Today UPSIDE Foods announced they have acquired Cultured Decadence. The deal adds cell-cultured seafood products, including lobster and other crustaceans, to the UPSIDE portfolio.
Cultured Decadence, which was a Smart Kitchen Summit Startup Show finalist in 2020, was founded in Milwaukee the same year and will remain in the midwest, serving as UPSIDE’s ‘midwest hub.’
The news comes just a couple of months after the opening of UPSIDE’s flagship scale-up production facility in Berkeley. While the company has announced that cultivated chicken will be its first commercially available product, they have made it clear that their new facility will be able to produce a variety of different cell-cultured animal products.
“Seafood has a rich and delicious culinary tradition that makes it a favorite across the globe,” said Dr. Uma Valeti, Founder and CEO of UPSIDE Foods. “Cultured Decadence’s technology is incredibly promising, and their team is filled with passionate, smart individuals who want to make our favorite food a force for good. We’re thrilled to welcome the Cultured Decadence team to the UPSIDE family and are excited that the scientific, technological, and production infrastructure we have built over many years can help accelerate the mission impact of this team.”
One factor that may have made Cultured Decadance attractive – outside of the addition of cell-cultured seafood to the UPSIDE’s portfolio – is the difference in regulatory oversite in the US between seafood and poultry. The USDA and the FDA struck an agreement early on that the USDA will oversee the labeling framework for livestock and poultry, while the FDA will be the sole body regulating food products made with fish (except, for some reason, catfish, which the USDA oversees). Not only has the FDA had a year’s head start on the USDA in seeking public comments for the labeling of cell-cultured products, but some in the industry believe that the FDA might provide an easier regulatory glide path towards commercial availability when it comes to cultivated meat products.
Outside of regulatory considerations, it’s likely that UPSIDE’s development of its cell-cultured poultry products is further along than the much younger – and smaller – Cultured Decadence’s products, which may still require some significant cell-line development. UPSIDE has already had tastings of its products and they have been working towards commercial scale-up in their new flagship facility.
Finally, the acquisition by UPSIDE could also be an early sign of forthcoming consolidation by cell-cultured meat companies. Guessing by size of some of the recent funding rounds (including UPSIDE’s), it’s clear that the cost of bringing a cell-cultured meat product to scale will likely be in the tens to hundreds of millions, and at some point, it makes more sense for companies in this space to leverage existing investment in pilot and scale-up production infrastructure.