We sat down with CEO and Co-Founder of Redefine Meat, Eschar Ben Shitrit, to discuss everything to do with the brand – the journey so far, the future vision, the science, inspiration, challenges and more. We’ve covered some never seen before insights into how the business has got to where it is today, why Ben Shitrit was motivated to begin Redefine Meat in the first place, and how New-Meat uses science to so closely mimic the experience of eating real meat it’s almost indistinguishable.
How did Redefine Meat begin?
Let’s just say it wasn’t the usual route you’d expect. I had a great career as a product and marketing manager in high-tech but always felt something was missing. Immediately after my second son was born, I felt compelled to make a change and devote my time to something I believe in and can have a bigger impact. I did what not many new dads would do…I left my job to explore the idea of printing meat. As strange as it might sound to most people, the concept of printing meat does not come as a complete surprise to those who have known me for more than seven years (since my first son was born.) I love meat, but don’t eat animal meat anymore, and believe a huge change is needed. Together with my co-founder Adam Lahav, I set out to find a new way to create meat, and so, Redefine Meat was born. Next thing we knew, we were renting a tiny lab above a garage, growing our business from there, and joining food tech accelerators to boost our progress along the way.
What inspired you to begin Redefine Meat?
I’ve never hidden the fact that the strongest motivation was personal; I love good food, and I really missed a great steak. Adam and I have known each other for many years, and so he jokes that the number one priority was to get me that steak, and the second, to save the planet. Without trying to sound cliche, we wanted to make a difference and contribute to a world where anyone can enjoy great meat, but without compromising on taste or their values. On a personal level, as soon as I gave up meat, it became a mission of mine to find truly good products to cook and eat with family and friends. You could say one of my main motivations for starting Redefine Meat was my drive to continue eating and cooking meat despite being vegetarian. I figured that if a great solution didn’t exist, and what was missing was technology, I might have the ability to create one.
What challenges were you trying to overcome when starting Redefine Meat?
We faced the challenge of developing a way to create any cut of beef, without using anything that comes from animals. In the alternative meat industry, making a single product is a major feat. Imagine then, the challenge of creating different cuts, including steaks. Beef has an intensely complex structure made up of fat tissue, muscle fibers, blood and other components that contribute to the entire cooking and eating experience. So, we asked ourselves: how can we use different ingredients and plant-based protein to replicate these structures?
Our first challenge, and potentially our biggest one, was creating meat that had the same complex flavor, texture, aroma and appearance of traditional meat. Luckily, we managed to develop advanced food formulations and technologies (such as 3D printing) that enable us to do so, and even replicate whole cuts such as steaks. As the current plant-based meat market shows us, that’s a lot more difficult than replicating ground beef.
Our next challenge was to recreate the range of flavor profiles present in beef. For example, food scientists know that a piece of fruit has around 150 different flavors. A serving of roast beef, however, has over two thousand! So yes, recreating two thousand different flavors requires intense analysis and creativity. Add to that the many additional factors that affect the experience, such as the juiciness of the cut. We also had to create things like “alternative blood,” which as you can imagine, was anything but easy.
What’s your mission/ vision?
Our mission is to leverage cutting-edge technology to create New-Meat that offers the same versatility as animal meat. We believe the world deserves better meat – that’s good for the environment, kind to animals, and of course, delicious.
We’re a team made up of meat-loving experts and scientists, so we’ve studied meat’s complex structure and understand what drives each sensory process. We developed the technology to make this happen. Our teams work on creating New-Meat that gratifies on every emotional level. The Redefine Meat eating experience is about more than just taste, it’s about the overall experience on all of the senses.
Can you share more about the journey?
It all began back in 2018. That same year we created the world’s first 3D-printed, plant-based steak, and by 2020, we had achieved a printing speed of 10 kilograms per hour. There were a few in-between years invested in the deep analysis of the muscle structure of meat to determine the best way to engineer and print different types of meat using plant-based protein.
