This article is part of a blog series introducing the startup teams of the EIT Food Accelerator Network Helsinki 2023 programme.
What’s the best vegan steak you’ve ever had?
Have you ever been served one and thought, “Did they get my order right? Am I sure this is the meat-free option?”
We hadn’t either!
Steak is more than ‘just’ a food. It’s iconic, emotionally charged, delicious and –for many– indispensable. The ‘holy grail’ for meat alternatives, it’s also been notoriously absent from the market. Why?
We need better meat alternatives
Demand for meat alternatives has exploded in recent years, driven by health and climate concerns. The global meat alternatives market is worth $12bn today, growing to $100bn by 2030. But most of the action is in processed meats: burgers, sausages, nuggets, mince.
It’s difficult to replicate meat using powdered plant proteins without high processing, so most of the best products mimic processed meat. But this means that many end up ultra-processed themselves. Most have long ingredient lists, including nasty artificial binders like methylcellulose, and lower protein content and quality than the meat being substituted. And while some of the burgers, sausages etc., are getting close to the real thing, good substitutes for whole cuts are few and far between.
That’s causing a big mismatch. While the growing plant-based industry focuses on processed meats, 85 % of the $1.2 trn real meat market is whole cuts: entire steaks, filets, chops, and so on, which, if health and climate are what’s at “steak here”, is a huge problem. We could stop using fossil fuels entirely tomorrow, and we’d still be heading for climate disaster without reducing meat consumption.
It’s also a huge untapped opportunity: there’s a great big gap in the market for better alternatives to meat whole cuts.
Making ultra-realistic “steak”
Adamo is a new food technology company developing delicious, healthy and sustainable alternatives to meat whole cuts using a natural superfood: fungal mycelium.
Harnessing this ancient food with new fermentation techniques, we’re able to grow tender steaks made up of long and densely grouped mycelium fibres, imitating the fibrous mouthfeel of meat. We’ve identified a fungal strain and proprietary fermentation process with which we can directly replicate muscle structure without requiring artificial binders.
The Adamo Steak is the first ultra-realistic steak alternative made from fungi. It’s fibrous, juicy and tender. Looks, cooks and tastes like the real thing. Seizes up in the pan and rests on the plate. Sears grey and caramelises. The company is aiming for the centre of the plate and versatility: no hiding behind batter or sauce.
What’s more, using this technique, we can keep it clean label, healthy and nutritious. The Adamo Steak is made from 5 ingredients, all fully natural. It’s packed with protein and fibre, contains all 9 essential amino acids, and has a PDCAAS (protein digestibility score) of 0.99 out of 1, which is better than pea, soy, wheat and even beef protein.
Mycelium grows exponentially, doubling in size every 4 hours, meaning we can grow an entire batch in a day, compared to 3 months for a plant-based steak or 3 years for beef. As a result, our steak requires a fraction of the land and produces 93% lower greenhouse gas emissions than steak without compromising on flavour or texture.
Why Adamo Foods joined the EIT FAN
Adamo Foods joined EIT’s Food Accelerator Network to meet corporate partners in biotechnology and food distribution. We’ve completed our first product prototype and are looking to secure R&D and commercial collaborations to help us scale it up.
It’s been fantastic to meet some World-leading biotechnology and food distribution companies with whom we can plan our path to commercial-scale production. It’s also been great to meet other startups in person in Helsinki and share notes on the challenges we’re all dealing with.
We’re looking forward to pitching our products at the first International Cellular Agriculture conference in June.
Written by Nick Wood, COO at Adamo Foods