In a dynamic and insightful discussion hosted by Tommaso Di Bartolo, founding partner of Awesm Ventures, panelists Theresa “Sam” Houghton, Trained Health Coach, a next gen proteins content strategist and marketer, who runs the platform GreenGut Wellness, Vi Nguyen, ESG, sustainability & investment specialist, Research Director at Asia Research & Engagement, and Marina Schmidt, creator and host of Red to Green Solutions, highlighted key aspects of sustainability, nutrition and innovation on next gen proteins as well as opportunities and challenges ahead for emerging players.
Virtual Coffee: A Curated panel of industry fellows to discuss how to future-proof traditional markets
In Season 2, recognized world-class Researchers, Scientists, Faculty Members, Senior Executives, Experts, Chefs, Investors and Entrepreneurs from around the globe, engage in strategic exchange of views and share startling intel on viable transformative innovation in Agriculture, Food and Beverage, zooming in the next gen proteins space.
With Special participation of
[Industry Fellows] Virtual Coffee: S2:E15
Theresa "Sam" Houghton
ESG, sustainability & investment specialist
Chief Nerd @ GreenGut Wellness | Content Strategy with a "Novel" Twist
Sustainable food packaging, regenerative farming, food waste, cultured meat, plant-based products. Creator of Red to Green - The Podcast on sustainable food tech
Serial entrepreneur w/ 2 exits, author, advisor, faculty, investor.
Tommaso Di Bartolo
Episode's 🔖 Transcription
Tommaso: Hello everybody and welcome. Thank you so much for joining our episode. Today we have our grand finale for our Virtual Coffee number 15. We have been running over season 2 throughout the entire year of 2020. We have this great, amazing lineup and I’m very honored by three successful women entrepreneurs here that I would like to introduce, Sam Houghton. Sam is a trained health coach, a next gen proteins content strategist and marketer, who runs the platform GreenGut Wellness. Sam, thanks for joining us.
Also already a second time in our season two, returning guest Vi Nguyen. ESG, sustainability & investment specialist, Research Director at Asia Research & Engagement. Vi, thank you so much for being here again.
Last but not least, from the beautiful Germany, Marina Schmidt. Creator and host of Red to Green solutions, a podcast showcasing game-changing innovations in sustainable food tech. I will have the pleasure here to be the host and run the next 45 minutes, a couple of questions and I’m really curious to hear your processes on that.
Plant based space over the next decades
Without further ado, I would like to welcome on stage/screen again, Sam, Marina and Vi. Actually, I would like to start out with Sam. Sam, you have been a longtime consumer of plant based products and have been in the plant based space for over a decade, which is very visionary of you, developing content, strategies and writing about food tech and health in addition to pass experience as a health coach. Now question “what can you share with us in terms of your perspective on how we will eat and live over the next decades”.
Sam: I’ve been keeping my eyes in plant based space, especially more now that things have been speeding up and everything has been growing. With all that I actually launched a newsletter and a podcast around that, because there's so much to talk about, iIt's called The Modern Health Nerd and that’s because I’m a half nerd. I have been a plant based eater since 2009 and I have given plant based nutrition from Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition, studied and trained health coach at Bauman College and I read everything, I write about everything, and I’ve seen a trajectory toward, I think two things, we have a lot o food tech going on and we also have a lot of returning to almost the old school practices, a lot of interest in regenerative agriculture, and I think together these two are really emerging through sustainability. I think sustainability as a whole is going to be a big driver of the change in how we eat over the next decade and further on there.
We have this interesting merger of the indoor vertical farming and people who are still outperforming but are looking for ways to sequester carbon, they're looking for ways to make sure the soil is still healthy, and we have people who are using foodtech to come up with these new products that are attracting a lot of people who never would have thought about eating a plant based diet, so I think we are going to see a big input on people who are not only just trying to plant based products but coming back to it and then hopefully these plant based brands will use their platform to educate people on how to go from to being flexitarian or a meet producer to actually increasing their health funding by making further changes.
I think there’s going to be this interesting merger between old school foodtech thought leadership into a movement where people are really going to be moving towards better health, that’s better for them and that’s better for the way that we are stewarding this planet we’ve been given to take care of.
Tommaso: So there's a lot to unpack in what you're saying and giving also what your professional background is. You said you've now also launched a podcast, so you become an influencer, you're writing about this topic. What do you think about how can we stimulate people to eat lower in the food chain? What are influences? How can we make a change together? What are you doing in this area?
Sam: Well, that's where I like to say I put on my health coach hat and I like to just have conversations with people. I'm hoping that in the future they'll be able to produce more content about this. I've had some people on my podcast already who are doing things like having classes and teaching people to make plant based transitions and I think that that is going to be a big deal, not just for me but for other people in the plant based space is that education is telling people that this doesn't have to be all or nothing. You don't have to be the level full vegan who vibrates through walls from day one. You can enjoy anything that you enjoy right now to be enjoyed in a plant based way and it doesn't have to be complicated and it doesn't have to be a complete overhaul, you can take steps and as you take steps to keep learning. Consumers are people, they’re people with lives, they’re people with challenges, they’re people with families and showing them how to integrate plant based eating, healthy eating into their lifestyle is going to be a big part of making these changes.
ESG, sustainable social impact and investments
Tommaso: I love it. Congratulations on your endeavor there. Thanks so much for sharing this. I was mentioning before ESG and for those maybe who are not familiar with those terms and abbreviations Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance. Vi, so based on this experience and responsibility you have right? What are elements of potential investments in a business? What could you highlight? What are the three factors for sustainability in social impact based on ESG?
Vi: Well, basically I think that first we have to recognize the whole understanding of what is ESG and sustainability has really shifted and changed dramatically probably within the last 5 to 10 years particularly. Hopefully, long gone are the days when it's understood this peripheral it’s on the side, it’s like Corporate Social Responsibility, it's a bit of charity giving, that kind of thing, and now it's becoming much more.
The understanding is that it's intrinsic to a business that is not on the periphery, but it's actually really quite essential and core to how you do things, your processes, and how you eternally regulate is going to ensure the viability of the long term viability and sustainability of business. That's really what we're about. It's about longevity and the understanding of pricing and certain risks surrounding environmental factors, social factors and obviously your governments, your entity, your business itself.
So, I think this is really how I like to look at it. It is about risk, it's about quantifying that risk, it’s about taking those externalities. Looking at the potential impacts, you may not be able to see it yet, but it will come at some stage and understanding. We work within all our businesses, everything that we do as human beings we work within ecosystems. And if any one part of those falls down, there's an interdependency, and then you know the whole system has a tendency to break down. So therefore it's in our best interest in order to ensure that doesn’t happen. And in all those segments, environmental, social, and once you are able to price that risk then you can strategize around it.
We have a tendency to think of risk costs, if this is going to be risky to me then I have to spend money in order to mitigate that. The risk is also an opportunity, and that goes back to investment one on one is like risky returns as well right? It goes both ways. So I think that it is an opportunity, especially within the protein space, because it's moving so fast and there's so much innovation going up out there at the moment, attacking it from many multiple areas that risk really can also become an opportunity in this space.
Tommaso: And often I grew up to be that the term risk or investment is often misunderstood, its investment is really mitigation of risks. Nowadays if we look back, let's say especially here in Silicon Valley where I’m based which is known as VC investment world, you analyze assets kind of differently, you want to analyze assets and say what's the exponential growth opportunity we have within the next 5 to 6,7,8, let’s say 10 years max, because this is what a fund basically value is. How are you assessing the assets? I mean, what's maybe the longevity that you have? You mentioned now alternative protein. Is this something that you focus on Vi? Give me a sense on what are the assets that you basically take a look at. And then the second part is are you looking in a long term perspective or in a short term meaning at 5,6,7 years time in terms of return.
Vi: I mean I think that if you look at the valuation of any business from an ESG perspective, you're definitely looking at the long term. The idea is about long term, it is not about short term profiteering. What we're trying to do is level up the volatility. So, the idea is that it's better for the business and it’s better for everyone and all stakeholders involved. So, we are definitely a long term. It’s a long term thinking. It’s a long term viability.
In terms of looking at natural assets, that varies from sector to sector, industry to industry, which is very different. And when you're looking at a lot of the space in protein is highly capital intensive or investment in r&d, the beginning you don't really know when that can capitalize on that, when you’re going to be cash flow and revenue etc. We've seen like a lot of that in other sectors and industries like technology. Silicon Valley is famous for that. High valuation. So I do think there's still an appetite for that. We don't need concrete assets or anything like that, but we need an idea that has the potential, and from an industry perspective, it needs to solve problems that currently exist or stop there being a problem or getting worse. So what we're really looking for is to solve this issue in protein, this is perfect, you know? Sam was talking about the agricultural aspects, she said that land degradation, arable land, the amount of arable land we have is decreasing. Water usage and water resources, those kind of things, climate change. All those things are factors that affect agriculture very directly and the raw inputs and feedstock that goes into the products that you are going to create in the protein space or come from that sector. So, as a company you can address some of that. And we're seeing a lot of very innovative companies out there that are doing that, where they'll be creating protein out of resources that are abundant, that don't use land. Vertical farming is also a very clear and easy one. You don't need land agriculture for that, but it has other resources needs. So it's about balancing all those things and you have to take all of them into consideration.
Next gen protein space and cultured meat
Tommaso: I really like the essence of the replies because if I overlap both, the long term thinking and the ESG focus then it's a cultural, so it doesn't become just the goal but it comes to company culture, so it needs to be lived. I think also having been for most of my career on the startup side and dealing with startups all day the interactions with companies that have this culture must be way more pleasant, because it's mission oriented. I mean returns are relevant, no doubt about it, because ultimately we need to create businesses but the fact that it's long term and it became a culture. So thanks for allowing us to pick your brain.
Marina, Red to Green Solutions. I love your mic by the way, it's always a great sign for a great podcast. I’ll write you a note after, and I’m buying a new one for my podcast as well. Let's go back to alternative protein, you're running in showcasing game changing innovation in next gen protein space and cellular agriculture in your podcast. What findings could you highlight from the reason, the season on cellular agriculture? Have you seen anything particularly inspiring or even mind bolling that you would like to share with our audience?
Marina: Absolutely. In over eight hours of content where so many special insights with a team of about eight at the moment, we are creating seasons because the one to build up each episode on the next to really go deep into the topic and we points of the podcast and get really nerdy talking about the specific way that meat it's produced, real meat is produced without any animal actually being involved. And I find that plant based and cultured really work together in a shared vision to improve sustainability of our food system but also to improve health to varying degrees. My personal belief is that it's important to have cultured meat, because certain part of the population is not going to be convinced by plant based options, no matter how good and how amazing cases they're going to be like, maybe in a few decades but we don't have the time to wait for this. So the fantastic thing that we can observe right now is a whole industry being creative in front of our eyes with technology that is finally maturing to the point that we have been seeing the first ever cultured meat restaurant opened up. We are seeking several launches for example by other farms, very soon Lunalo next year. And what we can see is a maturing of the industry, so it started out with big visionaries, like Mosa Meat and Memphis Meat.
Tommaso: I was intrigued about the fact that there is their own restaurant, etc. I didn't know. Sam and Vi, have you guys already seen something like that around?
Vi: No, where is it? Is it in Germany?
Marina: I don't remember. I just read about this recently but it was like the first restaurant that's serving salvage chickens. We don't have that around here yet.
Tommaso: We were currently discussing where is this restaurant that you mentioned serving beef or chicken.
Marina: Yes, it is by Super Meat. I think it's an America or maybe in Tel Aviv, I must check the location, they are serving meat based to do consumer testing. So, they are testing cultured meat.
Small players, crop cultivation and technology
Tommaso: Well let's do the following. Sam and Vi, I mean this topic is so important because it's about shifting habits. Shifting minds. And as Vi and Sam were mentioning nothing that happens overnight would take a period of times, generations in order for us to embrace this new normal, because we won’t call it next gen protein. We won't call it alternative meat. It sounds strange, and it will be just okay and let’s eat. It will be basically what we are going to have. But in order to get there, we need, in my opinion, a different form of collaboration and openness to learn from each other, to experiment with each other across different industries which based on the current mindset behaviors infrastructure and based on how the industries are set up. I don't really see it. What are your thoughts on this, Vi and Sam? I don’t know who wants to take this.
Vi: I know. Recently we've done some research on the raw material end of the agricultural aspects, particularly within Asia. And I think that just took it from that perspective, our region is quite fragmented. It's not a single market like the US, and it's quite dynamic and each country functions quite differently and has many different challenges. Definitely there's a call to regional collaboration here. That would really help the industry, but also I think that what we found is that the smaller players at the end are usually the ones who are actually doing the crop cultivation, who don't have enough the adequate technology to make those leaps and bounds, who cannot help to ensure that staple supply chain, and they don't have the technical capability and this is where the players who are in the mid to the investors and the bigger firms out there commodity players. This is where they have a role to play, which is to bring those smallholder farmers into the 21st century. I mean it can be very basic using basically digital technologies like smartphones. It can change everything from payment systems and communication to tracing traceability which is a huge issue within our region and within our food in general.
Strategy and storytelling as a business marketing key point
Tommaso: I agree. So, basically the farmers whose core business is not innovation and technology right? Maybe they don't have the funds for that or the resources in terms of people skills. They need help, they need access. So you mentioned traceability, we have heard a lot of blockchain that come in place and that you can manage end to end solutions for management becoming more digital, and at the end of the day, maybe even new supply routes in order to create the alternative proteins that are really based on veggies, and here one aspect in order to also make this topic more important, tangible and understandable is the topic of communication. So, if you have innovation and a good product but you're not capable of expressing the value proposition. Sam, I'm curious to hear and to share with our audience, what are mistakes that you have seen based on content that are poorly done? What have you seen in terms of content strategy as pitfalls and things that are wrong in your opinion?
Sam: I would like to start out by saying that this is not to ever pointed the finger at anybody because content has been king for a while and we're all hearing that, but it continues to be king and the problem is there's a lot of content out there about making content, and a lot of “this is what you need to do”, but no actual action steps in how to do that.
So I think what happens is people.. “and I've seen this with clients, I’ve seen this looking at what brands are doing”...people think “I know I need to be doing content”, so that means I need to be sending emails, I need to be on social media, I need to have a blog, but they don't really understand that everything has gotten so specific in particular, especially with social media algorithms and that Google is always changing their algorithms and now especially with Google got all the stuff like semantic search and their algorithms are basically now starting to almost get inside people's heads, if you spend time on Google you know how frighteningly accurate they can sometimes be now as compared to a few years ago. I think the biggest issue is understanding the benefits of putting strategy behind that. I talked to people who have part of it, they'll have a buyer's persona, which is really important, especially in the plant based space cause there are so many levels of plant based. There are the people who are meat producers, flexitarians, vegetarians or vegans and then you have the really hardcore, like no sugar no salt, no oil plant based vegan.
You got a lot of different people on your trajectory that you may or may not target and not every plant based person, not every vegan is going to be your target audience. I've seen some people who have that, they've got their buyer's journey worked out, but they don't really have the content part worked out and then I’ve seen the other way around. They've got their content but they don't have anything in the background. And it's really important to take that time and make that investment. Content is a long game and it takes some money, it takes some time. But I think that it's so important, especially with all of these new next gen proteins coming out with people who are now getting into upcycling. There’s going to be more upcycle food out there to really understand that this needs to be something that needs to be both in their budget and in their trajectory, because that is where you're going to create the experience for the consumer. We're talking a lot about taste, texture and prices being the big pillars. That's going to hit people at the point of sale, when they're hungry, when they're thinking “What do I want for dinner? That's when they're going to make the decision but it is not the way to build a solid customer base to build brand visibility, brand loyalty. People are looking for something that they can create into their lifestyle, that's why people have brand loyalty to begin with. And that is where the strategy comes in. It's not just about “I need to make this great product and tell everyone I’ve got a great product”, it's also about “why is this great?” How is this going to change your lifestyle? How is it going to make it easier for you to reach your goals, being healthier to make less of an impact on the environment? if that's something you want to do. People need to see there is a benefit and also that this is easy and beneficial to put into their daily lifestyle and not just “I need a meatless burger. This one is the cheapest, so I'm going to buy it. So it becomes a strategy and a story instead of just trying to hit what you think the consumer wants.
Tommaso: Again a lot to unpack. Story, right? So you guys need to tell a story. So it's about really shaping your mindset, and it's not about the transactional product that has been created, people want to get the buy by feeling part of something. So it needs to be clear, what are the benefits of it? why we're doing this, they need to embrace this story, they need to say “I want to be part of this” and a story becomes a mission. I mean, you were saying that there is a lot of content about the content and we are now creating more content about the content, but at the end of the day it's challenging, this is what you see, what you read on a website or on an ad or on a package, which made me sound clear is the effort of converting complexity into simplicity. Not many people have this skill. So it's a very fine nuanced approach, especially if you are into something that is innovative and shapes habits.
The word content needs a lot, I mean like a lot of. I'm just not putting myself in a shoe of somebody who listens and has a startup. What files and higher types would you suggest, or content strategy types based on files would you suggest for a startup that is an alternative protein and would like to increase their awareness by driving traffic on their blogs, optimizing search engine optimization. Are there any hacks or methods that you would like to share here?
Sam: It can be highly individual depending on the company and what they want to achieve. Today, obviously, video is highly consumed and video content is the way to engage people especially on mobile. I tend to also still advocate written content because especially in these next gen protein companies is still very new to the vast majority of consumers. I mean we’re plant based so we’re more familiar with it, but they have untapped opportunities to be educators of consumers. So doing long form pillar content, doing guide content.
These ultimate guides people can download and take with them and read later. People really do like a deep dive and that also gives a lot of opportunity to take that content, repurpose it into social media posts for people who are in more of a hurry. Repurpose into videos, repurpose it in audio or podcasts. So I would say, getting strategy and you'll know from there what your audience is consuming. But if you need to just kind of get something up there that people are going to look at, I would say, look at video, but don't neglect your long form written content either.
We were talking about search engine optimization, that is where the traffic comes from, is getting that out there and building that thought leadership and making people associate your brand with this body of knowledge that they already want. People are going to be looking for the knowledge, before they're looking for the product and once they find the product, they're going to want to know if it's coming from somebody that isn't trying to sell something that is actually trying to bring them into that experience and show them the benefits of spending his money and making this lifestyle change.
Cultured meat, conspiracy theories and GMO’s
Tommaso: I love it, Sam. So it's not about selling. It's about creating trust, long term, a long format, which I guess it's something over whatever is over 750 words, so it's not the short format. We write something around 2500 words, a long format is relevant to increase the awareness and to convey a message. Video is even though it's difficult for many, but video is something that people really enjoy nowadays.
Marina, I want to get back again here to cultured meat and your experience and what you have learned with a podcast. I mean, there are alternatives to cultured meat, we hear it all the time. What are the most important hurdles that cultured meat need to gain actual scale today?
Marina: So, I mean I was beforehand trying to explain the importance of the industry and that I think it's for a lot of people quite unexpected, how this will grow and I see the cultured meat industry to be just as impactful as many of the tech companies that we know, like Airbnb, to completely turn our food industry upside down because it’s not just meat, it is dairy and it is gelatin, it is pretty much anything that is animal derived but also non animal derived.
Therefore, the hurdles are, first of all, most I would say three to four. The first one is industry lobbying, let's keep to meat as an example, the food industry is the largest lobby in the world. In Brussels, we have about 30,000 registered lobbyists and more than half of these are directly related to the food industry. So, if corporations actually want to stop this, I think there is quite a risk that at the very least they can make it extremely hard to bring this on to market. In certain areas of the world it is easier than others, for example in Germany, I know quite a bit of a hassle.
Now, the second thing is the missing funding. And this has gotten better over the years, but you can imagine cultured meat it’s been between two fields of research, foodtech, and on the other hand, medtech, and because it doesn't really belong to one area, it's a bit harder for scientists to get funding in the field. And also they need to refer to existing scientific literature to propose their funding topics.
But over the last 10 years, there has been relatively little scientific research done in this specific area of creating cultured meat for human consumption and not for organ transplants. So, organizations like New Harvest are really critical in pushing this forward because they are doing this basic research to enable the industry to grow. And with the lack of public funding comes a side effect that we’ve started seen. That's the most of the companies working in cultured meat. They have to start with basic research, because there wasn't much official research out there, and some of them got a lot of private patents in crucial areas. So it becomes increasingly harder for companies to actually get a foot in the door and build from the ground up new cultured meat companies. This creates a huge benefit for the ones that have the patterns like for example Lunalo, because they make it harder for people to enter the market, and they make it very attractive to investors to invest in them because of their IP. But this may have a long term consequence for the industry and its growth.
The third thing is the consumer acceptance. Cultured meat is just perfect for conspiracy theories. It’s the perfect breeding ground for all sorts of stories. For example, it's interesting how different it is in cultures over the world. In Japan, consumers that according to one of my interview guests, the CEO of Integriculture, he was saying that the consumers are afraid of the meat coming alive and eating them. And that's something that's very impacted by the manga and anime culture. Whereas in Singapore according to the CEO of Shiock Meats, the acceptance rate is rather high. In Germany for example you call in vitro meat and that's the most common term that it is referred to, and it's inherently repulsive, nobody wants to eat in vitro something, or cellular something.
We have a serious branding issue that we need to overcome. And also we need to avoid the Association of GMOs, no matter what you think about GMOs, they have horrible branding and connecting cultured meat and GMOs could be a big pitfall.
ESG movement and sustainable food chain
Tommaso: And that’s the reason why we have Sam today with us. She is going to solve some of this right, Sam? We need to be clear and make it more appealing. Marina, thank you so much for drilling down these three aspects. Vi, I’ve seen a lot of ESG deals, you run a department in charge of ESG investments and as a research and engagement. I'd be curious to pick your brain and share with our audience here to understand those who claim to be ESG ready on track. What are your thoughts on this?.
Vi: I think it varies dramatically between companies but also between regions. For us in Asia, the whole region is quite a little bit behind of places like in Europe obviously, and that has a lot do to with regulation, just government regulation as well as stock exchanges, they also have a role for listed companies, but it is picking up and I say definitely within Asia is moving very quickly. Probably a lot of it’s out of need, because, specially if you’re exporting to places in the EU, you can’t uncertain things like pesticide usage. You know there are certain levels that you have to adhere to in certifications and things like that, so it’s out of necessity that you’re going to be a global player, but within the region itself companies who just supply and ship, and then do business within the region or within only domestic focus.
It is a little bit more challenging, is a regulation in place that pushes them or forces their hand. So a lot of our work in engagement is to go out there and try to convince them that is actually in their best interest. It helps a lot having multinationals to benchmark against, and all this movement and all these pressures on firms and companies is really coming we're seeing a lot of it's actually coming from consumers, they're asking for this. You were saying before Tommaso like how is this movement going to grow? How are you going to convince people? It's a challenge holding middle consumers to stay in the game and really support this in the long run.
I think, actually, the new generation of consumers is very quite socially aware, definitely, environmentally aware. The idea of climate change and all of its impacts there, you cannot open the paper or read the news that are saying something about sustainability or environmental climate change every single day. There's something about that. They're very aware of the risks, and they're very aware of how their consumption links to that. So I'm not fearful of that the consumer is quite aware but there's always a big gap between your awareness and what you ideally intend to do versus where you actually put the dollar. And that also comes down to like certain demographics as well because obviously in Asia, there are countries where the annual income, the average income per capita is quite low still.
So, especially when we talk about protein affordability is a very big issue. And the challenge then is to come and go to the companies who are producing and manufacturing these cheaper foods, these animal products, no large scale factory farming for high productivity and high yield and trying to convince them to invest some more money into changing their production systems to make it more environmentally friendly, greater animal welfare issues like this, less deforestation. Yeah, how do you do that? How do you convince them to do that when they turn around and say to you that actually that's gonna cost me money and therefore I've got to pass it on to the consumer and my customer segments cannot afford that. A lot of times that is actually true.
That is definitely a challenge in this space. At the very low end of it obviously we're talking about things like Impossible Meats or Impossible Burger or Beyond, something that is sold into an urban environment where there's greater affordability, that is a less of an issue, but you have other challenges there obviously.
Questions from the audience
Tommaso: So stay healthy, nutritional and have an end to end sustainable food chain. Pricing is a huge issue that definitely needs to be solved and partially with the acceptance of this topic of sustainable protein, the normal protein. Even when I call it anything that offends the word protein. So it's going to maybe solve that. So thank you so much Vi for sharing. Marina, Sam and Vi, we could talk for hours about this topic but I want to be respectful of everybody's time and we're getting almost to the end of our 15th episode.
I see here that our editorial team has already selected three questions from our audience that I would like basically to run through. We have one each. Starting here with Karen from NYC for Sam. Karen is asking Sam why is the adoption of environmentally friendly foods from consumers so slow, considering all the existing sustainability problems, and the potential benefits. Thanks Karen, for Sam, take it from here.
Sam: I think that comes down to education again I mean, being a content strategist, being a content creator that is going to be where my brain goes but just having been a health coach as well. Again, we're running the plant based circles and a lot of people who are interested in this topic are already running into plant based circles. But I also get a very interesting window into what's going on in the average consumer's mind for two reasons. One because I was a health coach and two because I actually also do work at my local Co Op once a week so I see the consumer who is the health conscious consumer, the consumer who is maybe already leaning a little more towards plant based, but that consumer segment is still confused about GMOs, they're still confused about organic, and they're still confused about local.
I kid you not, we had someone asking about local oranges. I'm in upstate New York. We have no local oranges, so we have people who understand that they're supposed to be doing something, but they don't know how. And then you go to the average consumer who isn't plant based, who isn't thinking about plant based, who has a few kids, even if they don't have any kids, they're just trying to feed themselves, and the health information out there is so conflicting, they’re already so confused about what's healthy, they're not even thinking about what's sustainable. They're still asking how to cook kale correctly so that their family will eat it. So what it comes down to, again, is that education and taking those steps because if you go to somebody who doesn't know how to make rice so that their family will enjoy it and tell them ”by the way, sustainability and carbon footprints” and they'll just kind of look at you and be like “I can't handle this”.
So it's that we got to take it a step at a time and I think sometimes honestly we even need to pull back a little bit because we have this information, we really want to share it, but people need to be ready for it, and then they'll start to take the information that they now understand and make those choices that are going to be, well, what you were just talking about affordable, that's going to be a big thing, but affordable to fit their lifestyle, and then also need their own personal standards based on information that they can actually process.
Tommaso: Education is key. Thank you so much, Sam and thanks Karen for asking. The next one is Carol from San Francisco. Thanks for asking. This one is for Vi, how do companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods really rate today from an ESG perspective? In general, do you observe signs, positive change in the industry? Thanks Carol for asking.
Vi: I think that they are very well marketed, extremely well marketed. And you know, in Asia, the expanding quite quickly out to you, and definitely I've seen in the last couple of years was non existent this whole idea of plant based anything to impossibles on every menu, and it was working, and I think they're playing in a space where they're creating an alternative for people who want to try the product, who may not be vegetarians or vegans or anything like that. And I think that that's already a positive, however you look at it.
I mean there's other issues about how they eat or what they put into the ingredients and their processes, etc. and the resources they use up. We could argue about that but at the end of the day we are still at the beginning, the very early stages of this movement, and it will only improve. So I think that if consumers voiced their concerns the formulations will change, the companies will improve, they have to be responsive and to grow their business. And we are seeing that they already are doing that. So I think I wouldn't judge them too harshly. But I think they have the capacity as any company does too for continuous improvement, to be responsive to your customers and their needs, and definitely you know this idea of like graded nutritional value in the food that we eat. That is also of great concern and consumers are being much more aware about that but it takes like Sam said a lot more education for us to get there.
Tommaso: It is always a challenge like to, or easy to point at the bigger brands especially walking the first footstep in the snow and creating a new territory.
Vi: So yeah, I mean, you got to give him credit for establishing the supply chain, for strengthening, so that others can get on board and then diversify. So yeah I don't have a problem with that.
Tommaso: Well, thank you so much Vi and Carol from San Francisco, thanks for the question. Now, last but not least to Julia asking Marina, how soon could we consider next gen proteins a viable alternative to slaughtered animals? Can we dream about a world without animal cruelty? What are your thoughts on that?
Marina: There is a saying in the cultured meat industry that it will always take about five more years and that has been going on for a couple of years, which always takes five more years but this is continuing over the time. Now, we are starting to actually see movements that companies are going to market. I would say, within the next two to three years, we will have products on the shelves, possibly that's a bold statement.
I think this is really extremely crucial, because I personally have a rather controversial opinion that consumer awareness is not the number one way to go about it. It's just human psychology to go for the easiest thing. Therefore, we need to provide a way for people to have their cake and eat it too, to have their meat without this having a detrimental effect to our environment and this is where I see cultured meat going and also with an eye on The Red to Green Solution season on plastic waste. It's quite fascinating that the focus on individual contribution has been pushed for example by the plastic industry, saying “well, if people recycle then the system will be fixed”. No, the companies need to be held responsible, they need to be alternative solutions that are pushed by regulation. They need to be the focus on reuse or refuse, reduce and not as much on recycle. That's very controversial we got into that in the season why that is the case, and here also with cultured meat and plant based I think we don't have the time to wait for people to change, because in Asia and in China. In China, for example in India, the amount of meat consumed is going up and globally it's going up. Therefore, we need cultured meat to be on the market as soon as possible. I think it's going to be huge. It's going to be exciting. And right now, if anybody's interested to work in the field, right now is the time to get into it,.