Fast forward to 2021, and we have over 120 employees, including a new team in Europe. We are growing extremely fast. While many companies were scaling back in 2020, Redefine Meat tripled its number of employees.
In 2019 we raised $6 million, and more recently, we raised $29 million – which is almost unheard of for an alternative meat company. A large part of that funding has gone towards the construction of our first factory using our industrial-size 3D printers, all to ensure we can scale our business at the rate we envision.
* You can follow along with our journey as we appear in the Media.
How does Redefine Meat stand out in the industry?
Wow. In so many ways! First and foremost, most of our employees are actually meat eaters, so our love and understanding of meat makes us uniquely qualified to tackle this challenge. As for the technical stuff, we’ve also studied the world of meat down to its finest details and proudly call ourselves meat experts.
Secondly, we’re working to replace the entire cow, not just to create ground beef. Any cut a cow can offer, we can as well – and we can make it just as appealing to the senses, but without the animal itself. This is very rarely done by other players due to the incredible complexity involved.
To us, ‘New-Meat’ is not an “alternative meat,” but rather a completely new standard of meat that the world hasn’t known before. The bar is high: New-Meat should be as good as traditional meat, or better. Extensive R&D has gone into making the flavor and versatility superior to what’s already out there. While our approach is to combine science, technology and food, most of our competitors only prioritize one of these.
And finally, a key to what makes us different is how we produce our New-Meat, including the use of industrial 3D-printing machines designed especially for this purpose.
Can you talk about the science behind Redefine Meat?
Every product in our portfolio was developed over thousands of hours by the brightest minds in technology. From the beginning, Adam and I knew that we wanted to build a process that integrated world-leading butchers, meat experts, and chefs into the creation of our products– it’s an integral part of what makes New-Meat so different.
Our approach addresses the entire experience, through each of the five senses. We wanted to recreate the entire experience of cooking and eating meat, from the sizzling sounds on the grill, to the juices released when you cut the meat on your plate.
To do this, we began by breaking down meat to its basic building blocks, working with consumers and experts to decode the sensory experience of eating meat. We defined numerous key characteristics and realized that all of them could be recreated with vegetable matter. We then began work on the formulation of the meat, selecting the best plant-based ingredients, and continuously optimizing the experience with AI and machine learning to bring new insights.
Where can I find New-Meat today, or do I have to come to your labs?
You’re always welcome to visit, but the best part of this journey is seeing hundreds of places already serving New-Meat – including now in Europe! We are proud to see New-Meat already on the menus of restaurants in London, Berlin and Amsterdam (check out the ever-growing list of places here). This is in addition to the 150 restaurants, hotels and other establishments successfully serving New-Meat dishes in Israel since the summer of 2021.
We see a huge demand for New-Meat and are looking forward to watching the list expand into other countries in Europe and the world. We are working hard to make this happen very soon.
What are the three coolest facts about your brand?
- Some 94% of our employees are carnivores, meaning they know what great meat tastes like. Pretty cool for a New-Meat company, right?
- We want to create the best New-Meat out there, so our food engineers and technologists end up eating six to eight “meals” a day.
- As part of our philosophy, we work hard, and play hard. We had four awesome parties for our launch events in each country, where famous chefs from around the countries came to taste our New-Meat. At our Israeli launch party, Alon, the chairman of our board, played the guitar with the band Red, and we even brought a real tattoo parlor for our guests.
Where do you see the company in five years?
Our ambition is to become the world’s largest meat company. This means that, in five years’ time, our product offering will be far more diverse than it is today.
We recently launched whole cuts of beef and lamb (remember that steak I desperately wanted to eat?) in addition to a full range of products based on ground beef. Our diverse production technologies make it possible to produce a rich variety of products, so why wouldn’t we?
Another thing I see in our brand’s future is development into replacing other animals, not just the cow. We started with beef because the raising of cattle is a huge contributor to environmental pollution and waste, but we certainly won’t end there.
Now that you know our story, why not try our New-Meat at selected restaurants? You can find our updated list here (and check back often; new places are being added all the time!)