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Korean Food Giant Taps T&R Biofab to Bioprint New Plant-Based Meats

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South Korean food behemoth CJ CheilJedang has joined forces with bioprinting expert T&R Biofab (Kosdaq: 246710), signaling a game-changing merger of food production and cutting-edge 3D bioprinting technology. This collaboration promises a novel approach to alternative meat production, leveraging advancements in 3D bioprinting.

Yet, while venturing into new technological frontiers, CJ CheilJedang is simultaneously navigating economic challenges with a decisive strategy of “selection and concentration.” The company faces a prolonged economic downturn, intensified by global uncertainties. In response, it has refined its business portfolio, spotlighting competitive ventures.

Recent reports from the Financial Supervisory Service’s Electronic Disclosure System, a regulatory body within the Korean government, revealed CJ CheilJedang’s decision to sell its entire 66% stake in its Brazilian subsidiary, CJ Selecta, to Bunge Alimentos. CJ Selecta, primarily involved in soybean processing and feed protein production, has recently seen its sales decline, attributed to a dip in soybean meal prices and sluggish demand from China.

Korean kimchi. Image courtesy of CJ CheilJedang.

However, moving past setbacks, CJ CheilJedang concentrates on high-margin specialty products. The company’s focus on products like amino acids has been evident with their steadily increasing sales proportions. In the food sector, CJ CheilJedang focuses on growth avenues for its main products, domestically and globally. With K-food gaining traction worldwide, primarily driven by the global fascination with Korean culture known as the “Korean Wave” or “Hallyu,” the company reported a 13% sales surge in the American market. This growth was driven by products like dumplings, chicken, and the traditional Korean dish kimchi, fermented cabbage.

Further exemplifying its “selection and concentration” philosophy, CJ CheilJedang offloaded its Chinese subsidiary, Sichuan Jixiangju Food, a manufacturer of Chinese side dishes and sauces. This decision underscores the company’s ambition to boost the reputation of K-food on the world food scene.

Furthermore, the latest collaboration aims to harness T&R Biofab’s unparalleled prowess in 3D bioprinting. With CJ CheilJedang’s commitment to sustainable food solutions, this partnership seeks to elevate the standard of alternative meats, aspiring to bridge the gaps in plant-based food regarding taste, texture, appearance, and nutrition.

On October 4, 2023, CJ CheilJedang formalized its joint development agreement (JDA) with T&R Biofab. This emphasizes its drive to bring new technologies into the food industry. This union of giants promises advancements in alternative meat technology and a collaborative push toward future food innovations.

T&R Biofab stands at the cutting edge of bioprinting. It has pioneered its 3D bioprinting system to craft biodegradable scaffolds, artificial organs, and more. Originating focusing on 3D bioprinting equipment, they have since expanded rapidly. It has secured over 100 patents and is harnessing innovative technologies to develop artificial organs, including the heart, skin, and liver. The company recently inaugurated a 53,820-square-foot headquarters, a hub dedicated to biosurgical solutions and 3D printed implants. With a portfolio of achievements and a vision of the future of personalized regenerative medicine, they’re gaining traction in the medical devices and transplantation arena, leveraging 3D printing for bespoke patient solutions.

T&R Biofab engineers work on bioprinted products and medical implants. Image courtesy of T&R Biofab.

The potential of the plant-based food sector is huge. Bloomberg Intelligence projects its growth from $24.9 billion in 2020 to an impressive $162 billion by 2030. The emphasis on health, nutrition, eco-friendliness, and animal welfare drives the popularity of plant-based products. However, achieving the texture and nutritional value of animal-derived foods remains a challenge. This hurdle could soon be surpassed with the integration of 3D bioprinting technology through the new agreement.

Florian Viton, the Food Strategic Innovation Manager at CJ CheilJedang, highlighted the transformative potential of merging distinct industries. “Breakthrough innovation occurs through the convergence of different industries with expertise in different fields. The partnership with T&R Biofab is a great opportunity to secure competitiveness in the plant-based food market. Through this, we will accelerate CJ Cheil Jedang’s innovation and create a new growth engine to succeed in the global market. I hope we can do it.”

T&R Biofab 3D printers. Image courtesy of T&R Biofab.

In line with Viton, Paulo Marinho, General Manager of Scientific Strategy at T&R Biofab, said, “3D printing technology has countless potential and possibilities in the plant-based meat substitute market. This partnership is a partnership between a leading company in the food industry and a leader in 3D printing regenerative medicine. This is a great opportunity for companies to work together and create synergy.”

As CJ CheilJedang forges ahead on its innovative journey, its endeavors extend beyond this partnership. The company recently rolled out “PlanTable,” a plant-derived food brand offering products like plant-based dumplings, both locally and internationally. Additionally, in 2021, the company announced a new partnership with Aleph Farms to accelerate cultivated meat distribution across Asia. In its quest for sustainable future food solutions, CJ CheilJedang has already made notable strides. Last year also saw the introduction of “Altive,” a plant-based beverage brand, under the company’s in-house venture, the Inno100 program. These moves solidify CJ CheilJedang’s dedication to the sustainable future food sector.

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