If it’s up to Israeli companies ‘Redefine Meat’ and ‘SimpliiGood’, you will soon be able to choose between cuts of animal meat and totally meat-less “meat” products at your local restaurant, supermarket, or even butcher shop. This is what happens when harnessing technology and innovation to produce alternative proteins: a product that is better for animals, for the environment, and for humans.
You enter a famous meat restaurant, sit at your table, and receive the menu. The dish based on a cut of lamb sounds fantastic, except that the menu states that this is a totally plant-based “new meat” dish, friendly to both animals and the environment. All you can do is ask yourself what is this all about.
To Redefine Meat’s clients, this scenario is not imaginary at all. The company’s products are currently sold in over 500 restaurants in Europe and Israel, and you can also find them in hotels, catering companies and even in completely normal butcher shops. The goal is not to be the only vegan product on the menu but rather, to offer meat that is versatile enough for chefs to be able to incorporate it in their dishes and to provide multiple “new-meat” dishes on every menu.
Adam Lahav, one of Redefined Meat’s founders alongside Eschar Ben-Shitrit, and Director of Business and Marketing, explains: “The company was established in 2018 to use advanced technology to enable meat lovers to enjoy vegetarian new meat that does not harm the environment, by creating a sensory experience that is identical to that of meat consumption”.
The company’s slogan is “precisely the same, entirely different”. “This means that “new meat” is identical to traditional meat – except that it’s good for everyone. When people talk about food, they refer to taste but ultimately, eating is a sensory experience – the aroma, the sizzle in the pan, the taste and texture. All the senses are involved.
“Evolution has programed the human body over generations to enjoy a certain food. Meat is healthy and therefore also tastes good. Many vegans and vegetarians also like meat but also care about the way things are done: “Our technology, production, and marketing are all different”, Lahav claims. The goal is to change even more parameters. The company presently numbers 240 employees, approximately a third of whom are development personnel who examine various technologies and adapt them to the different cuts of meat.
The innovation is expressed, among other things, in innovative production methods, and in the control of the new meat’s ingredients and properties. “Ultimately, the most important thing is the linear alignment of the fibers and the lack of homogeneity in the distribution of meat’s ingredients – the technologies simulate this at all stages of the process with natural plant-based substitutes for muscle, fat, and blood”, Lahav emphasizes.
Until a year ago, Redefine Meat was a company in development without a product on the market, however, during the past year, the company launched its first products in Israel, England, Germany, and the Netherlands, and will soon launch new products and expand its activity to further countries.
“We love meat and believe in the meat industry and are not fighting it. The problem is the cow, not the meat”, Lahav surprises. “We think that butchers and chefs are the meat experts and appreciate their knowledge and experience. We work with them on developing the product, receive their feedback about how to improve it, and how best to cook it etc. Our goal is to offer new meat anywhere the consumer can find regular meat – like restaurants and butcher shops and, in the future, also on the retail market. This is the only way we can really make a change and reduce consumption of animal meat”.
The Advantages of the New Meat
“A distinction should be made between the consumer perception and nutritional reality: our product is healthy”, says Lahav. “It is made of natural ingredients, without trans-fat or antibiotics, with complete protein and nutrients such as B12 that exists in animal meat. The product is processed, but so too are bread and wine”.
Lahav is convinced that replacing traditional meat with new meat will enhance the nutritional value and general state of health. “Like fruit and vegetables, meat products have no label – in practice, the consumers don’t know what they are eating. With our product however, the consumer knows exactly what he is getting and is familiar with the list of our excellent nutritional value”, he notes.
Lahav attributes utmost importance to the way our world will look in the future and believes that we will eat differently in another twenty years. Alternative proteins will play a major role in this revolution, with a very large market that includes milk and meat substitutes, and even ingredients produced by growing cells in a laboratory.
Redefine is presently focusing on beef and will subsequently also address pork. “Poultry is less relevant for us as a company that wants to assimilate innovative technology. This is because despite the cruelty in the poultry sector, it is quite a simple product and doesn’t require any sensory or technological complexity and is also significantly less damaging to the environment and very low cost. Furthermore, there are already reasonable substitutes for poultry that are produced with traditional food technology which does not require the innovation we offer”, he explains.
Redefine Meat’s target audience includes meat eaters: “To generate a change in the current situation, we need to reach the entire population with a product that involves no to little compromise, but which has advantages in many other areas”, believes Lahav who aspires for a world where we continue enjoying the same sensory and cultural culinary experience offered by meat, without compromising on the environment, on animals, or on nutrition. This will be achieved by replacing the animal with technology and creating a product that the diner wants to eat again.
