Upside Foods CEO on acquisitions and bringing cultivated meat to market

By John Reynolds on Tuesday 1 February 2022

Upside Foods CEO on acquisitions and bringing cultivated meat to market
Image source: Upside Foods CEO on acquisitions and bringing cultivated meat to market
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In a Q&A, the CEO and co-founder of Upside Foods (formerly Memphis Meats), gives Future Food Finance the lowdown on its latest acquisition and bringing its cultivated chicken to market first.

Earlier this month, US cultivated meat firm Upside Foods acquired Cultured Decadence, a US seed-stage cultured seafood startup.

Uma Valeti, Upside Foods CEO and co-founder, talks to Future Food Finance about the acquisition and plans ahead.

1) Why was Cultured Decadence Upside Foods' first acquisition? What was the big attraction with this acquisition?

Cultured Decadence will help us expand our product portfolio at a faster rate, and specifically accelerate our timeline for bringing some of the most beloved seafood products to market. Their team has achieved several key milestones, including establishing proprietary cell lines and cell feed for lobster and scallops, and their know-how for producing crustaceans is especially impressive given that there is little to no literature in this area. 

Beyond their technical expertise, Cultured Decadence has also built extensive partnerships across the crustacean field, ranging from leading marine research organizations to seafood distributors and academics. Like Upside, the Cultured Decadence team is made up of mission-driven people who are passionate about creating a better, more sustainable food system, and we're thrilled to welcome them to the Upside family.

2) Is the process of making cultured lobster similar to the process of making cultured meat?

In general, the process of developing cultivated seafood products is similar to making other types of cultivated meat. However, there is a lot more to uncover when it comes to seafood given the variety of species. For instance, with tuna, there are multiple types of tuna. With salmon, there are multiple types of salmon. There is also a large variety of crustaceans. At Upside, we want to find the species that are in high demand and have a reason to prioritize from a sustainability perspective. 

3) Is cultured chicken still the first product Upside Foods intends to bring to market?

Yes, our first product will be chicken, the most consumed meat in the United States. While Upside chicken will be our first commercial product, we can produce both full cuts of meat and blended products, and are working to build out a broad portfolio of meat products that people will love and crave. 

4) Are you confident that the regulators in the US will approve cultured meats?

In the United States, the US Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration have moved quickly and thoughtfully to establish a regulatory framework for cultivated meat. We are grateful for the speed and openness both agencies have shown to work alongside Upside and others to establish the safety of these products as they move towards consumers' tables.

We don't want to speculate on when regulatory review will be complete, and defer to the agencies on timelines. We will be ready to sell products once we obtain the greenlight from both agencies. 

5) Are you primarily targeting the US market?

Our current focus is on the US, but our mission is global. Ultimately, we want our products to be available wherever meat is sold, and we want them to be equally suitable for a Michelin star restaurant or a backyard BBQ.  

6) What other areas would Upside Foods be interested in targeting regarding future acquisitions?

Shifting cultivated meat and seafood products into commercial-scale production requires a rich and diverse set of strategies. With over 70 companies across the space, it's likely that there will be further consolidation of the industry, and we're open to exploring a variety of options that will allow us to scale and have a greater impact.