JBS enters next stage of animal-free experiment


By Dasha Afanasieva, Reuters

November 18, 2021


LONDON, Nov 18 (Reuters Breakingviews) - JBS (JBSS3.SA) is beefing up its veggie hedge. The $16 billion Brazilian meat giant on Wednesday agreed to buy Spain’s BioTech Foods in a $100 million deal that includes a $41 million investment in a new Spanish “cultivated protein” plant. It’s also building a lab-meat research facility in Brazil.


BioTech is a baby compared to 31-year-old Vivera, a meat-substitute maker that JBS bought in April for 341 million euros. The factory investment suggests it was after the Spanish firm’s technology and plans to take care of the rest itself. The deal mirrors the shift by consumer goods giants to snapping up early-stage companies to get ahead of big trends, such as selling direct to consumers. As Unilever (ULVR.L) learnt from its 2016 purchase of razor merchant Dollar Shave Club for $1 billion, it takes a while for hot startups to show up in the top line.


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JBS invests A$138m in lab-based cultured animal protein venture


Jon Condon, Beef Central



THE world’s largest animal protein producer, JBS, has announced an investment worth A$138 million (US $100m) in lab-based cultured meat production.


The move follows JBS’s earlier investments in plant-based meat substitutes.


JBS’s move into what it terms ‘cultivated’ meat includes the acquisition of Spanish lab-based protein pioneer Bio Tech Foods, the construction of a plant in Europe and the implementation of a Research and Development Centre in Brazil.


The new business will operate under the flag of JBS Global’s Luxembourg division.


The acquisition marks the company’s entry into the cultured protein market, based on the production of food from animal cells. It will include an A$57 million investment in the construction of a new production facility in Spain to scale up production. JBS also announced the establishment of its first Centre for Research and Development in Biotechnology and Cultivated Protein in Brazil.


A company statement to investors said BioTech Foods was one of the leaders in the development of biotechnology for the production of cultivated protein. Founded in 2017, the company operates a pilot plant in the Spanish city of San Sebastián, and is expected to reach commercial production by mid-2024 when the cultivated protein will reach consumers in the form of various prepared foods, such as hamburgers, sausages and meatballs, “with the same quality, safety, flavour and texture of traditional protein”.


The technology has potential not only for the production of beef protein, but also for chicken, pork and fish, JBS said.


Under the terms of the transaction, JBS will become the majority shareholder of BioTech Foods.


The closing of the transaction is subject to the confirmation from Spain’s foreign direct investment authorities.


Through its investment in the Cultivated Protein Research Centre in Brazil, expected to start next year, JBS said it intended to develop new techniques that accelerate scale gains and reduce the production costs of cultured protein, anticipating its commercialisation in the market.


JBS said the two initiatives aligned with the company’s strategy of expanding its platform of new forms of protein production, as a reflection of new consumption trends and population growth in the coming decades.


Asked in an earlier investor briefing whether JBS’s previous investment in plant-based protein manufacture reflected a lack of confidence in conventional animal meat production, global chief executive Gilberto Tomazoni said such investments should be seen as additional to, rather than in place of conventional animal-based meat production. It did not dilute the company’s focus on animal protein production in any way, he said.


JBS in 2019 joined fellow meat processing industry giants Cargill and Tyson with its first investment in the plant-based meat sector, via its purchase of Planterra Foods. In June this year, it finalised a second deal to purchase Europe’s third-largest plant-based food manufacturer, Vivera. JBS’s Seara value-added division has since added other plant-based product lines including refrigerated burgers, ground ‘meat’, and meatballs under the OZO and Incrivel brands.


In August, JBS said it had spent US$ 2.2 billion on acquisitions since 2020.


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