth factor production system, which can be used to make the proteins required to cultivate seafood at a fraction of the cost of what’s currently available on the market. The commercial price of proteins used to feed cell growth is usually around 25,000 JPY (US 200 dollars) per microgram. According to CEO Minami Masataka, NUProtein’s products cost 1/3000th of the price, so roughly 10 JPY (USD 8 cents) per microgram.

Umami Meats will use NUProtein’s technology to help cultivate Japanese eel meat at a reduced cost. Umami Meats focuses on cultivating seafood species that are in high demand but listed as endangered on the IUCN Redlist, such as unagi (Japanese eel) and red snapper. According to CEO Mihir Pershad, these species are sold at higher price points so Umami Meats will be able to reach price parity with their cultivated products sooner.

During the event, Umami Meats reaffirmed its commitment to Japan as a key market for cultivated seafood:

We believe that building premium seafood products starting in Japan and developing products that meet the quality standards and consumer expectations here is a signal to the world that the products are the best available. 

Mihir Pershad, co-founder and CEO of Umami Meats

Umami Meats is seeking to develop a full value chain of partners in Japan to help bring their cultivated seafood to consumers at scale. NUProtein is one of the first to strike a formal agreement, and Umami Meats is also in talks with several major collaborators in Japan, including manufacturing giant Asahi Kasei, sushi chain Sushiro, and trading companies like Itochu.

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In addition to Japan, Umami Meats has formed several global partnerships in recent months to help accelerate the development of its products. In 2022 they partnered with US food ingredient company Ingredion to launch a prototype battered snapper fillet. They are also working with Israeli startup Steakholder Foods which will help them develop the 3D-printed structure of fat and muscle cells for eel and grouper products.

The Timeline to Commercial Release

We asked CEO Mihir Pershad about the timeline for the commercial launch of cultivated Umami Meat’s cultivated seafood.

Our goal is to have the first product for consumers in a restaurant in Singapore by the end of next year. Our timeline for Japan is less clear because regulators have not approved any products here yet. In general, going from restaurant to retail will take more time because minimum volumes required are much higher.

Mihir Pershad, co-founder and CEO of Umami Meats

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The Race Is On to Save Our Seas

Umami Meats aims to provide a sustainable supply of seafood to meet the world’s growing demand, which increasingly cannot be met by supply from our oceans and aquaculture alone. According to Umami Meats, the latter method, which involves farming fish in water, can only be used to produce seven to eight species of seafood. There are many more in-demand species that currently cannot be produced by any existing method. In addition to being able to produce these seafood varieties, Umami Meat’s cultivated fish will also be free from plastic and heavy metal pollution which is a problem for our current seafood supply.

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