Investments & Finance

Japanese Government Backs Alt Protein Innovators with Millions for Plant-Based Eggs and Cultivated Meat

The Japanese government has awarded $27.7 million in funding to two alternative protein startups: Umami United, a producer of plant-based eggs, and IntegriCulture, a cultivated meat biotechnology company, to support the nation’s economy and enhance food security.

The Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Innovation Promotion Fund Project organized by Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries selected the startups. Since 2020, the Ministry of Agriculture has established a plan to diversify protein sources, labeling alternative proteins an important sector, which includes cultivated meat.

Japan ranks as the second-largest market size for meat alternatives, valued at USD 247.5 million, according to the latest Food Frontier report on alternative proteins in Asia. However, its projected growth rate of 9% (CAGR 2022–27) is relatively low. This slower growth is driven by a lack of enthusiasm among Japanese consumers to reduce meat consumption.

Japanese cuisine is traditionally meat and fish-heavy, with small domestic meat production, land scarcity, and heavy import reliance. Meanwhile, climate change is becoming a global priority, with many governments acknowledging the link between diets and GHG emissions.

Umami United has partnered with KENKO to co-develop a new plant-based egg salad.

Plant-based eggs

Umami United will receive approximately $9 million under the theme “Establishment and Global Expansion of ‘Plant-Based Eggs’ Utilizing Japanese Technology.” With the capital, the startup will improve the functionality of its plant-based eggs and develop market expansion strategies to enter the North American market. 

Umami United’s plant-based eggs are made with traditional Japanese ingredients such as konjac flour, soy, and wood ear mushrooms that the company upcycles using fermentation. The eggs are said to offer egg-like textures, elasticity, and “real” taste. Additionally, the company aims to develop an egg white replacer for the bakery and confectionery industries.  

This August, the food tech company closed a pre-series A round, bringing its total funding to JPY 240 millionThe company says it is co-developing new products with food manufacturers, including the Japanese giant KENKO Mayonnaise, which recently launched a ready-to-eat plant-based egg salad.

“UMAMI UNITED JAPAN aims to become a global food tech company representing Japan, fostering a world where individuals with various backgrounds, including vegans and food allergies, can come together and share a meal at ONE TABLE,” shared the startup on its news board.

IntegriCulture cell cultivated meat
© IntegriCulture

Cultivated foie and chicken

IntegriCulture has been awarded $18.7 million to demonstrate that its cell-cultured foie gras and serum platforms can operate commercially. Speaking to vegconomist, the startup explained that the grant money will not be used to build a commercial facility but to demonstrate the technical capability of developing products at a commercially viable price point.

IntegriCulture develops affordable serum-free growth media and other tech solutions for the cellular agriculture sector through its proprietary CulNet System. According to the startup, the platform will be a universally accessible technology for growth media production. 

Regarding consumer products, the company claims that it has successfully developed cultivated foie gras and chicken using its serum-free solution at a fraction of the costs: 1/60th compared to animal serum

In 2022, the startup raised $7 million in a series A-plus round, bringing its total funding to $16.4 million. It included new and previous investors such as  AgFunder and Beyond Next Ventures.

“On behalf of the entire team at IntegriCulture Inc., I want to express our deepest gratitude to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry (MAFF) for their unwavering support through this $18.7 million SBIR grant. This vital funding represents a critical milestone in our mission to democratize cellular agriculture,” Yuki Hanyu, founder of IntegriCulture, told vegconomist.

>> Click here to go to Cultivated X where you will see a familiar layout and a focus solely on content regarding cellular agriculture, including fermentation-enabled products, and with more granular categories.

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