California Cultured, a startup best known for developing cell culture chocolate, revealed that it is now working on cultured coffee.
Cell culture is generally seen as a way to produce more ethical versions of traditionally animal-derived ingredients. But some plant-based ingredients are also associated with ethical issues, such as deforestation and slavery. And while some ingredients can be produced using precision fermentation, others, like chocolate and coffee, are too complicated for this technique to be viable.
This is where the often overlooked idea of plant cell culture comes in. Speaking to FoodNavigator USA, California Cultured co-founder and CEO Alan Perlstein explained that the technology is already being used at scale to produce the breast cancer drug Taxol. This means the same could be done for coffee and chocolate.
If successful, this will have many benefits. Climate change and plant diseases are already limiting the locations available for growing these crops, driving up prices. The use of pesticides and fertilizers is also high in these industries, which creates other environmental problems. Finally, the available labor is limited and there are fears that child labor may be used. Cell culture could solve all these problems.
California Cultured’s mission has already caught the attention of investors. In October 2021, the company raised $4 million in a seed funding round led by Agronomics. This was followed by investments from CULT Food Science and Blue Horizon in February and March this year.
“California Cultured’s innovative, responsible and disruptive pursuit aligns well with our company philosophy. We believe cell-grown cocoa is the next step in the sustainable, safe and ethical food production of a major global food category,” said Lejjy Gafour, President of CULT.