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Upside Foods announces first large-scale production plant: Rubicon

Dive Brief:

  • Cultivated meat company Upside Foods has selected the greater Chicago metropolitan area as the site for its first large-scale production plant. 
  • The 187,000 square-foot plant, known as ‘Rubicon,’ will be located in Glenview, Illinois and start by producing exclusively ground cultivated chicken products, with plans to expand to other species and whole-textured formats in the future, the company said.
  • Upside Foods COO Amy Chen told Food Dive the company “needed to start thinking much bigger towards large commercial scale production” by creating another site for its operations, which are currently based out of its small production plant in the San Francisco Bay area.

Dive Insight:

Rubicon has been in the works for about a year now, said Chen, and the team believes that Chicago is the “perfect central location for efficient distribution, as well as recruiting a talented workforce of the next generation of meat processors.” 

The plant is designed to house cultivators with capacities of up to 100,000 liters, and will stand as one of the world’s largest and most advanced commercial cultivated meat facilities in the world, according to Upside Foods. 

The cultivated meat brand has already invested in the Midwest region, with the acquisition of Wisconsin-based cultivated seafood company Cultured Decadence. Besides the strategic location of Chicago, the business environment of the region also played a role in the selection, said Chen. 

“We met with Governor Pritzker, and he and his team were very excited about the innovation, and being one of the cutting edge states to reinvent historical industries,” said Chen, “we found the environment from both a labor perspective, but also from a governmental perspective to be very supportive of our goals.” 

In terms of specific goals that Upside Foods has for the near future, the company is focused on getting as many consumers to try their cultivated meat products as possible. 

“When you think about what’s required to take an industry from proof of concept to a commercial scale, you need to be able to demonstrate industrial scale processes,” said Chen. These processes include scaling a high quality, consistent supply of the ingredients, like amino acids and vitamins, that go into cell feeds, according to the COO.

“Tasting is believing,” said Chen, “and right now, we want to get as many consumers in as many geographies, cuisines and restaurants, to try cultivated meat.”

Rubicon should help Upside Foods move down the cost curve of the cultivated meat space, Chen said. The large scale plant may be a segue for the brand to reach consumers through retail as well.

“It is definitely on our radar screen,” said Chen, “It will come after a certain level of awareness of the product is reached, I would say in maybe five to seven years from now, you could see our product on your mainstream grocery store shelves.”

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