Plant-based meat market attracting 3D printing firms, says GlobalData

Companies behind the fast-developing 3D printing technology have set their sights firmly on working with the rapidly-growing plant-based food industry, according to GlobalData. 

Andy Coyne, food correspondent at GlobalData, commented: “If we thought about 3D printing and meat at all, it was probably the idea that at some stage in the future the process would lead to the creation of a steak in a lab. It had a feel of science fiction about it.” 

Meat alternatives are increasingly becoming mainstream, and 3D printing businesses, such as Redefine Meat from Israel and Novameat from Spain, believe their technology can help improve plant-based products and enhance the manufacturing process. Such potential has seen both Redefine Meat and Novameat attract the backing of investors recently. 

Coyne continued: “What these companies have now worked out is that their technology can help plant-based food manufacturers to make better product. This is a more practical and possibly faster-to-market use for the equipment.” 

Currently, most plant-based meat businesses use extruders to make their products, which generally do not allow them to create fibrous or “muscle-cut” meat substitutes. It also means they are often reliant on ingredients that may be seen as unhealthy such as soy and wheat gluten. 

The 3D printing businesses say that, by using their technology, the plant-based industry will be able to ditch these ingredients and use more fibrous options such as pea protein and rice protein. 

“This is a classic case of the law of unforeseen circumstances,” Coyne added. “The 3D printing firms are on the cusp of solving a problem that they probably didn’t know existed when they were perfecting their technology.”