Nothing tastes quite like the meaty goodness of a medium-rare, juicy hamburger right off the grill. But companies like Memphis Meats, Impossible Foods, and Beyond Meat are hoping that hardcore hamburger lovers might be swayed to try their delectable-looking lab-grown meat.
Even though Impossible Foods might be the first food company to add heme to vegan burgers to mimic the taste, look and smell of animal flesh, other food companies have also figured out that fake meat still needs to fool all the senses as well.
Beyond Meat's burger uses yeast extract, coconut oil and peas, and also appears to bleed thanks to the addition of beets.
Some lab-grown meats are created using a variety of plant-based ingredients, but others are made using ingredients still derived from animals such as a cow's stem cells with added amino acids and carbohydrates to build muscle cells.
The veggie-based faux meat companies are hoping consumers who are actively searching to lessen their carbon footprint while not sacrificing taste will choose their products. In fact, the lab meat market is expected to exceed $5 billion by 2020, according to global research firm Markets and Markets.
Lab-grown meat might sound like the a great idea, but these companies still face quite a few challenges. The first obstacle will be the very tricky issue of winning over skeptical consumers who are used to eating burgers made from a grass-eating, mooing cow instead of from bovine cells manipulated inside a petri dish.
To help get potential customers used to the idea of fake meat, these companies are teaming up with popular restaurants to make sure their burgers are listed on menus alongside the usual fare. Impossible Burgers are popping up in more eating establishments every day--so far 1,000 restaurants and counting.
The faux meat companies are also showing up in local grocery stores hoping to catch the eye of more adventurous customers looking for something new to serve for dinner. Beyond Meat products are already sold at grocery stores like Safeway, Amazon Fresh, Target, Ralphs, and Kroger.
Another challenge is getting that all-important stamp of approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA announced that it will be holding a public meeting on July 12 to discuss more extensively how to regulate and safeguard lab-grown meat produced using animal cell culture technology. The results of this meeting could either help or hinder the future of the faux meat market.
Meanwhile, the lab-grown meat companies are gaining attention from some very interesting investors. Beyond Meat -- which launched in 2009 -- raised about $72 million with investments from meat producer Tyson Foods, former McDonald's CEO Don Thompson's Cleveland Avenue, LLC, and more.
Impossible Foods -- which started in 2011 -- has already raised around $275 million with investments from well-known firms, including Horizon Ventures, Khosla Ventures, and Temasek Holdings.
Memphis Meats, which started in 2015, raised $17 million from investors including Cargill Inc., Bill Gates and billionaire Richard Branson.