Sector News

JBS prepares for alt-protein demand boom with cultivated beef mega-plant in Europe

June 11, 2023
Food & Drink

JBS is constructing a cell-based beef facility in San Sebastián, Spain, to diversify its meat portfolio and accelerate cell-based innovation amid growing global protein demand. The plant, which will cost around US$41 million, is expected to be operational by mid-2024 and will reportedly be the largest of its kind in the world.

The facility is part of a joint venture between JBS and BioTech Foods, a Spanish company that specializes in cultivated protein and in which JBS holds a 53% stake. The plant will have an initial production capacity of over 1,000 metric tons per year, which it says could increase to 4,000 metric tons per year in the future.

The new facility will cover an area of 20,000 square meters and create about 150 jobs, mostly in research and development.

“As the largest protein producer in the world, it is our responsibility to be at the forefront of any initiatives at the intersection of food and technology,” says Eduardo Noronha, JBS USA’s head of value-added business. “The new BioTech plant puts JBS in a unique position to lead the segment and ride this wave of innovation.”

“The new hub in San Sebastián will allow BioTech Foods to offer cultivated protein as an innovative product that will meet the consumer demand for healthy, tasty and sustainable food products.”

Ballooning protein demand
JBS highlights the need to increase its alternative proteins portfolio as the global demand for protein is projected to increase by 135% by 2050, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). FAO also estimates that market penetration of alternative proteins will rise from 2% to between 10% and 22% by 2035.

“Given the challenges imposed on global supply chains, cultivated protein has the potential to stabilize food security and global protein production,” says Iñigo Charola, co-founder and CEO at BioTech Foods.

Moreover, according to FAO, the global population is rising at the same time as per capita demand for protein, meaning there are more people who want more protein.

In a recent consumer survey, Innova Market Insights found that foods with plant and non-animal protein launches are growing in all regions – led by Asia’s 10.7% growth between H2 2021 to H1 2022. Furthermore, for traditional meat, the CAGR of sales value was positive across all regions between 2020 and 2022.

Scaling up production
To speed up the pace of cultivated innovation, JBS is also investing in biotechnology and cultivated protein research and development in Brazil. The company will build a “latest-generation” innovation center in Florianópolis, Santa Catarina, with an estimated investment of US$60 million.

Meanwhile, BioTech Foods is planning to increase its production capacity gradually. The company has identified Australia, Brazil, the EU, Japan, Singapore and the US as key markets for the business to tap in the future.

“BioTech Foods has the technology and capacity to produce protein on a large scale sustainably and innovatively, addressing commercial needs around the world,” Charola underscores.

Year of cell-based
Several changes in the regulatory landscape are rapidly pushing cell-based product commercialization forward, with the market propelling innovation to scale production in preparation for global availability.

Last month, the European Food Safety Authority told us it is prepared to receive the first commercial wave of EU requests for the market authorization of cell-based foods. The EU is behind the US, which food authorities have already cleared two different companies’ products as safe for consumption.

Meanwhile, Singapore leads the cultivated meat commercialization race. Earlier this year, the country hit another cultivated meat milestone by approving Good Meat’s use of serum-free media to produce lab-grown chicken for human consumption.

This week and ahead of expected regulatory approvals for its cultivated meat in the US, Aleph Farms announced chef Marcus Samuelsson will join the company as an investor, culinary advisor and launch partner. By tapping into a celebrity chef, the company expects “diners in the US will discover just how easily cultivated meat can be incorporated into their diets.”

By Marc Cervera


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