9 start-ups taking a bite out of the alternative meat market

6 Feb 2020

Image: © Andrei/Stock.adobe.com

We take a look at some of the start-ups leading the way in the development of lab-grown and plant-based meat alternatives.

‘Veganuary’ has come to a close, but a month of choosing alternatives to some of the foods we eat every day may have left many inspired to cut down on their meat and dairy consumption.

This week, we’re taking a look at some start-ups that are using science and tech to develop alternatives to meat – either in labs or through new meat-free recipes – in order to give meat eaters more options, to provide more variety and convenience to dedicated vegans, or to focus on food sustainability.

We’ve gathered a range of companies that are developing alternatives for environmental, social and health reasons. The list includes big names that have partnered with fast-food giants already, as well as some companies that are just getting started.

The Meatless Farm Company

The Meatless Farm Company is a Leeds-based start-up that was founded in 2016 by Morten Toft Bech. The founder was driven by concerns about health, the environment and animal welfare, and wanted to create some new plant-based options that could attract ‘flexitarians’ and meat eaters looking to reduce their consumption.

With a team of nutritionists and chefs, Meatless Farm has developed mince, burgers and sausages that can be cooked at home, and produced in a way that has lower carbon emissions than traditional meat.

In September 2019, UK broadcaster Channel 4 invested an undisclosed seven-figure sum in the British start-up, in a deal that will see Meatless Farm give the broadcaster equity in exchange for regional TV advertising on both Channel 4 and its streaming services.


London-based This is a company that makes plant-based food targeted at meat lovers. Founded in 2018 by Andy Shovel and Pete Sharman, This predominantly uses soy protein, water and pea protein to make its products.

The product range includes alternatives to chicken goujons, as well as BBQ, tikka and rotisserie-style ‘chicken’, and an alternative to bacon. This has raised more than $5.6m in funding to date, from investors including Five Seasons Ventures, Manta Ray Ventures and Backed VC.

The company markets itself by highlighting the impact that meat has on the environment versus meat alternatives. For instance, This says that 1kg of beef uses 4,184 litres of water before it arrives on your plate, while 1kg of one of its product uses 121 litres of water.

Beyond Meat

Perhaps one of the most well-known meat-free food companies, Beyond Meat, describes itself as “the future of protein”. Founded in 2009 by Ethan Brown, the company first launched its products in the US in 2012.

Beyond Meat has since launched products designed to simulate chicken, beef and sausages, some of which have made their way into European supermarkets and fast-food chains such as Eddie Rockets.

Beyond Meat went public in May 2019, raising almost a quarter of a billion dollars. Following the IPO, Beyond Meat was valued at around $1.5bn.  The start-up had raised approximately $122m prior to the IPO, from investors including General Mills, Tyson Foods, Obvious Ventures and Cleveland Avenue.

Mosa Meat

Dutch food technology start-up Mosa Meat is developing new production methods for cultured, lab-grown meat. Founded by Mark Post and Peter Verstrate, the company claims to have created the world’s first hamburger that didn’t require an animal to be slaughtered. Now, Mosa Meat wants to make this cultured meat product commercially viable.

Mosa Meat, like many other start-ups working in this realm, is trying to make lab-grown meat commercially available for environmental reasons. The firm says that by 2050, global meat demand will be 70pc higher than today’s level, and that Earth currently does not have enough land and water to produce this much meat using animals.

In its 2018 Series A funding round, Mosa Meat raised €7.5m from investors including Bell Food Group, Lowercase Capital and M Ventures. Now focused on scaling up, Mosa Meat aims to have its first products on the market in the next few years.

Impossible Foods

Another well-known plant-based meat substitute business, Impossible Foods was founded in 2011 by Patrick Brown and Monte Casino. In 2016, the firm launched its signature product, the Impossible Burger, which is designed to closely resemble a traditional hamburger. The company has recently launched an alternative to pork and is actively developing new products.

Impossible Foods aims to give consumers the taste and nutritional benefits of meat, without creating the same environmental impact. Impossible Foods says that it researches animal products at a molecular level, seeking the specific proteins and nutrients meat is composed of and trying to recreate them with plant-based ingredients.

Over the last nine years, the San Francisco start-up has raised around $750m from investors including Horizons Ventures, Temasek Holdings, Khosla Ventures, Bill Gates, actress Ruby Rose Langenheim, Jay-Z, and Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian.

Memphis Meats

Founded by cardiologist Uma Valeti, cell biologist Nicholas Genovese and engineer Will Clem, Memphis Meats is a Californian food technology company founded in 2015 that is developing its own sustainable cultured meat. The start-up takes one cell, lets it grow and multiply, and feeds it a range of nutrients including amino acids, sugars, minerals and vitamins that are normally found in meat.

The company has been backed by SoftBank, Temasek, Norwest, Tyson Foods, Cargill and Threshold Ventures, as well as Bill Gates and Richard Branson. The company recently raised $161m in Series B funding, bringing its total funding to $181.1m.

While competitor Mosa Meat claims to have created the first lab-made hamburger, Memphis Meats has made breakthroughs in other types of cell-based meats. The company claims it created the first cell-based beef meatball in 2016 and the world’s first cell-based chicken and duck in 2017.

Moving Mountains

Moving Mountains is a London-based start-up developing plant-based products that imitate familiar meat products. Founded in 2016 by Simeon Van der Molen, Moving Mountains aims its products at flexitarians.

Now stocked in restaurants such as the Hard Rock Café and Applebee’s, as well as Sainsbury’s supermarkets in the UK and Woolworths stores in Australia, Moving Mountains has a range of 100pc plant-based hot dogs, burgers, sausages and sliders, which it says “sizzle in the pan” just like real meat. The main ingredients in each of these products are coconut oil, beetroot juice, mushrooms and plant proteins.

Moving Mountains is developing more plant-based food products, with the aim of creating a sustainable food source.

Foods for Tomorrow

Based in Barcelona, Foods for Tomorrow was founded in 2017 by Marc Coloma. The foodtech company has created a plant-based ingredient called Huera, which is comprised of vegetable proteins.

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Foods for Tomorrow has developed Heura products that imitate various types of chicken dishes, beef-inspired products such as meatballs and burgers, as well as ready meals and pizzas.

CEO Coloma says that his mission is to make the existing food system “obsolete” by replacing the meat products on supermarket shelves with products such as his.


Meatable is currently developing cell-based beef and pork products. The Dutch company takes a sample from a cow or pig, then replicates the natural process of fat and muscle growth, mixing the two elements together to produce real meat, without harming an animal.

While it takes three years for a cow to be old enough to be slaughtered for food, Meatable says it takes three weeks to develop its alternative.

Meatable was founded by Daan Luining, Krijn De Nood and Mark Kotter in 2018. The company raised $10m last December, bringing its total funding to $13.5m, from investors such as Backed VC, BlueYard Capital, Atlantic Food Labs and Future Positive Capital.

What differentiates Meatable from the other businesses developing lab-grown meat is that its primary focus is on pork, in response to the rising cost of the meat globally. The company expects its small-scale bioreactor to be ready this year, which will help it have an industry-scale manufacturing plant by 2025.

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Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic