Cell-based sushi get commercial contracts in U.S. grocery stores

8 Jan 2022

Wildtype, a California startup making cultivated sushi-grade salmon, has secured distribution agreements with Snowfox and Pokéworks in the U.S. Snowfox operates 1,230 grocery store sushi bars while Pokéworks is a chain with 65 fast-casual restaurants, with plans to increase the number of locations to over 100 by 2023.

Although this agreement indicates that there is interest in integrating cultivated seafood into commercial kitchens, it does not necessarily mean that cultivated salmon will be available commercially in the U.S. any time soon. Currently, Wildtype is working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to receive regulatory approval for its cellular cultivation techniques in order to debut its salmon to the public.

Cell-based sushi get commercial contracts in U.S. grocery stores
Courtesy of Wildtype

Despite the significant hurdles still ahead of the startup before it can introduce its cell-based seafood, there is confidence that the company will be able to meet all the regulatory requirements necessary to bring this option to the table. “Our agreements with Pokéworks and SNOWFOX will help introduce Wildtype’s cultivated salmon to people looking for healthy seafood options that are actually sustainable,” Wildtype co-founder and CEO Justin Kolbeck said in a statement.

These new agreements come just three months after Wildtype launched its San Francisco pilot facility that was constructed to help the company focus on scaling production. The pilot facility is part production plant part tasting room and part educational center that the company told Food Dive will be able to produce 50,000 pounds of seafood per year. Eventually, the plant will be able to produce 200,000 pounds of seafood annually. Even though commercialized production has not yet begun, the startup is already looking for a site to build a larger production facility, Food Dive reported.

Although cell-based agriculture is a relatively new discipline in agritech, it is one that is generating a significant amount of interest. In 2021, the market for cultured meat was valued at $1.64 million but is estimated to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 95.9% through 2030 to reach $2.78 billion, according to Allied Market Research. Not only is the market share growing organically, but the space is drumming up significant investment. By the end of 2020, companies working in the cell-based meat space received more than $350 million from investors.

Even with significant interest in the space, there is still a long way to go before cell-based meat becomes a mainstay of tables around the world. While the first step toward commercialization was taken at the end of 2020 when Singapore approved the sale of cultivated chicken from Eat Just, the distribution agreement with Wildtype marks the largest and most direct partnership in the U.S. and a step in the direction for mass commercialization of this type of meat.

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