Plant-based meat is already a billion-dollar market and is expected to grow by 15 percent annually until 2027 according to analytics company Research And Markets. But researchers at Chalmers University of Technology believe that yeast can grow the market further still.
The researchers acknowledge that plant-based meat still does not taste like real meat. But they hope to change that.
By using yeast cells it is possible to produce animal fats without involving animals at all in the production. The researchers have reprogrammed yeast cells so they produce the same fat structures that are formed in animals.
"Demand is currently driven by flexitarians and sustainability-conscious consumers. But the food industry also wants to reach meat lovers with these products. By being able to offer food with an identical, or better, taste experience, it is believed that more and more consumers will choose plant-based alternatives", says Florian David, researcher at Chalmers University of Technology and one of the researchers behind the study, in a press release.
Florian David is also one of the researchers who started the company Melt&Marble, who are aiming to commercialize the process of programming yeast cells to produce animal fat.
"We have just begun the process of producing animal fat in cell factories, but the research behind our technologies has been developed for over a decade", says Florian David.
Researchers also believe that producing fats from yeast is a more sustainable method than using the fats from plant-based meat. As an example, coconut fat requires large plantations that only give their first harvest after about ten years. The size of these plantations is detrimental to biological diversity.
"The demand for plant-based meat is growing and for that reason, better and more sustainable ways of producing fat are needed. Our technology, where production happens through yeast fermentation takes up little space compared to today's fat production and can also be scaled up without being dependent on geographical location", says Anastasia Krivoruchko, CEO of Melt&Marble and former researcher at Chalmers.