Cult Food Science to make cell-based foods “the norm” as company initiates new product division
17 Jan 2023 --- Cult Food Science has unveiled Cult Foods, a new product division, its latest effort to scale the development of cellular agriculture technologies. The new division will debut two new products, Zero Coffee, the world’s first cell-based coffee, and Free Candy, the first gummy made with cell-based collagen.
Cult Foods will iterate, develop and commercialize cell-based products in line with affiliate companies, drawing on and leveraging technologies within Cult Food Science’s portfolio.
FoodIngredientsFirst speaks to Lejjy Gafour, CEO of Cult Food Science, to learn more about the products, science and ethical motivation behind creating this new division.
“We are focused on making cell-based foods part of everyday life by building products and companies. Food production isn’t just being affected by climate change – it’s driving climate change,” flags Gafour.
“When you walk into a grocery store, there is way more in a grocery store than just the staples of meats and milk. Many products include individual ingredients that are traditionally animal derived that cell-based components can now replace.”
Products with impact
Gafour cites normalizing cell-based products as a pathway toward a sustainable future.
“In collaboration with our affiliates, we made the call to harness these available ingredients to develop multiple products through Cult Foods where cell-based options currently do not exist or are under-represented,” he says.
“It is about bringing about the vision of pushing to make these products part of everyday life. Materials, ingredients, milk, designer foods, coffee, honey, chocolate, and more. Every single percent of change we can effect by making more sustainable options available for consumers adds up.”
Gafour explains why Cult Foods has launched cell-based coffee and candy as its flagship products, noting that their environmental impact is significant.
“The markets for candies and coffees are large in their own right. The ingredient availability, technology readiness level, and market factors must match. These two items have that special match. Coffee is a prime example where a high chance exists for that commodity to be heavily impacted by climate changes regarding mass production and availability.”
Iteration and process
Cult Foods will employ a production model drawing upon Cult Food Science’s existing portfolio during a rapid iteration process.
“We utilize ingredients and expertise from our portfolio companies to develop new products, identify common themes, and execute,” outlines Gafour.
“Taking a rapid development and venture studio approach to a new company and product development requires some practice and rigor to execute effectively. Across our work, we keep note of themes and patterns that we see both in the technology landscape and the market more broadly.”
Gafour notes how the adaptive nature of the iterative process has pros and cons.
“This process can go all the way to noticing how environmental events may impact a particular category and what that may mean for the future. The technologies themselves have to be judged on their readiness level as well – will we be able to scale this up effectively? Or does there need to be more R&D time spent on some fundamental aspect?” he reflects.
“It can come down to creativity and imagination toward tackling a problem. The process must be flexible enough to make changes based on the feedback we get.”
Gafour is aware of how the needs and design of a product in this process can change over time.
“Formally, this can involve a lot of design and system techniques and taking not just a quantitative approach, but a qualitative one as well,” he says.
“Many things can look good on a spreadsheet, but that is never the entire story. So taking an iterative approach to understanding that story becomes very important with creating new ventures with biotechnology.”
Cell-based production methods
Manipulating cells to produce desired products is a complex yet engaging process, states Gafour.
“For the cell-based ingredients, the methods used in production vary depending on the item. At a high level, it is taking cells and designing a way to get them to multiply and grow normally. The result is the same product that you get made in an entirely new way,” he illustrates.
“The cell-based product is grown in what is generally called a bioreactor. Think of it like a type of beer brewing tank. The cells are supplied with the nutrients and vitamins needed to grow. And eventually, it is harvested and subject to quality control. The process all happens within a closed environment,” Gafour outlines.
“There are a lot of steps in that process, but it all starts with identifying the cells you need and want to harness.”
By James Davies
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