V2, an Australian startup which produces plant-based meat products, launched in Sydney last night. The company, which is backed by the CSIRO, is among a growing cohort of meat alternatives companies hoping to disrupt the meat production industry.
While plant-based meat products are not new, v2 claims it has cracked the price and taste challenges with which others have struggled, and its products mean meat producers and consumers do not need to change existing practices. At the startup event, for example, chefs were given v2 products without any specific direction on how to prepare them, and served food based on traditional meat.
Founder Nick Hazell says disrupting the meat industry is necessary because a growing population has made the current “version” of food production unsustainable (hence the company’s name, v2 or Version 2).
“There’s a real problem with this planet,” Hazell said at the launch event. “By 2050 there’s going to be ten billion people and the protein consumption is increasing such that we’re going to need another planet worth of meat. And we just can’t produce that [with current processes].”
V2 is the startup at the middle of a collaboration between the CSIRO, industry’s Competitive Foods Australia, and Main Sequence Ventures, the capital arm of the CSIRO’s Innovation Fund. The startup was incorporated in January this year.
With the CSIRO’s help, the company produces plant-based “protein textures”, “flavour systems” and a “binding system” which, when combined, mimic the raw materials used in meat production. Essentially, V2 offers manufacturers the raw ingredients in such a way that they do not have to change their existing meat production processes. For end users there is “no compromise” on taste, according to V2.
The founder argues it is difficult to get people to eat less meat — particularly in Australia where people consume, on average, around 110kg of meat per year.
What Hazell and V2 think they can change is how “meat” is produced by using plant-based products rather than animal ones. Plant-based meat is much more sustainable, according to Hazell, and there is a social responsibility to change the way food is produced.
“This is disrupting. There’s never, in my experience, been a movement as profound as this one,” Hazell told Which-50 at the company’s official launch.
“And there’s all sorts of tailwinds that are going to push this along. The physics [of plant-based meat production] are compelling, there is no other way … This has got to be the moment where normal behaviour is going to change, people are going to look for alternatives.
“So this is the moment that we have to grasp.”
Hazell says the company is aiming to have its products in supermarkets and fast food restaurants this year. V2 is currently working with Comgroup, the food manufacturer that supplies hamburger patties to Hungry Jacks. Hazell says V2’s products would allow Hungry Jacks, for example, to produce plant-based patties for a “similar price” to the current beef patties.
“Basically where people [currently] buy meat is where we want to be. So whether that’s your [Quick Service Restaurant], or whether that’s Hungry Jacks, whether it’s a restaurant, whether it’s in a supermarket.”
Hazell says v2 wants to be one of the global players for plant-based meat — alongside American giants Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods — rather than a niche product for consumers concerned about their environmental impact.
The challenge now for v2, Hazell says, is scale and operationalising production. He says he is confident, however, because of the backing of the CSIRO, which has “leant in” to the project, and the support from industry partners.