Tommaso: Reasserted right now is the time to make an impact. So join this movement, this so important mission. Thank you so much Julia for asking and Marina thanks for your reply and this is it for today November 19th.
Actually, I would like to end the broadcast with one visionary quick question, more from a future back perspective. I would like to ask Vi, Marina and Sam. How do you think are we going to eat by 2050? What's your vision there? What's the food system like? What are your thoughts on this from a future back perspective? Let's go nuts.
Marina: I think we will have more decentralized system where we use vertical farming much more, it's growing at the moment like crazy. I think in the western world, and hotspots like Singapore, and Japan and so on there will be cultured meat available in the supermarkets at affordable prices with a tendency to soon become more affordable than conventional meat.
I hope very much that the food that we will eat will be packaged in different ways, there will be industrial composting facilities to manage bio plastics, and lots of compostable alternatives, or loop systems, so several returnable systems where you can use the packaging several times. So it is a holistic view also including regenerative agriculture that hopefully by that time will be quite big.
Tommaso: I love it, Marina. Thank you so much for this outlook, for your vision in 2050. Sam, what's your vision? It's November 2015. How are we going to eat?
Sam: Well, if you permit me to pipe dream a little bit I'd like to see us all eating more plants. This is the health coach in me. I am excited about the next gen protein movement. I'm excited about a lot of the startups that are out there. I have friends who do plant based food, but frankly, I would like to see that by 2050, we've actually caught on to the fact that food is medicine. This is like right now we're establishing a framework for people to make that transition and I'd like to see the next trajectory in my mind is these brands, especially the big ones we were talking about they've done a lot of fun already taking the next step and concerning about the health. Okay, you've got people they're interested. Now's the health thing and I'd say by 2050, please let us be using food as medicine. I'd love to see doctors prescribing food as medicine and people understanding the real connection, not just having an inkling, but the real connection of it. If I eat this it has direct consequences on my health, on my family's health.
Then of course, on the health of this world that God gave us to take care of. And so that we have that entire trajectory in people's minds, it's not difficult to do, it's not feeling like a big burden. We just do it, and it's normal.
Tommaso: I love it. Nutritional, let's go to the doctor to order something that is good for our body, thank you so much Sam for that vision. Now, last but not least, Vi. What's your vision for 2050? What's this food system like was mankind going to eat?
Vi: I live in Singapore so I'm seeing a lot of this already. It's going to be a lot more urban farming, for sure, essentially around the city centers. People are going to start growing their own vegetables and edibles on their balconies, that kind of idea. I mean it's already happening and lockdown has already got us all doing that. I think also that yeah I echo what Sam said in hope that we're going to be much more health conscious and everything we eat is going to be about the nutritional content. Consumers are going to be very wary and conscious about that. I think it's going to be about biodiversity and diversity, and we're going to bring back some of those forgotten foods. I think it's going to be polarized almost, there's going to be one movement where we're looking to create that nutritional value, and with formulations and expressing combinations.
Then the other side of it is we're going to bring back the kind of crops that we don't cultivate as much on scale anymore. They're forgotten, but they have that already existed. So I think there's going to be kind of a polarization in movements. But I think nutrition is going to be key but also diversity and giving optionality to consumers. I think we're really seeing that in the plant based movement.
Tommaso: Diversity, optionality as well. I love this perspective too. Well thank you so much, and this is it for today and I appreciate that very much. I love always learning. And that's my mission every single day, learning something that I didn't know. Thank you for allowing us to pick your brains Vi, Sam and Marina. I love it, thanks for your time. I know it's pretty late. Vi and Marina are in the afternoon, Sam we still have a day in front of us.
I always end the podcast with a quote that I learned to craft over the last 20 years, it’s a quote I amended it which goes like this:
Tommaso: “Never forget where you come from, it keeps you humble. But where you come from, cannot limit you where you want to go.”
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