The cultivated meat industry is expected to make its global impact soon with the recent entry of JBS, the world’s largest protein company and also the world’s 2nd largest food industry player. In November, JBS has entered into an agreement to acquire control of Spanish company BioTech Foods.
The deal signals its entry into the cultivated protein market, and this also includes investment in building a new plant in Spain to scale up production. JBS is also announcing the setting up of Brazil’s first cultivated protein R&D center. JBS will channel US$100 million to the 2 projects.
BioTech Foods, co-founded by Inigo Charola (CEO) and Mercedes Vila Juarez (CTO), is one of the leaders in the development of biotechnology for producing cultivated protein, and has the support of the Spanish government and the EU. The company operates a pilot plant in the city of San Sebastian and expects to reach commercial production in mid-2024 with the building of this new production facility. The investment in the new facilities is estimated at US$41 million.
With the acquisition, JBS becomes the majority shareholder of BioTech Foods. The deal enables both companies to pool their strengths and accelerate the development of the cultivated protein market. JBS will have access to BioTech Foods technology and protein production capability while providing the industrial processing capacity, marketing structure and sales channels to bring the new product to market.
When commercial operations begin, the cultivated protein will reach consumers in the form of prepared foods such as hamburgers, steaks, sausage meats, and meatballs, among others, with the same quality, safety, taste and texture as traditional protein. The technology has the potential not only for the production of beef protein, but also chicken, pork and fish.
Gilberto Tomazoni, Global CEO of JBS said, “This acquisition strengthens our strategy of innovation, from how we develop new products to how we commercialise them, to address the growing global demand for food. Combining technological know-how with our production capacity, we will be in a position to accelerate the development of the cultivated protein market.”
JBS cultivated protein R&D centre is set to be inaugurated in 2022, and the 2nd phase of the center will also include a plant occupying an area of 10,000 sq.metre. The center will have around 25 researchers and will work on the development of leading-edge technologies for the food industry. It will be headed by Luismar Marques Porto and Fernanda Vieira Berti, both Ph.D. scientists in chemical engineering and have extensive international professional and academic experience. Through the investment in the R&D center, JBS intends to develop new techniques that accelerate the economies of scale and reduce the costs of producing cultivated protein, bringing forward its commercialisation on the market.
A global leader in beef, pork and chicken, JBS has made several major investments during 2021 to expand its operation in other proteins – it has acquired Dutch company Vivera, Europe’s largest independent plant-based food company, and it has just concluded the acquisition of Huon, the 2nd largest salmon producer in Australia. Cultivated protein has arrived to supplement this portfolio.
In Brazil, JBS is the country’s largest employer, with over 145,000 team members. Worldwide, JBS offers an extensive portfolio of brands and these include Seara, Swift, Pilgrim’s Pride, Moy Park, Primo, and Just Bare, among many others, which find their way every day onto the tables of consumers in 190 countries.
JBS also adopts the best sustainability and animal welfare practices across its entire value chain and in March 2021, it assumed the commitment to become Net Zero by 2040.