Matthew Robin: "Meat from bioreactors will soon be on our plates"

What are the trends and innovations in tomorrow's food system? How sustainable can we be? In our interview series "Food trends under the radar" we look for answers. In the second part, Matthew Robin, CEO of ELSA-Mifroma, answers our questions.
31 March, 2022 by
Matthew Robin: "Meat from bioreactors will soon be on our plates"
GDI Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute

We all live in our own bubbles. Some are small, some are bigger, but they are bubbles nonetheless. To understand the future, we need to understand what is happening outside of these bubbles. What trends are flying below our radar? Which innovations are we ignoring or not giving enough attention to? In order to widen our own horizons, we interview food experts and ask them about the trends that they think we are not talking about enough. 

 We are continuing this interview series with Matthew Robin, CEO of ELSA-Mifroma, a group of six food companies in Migros Industry. Robin has pioneered Migros strategy, investments and activities in the cultured meat area. Educated in England as a chemical engineer, he pursued a career in Switzerland and the USA in the pharmaceutical manufacturing and medtech area, before moving to the food sector.

Matthew Robin will speak at the 2nd International Food Innovation Conference on 15 June 2022.

GDI: Which food innovations are we not talking about enough?

Matthew Robin: Food innovations span across the food itself, how it is packed, served, sold or experienced. I think we still focus too little on preserving food and the related packaging and selling aspects. We transport a lot of air, overpackage enormously and really need to innovate more in getting and keeping freshness in our processes. For example new pasteurization processes and clean manufacturing.

What food, still unknown (to consumers) today, will end up on our plates in the future?

I believe cultured food grown in bio-reactors will find its way to our plates in the not too distant future. And with these varieties of meat, fish, taste and structure that we do not know yet. And this can go beyond meat and fish to honey, chocolate and much more.

What developments happening around you are you deliberately choosing to ignore? Why?

We cannot afford to completely ignore developments, but we can choose where we apply our resources and which developments we want to prioritize when defining our activities.  Take for example personalized food: we address the mass market, so we choose to offer choice and variety and to adapt our offering to sub-groups of the population rather than tailor-make products for individuals.

 Is there an important resource for the food system that is still underestimated today?

There is a lot of waste in the food system, and by this, I mean side-streams. There is a huge potential to better use these streams which are sometimes available in large quantities and contain energy and nutritional components.

 Will food prices increase or decrease and why?

Food prices will certainly increase. I believe that we have just passed the historical low in food prices and spending on food as a fraction of income in the developed world. On one hand, population growth is driving the demand for food higher, whilst on the other hand, climate change, trade wars, political unrest and war is making food more scarce. In developed countries, trends towards better animal welfare and more ecological and biodiverse land use will also increase the cost of meat and overfishing the cost of fish, opening up access to new technologies such as cultured food while at the same time increasing cost for the consumer. I also believe that perception towards the value of food will improve in the light of the challenges expected in our food system, raising the willingness to pay.

 Which companies / startups / chefs are the most promising newcomers or game changers?

Clearly a number of companies in the cultured food area and here, of course, I have to mention Aleph Farms and Supermeat with whom we partner. But also in the plant-based area I am convinced by a number of companies who offer fat solutions, for example.

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