Brazilian meat processing giant purchases Spain’s BioTech Foods to accelerate commercialisation of lab-grown meat 
Concept photo of investors merging two pieces of a puzzle
Strategic acquisition puts JBS at the forefront of cultivated meat development

Brazilian meat company JBS has entered into an agreement to acquire cultivated meat business BioTech Foods to accelerate the commercialisation of the category. 

The $100 million deal includes a $41 million investment to expand the start-up’s existing R&D facility in Spain and establish Brazil’s first processing centre for cultivated meat.

The food behemoth expects to launch various lab-grown meat products, including prepared foods like burgers, steaks, sausages and meatballs in mid-2024 through commercial production.

The facility in Brazil will be established in 2022 and will include a 10,000 square metre production plant. It will be run by Brazilian chemical engineers Luismar Marques Porto and Fernanda Vieira Berti. 

Previously, Porto has been a visiting scientist for Harvard University and MIT, while Fernanda created a start-up incubator in Silicon Valley supporting the development of regenerative and T-cell medicine for treating animals. 

“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 in the market,” a JBS statement said.

BioTech will gain access to JBS’ industrial processing operations and well-developed marketing and sales departments. 

The start-up will be run similarly to JBS-owned alt-protein business Planterra, which has its own executive team while leveraging some of JBS’ internal systems to drive sales, marketing and operations. 

Speaking to NutritionInvestor in October, Planterra chief growth officer Jorge Azevedo said: “Support functions, like our accounting, are largely attached to the JBS corporate accounting and a lot of other back-office support comes out of JBS like HR support. Plus, they help quite a bit with commercial introductions and commercial relationships.”

He dismissed criticisms over the firm’s link to the traditional meat industry, noting the start-up would not have been able to expand as quickly as it had if it were raising funds independently. 

“In a regular start-up we would be in our Series B right now and we would be going on a cash burn rate that is fairly high,”Azevedo said.

In April 2021, JBS acquired Europe’s third-largest plant-based food company Vivera for an enterprise value of €341 million.

Kerem Erikçi, CEO for cultured meat growth supplement start-up Biftek recently told NI he expected mainstream food businesses to invest in the category within the next three to four years in order to address worsening challenges facing the traditional food supply chain. 

Date published: 19 November 2021

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