The company’s products have received approval from the Ministries of Health in Israel, Singapore, and the Netherlands with a seamless regulation process thanks to the choice to focus production exclusively on existing shelf materials. “This is a very innovative process from a technological perspective, but as far as food regulation is concerned, we don’t alter the raw materials and don’t use genetically engineered materials, so we don’t need any special approval”, Lahav notes.
The factory, that was established with the assistance of the Innovation Authority, operates in Rehovot. It was the first and only company in the field of alternative proteins and food-tech to receive a grant for transition from development to product, a grant that enabled them to ‘scale up’ their products. The company is currently advancing the establishment of another large factory in the Netherlands.
“The Innovation Authority was one of the first to believe in us and provided us with substantial support. We worked with the Authority on two R&D grants, one of which is the largest ever given in Israel to a company in such an early stage. The Authority subsequently gave us a grant for the transition from development to product that helped us advance at a much faster rate. We are very appreciative of the Authority with whom we conducted numerous meetings at various stages, and these were always positive, successful, supportive, helpful, and informative”.
Lahav notes with satisfaction that an amazing reality has been created whereby Israel is becoming a meat exporter. “In the past, marketing meat required vast areas of land and huge quantities of water for growing the cows and their food. These are things that Israel is not blessed with in large quantities. Suddenly, thanks to this technology, people and innovation replace the cattle, land, and water, and an Israeli company exports new meat overseas”.
So, what’s next? Redefine Meat aspires to become the world’s largest meat company: “We will use technology instead of cattle and will offer new meat instead of animal meat. This is naturally a long and challenging process but also one that is fun and satisfying”, Lahav adds.
Seeing Far, Eating Green
SimpliiGood (Algaecore Ltd.) was established in Israel eight years ago and is the only company in the world that knows how to grow fresh spirulina with a high consistency level of over 97%. The spirulina is produced at two farms – one in Tel Mond and the other in the Arava – both controlled remotely from a single center.
The Spirulina produced by the company contains 74% full protein that holds a full amino-acids scope, antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins. “In short, all the nutrients that are crucial for us as humans”, says Lior Shalev, CEO and co-founder of SimpliiGood. With more than 90% absorption into the body, the product heads all the relevant indices and is very similar in its protein structure to an egg protein, considered the ultimate protein.
Unlike other companies, SimpliiGood uses the entire plant, a fact that, according to Shalev, distinguishes it from most of the existing protein substitutes on the market that need to be extracted. Spirulina, which is a cyanobacteria, is actually the most efficient converter of solar energy to protein. To grow, the bacteria primarily need heat, sunlight and CO2, conditions that exist in abundance in the Israeli desert, and which enable to double the quantities and harvest every 24 hours.
“The growth rate of the third-generation proteins, a category to which we belong to – that includes fungi, bacteria, and algae etc. – is very high”, says Shalev, who adds that “we are already in the market and know how to compete with the second generation of classic plant-based protein worlds that is not optimally utilized, and which requires a lot of taste and odor masking”.
One of SimpliiGood’s challenges as a company that grows bacteria, and which operates in the worlds of climate tech, is the long period usually required until achieving commercialization, a challenge that the company contends with well: “As an algae company, we are still in infancy with regards to actual age but as a food-tech company, we are far more mature”, Shalev says. He believes in the company’s ability to establish a new Israeli industry that will utilize the competitive advantages at its disposal, such as the desert areas.
In contrast to companies that concentrate on a single technology, SimpliiGood is based on vertical integration and operates while controlling the entire value chain. This leads to a company that is more complex to manage on a daily basis, being the equivalent of managing several companies simultaneously, from the growing stage to the processing stage. Nevertheless, Shalev and his partner Baruch Dach view this as a strategic asset that frees them from dependence as well as having the advantage of contributing to national food security.
Three factors make SimpliiGood’s activity in the world of spirulina and protein substitute unique. First, consistency of over 97%; second, production according to the existing food approvals and standards; and third, the company operates on an industrial scale and produces 50-60 tons per year. “That may not be a lot for the food industry, but for a startup it is considerable”, says Shalev.
Taste and Aroma
Simpliigood’s Spirulina tastes and aroma are completely neutral. This is an important advantage because protein substitutes frequently require masking of taste and odor. SimpliiGood has succeeded in creating a protein that does not require such additives.
“Our aspiration is, first of all, to produce food that tastes good”, says Shalev. “We can’t talk about protein substitutes without mentioning the taste. This means that we must also address the final products that are based on our spirulina. We believe in products that must be healthy and physiological beneficial. At the same time, we need to consider the environmental impact and can no longer ignore the question about how to grow agricultural crops.
“Humankind harms the environment to manufacture low-cost products and as a result, we pay a heavy price health-wise and environmentally-wise. Apart from the harm to animals, consumption of meat and fish also causes severe environmental damage. Whole forests are cut down in the Amazon when you grow soy to create a cheap protein substitute for humans”. Shalev believes that in the next few years we’ll see a fundamental economic transformation and that spirulina will be among the most low-cost and effective solutions available.
“Until now, the world only considered the economic aspect – but this didn’t get us very far”, Shalev claims. “The industrial and technological revolutions were huge breakthroughs, but now we need to take the next quantum leap. At SimpliiGood, we are part of that story”.
SimpliiGood is a green company, not only because chlorophyll, the dominant pigment, is green, but because it grows in the harshest environment, utilizing small amounts of water, land and energy, while maintaining a circular economy production. “We basically take 2 kilos of CO2 and transform it into one kilo of food. We use solar energy and grow protein in extreme conditions that nothing can grow in”, Shalev explains. “We use a small area in covered pools of water in which 98% of the water is recycled and double the bio-mass every 24 hours. Spirulina is an amazing natural product which we are only now beginning to understand it’s amazing benefits.”.
SimpliiGood aims not only to create new food products and a whole world of alternative proteins, but also to change the face of global agriculture, and Shalev believes they can succeed. The farmers who grow the spirulina for them do so in places where nothing else is grown and generate a good income. “Israeli agriculture is almost dead, so let’s build a new generation of agriculture that uses technology”, says Shalev.
A ‘Paint Shop’ of Alternative Proteins
“We have cracked a specific technology that creates the texture of a meat cut, which can be thin like carpaccio, thicker like schnitzel, or really thick like a steak”, says Shalev. “Like any meat or fish, here too, the shape depends on the way the product is cut. Our chunk of meat or fish reacts exactly like you would expect from a chicken breast, shrimp, or fish. It has a fatty protein base and the flexibility and bite you would expect.
“We achieved an cut of alternative meat or fish chunk based on a single ingredient and made 100% out of spirulina, it’s clean label and it’s “free of” all, but it’s still green and global surveys show that consumers around the world don’t want a green-colored meat or fish product.
The company searched for a color solution and the R&D team developed a further technology, also patented by SimpliiGood. “We discovered a kind of ‘sacrifice mechanism’ that exists in spirulina with which we can create any color by inducing certain stress at specific points without any genetic interference or additives”, Shalev elaborates on the fantastic development.
“So, we have a product that is exclusively natural spirulina, without any genetic engineering, and that is better than the original product: it contains 40% protein – nearly twice that of fish or chicken breast – and has very little fat. This is an ultimate product, free of antibiotics and heavy metals, with optimal absorption, and even containing antioxidants”, Shalev explains. “And now we know how to create it in any color, in a natural way. We like to say that we have developed a ‘paint shop’: the clients tell us the texture and color coordinates they want, and we create the best protein in the world for them”.
The company’s present development, in conjunction with the Innovation Authority and the former Frutarom lab, is a cut of smoked salmon that is expected to reach the shelves by the end of 2023. Frutarom contributes aspects that SimpliiGood lacks – taste and aroma. The choice of a salmon substitute stems from the simplicity and availability of the pigmentation and the ability to achieve competitive prices.
“The company’s vision is people and planet food for all. “We believe that people and the environment are inseparable and are constantly striving to create alternative food for people that will not harm the environment but can even benefit it”. SimpliiGood is creating fish analogs in the desert and is doing so with Israeli pride with all the words that Shalev believes in such as “Zionism” and “Patriotism”.
And what about the future? “We have to see how a productive and effective industry can be sustained here. We cannot do it alone and need the assistance of the Innovation Authority and other Government Departments that understand the language and needs, which will provide the correct solutions and, primarily, won’t create obstacles”, says Shalev, who adds that “the State of Israel can become a climate-tech nation if it wants, but this requires a fundamental change in thinking about how to advance the right areas and how to inject funds correctly and more precisely. The time for change is now and Israel is the ultimate tech center to execute this change”.